How Thomas Paine Shaped the American Colonies

essay A

Get Full Essay

Get access to this section to get all the help you need with your essay and educational goals.

Get Access

Paine outlines his topic and strategy for this essay. He suggests that they are not “fashionable” (Paine PG). His basis for a rhetorical mode in this essay relates to Enlightenment, with his main point being that a “a government which cannot preserve the peace, is no government at all” (Paine PG) Paine examines the idea of once again maintaining dependent on England, concentrating on five issues: (1) that America flourished under England, (2) that England protects America, (3) that England provides unity to the different colonies, (4) that England is the parent country, (5) that strength is gained in their union. (Paine PG).

Pain later outlines the primary harm that he feels will come from dependence on England. Paine uses Enlightenment thinking to defend his position that America should separate from England and set up its own government. Thomas Paine is one of the most enlightened men of his time. His attempts to bring others to his way of thinking are quite astute. “Common Sense” was written in 1776 by Thomas Paine. This pamphlet requested that the United States immediately declare independence from Britain. It was written in a stimulating manner in order to gain support for his cause, which was the cause of Enlightenment tenets and ideals.

Analysis: “The Enlightenment” is more than just a movement. It is a way of thinking and certain ideals. Thomas Paine, as a thinker and a writer, believed himself to be more enlightened than his compatriots were, and he set out to enlighten them. He believed that human reason could be used to combat ignorance, superstition, and tyranny and to build a better world. The Enlightenment was the traditional thought of the time. Thomas Paine was able to exert vast international influence in this subject. His contemporaries in America were Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson.

The Enlightenment was the scientific and intellectual developments of the 17th century such as Isaac Newton’s discoveries, Rene Descartes’ rationalism, Pierre Bayle’s skepticism, and Francis Bacon and John Locke’s empiricism. Those developments fostered belief in natural law and universal order, and human reason. Paine wrote, “I have heard it asserted by some, that as America hath flourished under her former connection with Great Britain, that the same connection is necessary towards her future happiness, and will always have the same effect. Nothing can be more fallacious than this kind of argument.

We may as well assert, hat because a child has thrived upon milk, that it is never to have meat; or that the first twenty years of our lives is to become a precedent for the next twenty. But even this is admitting more than is true, for I answer roundly, that America would have flourished as much, and probably much more, had no European power had any thing to do with her. The commerce by which she hath enriched herself are the necessaries of life, and will always have a market while eating is the custom of Europe” (Paine PG). Paine was enlightened in his thinking with regard to England and how England should not control America.

According to Dragonetti, “The science of the politician consists in fixing the true point of happiness and freedom. Those men would deserve the gratitude of ages, who should discover a mode of government that contained the greatest sum of individual happiness, with the least national expense” (Paine PG). This remark is very Enlightened. Thomas Paine was greatly influenced by the English Enlightenment and to a lesser degree the French Enlightenment. The language of the Enlightenment was the language of natural law, of inherent freedoms, and of self-determination.

Thomas Paine’s work reflects those ideals. He is very articulate in the expression of his ideas and values. Those ideas and values were thematic of the Enlightenment. In keeping with the reflection of the ideals of the Enlightenment, it was the political and spiritual philosophy of Thomas Paine that was the sparks to the Revolution of the United States. Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” was actually pivotal in taking the Revolution to its ultimate victory. Paine was stalwart and deliberate in his ideas. He was not a man to back down when confronted, although he would admit when he was wrong.

He used this pamphlet to further his cause. He felt that his cause should have been the cause of all Americans, and in reality it was. He was able to show many how England should no longer rule America. He wrote, “A government of our own is our natural right: And when a man seriously reflects on the precariousness of human affairs, he will become convinced, that it is in finitely wiser and safer, to form a constitution of our own in a cool deliberate manner, while we have it in our power, than to trust such an interesting event to time and chance.

If we omit it now, some Massenello may hereafter arise, who laying hold of popular disquietudes, may collect together the desperate and the discontented, and by assuming to themselves the powers of government, may sweep away the liberties of the continent like a deluge. Should the government of America return again into the hands of Britain, the tottering situation of things, will be a temptation for some desperate adventurer to try his fortune; and in such a case, what relief can Britain give?

Ere she could hear the news the fatal business might be done, and ourselves suffering like the wretched Britons under the oppression of the Conqueror. Ye that oppose independence now, ye know not what ye do; ye are opening a door to eternal tyranny, by keeping vacant the seat of government” (Paine PG). Conclusion: The one crucial reason that Americans should study the Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” and the Enlightenment, it that it is their history. It is their lineage from Thomas Paine and other men who felt this concept to their very bones.

The Enlightenment defined Thomas Paine, what he dreamed of and what he became. Paine’s political and spiritual philosophy is alive and well today and is still changing the world in a positive way on this globe. In fact, his pure genius and the Enlightenment he presented will surely never die. Yes, there is definitely a message from “Common Sense” to the people of the 1990s. Societies in America as well as other nations can make use of this valuable text and the lessons learned from Thomas Paine in his Enlightenment.

This author would suggest that in many ways the Enlightenment still lives at the close of the twentieth century. Human rights notions are just as attractive to oppressed people today as they were to oppressed people in the time of Thomas Paine. The same natural law that inspired Thomas Paine also appeals to societies and countries today. Religious tolerance is given as a solution whenever religious conflicts erupt. The notion of self-rule is an ideal that embodies a universality. The ideals of Enlightenment have become global ideals.

Get instant access to
all materials

Become a Member
unlock