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Common Sense (?)

In 1776, Thomas Paine wrote Common Sense, one of the most influential documents that would influence the US’s decision to become independent. Adding ignition to what would later be the American Revolution, Common Sense renounced the ties of monarchy and provides examples of how the United States could function on it’s own. Washington Post writer, Sophia Rosenfeld explicitly describes how

“Paine spent the revolutionary winter of 1776 trying to persuade a hesitant colonial audience to adopt the most radical option before it: not only a complete break with the mother country, but also the introduction of an untested form of government, stripped of both aristocracy and king, that would unite the various North American colonies in independence. His genius was to make this solution seem as self-evident as the proposition that an island had no business ruling a continent. That - and labeling the entire thing "Common Sense." After all, who could argue with a man who offered "nothing more than simple facts, plain arguments, and common sense"?” (Rosenfeld).

This accurate representation of Paine’s arguments being rooted in facts, sense, and reasonings with valid proof to back them all up leads Rosenfeld to also draw parallels between other politicians such as Ronald Reagan, Paul Ryan, or Barack Obama “and what political elites do in tough times is . . . invoke common sense. As a slogan, a style of address and an ideal, common sense has long played an outsize role in American politics, typically surging in times of exceptional fractiousness” (Rosenfeld). Establishing precedent to today’s politicians tactics, Rosenfeld is able to bring in Thomas Paine’s arguments of Common Sense and it’s significance to modern time.

Radical movements are rather renowned in American politics and history beginning with the American Revolution and etched through other points in time; this sort of “American mentality” can easily be found in Paine’s ideological messages in Common Sense. Paine’s statements such as “Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness” (Paine 3) is just a semblance of how Paine’s theorizes that government is a necessary evil and “if there is any true cause of fear respecting independence, it is because no plan is yet laid down” (Paine 29) is how he transitions into providing a route to possible democracy. The “common sense” in which Rosenfeld comments on can be found in examples of Paine stating “America would have flourished as much, and probably much more, had no European power had any thing to do with her” (Paine 19); essentially pointing to the fact that Britain’s interest in America was all self-involved and America’s capabilities to flourish were present regardless. Rosenfeld’s binding of Paine’s theories to today’s politicians is commendable in noting the landmark document of Common Sense.

Works Cited

Paine, Thomas. Common Sense. Dover Thrift Editions, 1997.

Rosenfeld, Sophia. “Fightin’ Words”. The Washington Post, 24 April 2011, p. B01.


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