Lately, in my personal enrichment reading, I am putting my concentration in early American history and since there are numerous references to Paine and his letters in these books I thought I would give Common Sense try. I am glad that I did! It puts things in perspective and also helped clear up some of the ignorance I had concerning Paine and religion.
Common Sense with sixty pages is regarded as a pamphlet and a surprisingly interesting read. Written in 1776 just a year after the Revolutionary War began, it catalyzed the colonists on why they should fight for independence from Great Britain.
His prose was written in the common man’s language and articulated what many felt at that time. Because it was widely distributed and read it inspired fortitude in many the colonists to continue the fight. While contending with the many hardships they were facing the colonists persevered and won their independence from Great Britain.
Paine details several practical reasons why the colonies couldn’t stay under the yoke of a monarchy. He reasoned that Mother Country couldn’t protect the colonists as she couldn’t protect herself, there would be complications during times of war for the American Colonies, and trade would also be affected. Many came to America for civil and religious freedom something that would be hard to maintain while still under the yoke of a monarch especially when you consider how fickle many of them were. He listed a number of other reasons as well.
Using scripture he argued that the Monarchy was an invention of the heathen citing the Israelites and their desire to have a king rule over them like the heathen did. The “Monarchy, he said, was preposterous and it had a heathenish origin.”
What I’ve learned of Paine over the years was nothing more than fragments, bits, and pieces that I would pick up, particularly from religious sources. Branded as an anti-religion rationalist very little good was said about him from the religious crowd. As far as I am concerned, hats off to those who understand the rationale behind protecting religious freedom.
While more can be learned of Pain I am glad I read this. As far as religion goes at least in this case, he does advocate for the protection of Liberty of Conscience which before reading this pamphlet I did not know.
Anyway here are a couple of things he said in Common Sense regarding religion and the rights for people to practice it.
In his reference to framing a Continental Charter, he stated that,
“Securing freedom and property to all men, and above all things, the free exercise of religion according to the dictates of conscience; with such other matter is necessary for a charter to contain.”
I must admit being one who appreciates the freedom we have here in America, particularly Soul Liberty I was pleasantly surprised and pleased to see that Paine addressed this.
In continuing this stream of thought Paine also said that it is,
“To be the indispensable duty of all government, to protect all conscientious professors thereof and I know of no other business which government hath to do therewith.”
While I wouldn’t tote Paine around as a spiritually-minded person who was all in for organized religion (he was not in any way for organized religion) he did believe that the exercise of it ought to be protected.
His background at least as far as his mother and father were concerned was that of Anglican and Quakerism so he without a doubt had an interesting childhood and with exposure to both these beliefs, he surely formed some strong convictions concerning organized religion very early in life, particularly that of the Quakers and the manner in which they were treated by the Anglicans.
According to some accounts, Thomas Paine was a deist.
Overall this was a simple and informative read. I would recommend anyone reading up on, or interesting in researching the American Revolution to start with Paine’s Common Sense and his Crisis letters.
Well time to bring this to a close. Take care and have a good day!