Common Sense


Thomas Paine

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Themes and Colors
The Role of Government Theme Icon
The Case Against Monarchy Theme Icon
Independence vs. Dependence Theme Icon
Reason, Morality, and Rhetoric Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Common Sense, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

The Role of Government

Thomas Paine’s 1776 political pamphlet, Common Sense, was revolutionary in a number of ways. Paine was one of the first to openly advocate for American independence from Great Britain, and in doing so, he sought to appeal to the everyday colonial American reader instead of to fellow political theorists. In order to make his radical case, he first lays the groundwork for his argument by discussing the nature of government itself, building on…

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The Case Against Monarchy

After establishing his views on government in general, Paine takes the more radical step of arguing that monarchy is a bankrupt institution and must be abandoned. In his view, there are many absurdities of monarchy to choose from, such as the isolation and ignorance of rulers from those they govern: “There is something exceedingly ridiculous in the composition of monarchy […] The state of a king shuts him from the world, yet the business of…

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Independence vs. Dependence

Paine’s major goal in Common Sense is to convince his American readership to embrace the cause of independence. To do that, he builds a case that remaining connected to Great Britain would be harmful to the American colonies. By first building on the imagery of America’s “childhood” in a variety of ways and presenting long-term risks of reliance on the “mother country,” Paine implies that America’s subservience to Britain is inherently unhealthy…

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Reason, Morality, and Rhetoric

Paine argues that “a long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defence of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason.” This is a good summary of Paine’s approach throughout Common Sense—of making a rhetorical appeal to his readership’s ability to evaluate long-held traditional assumptions. Though he characterizes this evaluative ability as mere…

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