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Common Sense, The Rights of Man and Other Essential Writings of Thomas Paine (Signet Classics) Mass Market Paperback – July 1, 2003


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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Without...Paine, the sword of Washington would have been wielded in vain."
-John Adams

About the Author

Thomas Paine was born in Thetford, England, in 1737, the son of a staymaker. He had little schooling and worked at a number of jobs, including tax collector, a position he lost for agitating for an increase in excisemen’s pay. Persuaded by Benjamin Franklin, he emigrated to America in 1774. In 1776 he began his American Crisis series of thirteen pamphlets, and also published the incalculably influential Common Sense, which established Paine not only as a truly revolutionary thinker, but as the American Revolution’s fiercest political theorist. In 1787 Paine returned to Europe, where he became involved in revolutionary politics. In England his books were burned by the public hangman. Escaping to France, Paine took part in drafting the French constitution and voted against the king’s execution. He was imprisoned for a year and narrowly missed execution himself. In 1802 he returned to America and lived in New York State, poor, ill and largely despised for his extremism and so-called atheism (he was in fact a deist). Thomas Paine died in 1809. His body was exhumed by William Cobbett, and the remains were taken to England for a memorial burial. Unfortunately, the remains were subsequently lost.
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Signet (July 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451528891
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451528896
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (604 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #330,377 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

312 of 320 people found the following review helpful By William Brennan on July 18, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Common Sense is one of the greatest articles of argumentation ever written. Paine was the finest pamphleteer of his age and was able to turn the discontents of the colonists and, especially, the intellectual leaders of the revolutionary movement into arguments that were easily understood by ordinary colonials and which inspired them to rally to the cause of independence.

I first read Common Sense more than fifty years ago and remember well being impressed with Paine's ability to carry arguments and to anticipate those of his opponents before his tract even hit the street. Over the course of my lifetime, I was inspired by the author and became a pamphleteer of sorts myself. I always told my colleagues that I wanted to become a poor man's Tom Paine. But after reading the piece once again, I realize that almost all who aspire to follow in his footsteps, if not fill his shoes, are doomed to become but very poor copies of the original.

Other reviewers have noted the fluidity of his writing; it reads as simply, directly and forcefully today as it must have nearly a quarter of a millennium ago. Obviously, one did not have to be a great reader to be swayed by the force of Paine's words or to be inspired to the side of those wishing to throw off the English yoke.

I was struck by echoes of Paine in many great American speeches that were running through my mind as I read. A number of quotes from Robert F. Kennedy seemed to have been directly inspired by Common Sense, and I hastily looked them up and offer these two for your consideration:

"It is not enough to understand, or to see clearly. The future will be shaped in the arena of human activity, by those willing to commit their minds and their bodies to the task.
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139 of 143 people found the following review helpful By R. DelParto VINE VOICE on November 13, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
In an unrelenting quest to understanding the history of the United States, one obscure name comes to mind, Thomas Paine. Paine helped establish the meaning of democracy and the "united" in United States. His two monumental works, COMMON SENSE AND RIGHTS OF MAN, provided the philosophical and rhetorical building blocks that the founding fathers, such as Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, et al., would emulate with the writing of the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. Many take for granted the origins of freedom and democracy in the United States, and as with many school history textbooks depict, Paine merely appears in a paragraph or two, and quickly disappears to historical oblivion.

Nevertheless, when one reads COMMON SENSE AND RIGHTS OF MAN: AND OTHER ESSENTIAL WRITINGS OF THOMAS PAINE, there will be no doubt how significant his philosophical and political writings transformed the political structure of the colonies. Although this may sound somewhat romanticized, Paine's words ignited the energy for the colonists to free themselves from the tyrannical-monarchical leadership of England's King George III. With all the talk of Paine being a founding father, he may also be considered the father of revolution, American Revolution and French Revolution, and human rights. Without the inspiration from his friend Edmund Burke, author of REFLECTIONS ON THE REVOLUTION IN FRANCE, Paine may not have been able to write the pamphlet Rights of Man. Indeed, his power of the written word translated to revolutionary action, and Jeffersonian ideology.

In clear and no nonsense language, Paine's perspective of the state of the colonies are elaborately told in COMMON SENSE.
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101 of 107 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 16, 1999
Format: Paperback
I read the other reviews and while I agree with them, I must add that this book is more than history. I remember reading Paine's critique of the English government being "so exceedingly complex" that when a problem developed, politicians would fight for years deciding whose fault it was. Finally, when they would try to solve the problem, everyone had a different solution. I thought I was reading an editorial from USNews. I was amazed that many problems that incited the colonies to revolt are now present in our new government. Read this as more than great history. Read it as political science, and public commentary.
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45 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Alexander Rayden on May 15, 2006
Format: Paperback
Over two hundred years after its initial publication, Thomas Paine's `Common Sense' is one of the most influential pamphlets ever written in the English language. Along with Jefferson's Declaration of Independence (1776), Harriet Beecher Stowe's `Uncle Tom's Cabin' (1851-1852), and Lincoln's Gettysburg Address (1863), Paine's `Common Sense' can claim to be one of the first works to have instantly captured and then so permanently held the national imagination. `Common Sense', fiercely surpassed colonial newspaper circulations of the time by reaching a record breaking figure of 120,000 - 150,000 copies solely in its first year eventually culminating in a fifth of the adult American population to have either read Common Sense or to have had it read to them during the course of the Revolution. Paine can profess to have had the first ever American best-seller.

`Common Sense' addresses a people that were divided over the question of independence and in it Paine strongly attacks the virtue of a connection with England and presents an emphatic argument for immediate separation. Paine incorporated both a secular and religious argument for independence, thus freeing himself of any erroneous description that he was a Lockean liberal in the Hartzian mold and that Common Sense was simply a bourgeois manifesto. Paine was very much an original thinker among the Enlightenment philosophers and his unparalleled prescription for a new form of government, a united American Republic, and the manner in which it should be conducted were central to the American political vision that emerged during and immediately after the revolution.

[Part of the above review is taken from; "Common Sense?" by Alexander Rayden. Copyright 2006, All Rights Reserved]
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Common Sense, The Rights of Man and Other Essential Writings of Thomas Paine (Signet Classics)
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