Thomas Paine’s influential political writings Common Sense and Rights of Man first launched the flame of American independence. On January 17th, 1776, the book of Common Sense followed closely on the outbreak of open hostility between the American colonies and Great Britain on April 3rd of that year, but before the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Independence and perpetual conflict between the mother country and her colonies in Europe, Africa, and Asia were a constant thorn in the side of both sides for over a century. The events in Europe during the summer of 1776 prompted the American Revolutionary War.
The book of Common Sense by Thomas Paine outlines the rights of man outlined in the United States Constitution and the workings of government, from the national government to state governments and local ones within individual states. His comments on matters such as war, wages, landlord’s rights, wealth distribution, and government corruption set the stage for today’s debate on the fairness of U.S. laws and practices regarding race, gender, religion, and sexual preference. For example, his description of British royalty as “the most miserable” people in the world motivated the slave trade in the United States. It caused an enormous amount of death and suffering.
Many people today are critical of some of the social aspects in the common sense of Thomas Paine. Because of this, you might wonder what it was that made the young Jefferson so angry. Was it because of something he had read in a book about Jacob Marley, the musician, and leader of an English rock band who was thrown into prison for speaking out against the British crown? Did Jefferson want to show that common sense and freedom of speech are values that matter more than all other things in life?
The basic values of Jefferson were based on his upbringing in the Chesapeake colonial period, a period known as the American Revolution. The colonists rebelled against the British, not liking their rule over much of America, and wanted a country representative of their will and power. These new Americans set up the first United States government and brought a form of “jurisdiction” over the whole country. The Continental Congress, created by the second president of the United States, Jefferson, established the first rules of common sense Jeckhnian principles that are the basis for all American laws today.
The second president of the United States, Washington, continued the tradition of laying out the rules of common sense in the constitution of the United States. Washington argued that the happiness of the many should be balanced against the happiness of the few. And that everyone must have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. He said that no man ought to unjustifiably deprive another of his rights in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This is a principle of the Jeffersonian philosophy of common sense.
A common-sense principle of a representative form of government is that the elected political leaders of a nation should take the interests of their constituents before the national interest. In fact, the founding fathers adopted this idea in the United States after the Englishmen refused to swear allegiance to the Articles of Union. As a result, America declared its independence from England in 1776. Two years later, the Continental Congress voted to remove the British flag from the Capitol because they considered it a symbol of British rule. The United States has not re-embraced the practice of pledging allegiance to any foreign power since the days of its independence. However, the United States has made a conscious decision to adhere to a common-sense perspective on international relations in dealing with its neighbors.
The common sense of Thomas Paine, concerning the English constitution and the British monarchy, is quite radical. In fact, Paine wrote that the English constitution was designed to prevent a common educated man from being ruled by a hereditary monarch. Paine saw the common man as the true definition of a virtuous person and not a king, queen, or prime minister. He rejected membership in any institution above the English constitution or any association with any other country. The basic concept of Thomas Paine’s thinking is that there is only one rule in society and that it is the will of the people that rules, not any institution.
One of the great contributions of Thomas Paine to world history is his pamphlet entitled “The Rights of Man.” In this book, Paine brilliantly pointed out how the common sense of the common man could rule over established institutions like the British Monarchy. History has it that whenever a government becomes corrupt, common sense vanishes and instead succumb to mob rule. With his poem “A Summary of Some Common Sense Principles Concerning International Relations” by Thomas Paine, we can learn how to apply these principles in dealing with nations and their leaders.