Monday, February 15, 2016

Common Sense: Beginning and 100% Complete

Over the course of a few hours yesterday and today, I read Common Sense by Thomas Paine. This was published anonymously as a pamphlet in January 1776, prior to the Declaration of Independence and a few months into the War for Independence. In it, Thomas Paine makes the case for separation from Great Britain.

This pamphlet was widely circulated and, compared to the population of the thirteen colonies, remains the most widely printed and circulated book in American history. Although it was originally published anonymously, it was only three months before it was discovered that Thomas Paine, at the time a 39-year-old activist, had written it.

Although one of the claims made about this pamphlet is that it was written in "common language" I found it to be less than light reading. I wouldn't say difficult to read, but I did find it a bit hard to grasp the arguments being made occasionally. Paine certainly pulled out all persuasive stops when it came to arguing the case for American independence, including arguing that it is unnatural for an island to govern and entire continent and that if God had intended for Britain to rule the colonies, he wouldn't have situated them so far apart geographically. Of course he made better, sounder, arguments as well and all in all I found it interesting to read what was in the minds of one of our Founding Fathers.

A few of what I found to be the more inspiring or at least interesting quotes:

"It is not in numbers, but in unity, that our great strength lies." (He may be a bit perturbed at the current state of affairs regarding unity in Washington D.C.)

"For myself, I fully and conscientiously believe, that it is the will of the Almighty, that there should be diversity of religious opinions among us: it affords a larger field for our Christian kindness. Were we all of one way of thinking, our religious dispositions would want matter for probation; and on this liberal principle, I look on the various denominations among us, to be like children of the same family, differing only, in what is called, their Christian names."

And finally, a vocabulary word: sycophant, meaning "a person who acts obsequiously toward someone I order to gain advantage."  (I can think of a few less-refined synonyms for this, can you?)

I'll be delve into something a bit longer now. There's something exhausting about reading a bunch of short works. Up next: Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen.

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