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Common Sense : Part 1 Summary : Chapter 2

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Summary of Monarchy and Hereditary Succession

Paine goes into more detail on arguments against monarchy. First of all, men were originally equal in creation. The idea of social order came later, especially the idea of a king and his subjects. According to the Bible, there were no kings in the beginning. Monarchy was an idea introduced to the Jews by heathens. It was originally a sin for the Jews because the Lord was king. Paine goes into a long passage on Biblical history, citing the example of Samuel, whom the people begged to be king and to appoint an heir, but he refused because a king made slaves of his subjects, took their goods, and took the place of God. On top of this evil is added hereditary succession, in which one family is set up in preference to others. England has had a few good kings, says the author, but they had no divinity. There are wars over succession and usurpation of thrones. Kingship is thus a parallel of original sin. The men of England are not so proud of their king as of their republicanism—the idea of equality of all before the law.

 

Commentary on Of Monarchy and Hereditary Succession

Paine makes the subject of monarchy a major consideration in his argument for separation from England. He taps into the glamour of these new radical ideas that were breathtaking to liberals of the day, not only in America, but in Europe. America was seen as the stage where this new philosophy of equality could be tested and played out. Many Europeans were sympathetic to the abolition of monarchy, which seemed to have led to so many wars and inequality of opportunity. Paine points out that the primary job of monarchs is to make war to increase territory and to hand out posts and privileges to secure their position. This does not serve the people or make sense in a rational age. England has always prided itself on being modern, but Paine tries to make Britain look incompetently out of date by adhering to monarchy.




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