Why was Thomas Paine important to the American Revolution?

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dbello eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Thomas Paine was important to the American Revolution because he was able to inspire people to the revolutionary cause through his arguments in Common Sense and The American Crisis. Most historians agree that in 1776 there were essentially three distinct political opinions in the colonies, patriots, loyalists, and what I call the 'undecided'. The political opinions of the patriots and loyalists are self evident, however it was the 'undecided' opinion in colonial America that held the potential influence for either making or breaking the war effort. Common Sense swayed the 'undecided' putting them among the patriots in America.

General Washington and the Continental Army faced defeat after defeat in 1776. Morale was low and total defeat seemed eminent. However, when Thomas Paine decided to visit the soldiers, he read to them part of his American Crisis. The famous line 'these are the times that try men's souls'...Thomas Paine inspired General Washington's army to fight on, because they were not just 'summer soldiers' (soldiers when things are good) they were patriots. Thomas Paine inspired individuals to take a stand, believe in their cause, and never give up their liberty.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In my opinion, Thomas Paine was one of the most important figures of the American Revolution.  I would argue that it was his pamphlet "Common Sense" that caused the typical American to support the push for independence.

Early in the rebellion, the people most interested in independence were the elites of the colonies.  They wanted to have more power to govern the colonies the way they wanted.  This conflict between American and British elites would not have mattered that much to most colonists -- it was just an issue of what elite would dominate them.

But then Paine wrote "Common Sense."  In that pamphlet, he argued strongly for the idea that monarchy was a corrupt and worthless institution.  He also argued for the idea that the colonies should become independent.  By doing so, he gave average Americans a cause to fight for (democracy and the ability to rule themselves) and pushed more of them to join the rebellion.

howesk eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Thomas Paine was an American author who wrote largely political documents about the American Revolution. He strongly protested British taxation. He wrote the pamphlet Common Sense to encourage Americans to fight for their independence.

Paine's specific roles during the war are highlighted in his enotes biography linked below. Perhaps his largest impact, though, were the Crisis papers, which motivated troops to keep fighting against the British even after it appeared they would lose. His writing improved morale and without him, it is plausible that the troops would have given up their seemingly hopeless fight.

rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Paine published Common Sense at a pivotal junction in the revolution, and gave it a moral dimension for many people. Literacy rates were actually quite high in the colonies, especially in urban centers, and Paine wrote in a clear prose that defined the issues of the war in a way that was persuasive to a broad array of people, in particular the mechanics of cities like Philadelphia. This, I think is his real significance- he appealed to common people, and infused revolutionary rhetoric with a democratic strain that its genteel leaders found disturbing and ultimately struggled to control.

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a time period where Americans --and most poor people all over the world--were mostly illiterate and uneducated.  Thomas Paine played a crucial role here as our volunteer, citizen revolutionary army was made up of the uneducated poor, the "unwashed masses" as it were.  Paine explained the cause we were fighting for in the simplest terms, the most understandable definitions, so the army would be able to unite and motivate itself around an idea as opposed to simple orders and discipline.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
Thomas Paine was the revolutionary scholar for the masses. He made the revolution popular. He wrote complex philosophies into relatively simple terms, so that the people would rally behind the revolution. This was very important, because the colonists were by no means all prepared to revolt.
maria-vivanco | Student

He wrote this pamphlet called Common sense and it influenced the mindset of breaking away from Britain. 

atyourservice | Student

His writing influenced many people to support the fight for independence. He was able to write strong arguments as to why monarchy should be overthrown and why the people should support the fight for independence.

Yojana_Thapa | Student

Thomas Paine is extremely crucial in the American revolution because of his pamphlet "Common Sense". It was a strongly worded call for independence from great Britain. Paine opposed monarchy and called King George a Pharaoh.

Thomas Paine wrote "Common Sense" which was a series of pamplets describing the ideas of the Englightenment but taking it to the next level. He used this philosophy to explain why monarchy is a bad government and what the colonist's rights are. This pretty much put the last of the colonists on the bandwagon when it comes to them having their own independence.

geofr | Student

Thomas Paine was a British freethinker who emigrated to the British American colonies, but later left because of opposition his radical, non-conformist and anti-slavery opinions. An Enlightenment thinker he published anonymously Common Sense on January 10, 1776. It was signed "Written by an Englishman". This was to be deeply influential in supporting the cause of independence in the colonies and his support for radical ideas was a factor in the French revolution. Paine's 1775 essay, African Slavery In America, led to the establishment of the country's first anti-slavery society, with Paine himself one of its founders.

Paine was a real internationalist, living in America, Britain and France, although given the strength of his radical views he was not acceptable to Conservative forces in any of these three countries. His funeral was attended by just six people, two of who were believed to be freed slaves. He was buried in the land of his birth.

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