Common Sense Study Guide

Common Sense Study Guide

Original title:
Common Sense

Common Sense is a pamphlet written by Thomas Paine that advocates the fight of the people of the Thirteen Colonies against the British egalitarian government. Short and plain, it had a great influence on the society. Thomas Paine, following the ideas of Enlightenment, made his statement based on pure logic, so that his pamphlet indeed looks like a product of simple common sense, not the political position. The first name of it, The Plain Truth, doesn’t reveal the nature of this work that much.

The pamphlet is divided into several parts. The first one is dedicated to the explanation of the nature of republican government. As many Enlightenment philosophers before him, he referred to “natural order” of things, logically proving that the democracy and republican government are the natural state of any society, while monarchy and totalitarian regimes are the temporary deviations that should be fixed for good. He explains the mechanism of elections and proves their importance and then compares these ideas with the British Constitution. The author shows the flaws of the latter from his point of view.

The second part is an interesting one. Thomas Paine attacks the main argument of the monarchists: the power of the King as given by God. The author takes historical and Biblical examples to prove that kings did more harm than good when they became corrupted by their power and the corruption is inevitable. According to Paine, even in mixed government like constitutional monarchies the danger of the King becoming a tyrant is too high to risk.

The third part is the most practical of all. Thomas Paine suggests his variant of the American government, talking about the Continental Charter as the negotiation organization that stays between the Congress and the plain people. He also offers the plan of dividing the land into districts to make administration the most effective.

The concluding fourth part isn’t dedicated to anything. It is just an optimistic view of the American future that awaits people if they keep fighting for the freedom from the British rule. Finishing with such upbeat tone lets the author leave a very good impression that further encourages people to follow his advice.

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