Common Sense had a significant influence on persuading the early North American colonists to declare independence from England the mother country.
In the first 4 pages Paine gives an sublime explanation on the origins of government, which I have reproduced below:
Addressed to the
Inhabitants of America
Man knows no Master save creating Heaven,
Or those whom Choice and common Good ordain.
February 14, 1776
Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following pages, are not yet sufficiently
fashionable to procure them general favor; a long habit of not thinking a thing wrong,
gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in
defence of custom. But tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason.
As a long and violent abuse of power, is generally the Means of calling the right of it
in question (and in Matters too which might never have been thought of, had not the
Sufferers been aggravated into the inquiry) and as the King of England hath undertaken
in his own Right, to support the Parliament in what he calls Theirs, and as the good
people of this country are grievously oppressed by the combination, they have an
undoubted privilege to inquire into the pretensions of both, and equally to reject the
usurpation of either.
In the following sheets, the author hath studiously avoided every thing which is
personal among ourselves. Compliments as well as censure to individuals make no part
thereof. The wise, and the worthy, need not the triumph of a pamphlet; and those whose sentiments are injudicious, or unfriendly, will cease of themselves unless too much pains are bestowed upon their conversion.
The cause of America is in a great measure the cause of all mankind. Many
circumstances hath, and will arise, which are not local, but universal, and through which
the principles of all Lovers of Mankind are affected, and in the Event of which, their
Affections are interested. The laying a Country desolate with Fire and Sword, declaring
War against the natural rights of all Mankind, and extirpating the Defenders thereof from
the Face of the Earth, is the Concern of every Man to whom Nature hath given the Power of feeling; of which Class, regardless of Party Censure, is the AUTHOR
P.S. The Publication of this new Edition hath been delayed, with a View of taking
notice (had it been necessary) of any Attempt to refute the Doctrine of Independence: As no Answer hath yet appeared, it is now presumed that none will, the Time needful for
getting such a Performance ready for the Public being considerably past.
Who the Author of this Production is, is wholly unnecessary to the Public, as the
Object for Attention is the Doctrine itself, not the Man. Yet it may not be unnecessary to
say, That he is unconnected with any Party, and under no sort of Influence public or
private, but the influence of reason and principle.
Philadelphia, Feb. 14, 1776.
OF THE ORIGIN AND DESIGN OF GOVERNMENT IN GENERAL. WITH
CONCISE REMARKS ON THE ENGLISH CONSTITUTION.
Some writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no
distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins.
Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former
promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by
restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is a patron, the last a punisher.
Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a
necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one; for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries by a government, which we might expect in a country without
government, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer. Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence; the palaces of kings are built on the ruins of the bowers of paradise. For were the impulses of conscience clear, uniform, and irresistibly obeyed, man would need no other lawgiver; but that not being the case, he finds it necessary to surrender up a part of his property to furnish means for the protection of the rest; and this he is induced to do by the same prudence which in every other case advises him out of two evils to choose the least. Wherefore, security being the true design and end of government, it unanswerably follows that whatever form thereof appears most likely to ensure it to us, with the least expense and greatest benefit, is preferable to all others.
In order to gain a clear and just idea of the design and end of government, let us
suppose a small number of persons settled in some sequestered part of the earth,
unconnected with the rest, they will then represent the first peopling of any country, or of the world. In this state of natural liberty, society will be their first thought. A thousand
motives will excite them thereto, the strength of one man is so unequal to his wants, and
his mind so unfitted for perpetual solitude, that he is soon obliged to seek assistance and
relief of another, who in his turn requires the same. Four or five united would be able to
raise a tolerable dwelling in the midst of a wilderness, but one man might labour out the
common period of life without accomplishing any thing; when he had felled his timber he could not remove it, nor erect it after it was removed; hunger in the mean time would urge him from his work, and every different want call him a different way. Disease, nay even misfortune would be death, for though neither might be mortal, yet either would disable him from living, and reduce him to a state in which he might rather be said to perish than to die.
Thus necessity, like a gravitating power, would soon form our newly arrived
emigrants into society, the reciprocal blessings of which, would supersede, and render the obligations of law and government unnecessary while they remained perfectly just to each other; but as nothing but heaven is impregnable to vice, it will unavoidably happen, that in proportion as they surmount the first difficulties of emigration, which bound them together in a common cause, they will begin to relax in their duty and attachment to each other; and this remissness, will point out the necessity, of establishing some form of government to supply the defect of moral virtue.
Some convenient tree will afford them a State-House, under the branches of which,
the whole colony may assemble to deliberate on public matters. It is more than probable that their first laws will have the title only of Regulations, and be enforced by no other penalty than public disesteem. In this first parliament every man, by natural right, will have a seat.
But as the colony increases, the public concerns will increase likewise, and the
distance at which the members may be separated, will render it too inconvenient for all of them to meet on every occasion as at first, when their number was small, their habitations near, and the public concerns few and trifling. This will point out the convenience of their consenting to leave the legislative part to be managed by a select number chosen from the whole body, who are supposed to have the same concerns at stake which those have who appointed them, and who will act in the same manner as the whole body would act were they present. If the colony continue increasing, it will become necessary to augment the number of the representatives, and that the interest of every part of the colony may be attended to, it will be found best to divide the whole into convenient parts, each part sending its proper number; and that the elected might never form to themselves an interest separate from the electors, prudence will point out the propriety of having elections often; because as the elected might by that means return and mix again with the general body of the electors in a few months, their fidelity to the public will be secured by the prudent reflection of not making a rod for themselves. And as this frequent interchange will establish a common interest with every part of the community, they will mutually and naturally support each other, and on this (not on the unmeaning name of king) depends the strength of government, and the happiness of the governed.
Here then is the origin and rise of government; namely, a mode rendered necessary by
the inability of moral virtue to govern the world; here too is the design and end of
government, viz. freedom and security. And however our eyes may be dazzled with
show, or our ears deceived by sound; however prejudice may warp our wills, or interest
darken our understanding, the simple voice of nature and of reason will say, it is right.
I draw my idea of the form of government from a principle in nature, which no art can
overturn, viz. that the more simple any thing is, the less liable it is to be disordered, and
the easier repaired when disordered; and with this maxim in view, I offer a few remarks
on the so much boasted constitution of England. That it was noble for the dark and
slavish times in which it was erected, is granted. When the world was over run with
tyranny the least remove therefrom was a glorious rescue. But that it is imperfect, subject to convulsions, and incapable of producing what it seems to promise, is easily