What are some differences between the documents Common Sense and the Declaration of Independence?

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The major difference between these two documents comes mainly from the fact that Common Sense is a much longer work than the Declaration of Independence is.  This means that Paine’s work is able to touch on many more points than the Declaration is.

The Declaration of Independence is a very short document.  It touches only briefly on a number of subjects.  It is meant to argue that the American colonies have the right to break away from England and to become independent.  Paine’s work is meant to accomplish the same thing.  The main difference is simply that it is much longer and therefore more detailed.

For example, both documents argue that the system of government under the British was unjust.  The Declaration does this largely by talking about the ideas of the consent of the governed and inalienable rights.  It says that both of these were denied by the British.  By contrast, Paine goes into much more detail.  As one example of this, he sets out reasons why the British system fails to provide adequate checks on the king.  He simply can go into much more depth than the Declaration can.

Common Sense also serves as much more of a detailed call to action.  The Declaration does list supposed abuses by the king.  However, Paine’s work goes into great detail about why this particular point in history is a good time to rebel.

There is no real difference in the messages of these two works.  The main difference is really that Common Sense is much longer and therefore more detailed than the Declaration.

jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Paine's Common Sense and The Declaration of Independence (written by Jefferson) were both written in 1776, and both documents advocate for the colonies' independence from Great Britain. The difference between the documents is that the Declaration of Independence primarily makes a political argument about American independence. The document speaks about the rights of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," which are "unalienable," meaning that the government cannot take them away. While the document briefly refers to trade and taxes, which are in part economic issues, Jefferson's argument is mainly legal and political and is based on the idea of the social contract (the idea that the government must respect the rights of the governed). The style of the document is legalistic and formal.

Paine's Common Sense, which became a bestseller in the colonies, features a broader argument that includes economic and cultural reasons for a break with Great Britain, in addition to legal reasons. For example, he writes, "But admitting that we were all of English descent, what does it amount to? Nothing." He advocates for dismantling the cultural bonds between Britain and America, and he also states that American commerce will make the future country secure and diplomatically sound. His writing includes economic, political, and cultural reasons why the colonies should break away from their mother country, and its style is far more inflammatory and passionate than that in the Declaration of Independence.

pholland14 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Declaration of Independence and Common Sense are similar in that they argue that the American colonists have the right to govern themselves.  Both works discuss the abuses committed by Parliament against the Americans and that the people's rights have been violated.  However, the Declaration of Independence is shorter and refers to all governments in general.  There is a passage in the Declaration that speaks to the specific abuses of the British against the colonists, but it's quite concise and does not go into great detail.  The work is more remembered for its lofty statements such as "all men are created equal" and that the people have the right to alter or to abolish the government when it no longer serves their needs.  Common Sense was written as a call to arms and as a way to bolster interest in the patriot cause.  One of the opening statements points out the inevitability that the Americans should gain their independence because, according to Paine, it is not logical for an island to rule a continent.  While the Declaration of Independence was meant to symbolize what the patriots stood for, Common Sense was meant to rally them at a time when the war was not going well for their cause.