Common sense


Paine was a bold and assertive writer who challenged the prevailing form of government, and immensely contributed to the revolutionary movement. This author’s opinions were essential in convincing neutral colonists that they needed to break away from the British monarch.

King George III and the institution of the monarch

This author argued that King George the Third and the institution of the monarch were totally detrimental to the well being of people who were governed by him. He claimed that kings were only useful in making war and giving away places. He thought that the King was actually impoverishing the country. Paine (1775, 96) argued that it was really extravagant to maintain a monarch. One man was paid too much for doing nothing.

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He held that monarchs are very dangerous because they tend to become tyrannical. By being plain and unrelenting in his opinion about King George III and the institution of the monarch, Paine managed to convince members of the colonies that freedom from the institution of the monarch was the right way to go. Since Paine’s message was uncomplicated, even ordinary citizens who were confused about their position on the monarch could understand it and support it.

General concept of independence for British colonies in America

Given the level of hostility between British colonies in America and Britain, Paine (1775, 97) felt that independence was the best way too. He argued that America was a continent, yet Britain was an island and it was illogical for the latter to rule the former. He also believed that Britain had treated people in the colonies horribly, so it did not deserve to be called a mother nation.

If America continued to be attached to Britain, it would have to get involved in elaborate and destructive European wars. He argued that the best way forward for America would be to concentrate on commerce rather than Europe’s misunderstandings. Paine also thought that it did not make sense for geographically incompatible countries to rule one another.

Since England was so far from America, Parliament could not deal with challenges that developed in the colonies as soon as they arose. These arguments led many people in the colonies to consider severing their ties with Britain. They realized that Britain only held colonies to benefit itself rather than to further the interests of people in the colonies. America was considered as an opportunity for colonists to prosper away from the harsh British rule. Paine put these thoughts across so articulately.

Concept of equality of all people

Paine (1775, 90) believed that equality for all people was a necessary component for liberal society. This author said that the difference between kings and subjects was totally false since the bible says that all men were created equal at the onset of creation.

To Paine, an equal society was one that involved its people in law making. If the society was small in number, then it should gather all the people together, and find out how they would mitigate problems.

However, if the numbers are too high, then the people should still be included by having elections that allow them to select government representatives who would then be responsible for making regulations. This argument on the equality of all people was important in convincing colonists that breaking away from Britain was the best course of action because this country did not promote it.

The King and his people were regarded as supreme to the commons, yet they were essential components of the English constitution. Since the King’s rule is determined through hereditary patterns, it was difficult for this individual to contribute much to the lives of the people. Paine therefore showed colonists that contrary to their long-held opinion, there was a place for commons in politics and governments. He opened up a territory that had not been charted before.


Paine’s views on government, the institution of the monarch and the state of the American colonies in general were revolutionary. He argued that kings were tyrannical and detrimental to the state, that commons and the elite were equal, yet the British system did not promote this, and that it was illogical for Britain (an island) to rule America (a continent) because Britain only wanted to serve its own interests. After reading about these arguments, many colonists decided that independence was the best way forward.


Paine, T. (1986) [1775]. Common sense. NY: Penguin classics


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