Common Sense

by

Thomas Paine

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Thomas Paine Character Analysis

Thomas Paine (1737–1809) is the author of Common Sense. Born in England and inspired by Enlightenment political philosophy, he became an activist for American independence after moving to the colonies in 1774. Drawing inspiration from Enlightenment thinker John Locke, Paine believed in the inherent equality and inalienable rights of man that would go on to form the basis of the US Declaration of Independence. In Common Sense, Paine portrays himself as an ordinary citizen motivated by concern for justice, not by political partisanship. He appeals to everyday colonists’ moral reasoning abilities to inspire them to support the Revolutionary cause against England—particularly against George III’s tyranny—and decries the heredity monarchical system in general. In order to illustrate his argument, Paine likens the connection between Britain and America to that of a parent and child: if the colonies don’t fight for independence, he reasons, America will be kept paralyzed in a constant state of underdevelopment and oppression. Common Sense was perhaps the most influential political pamphlet of the American Revolution for the patriot cause, and played an integral role in the country achieving its independence in 1776.

Thomas Paine Quotes in Common Sense

The Common Sense quotes below are all either spoken by Thomas Paine or refer to Thomas Paine. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Role of Government Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Dover Thrift Editions edition of Common Sense published in 2016.
Introduction Quotes

The cause of America is in a great measure the cause of all mankind. Many circumstances hath, and will arise, which are not local, but universal, and through which the principles of all Lovers of Mankind are affected, and in the Event of which, their Affections are interested. The laying a Country desolate with Fire and Sword, declaring War against the natural rights of all Mankind, and extirpating the Defenders thereof from the Face of the Earth, is the Concern of every Man to whom Nature hath given the Power of feeling; of which Class, regardless of Party Censure, is the AUTHOR.

Related Characters: Thomas Paine (speaker)
Page Number: 2
Explanation and Analysis:
1. Of the Origin and Design of Government Quotes

Some writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins. Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is a patron, the last a punisher.

Related Characters: Thomas Paine (speaker)
Page Number: 2
Explanation and Analysis:
2. Of Monarchy and Hereditary Succession Quotes

In short, monarchy and succession have laid (not this or that kingdom only) but the world in blood and ashes. ‘Tis a form of government which the word of God bears testimony against, and blood will attend it.

Related Characters: Thomas Paine (speaker)
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:
3. Thoughts on the Present State of American Affairs Quotes

The sun never shined on a cause of greater worth. 'Tis not the affair of a city, a country, a province, or a kingdom, but of a continent— of at least one eighth part of the habitable globe. ’Tis not the concern of a day, a year, or an age; posterity are virtually involved in the contest, and will be more or less affected, even to the end of time, by the proceedings now. Now is the seed time of continental union, faith and honor. The least fracture now will be like a name engraved with the point of a pin on the tender rind of a young oak; the wound will enlarge with the tree, and posterity read it in full grown characters.

Related Characters: Thomas Paine (speaker)
Page Number: 18
Explanation and Analysis:

We may as well assert that because a child has thrived upon milk, that it is never to have meat, or that the first twenty years of our lives is to become a precedent for the next twenty. But even this is admitting more than is true, for I answer roundly, that America would have flourished as much, and probably much more, had no European power had any thing to do with her. The commerce, by which she hath enriched herself are the necessaries of life, and will always have a market while eating is the custom of Europe.

Related Characters: Thomas Paine (speaker)
Related Symbols: Parent and Child
Page Number: 19
Explanation and Analysis:

Europe, and not England, is the parent country of America. This new world hath been the asylum for the persecuted lovers of civil and religious liberty from every part of Europe. Hither have they fled, not from the tender embraces of the mother, but from the cruelty of the monster; and it is so far true of England, that the same tyranny which drove the first emigrants from home, pursues their descendants still.

Related Characters: Thomas Paine (speaker)
Related Symbols: Parent and Child
Page Number: 20
Explanation and Analysis:

But if you say, you can still pass the violations over, then I ask. Hath your house been burnt? Hath your property been destroyed before your face? Are your wife and children destitute of a bed to lie on, or bread to live on? Have you lost a parent or a child by their hands, and yourself the ruined and wretched survivor? If you have not, then are you not a judge of those who have. But if you have, and still can shake hands with the murderers, then are you unworthy the name of husband, father, friend, or lover, and whatever may be your rank or title in life, you have the heart of a coward, and the spirit of a sycophant.

Related Characters: Thomas Paine (speaker)
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:

Wherefore, her own interest leads her to suppress the growth of ours in every case which doth not promote her advantage, or in the least interferes with it. A pretty state we should soon be in under such a second-hand government, considering what has happened! […] And in order to shew that reconciliation now is a dangerous doctrine, I affirm, that it would be policy in the king at this time, to repeal the acts for the sake of reinstating himself in the government of the provinces; in order, that HE MAY ACCOMPLISH BY CRAFT AND SUBTILTY, IN THE LONG RUN, WHAT HE CANNOT DO BY FORCE AND VIOLENCE IN THE SHORT ONE. Reconciliation and ruin are nearly related.

Related Characters: Thomas Paine (speaker), King George III
Page Number: 28
Explanation and Analysis:

But where says some is the King of America? I’ll tell you Friend, he reigns above, and doth not make havoc of mankind like the Royal Brute of Britain. Yet that we may not appear to be defective even in earthly honors, let a day be solemnly set apart for proclaiming the charter; let it be brought forth placed on the divine law, the word of God; let a crown be placed thereon, by which the world may know, that so far as we approve of monarchy, that in America THE LAW IS KING.

Related Characters: Thomas Paine (speaker), King George III
Page Number: 33
Explanation and Analysis:
Appendix Quotes

O ye partial ministers of your own acknowledged principles. If the bearing arms be sinful, the first going to war must be more so, by all the difference between wilful attack and unavoidable defence. Wherefore, if ye really preach from conscience, and mean not to make a political hobby-horse of your religion, convince the world thereof, by proclaiming your doctrine to our enemies, for they likewise bear ARMS.

Related Characters: Thomas Paine (speaker)
Page Number: 54
Explanation and Analysis:
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Thomas Paine Character Timeline in Common Sense

The timeline below shows where the character Thomas Paine appears in Common Sense. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Introduction
Reason, Morality, and Rhetoric Theme Icon
Thomas Paine remarks that perhaps his ideas aren’t “fashionable” enough to gain much popular support. After all,... (full context)
Independence vs. Dependence Theme Icon
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Paine says that in his pamphlet, he avoids personal attacks. He just wants to look into... (full context)
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In a postscript, Paine adds that it’s unnecessary to know the identity of the pamphlet’s author; rather, the attention... (full context)
1. Of the Origin and Design of Government in General
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Paine argues that a small group of people settling in the wilderness will first be concerned... (full context)
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...of moral virtue to govern the world. The end of government is “freedom and security.” Paine further holds that, according to nature, the simpler something is, the less likely it is... (full context)
The Role of Government Theme Icon
The Case Against Monarchy Theme Icon
With this principle in mind, Paine offers a few comments on the constitution of England. When tyranny reigned, that constitution was... (full context)
The Role of Government Theme Icon
The Case Against Monarchy Theme Icon
Paine argues that two “ancient tyrannies” are represented by the English constitution: monarchical tyranny (the King)... (full context)
2. Of Monarchy and Hereditary Succession
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Human beings were created equal, Paine argues. There is no natural or religious reason for dividing humanity into separate classes of... (full context)
The Case Against Monarchy Theme Icon
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Ancient Israel copied monarchy from its heathen neighbors. Paine argues that neither nature nor scripture justifies this practice. Before kingship was introduced, Israel was... (full context)
The Case Against Monarchy Theme Icon
...got started. Perhaps some began as conveniences and later came to be regarded as entitlements. Paine refers to William the Conqueror as “a French bastard” and a “rascally” originator of English... (full context)
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...Succession is also vulnerable to unscrupulous regents who take advantage of minor or weak kings. Paine tallies up eight civil wars and 19 rebellions in England alone, arguing that this proves... (full context)
The Role of Government Theme Icon
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Finally, Paine argues that it’s unclear what role a king really has in England. He has little... (full context)
3. Thoughts on the Present State of American Affairs
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Paine states that in the coming pages, he will simply offer “simple facts, plain arguments, and... (full context)
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Paine declares that the time for debate is over—England has decided that war is the way... (full context)
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Because the matter has progressed “from argument to arms,” Paine argues that “a new aera for politics is struck,” which calls for a new manner... (full context)
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The colonies will sustain “many material injuries” by remaining dependent upon Great Britain. Paine proposes to examine the nature of that dependence, by the light of common sense, in... (full context)
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...connection to Great Britain, circumstances will remain that way forever. This is a fallacious argument, Paine says. It makes as much sense as saying that because a child has thrived on... (full context)
The Role of Government Theme Icon
The Case Against Monarchy Theme Icon
Independence vs. Dependence Theme Icon
Some argue that America has benefited from Britain’s protection in the past. Paine retorts that Britain would have defended any other possession in the same way, if its... (full context)
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Reason, Morality, and Rhetoric Theme Icon
Some also argue that Britain is America’s “parent country.” Paine argues that the King exploits this phrase in order to prey on weak minds. The... (full context)
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...Britain is not a compelling argument, since America’s long-term desire is peaceful trade, not war. Paine holds that the desirability of trade with America will always serve as better protection than... (full context)
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Paine challenges anyone to show him a single advantage that reconciliation with Britain would bring about—he... (full context)
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Paine believes that those who cling to the hope of reconciliation have unworthy motives. They either... (full context)
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If someone claims to be able to overlook British violations, Paine says he should examine himself: have you lost property, or even a loved one, due... (full context)
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Paine says that he is not being inflammatory, but only testing current events against those “feelings... (full context)
The Role of Government Theme Icon
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...to fight at all, unless America is in earnest about independence. Ever since April 1775, Paine has rejected “the hardened […] Pharaoh of England.” (full context)
The Role of Government Theme Icon
Independence vs. Dependence Theme Icon
...regarding independence is that there is not yet a plan laid down for its success. Paine offers a few suggestions. For example, each colony should send delegates to a Continental Congress.... (full context)
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The Case Against Monarchy Theme Icon
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Reason, Morality, and Rhetoric Theme Icon
Should anyone ask about a King of America, Paine retorts that “he reigns above, and doth not make havoc of mankind like the Royal... (full context)
4. Of the Present Ability of America, With Some Miscellaneous Reflections
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Paine proposes to survey America’s present readiness for independence. America’s greatest strength, he says, lies not... (full context)
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Paine also believes that the time is right because America is numerous, but not yet so... (full context)
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Paine concludes that nothing but independence would so neatly conclude America’s pressing issues. For one thing,... (full context)
Appendix
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...King George III was published in Philadelphia. The speech helped ripen people’s sentiments for independence. Paine describes the speech as “a piece of finished villainy,” and libelous. He will argue that,... (full context)
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In answer to the first, Paine begins by arguing that independence is a worthy goal because it will be necessary sooner... (full context)
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In answer to the second, Paine argues that independence is simple, whereas continued dependence on Britain is tremendously complicated. America’s present... (full context)
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Paine rests his case here. He says that no one has refuted earlier editions of the... (full context)
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Lastly, Paine addresses a recently published piece by the Quakers with regard to America’s situation. He does... (full context)