Thomas Paine : Political Activist, Theorist, Philosopher, Revolutionary

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Thomas Paine, an English-born American political activist, theorist, philosopher, revolutionary. During the American Revolutionary War, he wrote a powerful and widely circulated pamphlet, Common Sense, which greatly inspired the independence of patriots. In his pamphlet, Thomas Paine publicly proposing the necessary of American Revolution, and deeply revealing the dark and oppressive nature of Britain. When Common Sense came out, it immediately set off a huge storm sweep the whole North American continent and changed everyone who read it. The shocking effect of this book to colonists is unimaginable today. In general, in Common Sense, Paine was not expressing some existing common sense, but using a strong language to package the independent consciousness into common sense and making it profoundly root in the minds of people.

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Thomas Paine in his Common Sense trying to expose the “common sense” of society at the time. The content was indeed as the title of the work, all “common sense.” The American Revolutionary War has begun, but people’s ideology was still in chaos. George Washington led the army and fought intensely every day, but they only fighting against British parliament, not the British king. They were totally ignorant of the future of revolution. These ignorant and unwise battles ended on January 10, 1776 when Paine published the Common Sense. He made it clear that the British King is the source of all suffering of colonists and is responsible for British’s horrible Acts in North America: ‘Why is the constitution of England sickly, but because monarchy hath poisoned the Republic; the Crown hath engrossed the Commons.” He also pointed out that the British royal family was not sacred, because according to the history, the first ancestor of the British king was the leader of a certain group of unscrupulous people.

Thomas Paine believed British King was overpowering and has too much control over parliament, which should have supervised the king for his action. Since it was the King who completely dominated the British regime, all blames to the King. Acts like The Stamp Act that caused Boston Tea Party, Boston Massacre, and later Intolerable Acts, cannot pass without King’s approval. He concluded: ‘In England a King hath little more to do than to make war and give away places; which, in plain terms, is to empoverish the nation and set it together by the ears.” He commented that the British polity was the dirty remnant of the tyranny of monarchy and the tyranny of nobility, perhaps the ultimate representative of both. The only purpose of its existence was nothing more than seeking welfare for the king and the nobility. Therefore, it was not only a weapon used by the King and the nobles to exploit their own people, but also a tool by which the motherland exploited the colonies. He repeatedly questioned, is the colonial people willing to be enslaved and arbitrarily slaughtered? The answer is of course no. Thomas Paine was not only the first one genuinely yelling out the American Independence while people like George Washington still hesitating about the legality of warfare, but also the first one shaping the American spirit. He repeatedly instilled in the idea of “there is no precedent of founding the United States” to colonists. Thomas Paine’s words not only served in Revolutionary War, but more importantly, they created American citizens. His Common Sense actually broke the common sense of ordinary people but people were willing to believe Thomas Paine was just telling the truth that they neglected because of his passionate words.

Thomas Paine made it clear that the contradictions between the colonies and the motherland are irreconcilable, and compromise is impossible. Common Sense tells the North American colonies the simplest truth: North America should be independent from Britain. For the first time in his book, Paine made it clear that Britain belongs to Europe, North America, belongs to itself. He carefully analyzed the situation in North America, referring to the two views that existed, namely, separation and reconciliation with the Britain. He pointed out that reconciliation with the Britain will only continue to oppress North America, because the Britain was not really protecting the interests of North America, and will implement its rule for self-interest considerations. In this way, North America cannot really protect itself and there is no trade that can be freely developed by British regime. Moreover, if the huge price of the British rebellion is only to overthrow a bill or even a parliament, it would be too costly. Thomas Paine believes that these costs are enough to give them complete independence. Many people therefore finally made up their minds to break with the Britain, and focused on establish an independent United States of America. From a certain point of view, Common Sense does not have a common sense throughout, but is full of horrendous rebellious remarks. On the one hand, it used logical thinking to demonstrate the benefits of independence and the sins of Britain. On the other hand, it used the words of excitement to invigorate the independence of the American colonial people.

Common Sense is just a fifty-page pamphlet. However, the lightness of the page does not cover the weight of thought, and the ideological connotation carried in the book is utterly astounding, and it is in no way inferior to the Declaration of Independence. Not to mention how the concept of ‘Everyone is Equal” is forward-looking. The in-depth analysis of the autocratic monarchy has repeatedly beaten the North American English who are immersed in the “British Dream” that they are still a part of British society. The North American independence advocated by Common Sense is, today, a fact that is logical. But in the era of Thomas Paine, it was a shout of screaming. Thomas Paine slammed the tyranny of British government, severely criticized the British feudal autocracy, resolutely advocated the independence of the North American colonies and the establishment of a republican government.

Common sense, in all the knowledge, is the most precious; common sense is the truth that most people dare not to say; common sense is to tell the truth in most confusing moment that most people do not understand. The great thing about Common Sense is to tell the world that the emperor is not wearing clothes. The reason why Thomas Paine’s Common Sense became famous is because the common sense he said is awakening to perplexed people: Oh, I see. It analyzed the necessity and feasibility of building a government based on new principles with prophetic insight and political foresight. Thomas Paine raised the banner of republicanism and democracy, criticized feudal hierarchy and monarchy, proposed a revolutionary program for the people with selfless enthusiasm and pragmatic thinking. He did not only point out the direction for the development of war, but also point out the direction for the post-war Republican road. He was indeed the ‘father of modern American ideology.”

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Thomas Paine : Political Activist, Theorist, Philosopher, Revolutionary. (2021, Mar 01). Retrieved February 6, 2023 , from

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