Thursday, May 14, 2015

Common Sense, by Thomas Paine

There are two recorded works of Thomas Paine at  The first is this pamphlet about the American Revolution.  The second is on the French Revolution.  Common Sense is clearly a polemic advocating war against England, while given its name, "Common Sense", it speciously declares itself to be neutral and guided only by reason.  One point I found sympathy with is the claim that the division of people into poor and rich was rarely the result of oppression.  There are many factors.

The most amusing part of this was Paine's argument that the constitutional monarchy of England was irrational and to be rejected because the king and the various chambers had checks on the others.  Apparently checks and balances in government are contrary to Common Sense!  His arguments for doing away with the monarchy are taken from the biblical texts of Gideon and Samuel, so that nothing of classical viewpoints intrudes into the discussion.  He postures himself as being strongly pro freedom of religion, with the only deviation being criticism of the Quakers who insist on both being pacifists and being politically noisy.  Verbal warfare is OK, but physical warfare isn't.  Somehow I suspect that he isn't going to employ this kind of argument in his other work, The Rights of Man.  There were also some crazy claims that the US was militarily very strong, which proved to be about as wrong as could be.

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