The Impact Of "Common Sense" By Thomas Paine

1440 words - 6 pages

The Impact of Common SenseA drunken abusive husband who is constantly in debt and rarely bathes is probably not the most likely candidate to have changed popular opinion in favor of Revolution. The fact that this person single-handedly swayed many people to independence had only been in the colonies for a few years makes it seem even less likely. And yet, one of the most influential writers of the Revolutionary period was Thomas Paine, who fulfills this description right down to the part about bad hygiene.So how did Paine overcome all of these previous distinctions and become one of the best-known writers of his day? This paper will argue that, besides writing anonymously, Paine uses ...view middle of the document...

These teachings would guide much of his later thought on what justice and equality should mean in government.Slaughter points out in his Introduction to Thomas Paine that Paine was also a known wife beater. In eighteenth century England many men beat their wives on a regular basis, but Paine did so to an extent that people noticed the intensity or amount of bodily harm done to his wife, Mary. He may have even caused the death of his wife and unborn child. Paine moved around often, sometimes to fleece his landlords and other times to find new work or escape old debt, so it seems that he never really set down roots, so to speak. After the failure of his second marriage, he moved to the American colonies after meeting Benjamin Franklin and settled in Philadelphia late in 1774. He published Common Sense in January 1776.What could a man who had only been in the colonies for two years know about the American condition? How could he change the hearts and minds of so many through his publications? Paine's command of rhetorical skills and utilization of emotional language helped convey a message of the necessity of independence to the masses. He often states that some previous assumption is incorrect but that that assumption could still be met, saying basically that if the reader does not believe the ideology or theory he puts forth for the reasons Revolution is needed, then he would go on to prove that there were practical reasons it was needed as well. For example, "It is not in numbers, but in unity, that our great strength lies; yet our present numbers are sufficient to repel the force of all the world" (100). Paine points out that ideology (unity) is more important than practicality (number of troops), but just in case the reader disagrees, he insists that Americans could win the war anyway on a purely practical level.In the same way, Paine attempted to justify moral or ethical arguments with fact and pragmatic reasoning. He spends five whole pages trying to convince the public of the necessity of a navy on a theoretical level but also provides extensive hard evidence and numbers as a back up (99-104). He is basically saying that America needs a navy so that posterity is protected, but also that the cost would not be that much so why not build one anyway? In this section Paine also inadvertently shows the colonists their potential for overall economic independence.As one reads "Common Sense", the tempo of the piece picks up the further one reads. Paine begins writing in a controlled andante tempo and ends in a full sprint. He starts out being completely rational and making logical arguments based on facts; by the middle of the piece he has transitioned into mixing logic and emotional language. Towards the end of the essay, Paine is using completely emotional language and is nearly yelling at his readers. He writes with an ever-increasing sense of urgency and brings up issues of timing and fate more and more often. His crescendo truly is the last...

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