Skip Nav

Thomas Paine Common Sense

Study Questions

❶This can be found nowhere in his published works. Paine also claimed that the colonies needed to break with England in order to survive and that there would never be a better moment in history for that to happen.

From the SparkNotes Blog

How to cite this page
Navigation menu

Not only was it a declaration of independence, it also sent out the message that human rights are to be fought for if they are not given. The document was more than just a declaration of independence. It was a struggle for human rights. The incisive eloquent language and ideas used by Paine and Jefferson in these two documents of American history, allowed them to be very successful pieces of propaganda. Accessed September 14, Leave your email and we will send you an example after 24 hours If you contact us after hours, we'll get back to you in 24 hours or less.

How to cite this page Choose cite format: Rights 66 , Thomas Paine How about make it original? Paine researchers contend his father's occupation has been widely misinterpreted to mean that he made the stays in ladies' corsets, which likely was an insult later invented by his political foes.

There, he became a master stay-maker, establishing a shop in Sandwich, Kent. His business collapsed soon after. Mary became pregnant; and, after they moved to Margate , she went into early labor, in which she and their child died. In July , Paine returned to Thetford to work as a supernumerary officer. On August 27, , he was dismissed as an Excise Officer for "claiming to have inspected goods he did not inspect".

On July 31, , he requested his reinstatement from the Board of Excise, which they granted the next day, upon vacancy. While awaiting that, he worked as a stay-maker. Again, he was making stay ropes for shipping, not stays for corsets. In , he was appointed to a position in Grampound , Cornwall. Later he asked to leave this post to await a vacancy, and he became a schoolteacher in London.

On February 19, , he was appointed to Lewes in Sussex , a town with a tradition of opposition to the monarchy and pro-republican sentiments since the revolutionary decades of the 17th century.

Paine first became involved in civic matters when he was based in Lewes. He appears in the Town Book as a member of the Court Leet, the governing body for the town. He was also a member of the parish vestry , an influential local church group whose responsibilities for parish business would include collecting taxes and tithes to distribute among the poor.

On March 26, , at age 34, he married Elizabeth Ollive, his landlord's daughter. From to , Paine joined excise officers asking Parliament for better pay and working conditions, publishing, in summer of , The Case of the Officers of Excise , a page article, and his first political work, spending the London winter distributing the 4, copies printed to the Parliament and others.

In spring , he was again dismissed from the excise service for being absent from his post without permission; his tobacco shop failed, too.

On April 14, to avoid debtors' prison , he sold his household possessions to pay debts. On June 4, , he formally separated from his wife Elizabeth and moved to London, where, in September, mathematician, Fellow of the Royal Society, and Commissioner of the Excise George Lewis Scott introduced him to Benjamin Franklin , [20] who suggested emigration to British colonial America, and gave him a letter of recommendation.

He barely survived the transatlantic voyage. The ship's water supplies were bad and typhoid fever killed five passengers. On arriving at Philadelphia, he was too sick to disembark. Benjamin Franklin's physician, there to welcome Paine to America, had him carried off ship; Paine took six weeks to recover.

He became a citizen of Pennsylvania "by taking the oath of allegiance at a very early period". Paine has a claim to the title The Father of the American Revolution , [23] [24] which rests on his pamphlets, especially Common Sense, which crystallized sentiment for independence in It was published in Philadelphia on January 10, , and signed anonymously "by an Englishman".

It became an immediate success, quickly spreading , copies in three months to the two million residents of the 13 colonies. During the course of the American Revolution, a total of about , copies were sold, including unauthorized editions. The pamphlet came into circulation in January , after the Revolution had started. It was passed around and often read aloud in taverns, contributing significantly to spreading the idea of republicanism, bolstering enthusiasm for separation from Britain, and encouraging recruitment for the Continental Army.

Paine provided a new and convincing argument for independence by advocating a complete break with history. Common Sense is oriented to the future in a way that compels the reader to make an immediate choice. It offers a solution for Americans disgusted with and alarmed at the threat of tyranny. Whereas colonial resentments were originally directed primarily against the king's ministers and Parliament, Paine laid the responsibility firmly at the king's door.

Common Sense was the most widely read pamphlet of the American Revolution. It was a clarion call for unity against the corrupt British court, so as to realize America's providential role in providing an asylum for liberty. Written in a direct and lively style, it denounced the decaying despotisms of Europe and pilloried hereditary monarchy as an absurdity.

At a time when many still hoped for reconciliation with Britain, Common Sense demonstrated to many the inevitability of separation. Paine was not on the whole expressing original ideas in Common Sense , but rather employing rhetoric as a means to arouse resentment of the Crown.

To achieve these ends, he pioneered a style of political writing suited to the democratic society he envisioned, with Common Sense serving as a primary example.

Part of Paine's work was to render complex ideas intelligible to average readers of the day, with clear, concise writing unlike the formal, learned style favored by many of Paine's contemporaries.

Common Sense was immensely popular in disseminating to a very wide audience ideas that were already in common use among the elite who comprised Congress and the leadership cadre of the emerging nation, who rarely cited Paine's arguments in their public calls for independence. Loyalists vigorously attacked Common Sense ; one attack, titled Plain Truth , by Marylander James Chalmers , said Paine was a political quack [33] and warned that without monarchy, the government would "degenerate into democracy".

Adams disagreed with the type of radical democracy promoted by Paine that men who did not own property should still be allowed to vote and hold public office and published Thoughts on Government in to advocate a more conservative approach to republicanism.

Sophia Rosenfeld argues that Paine was highly innovative in his use of the commonplace notion of "common sense". He synthesized various philosophical and political uses of the term in a way that permanently impacted American political thought. He used two ideas from Scottish Common Sense Realism: Paine also used a notion of "common sense" favored by philosophes in the Continental Enlightenment.

They held that common sense could refute the claims of traditional institutions. Thus, Paine used "common sense" as a weapon to delegitimize the monarchy and overturn prevailing conventional wisdom. Rosenfeld concludes that the phenomenal appeal of his pamphlet resulted from his synthesis of popular and elite elements in the independence movement.

According to historian Robert Middlekauff , Common Sense became immensely popular mainly because Paine appealed to widespread convictions. Monarchy, he said, was preposterous and it had a heathenish origin. It was an institution of the devil. Paine pointed to the Old Testament , where almost all kings had seduced the Israelites to worship idols instead of God. Paine also denounced aristocracy, which together with monarchy were "two ancient tyrannies.

That was, Middlekauff says, exactly what most Americans wanted to hear. He calls the Revolutionary generation "the children of the twice-born". In late , Paine published The American Crisis pamphlet series to inspire the Americans in their battles against the British army.

He juxtaposed the conflict between the good American devoted to civic virtue and the selfish provincial man. These are the times that try men's souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.

Tyranny, like Hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.

What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated. The following year, he alluded to secret negotiation underway with France in his pamphlets. His enemies denounced his indiscretions. There was scandal; together with Paine's conflict with Robert Morris and Silas Deane it led to Paine's expulsion from the Committee in However, in , he accompanied John Laurens on his mission to France.

Eventually, after much pleading from Paine, New York State recognized his political services by presenting him with an estate at New Rochelle , New York and Paine received money from Pennsylvania and from Congress at Washington's suggestion. During the Revolutionary War, Paine served as an aide-de-camp to the important general, Nathanael Greene. In what may have been an error, and perhaps even contributed to his resignation as the secretary to the Committee of Foreign Affairs, Paine was openly critical of Silas Deane , an American diplomat who had been appointed in March by the Congress to travel to France in secret.

Deane's goal was to influence the French government to finance the colonists in their fight for independence. Paine largely saw Deane as a war profiteer who had little respect for principle, having been under the employ of Robert Morris , one of the primary financiers of the American Revolution and working with Pierre Beaumarchais , a French royal agent sent to the colonies by King Louis to investigate the Anglo-American conflict.

Unfortunately, Paine's criticisms turned against him. Amongst his criticisms, he had written in the Pennsylvania Packet that France had " prefaced [their] alliance by an early and generous friendship ," referring to aid that had been provided to American colonies prior to the recognition of the Franco-American treaties. This was effectively an embarrassment to France, which potentially could have jeopardised the alliance.

John Jay , the President of the Congress who had been a fervent supporter of Deane, immediately spoke out against Paine's comments. The controversy eventually became public, and Paine was then denounced as unpatriotic for criticising an American revolutionary.

He was even physically assaulted twice in the street by Deane supporters. This much added stress took a large toll on Paine, who was generally of a sensitive character and he resigned as secretary to the Committee of Foreign Affairs in John Laurens to France and is credited with initiating the mission. The meetings with the French king were most likely conducted in the company and under the influence of Benjamin Franklin. Laurens, "positively objected" that General Washington should propose that Congress remunerate him for his services, for fear of setting "a bad precedent and an improper mode".

Paine made influential acquaintances in Paris and helped organize the Bank of North America to raise money to supply the army. Congress in recognition of his service to the nation. Henry Laurens father of Col. John Laurens had been the ambassador to the Netherlands , but he was captured by the British on his return trip there.

When he was later exchanged for the prisoner Lord Cornwallis in late , Paine proceeded to the Netherlands to continue the loan negotiations. There remains some question as to the relationship of Henry Laurens and Thomas Paine to Robert Morris as the Superintendent of Finance and his business associate Thomas Willing who became the first president of the Bank of North America in January They had accused Morris of profiteering in and Willing had voted against the Declaration of Independence.

Although Morris did much to restore his reputation in and , the credit for obtaining these critical loans to "organize" the Bank of North America for approval by Congress in December should go to Henry or John Laurens and Thomas Paine more than to Robert Morris.

Paine bought his only house in on the corner of Farnsworth Avenue and Church Streets in Bordentown City , New Jersey and he lived in it periodically until his death in This is the only place in the world where Paine purchased real estate. In , a bridge of Paine's design was built across the Schuylkill River at Philadelphia. At this time his work on single-arch iron bridges led him back to Paris, France.

Franklin provided letters of introduction for Paine to use to gain associates and contacts in France. Later that year, Paine returned to London from Paris. He then released a pamphlet on August 20 called Prospects on the Rubicon: Tensions between England and France were increasing, and this pamphlet urged the British Ministry to reconsider the consequences of war with France. Paine sought to turn the public opinion against the war to create better relations between the countries, avoid the taxes of war upon the citizens, and not engage in a war he believed would ruin both nations.

Back in London by , Paine would become engrossed in the French Revolution after it began in , and decided to travel to France in Meanwhile, conservative intellectual Edmund Burke launched a counterrevolutionary blast against the French Revolution, entitled Reflections on the Revolution in France , which strongly appealed to the landed class, and sold 30, copies. Paine set out to refute it in his Rights of Man He wrote it not as a quick pamphlet, but as a long, abstract political tract of 90, words which tore apart monarchies and traditional social institutions.

On January 31, , he gave the manuscript to publisher Joseph Johnson. A visit by government agents dissuaded Johnson, so Paine gave the book to publisher J. Jordan, then went to Paris, per William Blake 's advice. The book appeared on March 13, and sold nearly a million copies.

It was "eagerly read by reformers, Protestant dissenters, democrats, London craftsman, and the skilled factory-hands of the new industrial north". It detailed a representative government with enumerated social programs to remedy the numbing poverty of commoners through progressive tax measures. Radically reduced in price to ensure unprecedented circulation, it was sensational in its impact and gave birth to reform societies.

An indictment for seditious libel followed, for both publisher and author, while government agents followed Paine and instigated mobs, hate meetings, and burnings in effigy.

A fierce pamphlet war also resulted, in which Paine was defended and assailed in dozens of works. He was then tried in absentia and found guilty, although never executed. In summer of , he answered the sedition and libel charges thus: Paine was an enthusiastic supporter of the French Revolution, and was granted honorary French citizenship alongside prominent contemporaries such as Alexander Hamilton , George Washington , Benjamin Franklin and others.

Paine's honorary citizenship was in recognition of the publishing of his Rights of Man, Part II and the sensation it created within France. Several weeks after his election to the National Convention, Paine was selected as one of nine deputies to be part of the Convention's Constitutional Committee, who were charged to draft a suitable constitution for the French Republic. However, Paine's speech in defense of Louis XVI was interrupted by Jean-Paul Marat , who claimed that as a Quaker, Paine's religious beliefs ran counter to inflicting capital punishment and thus he should be ineligible to vote.

Marat interrupted a second time, stating that the translator was deceiving the convention by distorting the meanings of Paine's words, prompting Paine to provide a copy of the speech as proof that he was being correctly translated.

Regarded as an ally of the Girondins , he was seen with increasing disfavor by the Montagnards , who were now in power; and in particular by Maximilien Robespierre.

A decree was passed at the end of excluding foreigners from their places in the Convention Anacharsis Cloots was also deprived of his place. Paine was arrested and imprisoned in December Paine wrote the second part of Rights of Man on a desk in Thomas 'Clio' Rickman 's house, with whom he was staying in before he fled to France. This desk is currently on display in the People's History Museum in Manchester. Paine was arrested in France on December 28, Joel Barlow was unsuccessful in securing Paine's release by circulating a petition among American residents in Paris.

Paine himself protested and claimed that he was a citizen of the U. However, Gouverneur Morris , the American minister to France, did not press his claim, and Paine later wrote that Morris had connived at his imprisonment. Paine narrowly escaped execution. A chalk mark was supposed to be left by the gaoler on the door of a cell to denote that the prisoner inside was due to be removed for execution. In Paine's case, the mark had accidentally been made on the inside of his door rather than the outside; this was due to the fact that the door of Paine's cell had been left open whilst the gaoler was making his rounds that day, since Paine had been receiving official visitors.

But for this quirk of fate, Paine would have been executed the following morning. He kept his head and survived the few vital days needed to be spared by the fall of Robespierre on 9 Thermidor July 27, Paine was released in November largely because of the work of the new American Minister to France, James Monroe , [63] who successfully argued the case for Paine's American citizenship.

In addition to receiving a British patent for the single-span iron bridge, Paine developed a smokeless candle [69] and worked with inventor John Fitch in developing steam engines. In , Paine lived in Paris with Nicholas Bonneville and his wife. The publication of these pamphlets continued through to April , when the war ended. Paine left the army at the beginning of , convinced that he was not serving the revolution best in that capacity.

Instead he became a commission secretary to several government bodies, including the Continental Congress. He served the Congress until , when political complications forced him out of that position; he was then elected clerk of the Pennsylvania Assembly.

Despite his successes as a pamphleteer and his many positions, Paine found himself once again penniless at the war's end in The states of Pennsylvania and New York and the new nation, via Congress, made him several gifts of cash and land.

By the end of the decade Paine had become involved in many new projects, including a passion for bridge design; the latter took him to France in , just as the revolutionary fervor there was mounting. He remained in Paris until July of , serving the French Revolution in many capacities, even though he did not speak the language at all. Edmund Burke, a prominent English statesman, published his influential criticism of France, Reflections on the Revolution in France, in Many defenders of France published responses, but the most significant of these replies was Paine's, the first part of which appeared in Completed in , Rights of Man: Being an Answer to Mr.

As with Common Sense, this publication made Paine both revered and despised in his homeland. Consequently, Paine's attempt to resettle in London was cut short; he fled in , just ahead of the officers seeking his arrest on charges of high treason.

He was convicted in absentia. Taking sanctuary in France, Paine was elected to several positions in the National Assembly and appointed to the committee responsible for framing the new constitution. The tenor of the French Revolution, however, diverged from Paine's values as it moved into a bloodthirsty phase commonly known as the "Terror," during which "enemies of the people"—both members of the former ruling class and less radical revolutionaries—were imprisoned and guillotined.

Speaking against the planned execution of Louis XVI, the deposed king, Paine found himself incarcerated by the end of , where he remained until James Monroe, the American ambassador to France, secured his release late in Restored to his position in the French government soon after, Paine remained in France until He produced his last significant pamphlet, Agrarian Justice, in Paine immigrated to America again in , although his reputation with Americans had been greatly damaged by several of his publications from the previous decade: The Age of Reason: Being an Investigation of True and Famous Theology , which critiqued organized religion and struck many readers as blasphemous, and the Letter to George Washington, President of the United States of America, on Affairs Public and Private , which viciously attacked a man revered by Americans.

Nonetheless, he remained in the United States until he passed away, largely unnoticed, on June 8, Although Paine produced articles and pamphlets almost nonstop after his arrival in colonial America, certain works stand out for their influence both at the time of their publication and over the ensuing centuries.

Some, including Common Sense and Rights of Man, have become almost legendary, inspiring activists engaged in causes years after Paine's death; President Abraham Lincoln, for example, read Paine's works as he fought to end slavery in the United States.

Paine's writings share a generally consistent viewpoint and goal; although scholars can chart some changes in Paine's thinking, the framework of his perspective remained stable over the years. His style also remained largely the same, always remarkable for its difference from the dominant prose of the era, which consisted of complex sentences proposing complex arguments, written by highly-educated men for an audience of other highly-educated men.

Paine, on the other hand, wrote to the broad mass of people in England and America, most of whom would have only as much as, if not less than, his six years of formal schooling. Consequently, his sentences were much more simple and direct, and his arguments turned on one or two accessible principles and pursued persuasion through clarity and repetition.

He avoided the allusions and metaphors typical of prose for the highly literate, and chose instead references that would be available to common laborers and tradespeople.

Popular Topics

Main Topics

Privacy Policy

Thomas Paine was the author of "These are the Times that Try Men's Souls" which discusses the Revolutionary War between America and the Great Britain and Mark Twain wrote the essay "The War Prayer" which was based on the Philippine- American War.

Privacy FAQs

Thomas Paine, a largely self-educated Englishman who was a corset-maker by trade, has been recognized as a primary force in the American Revolution since its instigation in ; he was similarly influential in the French Revolution, sparked in

About Our Ads

Please inform everyone you know about this page and the important ideas of Thomas Paine it offers through his essays and correspondence. KEYS TO A SPIRITUALLY-BASED LIFE: fifty tenets of a new faith, by author M A Street. Thoreau were not the first to utilize these ideas. Thomas Paine, a well known Revolutionary hero, is an origin of transcendentalist ideals. While his views were not exactly those of the modern transcendentalists, Thomas Paine generated very similar ideas in .

Cookie Info

THOMAS PAINE, MORE THAN COMMON SENSE Essay Words | 8 Pages. Thomas Paine is undoubtedly one of the most prolific founding fathers of the United States, albeit not in the manner most would expect from a founding father. Paine was not a drafter of the constitution, nor was he an early member of Congress or President of the United States. Thomas Paine's Rights of Man Essay. In Rights of Man, Thomas Paine extols America for its unique attributes of harmony, freedom, liberty, and diversity - Thomas Paine's Rights of Man Essay introduction. These attributes intertwine together and serve as a recipe for one unified country based on privileges and rights for all Americans.