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Thomas Paine’s Common Sense. Position in Society: Born in a rural English village to Quaker parents Many jobs including a corset maker and an excise man collecting taxes on liquor Paine got into politics after witnessing injustices while working as a tax collector.

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Thomas Paine’s Common Sense

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thomas paine s common sense
Thomas Paine’s Common Sense

Position in Society:

  • Born in a rural English village to Quaker parents
  • Many jobs including a corset maker and an excise man collecting taxes on liquor
  • Paine got into politics after witnessing injustices while working as a tax collector.
  • After meeting Benjamin Franklin at Parliament, Franklin helped him immigrate to America
  • Used his editorship at Pennsylvania Magazine to voice his opinions on political issues.
historical background
Historical Background

Paine’s Viewpoints On Major Issues Of The Time:

  • Paine finally shed light on the oppression that was being inflicted by King George III which many chose to keep quiet about.
  • “…he attacked the sanctity of the monarchy…challenged the idea of a hereditary ruler…” (Burkin et al, 2006).
  • While very few were calling for a complete break with England, Paine preferred American political independence.
historical background cont d
Historical Background (cont’d.)

Issues Facing Society:

  • Colonial Rights: The Second Continental Congress had issued paper money and was preparing troops for war. Patriots claimed that they were fighting for the rights of Englishmen…not necessarily a complete break from England.
  • King George III rejected the Olive Branch Petition which would have ended colonial resistance in exchange for revoking the Intolerable Acts.
  • King George III had Parliament pass an American Prohibitory Act that in effect made American trading ships the enemy which was essentially declaring war on the colonies.
historical background cont d1
Historical Background (cont’d.)


  • Ordinary citizens…not political figures
  • “Like preachers of the Great Awakening, he rejected the formal language of the elite, adopting instead a plain, urgent, and emotional vocabulary and writing style designed to reach a mass audience” (Burkin et al, 2006).
common sense
Common Sense
  • “Over 100,000 copies were sold, [in the first three months] an enormous number considering that there were only about 500,000 households in all the Colonies” (The Influence of Thomas Paine's Common Sense, 1776, 1997).
main points
Main Points
  • Any attempts to work with Great Britain before the “nineteenth of April, i.e., to the commencement of hostilities, are…useless now…” “The blood of the slain, the weeping voice of nature cries, ‘tis time to part.”
  • “I challenge the warmest advocate for reconciliation to show, a single advantage that this continent can reap, by being connected with Great Britain.”
  • We should look at the many injuries that the colonies have undergone and will continue to undergo as long as we are connected with Great Britain. (3rd¶)
  • We don’t need Britain for protection against her enemies nor do we need her for commerce.
  • “…whenever a war breaks out between England and any foreign power, the trade of America goes to ruin, because of her connection with Britain.”
  • Do away with monarchies because the divine law (of God) should be “King of America” and the people should form a government of their own (a republican charter).
  • “…let a day be solemnly set apart for proclaiming the charter; let it be brought forth placed on the divine law the word of God…law ought to be king”
  • England is not run by France even though the king is a descendant from France.
  • Children cannot survive on milk alone and never get any meat....The colonies have grown up and need to be set free to live on their own just as children do.
historical significance
Historical Significance
  • This document came out only a few days after King George called for the suppression of rebellion in America.
  • It gave the nudge for America to fight for independence as well as a quick response to the Crown’s call for suppression
  • The document was so popular that it sparked much more literature devoted to the issue of independence.
  • Common Sense convinced many that the monarchy could no longer meet their needs.