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Common Sense : Part 1 Summary : Appendix

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Summary of Appendix

Paine answers some objections to the war of independence. He mentions King George III's speech recently published in the city of Philadelphia warning the colonials not to rebel. Paine comments that instead of frightening them, the speech makes them resolute and ready for war. He vilifies the King as conducting “a massacre of mankind” (p. 47) in his savage opposition to human rights. He contrasts European corruption with American honesty and points out again that it is fatal to delay the revolution because the British are busy trying to divide them against each other. No man or his property is secure in the present condition. The issue must be settled.

He makes the startling assertion that “We have it in our power to begin the world over again” (p. 52). He predicts a new race of men, so how can we be petty and object to some trouble now when “the business of a world” (p. 53) calls us to act?

Paine also answers the objections of the Quakers to war, based on their pacifist religious principles. He reminds them of the separation of church and state, telling them a religion has no business interfering with politics. It is not their proper place. Paine also makes excuse for the revolution by saying it will secure peace forever because they fight for principles, not for revenge or conquest. The colonials have been attacked at home on their very doorsteps.

 

Commentary on Appendix

The idealism of Paine's justification of the revolution is what strikes most powerfully. The writers of the revolution, such as Jefferson and Paine, set up the expectation of a new country and new government that would be an experiment for all mankind, not just for Americans. Paine sounds a utopian note in the Appendix, saying the revolution will start the world over again and that America stands for purity and hope when contrasted to the old corruption of Europe. In this light the King is a tyrant for opposing such a monumental and virtuous advance in human affairs.

These noble ideas sound less convincing (though poignant in their hope) than when written since with hindsight it can be seen that while the American form of government has been an important model in the world, it did not create a utopian society, nor one that could secure perpetual peace. A civil war was less than a century away. Class struggle between rich and poor remained. Racial injustice was accepted by the Founding Fathers as a necessary compromise for the union. On the other hand, the reasonableness of the arguments have convinced generations of Americans and fueled other movements for the natural rights of women, of ethnic groups, and minorities.




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