Book Keepers Corner
Dr. Charles Ormsby
46 Pages:Thomas Paine
Even those with just a passing acquaintance with U.S. history around the time of our Revolutionary War are aware of Thomas Paines historic pamphlet. And they are generally familiar with the fact that it was influential during the months leading up to our Declaration of Independence. What is not as well known is the reason its impact was so prodigious.
Paines writing style, which was easily understood by the masses, and his ability to create powerful and memorable excerpts are often cited. These provide a partial explanation for the pamphlets success, but there are even more important reasons.
If you havent read Common Sense, put it off just a little longer. First read 46 Pages: Thomas Paine, Common Sense, and the Turning Point to Independence by Scott Liell. When you are done, which wont be long since it is only 130 pages, you will be much better prepared to appreciate the significance of Paines arguments for independence.
Before the publication of Common Sense, colonial rants against Great Britain focused on the Parliament and not King George III. Even with Boston under siege, George Washington, hoping for ultimate reconciliation with England, toasted the King of England every evening as he and his Generals concluded their dinners in Cambridge. Thomas Paines pamphlet shifted the focus of the colonists anger to the King. Washingtons toasts to King George stopped the day he read Common Sense. Within months of publication, the statue of King George in New York was demolished.
Paines attack was not limited to King George. Common Sense was a systematic attack on the English system of government and on the monarchy in particular. Paine dissected the justification for having a Monarch and destroyed it. In its place, he erected an alternative: a republic based on natural law.
Before Common Sense, first distributed on January 10th 1776 and approximately nine months after the Battle of Lexington and Concord, the vast majority of colonists wanted accommodation with Great Britain and expected that this would be the likely outcome of our conflict. Independence was spoken of quietly and only amongst the more militant referred to as the violent people by the Quakers in Philadelphia. Only a minority favored independence and most of the delegates to the Continental Congress were under explicit orders to not vote for independence. Thomas Paine embraced the calls for independence and showed the folly of reconciliation. The people agreed with him and the Continental Congress followed.
In 1815 John Adams wrote to Thomas Jefferson that the Revolution was not initiated by the political leaders in the Congress or by patriots on the battlefield, but rather in the minds of the people. Common Sense swayed the minds of the people and ultimately we began the world over again. Scott Liells 46 Pages, a must-read for those who want to understand the coalescing of colonial opinion around independence and liberty, tells us how Paine did it.
46 Pages: Thomas Paine, Common Sense, and the Turning Point to Independence, by Scott Liell, is published by Running Press, Ó 2003 by Scott Liell.
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