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Common Sense vs. the Declaration of Independance

Thomas Paine’s Common Sense was known as the most widely read political distribution of the time. Thomas Paine spoke in a language that the ordinary colonist understood. He identified a clear antagonist to the colonies as the king; he was one of the first patriots to directly oppose the crown, with a large following. Though a large percentage of the colonists were uneducated, most of them were familiar with the bible, or at least learned of it from the church.

Paine took advantage of this, and used the Bible as a major authority on the injustices dealt by the crown. He was familiar with the American colonists, and the colonists connected more with his writing because of it. The patriots’ main complaint pertained to a lack of representative bodies established in the colonies, which allowed the British crown to oppress the colonies without moderation. Basically, they advocated a republic with more representative bodies, and more power in the masses, creating more checks and balances with the government.

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Ironically, the Declaration of Independence did not appeal to the masses, but was instead directed towards King George III. The Declaration represented the thoughts and ideals of the patriots, as described by the educated aristocracy of the colonies. Though the Declaration had its intended effect of establishing the colonists’ position against England, it did not reach out to the general public, because it was not written so that the people of the colonies would understand it.

That being said, I believe that if the Declaration of Independence was written by a collective body of representatives of the working class, it would not have been able to convey the same message of coherent disapproval of the British monarchy. Basically, the two documents had two different purposes. Thomas Paine’s Common Sense was intended to rally the emotions of British-American colonists with enraged and reproachful accusations against the King, while the Declaration of Independence was written as a carefully formulated document, summarizing the plights of Americans, as told by the educated aristocracy of the time.

Both were effective at what they did respectively, however it is clear that Common Sense had a bigger impact on the actual mindset of Americans. Because the revolution couldn’t have started without the support of the general American public, Common Sense, and pamphlets like it, essentially led to the Declaration of Independence being drafted. Though he was not original in his views, Thomas Paine illustrated to the general public why they should participate in the revolution, providing ample opportunity for official documents like The Declaration to be written.


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