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Thomas Payne's 'Common Sense vs. James Chalmer's Plain Truth - Essay Example

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Common Sense or Plain Truth? History has been viewed from a variety of perspectives. Marx saw it as a struggle between workers and property owners. Religious people have viewed it as a war battle between god and Satan. Some even contend that it is the slow unfolding of a giant conspiracy…
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Thomas Paynes Common Sense vs. James Chalmers Plain Truth
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"Thomas Payne's 'Common Sense vs. James Chalmer's Plain Truth"

Download file to see previous pages In Europe the concept of democracy was especially held in scorn. Underlying this attitude was the belief that the common man was incapable of ruling himself, being naturally lacking in intelligence, virtue and nobility. Thus monarchs appointed by God did the work of keeping the nations from dissolving into anarchy and barbarism. Great Britain in the 1700s was an example of a constitutional monarchy. It had a king, to be sure, but over the years he had gone from being an absolute dictator to one of many arms of government, with his power checked to a degree by charters, Parliament and the English public. To loyal English subjects this system seemed quite fair. It avoided the excesses of despotic rule while also ensuring that the ignoble peasants were kept in line. Even more, an ambitious commoner might even rise to a position of wealth and moderate prominence – though he would also be less than a nobleman. Examples of British subjects who attained these levels are George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, who would later be the chief architects of the American Revolution. For many in the American colonies, however, good old British rule was a silly anachronism that had to be swept away, so that the rightful rulers of society, the people themselves, could truly self govern. One of the most vocal and articulate of these libertines was Thomas Paine. Paine’s Common Sense was more than a political tract. it was in itself a revolutionary way of seeking political change. As mentioned before, the idea that the common person was qualified to judge matters of state was generally considered ludicrous. The established view was that people of superior breeding, with titles and possessing all the benefits of classical education, were the only ones who were competent to judge matters pertaining to a nation as a whole. Paine spoke directly against this view, calling the British monarchy a corrupt institution that governed poorly, oppressed the populace and lived parasitically off of the fruit of other’s labors while producing little of value. In one section he says this most plainly: In England a king hath little more to do than to make war and give away places; which in plain terms, is to impoverish the nation and set it together by the ears. A pretty business indeed for a man to be allowed eight hundred thousand sterling a year for, and worshipped into the bargain! Of more worth is one honest man to society and in the sight of God, than all the crowned ruffians that ever lived. Paine advocated nothing less than the dissolution of the monarchy, to be replaced with a congress of representatives that would be directly elected by the people and directly accountable to them for their governing decisions. The congress would have a president that it would elect, and any legislation that became law would require a 60% majority of votes. The truly radical thing about Common Sense was not only the ideas it proposed but the way it which it did so. Prior to its publication political treatises were written by men of letters, and made copious references to medieval and Renaissance academics, renowned philosophers and scholars known only to the highly educated. Paine took a different approach. He used no Latin and no lengthy ivory tower arguments. Instead he wrote in direct, simple language easily understood by farmers, merchants and skilled trades people. (Smith 69)Even the ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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