Common Sense
Thomas Paine
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Common Sense is a 47-page pamphlet written by Thomas Paine in 1775–1776 advocating independence from Great Britain to people in the Thirteen Colonies. Writing in clear and persuasive prose, Paine marshaled moral and political arguments to encourage common people in the Colonies to fight for egalitarian government. Common Sense made public a persuasive and impassioned case for independence, which had not yet been given serious intellectual consideration. Paine connected independence with common dissenting Protestant beliefs as a means to present a distinctly American political identity and structured Common Sense as if it were a sermon.

Common Sense

Thomas Paine


PERHAPS the sentiments contained in the following pages, are notYET sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favor; a longhabit of not thinking a thing WRONG, gives it a superficialappearance of being RIGHT, and raises at first a formidable outcryin defence of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Time makes moreconverts than reason.

As a long and violent abuse of power, is generally the Means ofcalling the right of it in question (and in Matters too which mightnever have been thought of, had not the Sufferers been aggravatedinto the inquiry) and as the King of England hath undertaken in hisOWN RIGHT, to support the Parliament in what he calls THEIRS, andas the good people of this country are grievously oppressed by thecombination, they have an undoubted privilege to inquire into thepretensions of both, and equally to reject the usurpations of either.

In the following sheets, the author hath studiously avoided everything which is personal among ourselves. Compliments as well ascensure to individuals make no part thereof. The wise, and theworthy, need not the triumph of a pamphlet; and those whosesentiments are injudicious, or unfriendly, will cease of themselvesunless too much pains are bestowed upon their conversion.

The cause of America is in a great measure the cause of allmankind. Many circumstances have, and will arise, which are notlocal, but universal, and through which the principles of all Loversof Mankind are affected, and in the Event of which, their Affectionsare interested. The laying of a Country desolate with Fire and Sword,declaring War against the natural rights of all Mankind, andextirpating the Defenders thereof from the Face of the Earth, is theConcern of every Man to whom Nature hath given the Power of feeling;of which Class, regardless of Party Censure, is


Postscript to the Third Edition

P. S. The Publication of this new Edition hath been delayed, with aView of taking notice (had it been necessary) of any Attempt torefute the Doctrine of Independance: As no Answer hath yet appeared,it is now presumed that none will, the Time needful for getting sucha Performance ready for the Public being considerably past.

Who the Author of this Production is, is wholly unnecessary to thePublic, as the Object for Attention is the DOCTRINE ITSELF, not theMAN. Yet it may not be unnecessary to say, That he is unconnectedwith any Party, and under no sort of Influence public or private, butthe influence of reason and principle.

Philadelphia, February 14, 1776.

Of the Origin and Design of Government in General, with Concise Remarks on the English Constitution

SOME writers have so confounded society with government, as to leavelittle or no distinction between them; whereas they are not onlydifferent, but have different origins. Society is produced by ourwants, and government by wickedness; the former promotes ourhappiness POSITIVELY by uniting our affections, the latterNEGATIVELY by restraining our vices. The one encouragesintercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is a patron,the last a punisher.

Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in itsbest state is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerableone; for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries BY AGOVERNMENT, which we might expect in a country WITHOUT GOVERNMENT,our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means bywhich we suffer. Government, like dress, is the badge of lostinnocence; the palaces of kings are built on the ruins of the bowersof paradise. For were the impulses of conscience clear, uniform, andirresistibly obeyed, man would need no other lawgiver; but that notbeing the case, he finds it necessary to surrender up a part of hisproperty to furnish means for the protection of the rest; and this heis induced to do by the same prudence which in every other caseadvises him out of two evils to choose the least. WHEREFORE,security being the true design and end of government, it unanswerablyfollows that whatever FORM thereof appears most likely to ensure itto us, with the least expence and greatest benefit, is preferable toall others.

In order to gain a clear and just idea of the design and end ofgovernment, let us suppose a small number of persons settled in somesequestered part of the earth, unconnected with the rest, they willthen represent the first peopling of any country, or of the world. Inthis state of natural liberty, society will be their first thought. Athousand motives will excite them thereto, the strength of one man isso unequal to his wants, and his mind so unfitted for perpetualsolitude, that he is soon obliged to seek assistance and relief ofanother, who in his turn requires the same. Four or five united wouldbe able to raise a tolerable dwelling in the midst of a wilderness,but ONE man might labour out the common period of life withoutaccomplishing any thing; when he had felled his timber he could notremove it, nor erect it after it was removed; hunger in the mean timewould urge him from his work, and every different want call him adifferent way. Disease, nay even misfortune would be death, forthough neither might be mortal, yet either would disable him fromliving, and reduce him to a state in which he might rather be said toperish than to die.

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