Common Sense by Thomas Paine: American Independence

Pages: 2 (856 words) Published: December 3, 2013
In Common Sense, Thomas Paine argues for American independence. His argument begins with more general, theoretical reflections about government and religion, then progresses onto the specifics of the colonial situation. Paine starts out by distinguishing between government and society. Society, according to Paine, is “everything constructive and good that people join together to accomplish.” Government, on the other hand, is an institution whose sole purpose is “to protect us from our own vices.” Government has its origins in the evil of man and is therefore a necessary evil at best. Paine says that government's sole purpose is to protect life, liberty and property, and that a government should be judged solely on the basis of the extent to which it accomplishes this goal. Paine considers an imagined scenario in which a small group of people have been placed on an island and cut off from the rest of society. In time, these people develop ties with one another, and laws become inevitable. Paine says the people will be much happier if they are responsible for the creation of the laws that rule them. Paine is also implicitly arguing that such a system of representation is also better for the American colonists. Having expressed his disagreement with British reign in America, Paine proceeds to launch a general attack on the British system of government. Paine says the British system is too complex and rife with contradictions, and that the monarchy is granted far too much power. The British system pretends to offer a reasonable system of checks and balances, but in fact, it does not. From here Paine moves on to discuss, in general, the notions of monarchy and hereditary succession. Man, Paine argues, was born into a state of equality, and the distinction that has arisen between king and subject is an unnatural one. At first, Paine says, the world was without kings, but the ancient Jews decided they wanted a king. This angered God, but he allowed them to have one....
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