Recently, I acquired a copy of Thomas Paines most recent patriotic pamphlet, entitled Common Sense. I was immediately interested in what Paine had to say in his new work, after such powerful previous works, such as The Crisis series. I was nothing less than astonished at how Paine so powerfully conveyed his patriotic message. Paine theorizes a split between England and the colonial states.
At the same time as a split is theorized, it would form a union of the colonial states into one country, united into one body on our American principles, no longer under the rule of the British Parliament and its ridiculous taxes and misrepresentation. Paine delivers one of the most compelling arguments I have heard on why there should be a division between the English and the Americans.
The British Parliament has long been a bane to the colonists in the New World, with the passage of all their “acts” to tax us simply because we are more productive. Paine makes his contempt for the current system of government quite clear early on. “Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one; for even we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries by a government, which we might expect in a country without government, our calamities is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer.” (65) Paine clearly believes that the English government falls into the “intolerable” category of governments.
Although a system of government is a required entity in almost any society, there are much better ways to govern a people besides the British monarchal system. Paine discusses how the Parliament is set up as a representation of the people, but what good is representation in a monarchy? The monarch still has absolute power, even though a system is set up to make it appear as though the people have a say. This lack of true representation instills a lack of trust towards the king in the British subjects. These factors create doubt in ones mind about the strength of the British government. Paine questions the government saying:
“How came the king by a power which the people are afraid to trust, and always obliged to check? Such a power could not be the gift of a wise people, neither can any power, which needs checking, be from God; yet the provision, which the constitution makes, supposes such a power to exist.” (70)
Hereditary succession, as approved by the British constitution, is one of the greater evils of the British government. Through hereditary succession, kings and lords of inferior intelligence and moral standing can assume positions that they are in no way qualified for. “Mankind being originally equals in the order of creation, the equality could only be destroyed by some subsequent circumstance” (71)
The circumstances that Paine is referring to are of course division in classes. The rich have more power and influence, and so of course pass their power onto those of their bloodline. The problems inherent this system are obvious. A completely unqualified individual could come into power through a hereditary system, and with this power, do great damage to the people under their rule.
But even a non-hereditary monarchal system is a terrible and expressly disapproved of form of government. Paine has this to say about monarchs: “Government by kings was first introduced into the world by the Heathens, from whom the children of Israel copied the custom. It was the most prosperous invention the Devil ever set on foot for the promotion of idolatry.” (72) Paine also tells of the Bibles directions about a government by kings, and how God feels about this system: “Almighty, as declared by Gideon and the prophet Samuel, expressly disapproves of government by kings.” (73) The only people who approve of the English government are those who are in power, or those who stand to succeed as an heir to a position of power.
The British are also a huge economic bane on American colonists. Paines stance is that it is crucial to the survival of the colonies that the colonies perform as a separate economic entity, so as not to be ruined by English influences. “Europe is to thickly planted with kingdoms to be long at peace, and when a war breaks out between England and any foreign power, the trade of America goes to ruin, because of her connection with Britain.” (87) We, the colonists of America, are associated with the English, and are made to suffer because of this.
In addition, the British are jealous of our success here, and it is outrageous for the colonists to stand by while we are constantly abused by English taxes. “Is the power who is jealous of our prosperity, a proper power to govern us?” (93) England truly has no care for Americas welfare, only its own wealth and power. “America is only a secondary object in the system of British politics. England consults the good of this country, no farther than it answers her own purpose. Wherefore, her own interest leads her to suppress the growth of ours in every case which doth not promote her advantage, or in the least interfere with it.” (93)
It is indeed time for a change. Paine himself believes it is time for a split between the two civilizations, and it is also the thoughts of many others. “I have never met with a man, either in England or America, who hath not confessed his opinion, that a separation between the countries, would take place one time or another.” (100) Even under such obviously unjust rule under England, some believe there can be a sort of reparations between England and America, but Paine disagrees. “Your future connection with Britain, whom you can neither love nor honour, will be forced and unnatural, and being formed only on the plan of present convenience, will in a little time fall into a relapse more wretched than the first.” (89) Indeed, there is at this time much hatred between the English and the “Americans”. There have already been battles fought, and attempting to reconcile would be futile. ” never can true reconcilement grow where wounds of deadly hate have pierced so deep.” (90)
Under the circumstances, a separation between England and America is crucial to the survival of America. The only factor that must be decided is when such a separation should occur. If we look to Paines advice, he states: “As all men allow the measure, and vary only in their opinion of the time, let us, in order to remove mistakes, take a general survey of things and endeavour if possible, to find out the very time. But we need not go far, the inquiry ceases at once, for the time hath found us.” (100)
Paine calls for an immediate separation from the British. As an independent nation, America could be free of Englands tyrannical government, and its absurd monarchy. No longer would we have to suffer the injustices of the British Parliament and their ridiculous taxes. We already have to protect ourselves as a nation, without British support, unless of course the English have some interest in the matter. Why not defend our selves as an independent nation? There is no possibility of reparations at this point in time. However, this is the key time to make our stand. If we ever have a desire to become free men, men of our own will and control, we must act now, and declare our independence.