In the year 1776 Thomas Paine wrote his pamphlet Common Sense to convince the struggling colonists that succession from the British monarchy was not only inevitable, but also justified, and that it was time for the people of the American colonies to rise up against the British control. At this time the American Revolution had been in progress for about a year and the colonists were divided about what to do.
There were Patriots fighting for independence, Loyalist who were still loyal to Great Britain, and those who were still undecided and sympathetic to the colonist’s grievances but weren’t ready to risk going to war by severing ties to Great Britain. Paine wrote Common Sense because of these divisions among the colonist to urge them to unit and sever the ties to their Mother country.
To help convince those who were still undecided Paine presented arguments such as how it was absurd for an Island to rule a Continent, how America could avoid European conflicts by being free of Great Britain, how London was too far from America to rule it, and that the King and Parliament would rule for Great Britain’s benefit, not the colonists.
Loyalist and many of those who were still undecided often stated that the colonist were not justified in rebelling because Great Britain had helped and supported America, however, Paine countered this in his pamphlet by stating that Great Britain only looked over America to ensure their own personal economic welfare. This argument and others, helped to convince many of those who were undecided to join ranks with the Patriots and strengthen the resolution of those already fighting the British control.
This strengthened resolution lead to one of the first successful colonial actions performed in this time period, the Declaration of Independence and later the development of a new nation. In January 1776 the American colonist had two choices to choose from. They could unit in the American Revolution or they could reconcile with Great Britain. Both choices would be difficult. The American Revolution would cause major changes. They would be cut off financial, and politically from Great Britain. A new government would need to be established and a new nation formed.
They would face many challenges to get to this point, and many challenges running the new nation after it was established. However, the road of reconciliation with Great Britain would be just as long and difficult, if not more so. The colonies would be punished for their rebellion, and the grievances that lead to such action would still be in place and likely would develop further. The need for unity to succeed in the Revolution War lead Paine to present many arguments for why the British Monarchy was not applicable or acceptable for the American colonies.
These arguments stemmed from the fact that the British system of government was overly complicated. Paine stated “that the more simple any thing is, the less liable it is to be disordered, and the easier repaired when disordered”. He believed that this notion should be applied to systems of governments as well. While examining the English constitution and dissecting it Paine determined that the British system of government was in reality a combination of three systems of government: monarchy, aristocracy, and republic.
The monarchy and aristocracy he viewed as being archaic and outdated. Those in power were separated from the people in their country by their social status, and then were asked to make important decisions for those same people who they had no connection to. Because they were separated from the common people, Paine said that “in a constitutional sense they contribute nothing towards the freedom of the state. ” He believed that instead they seemed to cripple the government and recommended the colonist discard this system of government.
When referring to the position of the king, Paine stated “it first excludes a man from the means of information, yet empowers him to act in cases where the highest judgment is required”. Due to the king’s social status it required him to be above the pettiness of any lower classes, however, because he was king he was also required to know the happenings of the lower classes thoroughly. This caused the position of the king to be contradictory and thus proving, according to Paine, “the whole character to be absurd and useless”.
In addition, Paine brought to light major inconsistencies with regards to the king’s power and parliament’s power. The king’s power was restricted by parliament, while parliament’s power was dependent on the king’s approval. During this time it was still believed that monarchs received their right to govern through the process of the diving right of kings. Because this was still a widely held belief Paine argued that the British government’s authority must not be from God since any authority given by God would not need to be looked after by another outside party, such as the English parliament.
Paine also foresaw some people arguing that the British government was considered the best in the world, but he countered that “the prejudice of Englishmen, in favor of their own government by king, lords, and commons, arises as much or more from national pride than reason. ” He consented that in English communities “individuals are undoubtedly safer in England than in some other countries,” but he believed that this was due culture of the English people, rather than to their government.
Paine concluded that the people needed to rid themselves of their predisposition towards the British government before they could clearly see a better form of government that was accountable to the people. Once this was accomplished, Paine believed that the American colonies were the best equipped in this situation to cut themselves off from Great Britain. They had everything they needed to sustain themselves without the help of their mother country.
They have the resources, they have the capacity to build an army, and they have been governing themselves since Great Britain is so far away. All that is required is for the colonies to unit together. “No country on the globe is so happily situated, so internally capable…. Tar, timber, iron, and cordage are her natural produce. We need go abroad for nothing. ” Additionally, America’s mission for freedom, both religious and physical freedom from Great Britain, is exactly what the population of the world was aiming and striving for.
Paine was right. Due to the separation from Great Britain, the United States emerged and is currently one of the only countries that not only believes, but practices and values freedom. This freedom was the bases of Paine’s Common Sense. “We have it in our power,” insisted Paine, “to begin the world all over again. ” This is why we now have the United States. No other revolution or rebellion was as sufficiently equipped to enact the tremendous changes needed as the American Revolution was.