Common Sense Summary

Common Sense is a pamphlet by Thomas Paine that discusses in-depth the points and reasons that are vital in liberating America from Britain. He simply argues with some theories and appeals to common sense. Here, his opinions are highly persuasive and advice America to get liberated as soon as possible.

The pamphlet begins with Thomas Paine making general comments about the government. He opines that people always tend to mix up society with the government. Then, he draws a thin line between the government and the society by stating that society is something that we strive on while the government is a “necessary evil”.

He then points out the necessity of a government, which is to prevent the people from indulging in vices while the society fosters a lot of urges for men. He also states that if a country has an oppressive government, it is worse than the purpose it had been created to prevent. So, they are suffering from the same aspect on which they invest.

Nonetheless, the necessity of it cannot be completely disregarded since a government would not be needed only if all the people of a country acted morally, which is never possible. Thus, he draws the line to state that government is necessary. It is necessary for the protection of property and life of the people. In other words, the one primary task of the government is to provide security.

Next, he puts forth an example to emphasize on the necessity of the government. He starts with taking a group of people by isolating them in a stranded place. He then predicts that soon, they will socialize in order to break solitude. This will lead to building a society. Thus, they will build houses and soon start to live among each other with respect and honor. However, there will appear dents in the morals. This will lead to problems that will need to be resolved by group discussions and soon, when the population will increase, representatives of law and justice will be made. Thus, the government will form in a gradual manner. Afterwards, elections will be held frequently to ensure that the representative thinks for the welfare of the people.

The British constitution is then criticized for its complex and monarchical tyranny. According to him, the simpler a system is, the lesser are the chances of it to be disordered.

Paine puts forward the theory that mankind was originally living in equality. Hence, he desires to know what has caused the ultimate imbalance. At first, he considers the distinction between male and female to be the root cause and then firmly dismisses it. Then he points out that it was the Jews who had brought in the practice of kings. Thus, the nature had been brought at the doorsteps of the initiation of imbalance. The imbalance is signified to be the kings and rulers since the people are to be ruled only by One God and no one else.

However, if there is more than one reign of dominance, then the balance of nature capsizes. Paine narrates a religious incident of Jews asking for a king like other nations have, to Prophet Samuel. While Samuel forbids, God agrees to provide a King although he remarks that asking for submission to anyone other than Him is sinful.

Paine then makes another point by saying that the hereditary succession of monarchy is a hypocritical practice since all men are born equal and so, each should be given equal facilities. He says that even if one deserves honor due to his acts, his successors should definitely not be given the same facilities of a respected man since he has definitely not earned it. He then emphasizes on the fact that the recent kings of England have been unjust about their decisions and ruling style.

He then comes up with the theory that the power of kings comes from three options: election, usurpation and random selection. Paine says that when a king is elected, all succeeding kings to come should be elected in the same way. Therefore, if any of the kings tries to elect the next generation via usurpation, the process would be rendered invalid. He then reminds us again that hereditary succession is one of the worst ways of passing down power. He backs up his argument with the fact that, opposing to the idea that hereditary succession prevents civil wars, there have been eight such cases in the history of Britain. Thus, he concludes this section with the proof that hereditary succession and monarchy have never brought anything to this world other than bloodshed and bad governance.

Paine tries to explain that although his thoughts may be prejudiced, his theories should be given a look from a neutral ground. He tries to come up with the rebuttal by stating that America’s decision to separate from Britain being considered a bad move is like questioning a child for shifting from a diet of milk to that of meat. This signifies that changes are inevitable and need to be done at the right time in the right way. He even adds that the colonies of America would not have revolted if the European countries had not unjustly exerted their power over them.

He debunks the theory that Britain was there to protect the American colonies, as it was only because there was a profitability factor for Britain in it. The only reason America had allied with Britain was because they had already become enemies with the foes of Britain and thus, they had no other option.

Paine also presents contradictory points on the opinion that the Americans are of British descent. Since Britain is an enemy, they have no responsibility towards having any sort of allegiance with the Brits. Paine tactfully presents that being under the rule of a nation simply does not put the latter country to be considered of its descent. Simply put, if that were to be the case, then Britain too would have to show the same respect to France since half of the British population is of French descent.

He then puts in the point that America would not in anyway benefit from the allegiance with an enemy like Britain. Instead, they are already causing harm since the Bostonians are still being threatened by theft by the British soldiers. He states that if the British ever form an allegiance with the Americans, the history of financial oppression would cause another civil war to be waged on its own.

There is no guarantee that they would not impose any taxes like they had, back during the Stamp Act. He mocks the British by observing that America and its economy have grown to be too complex to be ruled by a small island like Britain. He then thinks about the inevitable impact that the reconciliation would have on the younger generations especially after the battle of Lexington and Concord. Paine supports a proper form of government that should be ruled by a President and insists that the country should be sovereign.

Then, Paine forcefully exerts more emphasis on the point that it is very certain that the American colonies will separate from the British and that there should not be any doubt or contra opinions about it. Rather, the point of contradiction could be about when the event would take place.

He then puts forth his own view that it should take place now rather than later. This is because America has a large number of people worthy of taking up arms. This revolt should take place only at the expense of losing lives to gain complete freedom from the British rule or else this would be the repetition of some more tax laws and thus, more oppression.

Then he lays out the possibility of building an American navy. This is possible because America is very much able to do so despite the 3.5 million pounds sterling as expense. He also states that this navy would be strong enough to rival that of the British as well as the fact that they would need to only protect their coasts and not other colonies like the British have to. He again reminds us that the steps for freedom should be taken very soon since the more late it gets, the more people will grow and the more opinions will change. Now is the time to sever this unprofitable and harmful tie.

Finally, he puts forth four points and they are - there is no country that can wage an alliance between America and Britain anymore; they will be considered rebels by a lot of countries if they stay a part of Britain; They cannot be persuaded even by France or Spain for creating alliance and lastly, that they would be able to take complete control over their continents and make alliances with the world if freedom is achieved.