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Common Sense

by Thomas Paine

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5,116592,084 (3.97)1 / 129
History. Politics. Nonfiction. HTML:

When Thomas Paine first anonymously published his series of pamphlets titles Common Sense they became an overnight success. First released in 1776 at the height of the American Revolution the treatise denounced British rule and is thought to have been so popular as to have influenced the path of the revolution itself. In the words of Historian Gordon S. Wood Common Sense was, "the most incendiary and popular pamphlet of the entire revolutionary era."

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    The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin (Teresa_Pelka)
    Teresa_Pelka: Paths by Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Paine parted, in their living experience. The names continue together in history, for the role both men had in American independence.

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 American History: Thomas Paine and Common Sense7 unread / 7dan_c00000, January 2007

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Paine’s impassioned argument for American Independence was a best seller in the country its initial printing and it has remained in print ever since . This 1997 Dover Thrift reprint of the “new” 1776 edition starts with his idea that monarchy is nonsense and proceeds with his reasons why the colonies south of Canada are right in demanding independence, then proceeds to attack the reasons and persons who disagree, citing other thinkers who agree with him. He is insistent that now is the time for this to happen. Independence should not be delayed. It is not time to hesitate or negotiate; it is time to act. ( )
  MaowangVater | Dec 8, 2023 |
Stirring and persuasive, Thomas Paine's short polemic Common Sense retains the passion and immediacy of the moment in which it was written: 1776, with Paine's fellow Americans in rebellion against their British parent. On one level, it is an argument against monarchy in general, but from this angle it is quite limited. Excitable and populist, using naked rhetoric to appeal to the emotions of its intended audience, it lacks the rigour such an argument requires – though it is still fun to read. Paine's appeals to Scripture to validate his case seem cynical given the atheism – or at least anti-theism – he espoused.

However, the argument against monarchy is merely the platform on which Paine pursues his true cause. Common Sense is primarily a plea for Paine's fellow Americans to seize their moment and establish their independence, for "no nation under heaven hath such an advantage as this" (pg. 54). He is right – America at that moment possessed strategic and commercial advantages, raw materials, reasonable military power, favourable political circumstances and politicians with the calibre to exploit them. It had momentum, and it's fascinating to detect the note of desperation, or at least unease, in Paine's writing here, that that momentum may be squandered.

We might look back now and see the United States as inevitable, given those advantages and circumstances, but might forget that it was Paine, among others, working frantically at the bellows. In this slight pamphlet, intended for a general audience, we can find the seeds of much of the United States' perception of itself; its political exceptionalism, its libertarian sensibility and its appeal to noble ideals. (We might also, perhaps a bit uncharitably, detect America's selective pursuit of those ideals, such as in Paine's off-hand dismissal of the "Indians and Negroes" who the British "hath stirred up… to destroy us" (pg. 45).)

A stable society, Paine writes in one of his more sober and analytical moments, involves a healthy and mutually-supportive relationship between government and governed; "this frequent interchange will establish a common interest… on this (and not on the unmeaning name of king) depends the strength of government, and the happiness of the governed" (pg. 8). 'Common sense', then, has a double meaning as Paine's title. It is not just Paine proposing that his argument is the only one that makes sense, the only one that discards of the nonsense of kings. The polemic, in its passion for an American republic borne out of revolution, provided for Americans a common sense, a shared vision or idea, of what they should seek to be. ( )
  MikeFutcher | Nov 4, 2023 |
Brilliant and eloquent. ( )
  BooksbyStarlight | Oct 25, 2022 |
I feel a bit ashamed that this is the first time that I have read Common Sense in its entirety. It is a piece of American history that deserves our attention and respect. It is easy to see why it affected people of its time in the way that it did, as it is clearly and simply written and sets forth in undeniable logic the issues in question at the time.

Masterfully titled, Paine’s points do indeed seem to be common sense. I was particularly struck by his deft destruction of the divine right of kings and the portion of the pamphlet that dealt with the construction of a navy. I cannot believe that, had I been a citizen of this time, I would have hesitated to grasp his logic and embrace the ideas he put forth.

He is often credited with having a huge influence on the decision that was taken by many to risk everything in order to sever ties with George III and win independence from English rule. While his writing was passionate, his thoughts were solid and did not smack of any unbridled dislike of the English as much as a thoughtful study of the problem and an almost unavoidable conclusion.

One fact that I was surprised by, and did not remember ever having come across in any history class, was that he had only been in America for two years prior to writing this treatise extolling separation. I wonder what the more established “founding fathers” thought of that, since many had already been here for generations.

I think you have to give this 5✯'s for its historical value, its impact, and its writing style. ( )
  mattorsara | Aug 11, 2022 |
Thomas Paine references history and the Bible. He assumes his readers are well education in both history and the Bible. He also brings in humor to his writing. ( )
  nx74defiant | Mar 1, 2021 |
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» Add other authors (30 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Thomas Paineprimary authorall editionscalculated
Appelbaum, StanleyEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Appleby, JoyceEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Beeman, Richard R.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Benn, TonyIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Books, PennyEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Conway, Moncure DanielEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cronauer, AdrianNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dabos, LaurentIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Deitschman, CraigNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Di Muccio De Quattro, PietroPrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dixon, WalterNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gabaldon, DianaIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gregory TietjenIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hamel, ChristopherPostfacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Herder, RonaldEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Higonnet, Patricesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kramnick, IsaacEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Larkin, EdwardEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Maggiori, CarlaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Marshall, Qariesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Meinzer, LotharHerausgebersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Millière, AugusteIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Neufeld, BobReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ortolà, JaumeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pelka, TeresaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pentleton, CarolDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Perry, Darryl WEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Robinson, W. StittIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stamper, Charles F.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Taylor, AlanIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tietjen, GregoryIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vafiadis, GeorgeNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Van De Bilt, Eduardsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Van der Weyde, William M.secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wapenaar, Lexsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Warburton, ThomasTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wendel, ThomasEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
ZolaIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Man knows no Mafbr fave creating HEAVEN,
Or thofe whom choice and common good ordain.

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Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following pages are not sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favor; 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 defense of custom.
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.
Immediate necessity makes many things convenient, which if continued would grow into oppressions. Expedience and right are different things.
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History. Politics. Nonfiction. HTML:

When Thomas Paine first anonymously published his series of pamphlets titles Common Sense they became an overnight success. First released in 1776 at the height of the American Revolution the treatise denounced British rule and is thought to have been so popular as to have influenced the path of the revolution itself. In the words of Historian Gordon S. Wood Common Sense was, "the most incendiary and popular pamphlet of the entire revolutionary era."


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When my country, into which I had just set my foot, was set on fire about my ears, it was time to stir. It was time for every man to stir."
~ Thomas Paine

Published anonymously in 1776, the year of the American Declaration of Independence, Paine's Common Sense became an immediate bestseller, with fifty-six edtiions printed in that year alone. It was this pamplet, more than any other factor, which helped to spark off the movement that established hte independence of hte United States.

From his experience of revolutionary politics, Paine drew those principles of fundamental human rights which, he felt, must stand no matter what excesses are committed to obtain them, and which he later formulated in his Rights of Man.
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An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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