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Common Sense

Thomas Paine

Study Questions and Essay Topics

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Study Questions

How is Paine's view of government connected to his arguments for revolution?

Paine sees government as inherently bad, and does not see government as divinely ordained or otherwise intrinsically valuable. According to Paine, governments can only be measured by their effectiveness, as measured by their ability to improve society without being tyrannical. Paine does not believe that anyone has a right to govern others, which means he thinks that the king should no longer rule the colonies. Paine's view of government makes the revolutionary movement much more palatable by rejecting the presumption that the king has some legitimate and preexisting authority over the colonies. He says the only question that really matters is whether the colonists' living conditions would be better if they governed themselves, rather than being governed by the Crown.

How does Paine address the concern that America is too small to defeat the British?

In Paine's day, many people could not fathom the possibility of a group of colonies successfully taking on the world's strongest empire, but Paine tries to show that America's small size is not a disadvantage. To do this, Paine adopts a twofold strategy. First, Paine argues that the colonies are not actually that small, and lays out in detail how the colonies could build a Navy equivalent to the feared British Navy. Second, Paine argues that to the extent that the colonies are small, it is an advantage rather than a liability, as a smaller group of colonies will be more unified in their ts struggle for freedom.

Why does Paine stress that revolution will eventually occur? How does he substantiate this claim?

By demonstrating that a separation between the American colonies and the British Empire was inevitable, Paine hopes to make people more accustomed to the impossible idea of a free America. If Paine can convince his audience that America must eventually separate, the feasibility of the idea is no longer in doubt, and the colonists will instead have to consider when the separation will occur. Paine substantiates his claim with references to the present state of affairs, which he takes as evidence that the relationship between America and Britain cannot continue unchanged.

Suggested Essay Topics

Why does Paine think it is in America's best interest to be free from Britain?

Does Paine present a compelling argument for an American declaration of independence?

Discuss Paine's view of the connection between religion and government.

How do you think a loyalist would react to Paine's arguments?

How do Paine's opinions about human equality relate to his view of America's relationship with Britain?

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Theme: America as an Example of Democracy

by awritersjourney, July 04, 2013

Originally the paragon of the Ancient Greeks, democracy returns to the Western World with its advent in the Americas. Paine argues that for America to assume this type of government it would serve as an example for the rest of the Western World which is run by monarchies. As part of the "New World", Pain suggests, America now has the opportunity to practice better government institutions that will allow all individuals "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

Theme: America as an Example of Democracy

by awritersjourney, July 04, 2013

Originally the paragon of the Ancient Greeks, democracy returns to the Western World with its advent in the Americas. Paine argues that for America to assume this type of government it would serve as an example for the rest of the Western World which is run by monarchies. As part of the "New World", Pain suggests, America now has the opportunity to practice better government institutions that will allow all individuals "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

Theme: America as an Example of Democracy

by awritersjourney, July 04, 2013

Originally the paragon of the Ancient Greeks, democracy finds its new home in the beginnings America. Paine argues that this form of government can begin the change in the "New World" for better institutions of government. America, as a beacon of the democratic system, ultimately has the potential to provide all of its citizens with a chance for " life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

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