Common Sense

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by Thomas Paine was published on January 9.17761.The document inspired revolutionaries in both American and Frenchcolonies. In fact, Paine was granted dual citizenship in France tohelp formulate the country’s democratic agenda2.The author overcame significant obstacles to mature into a seasonedwriter. In this paper, I will argue that Paine’s pamphlet was themost influential factor that propelled American colonies to pursueindependence.

Notably, several events led to the creation of Paine’s document. Imperial crisis occurred in British North America due to theaggressive emergence of American Nationalism3.Many colonists were proud of their status after the conclusion of theSeven Years’ War. In fact, trading activities with Britain doubledin the period 1735-17754.In 1735, a landmark case against John Peter Zenger created statutesfor freedom of speech5.Before the American Revolution, inter-colonial coverage increasedexponentially. Newspapers engendered a sense of unity andcollaboration among the colonies6.Several Whigs consistently warned that liberty was threatened by theunchecked exercise of authority.

British forces enacted regulations such as the Sugar and Stamp Actsdesigned to cater for the cost of troops7.Subsequently, the Massachusetts Circular Letter was drafted to seekharmony among the colonies. The ensuing revolt led to the BostonMassacre where several people were killed8.Inter-colonial cooperation was encouraged in 1773 and culminated inthe formation of the Boston Tea Party. In response, Britishcolonialists enacted Coercive Laws such as the Boston Port Act, theMassachusetts Government Act, the Administration of Justice Act, andthe Quartering Act in 17749.Eventually, delegates from the colonies met and decided to fight backagainst the unconstitutional and oppressive laws.

Paine created his document in an environment that was characterizedby fear and intimidation. During the 18th century,printers in the U.S. were held liable for publishing material thatwas considered offensive10.Individuals and corporations would be shut down and prosecuted forsuch offenses. In fact, material that seemed to criticize thecolonialists could be adjudged as treasonous. Documents that wereeither blasphemous or indecent also invited scrutiny andprosecution11. would expose any publisher to a charge of treasondue to its scathing denunciations of British authority. Thecolonialists would have taken particular offense to a publicationthat directly challenged its authority. Robert Bell, a reveredPhiladelphia printer, showed tremendous courage by accepting topublish Paine’s work12.Bell was willing to risk his safety and reputation since he wasinclined towards independence. Paine’s book was written to providethe independence movement with a new revolutionary voice amidst anenvironment of fear.

had an immediate impact on the morale of thecolonists. Many people were inspired to oppose the oppressive lawsestablished by British colonialists. For example, George Washingtonnoted in his correspondence to a friend that Paine’s pamphlet wouldpersuade most colonists to seek separation13.The initial letter was drafted a few weeks after was published. In a latter correspondence, Washington noted how thepamphlet had caused a powerful effect on the thinking of people inVirginia14.Paine’s document was acknowledged as the key catalyst thatpropelled colonists to seek for independence.

Paine made strong arguments that provided irrefutable reasons forindependence. He encouraged many colonies to embrace the idea ofradical change. Paine extolled the abilities of American colonies toset their own agenda15.British colonialists were not required to enact laws on behalf oftheir subjects. Furthermore, Paine exposed the folly of laws designedto increase taxes. The Stamp and Sugar Acts were criticized foroppressing American colonies16.The British forces voluntarily chose to fight in the Seven Years’War. Hence, it was unacceptable that American colonies wouldcontribute taxes to support the army. On the other hand, Britishforces justified the coercive acts since the war effort brought peaceand security to American colonies17.Paine discarded the latter argument by showing that the colonies werefully capable of protecting themselves18.Consequently, colonial leaders were inspired to push back against theBritish agenda.

Paine’s document had a tremendous effect on the views of Americancolonies towards their relationship with Britain. Previously, manycolonies were resigned to their fate since they viewed the Britishforces as insurmountable19.Independence from the colonialists was considered impossible. Hence,American colonies reluctantly submitted to British power andauthority20.Nevertheless, altered the tide of public opinionconcerning the viability of independence21.American colonies could no longer accept their subjection to Britishcolonialists. Paine’s arguments were so compelling such that theypropelled the American movements for democracy and independence.Before the publication of , few people made publicstatements against the British colonialists22.In fact, many colonies were honored to be members of the vast BritishEmpire. After the publication of Paine’s pamphlet, Americancolonies viewed independence as an attractive proposition.

Indeed, Paine’s was the greatest factor thatemboldened American colonies to sever their ties with the British andpursue independence. The publication was created in an environmentthat promoted fear and intimidation. Any material that criticized thecolonialists would be labeled as treasonous. Paine wrote the documenton the backdrop of restrictive acts established by the British. Inparticular, higher taxes were imposed to raise additional revenue.American colonies developed committees designed to fight back againstBritish oppression. was written to inspireradical change through independence. The pamphlet had an immediateimpact on American colonies as it persuaded them to fight backagainst British colonialists.


John Mack Faragher. Out of many: A history of the American people.Vol. 2. Boston, Pearson, 2016.

Paine, Thomas. Common sense. New York: Penguin, 2012.

1 Paine, Thomas. Common sense. New York: Penguin, 2012.

2 Ibid.

3 John Mack Faragher. Out of many: A history of the American people. Vol. 2. Boston, Pearson, 2016.

4 Ibid.

5 Ibid.

6 Ibid.

7 Ibid.

8 John Mack Faragher. Out of many: A history of the American people. Vol. 2. Boston, Pearson, 2016.

9 Ibid.

10 Paine, Thomas. Common sense. New York: Penguin, 2012.

11 Ibid.

12 Ibid.

13 Paine, Thomas. Common sense. New York: Penguin, 2012.

14 Ibid.

15 Ibid.

16 Ibid.

17 Ibid.

18 Ibid.

19 Ibid.

20 Paine, Thomas. Common sense. New York: Penguin, 2012.

21 Ibid.

22 Ibid.