The Impact of "Common Sense" by Thomas Paine

Essay by amazon_jane21University, Master'sA+, November 2006

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The Impact of Common Sense

A drunken abusive husband who is constantly in debt and rarely bathes is probably not the most likely candidate to have changed popular opinion in favor of Revolution. The fact that this person single-handedly swayed many people to independence had only been in the colonies for a few years makes it seem even less likely. And yet, one of the most influential writers of the Revolutionary period was Thomas Paine, who fulfills this description right down to the part about bad hygiene.

So how did Paine overcome all of these previous distinctions and become one of the best-known writers of his day? This paper will argue that, besides writing anonymously, Paine uses rhetorical techniques and emotional appeals to bring the American public into a revolutionary mindset. He often exaggerates the facts and demeans or flat out insults those who believe reconciliation is possible and/or preferable to independence.

In so doing, he appealed to a wide audience of varied education and diverse religious sentiments.

Before one can understand the work, one must understand the author; a short inquiry into Paine's past brings forth some interesting evidence. Born Thomas Pain in 1737 in Thetford, England, he was raised in the Quaker tradition and attended meetings of the Society of Friends regularly with his father. His mother attended the Church of England and had Thomas baptized into the church, but he never really took to either faith. Instead, he was able to see first hand how harshly the two religious groups criticized each other and became skeptical of Christianity as an institution and would later shape his belief that church and state should remain completely separate. However, some Quaker tendencies stayed with young Thomas throughout his life, particularly their sense of justice and equality. Quakers taught that...