Thomas Paine’s Common Sense

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Name ___________________________ Van Goor

US History

Thomas Paine’s Common Sense

Directions: Read the excerpt from Common Sense below, and answer the questions at the bottom of the page.
Excerpt from the Project Gutenberg text of Common Sense:



In the following pages I offer nothing more than simple facts, plain arguments, and common sense... Volumes have been written on the subject of the struggle between England and America. Men of all ranks have embarked in the controversy, from different motives, and with various designs; but all have been ineffectual, and the period of debate is closed. Arms, as the last resource, decide this contest; the appeal was the choice of the king, and the continent hath accepted the challenge...
The sun never shined on a cause of greater worth. ’Tis not the affair of a city, a county, a province, or a kingdom, but of a continent—of at least one eighth part of the habitable globe. ’Tis not the concern of a day, a year, or an age; posterity are virtually involved in the contest, and will be more or less affected, even to the end of time, by the proceedings now. Now is the seed-time of continental union, faith and honour. The least fracture now will be like a name engraved with the point of a pin on the tender rind of a young oak; the wound will enlarge with the tree, and posterity read it in full grown characters...
…As much hath been said of the advantages of reconciliation which, like an agreeable dream, hath passed away and left us as we were, it is but right, that we should examine the contrary side of the argument, and inquire into some of the many material injuries [problems] which these colonies sustain, and always will sustain, by being connected with, and dependent on Great Britain: To examine that connection and dependence, on the principles of nature and common sense, to see what we have to trust to, if separated, and what we are to expect, if dependant.
I have heard it asserted by some, that as America hath flourished under her former connection with Great Britain that the same connection is necessary towards her future happiness, and will always have the same effect. Nothing can be more fallacious [wrong] than this kind of argument. We may as well assert that because a child has thrived upon milk that it is never to have meat, or that the first twenty years of our lives is to become a precedent for the next twenty. But even this is admitting more than is true, for I answer roundly, that America would have flourished as much, and probably much more, had no European power had any thing to do with her. The commerce, by which she hath enriched herself, are the necessaries of life, and will always have a market while eating is the custom of Europe.
But she has protected us, say some…We have boasted the protection of Great Britain, without considering, that her motive was INTEREST not ATTACHMENT; that she did not protect us from OUR ENEMIES on OUR ACCOUNT, but from HER ENEMIES on HER OWN ACCOUNT, from those who had no quarrel with us on any OTHER ACCOUNT, and who will always be our enemies on the SAME ACCOUNT.  

Questions from the excerpt from Common Sense:

Use the passage above to answer these questions.
Paragraph 1:

  1. According to Paine, why is this pamphlet better than the previous “volumes that have been written” on the topic of England and America?

  1. What is the only way that the controversy between England and America can be resolved?

Paragraph 2:

  1. What did Paine mean when he said, “now is the seed-time of Continental Union?”

Paragraph 3:

  1. Rather than discuss the advantages of reconciliation (or compromise) with Britain, what should we be discussing (according to Paine)?

Paragraph 4:

  1. What argument does Paine strongly disagree with?

  1. Explain the following “common sense” arguments:

    1. “because a child has thrived upon milk that it is never to have meat”

    1. “America would have flourished as much, and probably much more, had no European power had any thing to do with her”

Paragraph 5:

    1. Great Britain’s motive was interest not attachment

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