American Literature Week 12 Paine’s Common Sense

Prompt: “The most illogical argument in Common Sense

It’s fairly easy to find illogical arguments sewn within the quilt of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, mainly because the document is based on rhetoric. It’s made to appeal to colonial Americans emotions, to highlight and intensify their outrage against Britain. He explains the situation in dramatized detail, declaring that the colonies shall never be truly free if they are under the thumb of the English. He pushed for revolution, war, and violent outbreak against Great Britain’s monarchy.

He did this through rhetoric as opposed to logic. One of his arguments was that the people demand separation, that most if not every citizen was chomping at the bit for independence. The issue was he hadn’t interviewed the hundreds of thousands he spoke for. Instead he had talked with several, perhaps a few hundred, and decided the public opinion based on their perspectives.

Another of his arguments was that the national dept is a good thing, and assists in bringing the American people together. Having a national problem, a mutual enemy, will cement the people together as steadfast Americans. But I argue that instead of cementing the people together through national dept, war, and hate of the British we could have built our country upon thriving economy, national brotherhood, peace between nations, and growing up from the foundation of the parent country instead of tearing it down. Though this idea may be idealistic, it could have saved many lives. This was the view of the Quakers, who preached to earn independence through peaceful methods rather than bloodshed. Paine’s response to them was to sit out, shut up, and let the men aiming for full scale revolutionary war call the shots.

Paine stated that too much commerce weakens a nation. He said that if we keep trading with Britain we’ll get rich, then we’ll have less motive and less ability to fight against England. We would have had less motive perhaps, but that would be because we are gaining capital. The argument that we would be less able to fight while being rich is a type of paradox. If it were true how was Britain the most powerful country at the time? They excelled in commerce, their trade routes were growing by the year and they invested their gains into their economy and military.

Paine also argued that freedom can never rule without rebellion, war, and a declaration of independence. But to disprove this notion we look to the north, towards our neighbor Canada. Canada had intense freedom without having to bloodily cut all ties to their parent countries. If we followed their techniques we may be closer tied to monarchy, but we could earn freedom without having to trade lives for our cause.

Paine’s Common Sense may have been the most impactful piece of literature at the time, and it definitely played a key role is sculpting our nation and our history. But it stubbornly sought out war, and dominated any group who preferred more peaceful methods of freedom fighting. It was based on emotion fueled rhetoric instead of logic.

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