Thomas Paine came to Philadelphia from Great Britain in 1774. He was a journalist who was interested in the American trend toward independence. While men like Thomas Jefferson and John Adams appealed to the wealthy classes, Paine wrote for the masses, who had less formal education. This passage is from his pamphlet Common Sense, which was published in 1776 and grew to greatly impact the colonists’ idea of war for independence.
“Volumes have been written on the subject of the struggle between America and Great Britain. Men from all walks of life have entered into the controversy, for different and various reasons; but all have been senseless and the period of debate is closed. War, as the last resource, must decide the contest… I have heard it said by some that America flourished under her former connection with Great Britain, and that to stay happy and prosper and progress, America must stay related to Great Britain. I answer roundly, that America would have flourished as much, and probably much more, had no European power had anything to do with her.
We have boasted the protection of Britain, without considering, that her motive was interest not attachment; and that she did not protect us from our enemies on our account but from her enemies on her own account.
But Britain is the parent country, some say. Then the more shame her conduct. Even beasts do not devour their young, nor do savages make war upon their families… Europe, and not Britain, is the parent country of America. This new world has been a fortress for the persecuted lovers of civil and religious liberty form every part of Europe.
Small islands not capable of protecting themselves are the ones which must be taken care of, but there is something absurd in supposing that a continent (America) is to be governed by an island (Great Britain). Never has nature made the satellite larger than its primary planet; in looking at Britain and America, it can be seen that just the opposite is true. It is evident they belong to different systems, Britain belongs to Europe, America to itself… Independence is the only bond that can tie and keep us together… The commerce and reasonable part of Great Britain will still be with us; because peace with trade is preferable to war.”
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Why was Common Sense an influential pamphlet?
What did Thomas Paine believe was America’s destiny? Why?