321 of 329 people found the following review helpful
on July 18, 2010
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."
"All of us might wish at times that we lived in a more tranquil world, but we don't. And if our times are difficult and perplexing, so are they challenging and filled with opportunity."
The Declaration of Independence itself is a direct offspring of this great tract. Jefferson and the others charged with developing the document were well aware of Paine and had the opportunity to evaluate his words and to use his methods in creating our declaration, and this takes nothing away from their genius.
This is a document that can be read in short order, and it is free at the Kindle Store. How can you say no to giving it a try?
142 of 147 people found the following review helpful
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. He adamantly shows his opposition toward hereditary rule and limitations imposed on individuals by George III and his vehement disdain towards aristocrats and kings. For RIGHTS OF MAN, he proposed possible solutions toward poverty, and created a blueprint towards achieving social and political institutions through his written abstracts. The other essential writings include the pamphlets, THE CRISIS, part one of THE AGE OF REASON, and selections of AGRARIAN JUSTICE. These writings gives readers an idea the political and religious atmosphere in which Paine lived, and how "breaking ties" with the so-called "motherland" was necessary towards forging a free nation.
COMMON SENSE AND RIGHTS OF MAN is indeed accessible with its pocketbook size form. After reading the book, readers may have a better understanding of what it takes to build a nation. Paine's words are lessons of history and humanity, and is definitely recommendable reading.
104 of 110 people found the following review helpful
on September 16, 1999
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.
47 of 49 people found the following review helpful
on May 15, 2006
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]
32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on December 10, 2010
Thomas Paine is essential reading to anyone who wants to understand American History. However, this particular edition, presented by Signet Classics, is the most disappointing presentation of any classic I have ever seen. While "Common Sense" appears to be presented in its entirety, "The American Crisis" (aka simply "The Crisis") is not. Parts 2, 6, and 9-12 are omitted entirely, and parts 3, 4, 7 & 8 are presented with only "selections". I don't know about any other readers, but this is extremely annoying to me. It is almost as annoying as when Readers Digest decided to present an edited version of The Bible, omitting sections they felt were unimportant because they were duplicates of other sections. I certainly do not equate the writings of Thomas Paine with those of the Bible, but the principle is the same: I do not want someone omitting sections that the author, whether it is God or Thomas Paine, felt should be part of what he had to say. I am reading "The Crisis" presented in a library copy edited by Eric Foner and am looking for an edition of my own. If you want to just hit the highlights of Paine's work, then the Signet edition may be for you. If you want to read Thomas Paine as he spoke to America, Britain and the world, don't waste your money on this edition.
52 of 57 people found the following review helpful
on August 16, 2000
"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." This is just a sample of the wisdom of Thomas Paine in Common Sense. His vivid words and sound arguements make it clear why this pamphlet helped to ignite the revolution. He starts by discussing the general design of government and talking briefly about the English Constitution. The second chapter deals with how silly the whole concept of heredity succession is and how the monarchy has failed. It's reminiscent of Sir Thomas More's Utopia in that respect. Chapter three discusses America at the current time and chapter four is about America's ability to fight Britain at the time. The appendix refutes arguements in the king's speech, which reached America the day Common Sense came out. After reading this important piece of American literature I was ready to go out and fight the British. Thomas Paine's words still have that effect 224 years later.
115 of 133 people found the following review helpful
on February 6, 2010
This is a GREAT book. Memorable. It gives one a great understanding of how the founders of the US Constitution were thinking.
After reading this, I realized that the US has come almost full circle, back to a monarchy, a Congress that does not respond honestly but by money and the millions of "religious monarchists" who want to make all the laws for everyone else.
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on January 21, 2007
This is what we're founded on, what America is supposed to be, and the way we should conduct our political affairs. Paine should probably be required reading for every citizen, every student, anyone wondering what freedom really means. Besides being informative, it is incisive, sarcastic, humorous, and passionate. The English is old and dated, but that just adds to its delight. I read this in short segments and then thought about each chapter. It made me proud to be an American and sad to realize how much freedom we've lost since Paine's day.
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on July 12, 2010
I read this in print many years ago, and forgot much of the content. The observations are timeless, and to the point, they apply directly to our own government and world governments today. It is scary to realize how much more fluent the author and his prospective early American readers were, than I am. The written words are beautiful, and convey deeper and more colorful meaning then any of the 20th century treatises I have read.
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Published in 1776, Common Sense challenged the authority of the British government and the royal monarchy. The plain language that Paine used spoke to the common people of America and was the first work to openly ask for independence from Great Britain.