Common Sense : Top Ten Quotes
“Time makes more converts than reason” (p. 5).
Paine uses epigrams or witty and concise sayings to convince and to make ideas stick in the mind. An epigram is a rhetorical device that sounds like truth. He addresses his readers, saying that his opinions about revolution are not yet popular because people have been used to thinking of themselves as British subjects, but the long abuse of power over time convinces better than his arguments can do.
“Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence” (p. 7).
Paine refers to the idea that in a state of innocence, like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, humans needed no dress to cover themselves nor any government to restrain them from evil. Government is necessary in an imperfect world to keep order, and therefore can be changed according to need, not fixed as an absolute.
“How came the king by a power which the people are afraid to trust, and always obliged to check? . . . neither can any power, which needs checking, be from God; yet the provision, which the constitution makes, supposes such a power to exist” (pp. 10, 11).
Paine discusses the merit of the British constitution, which the British are proud of, because it includes checks and balances on the power of the king. Paine questions why the king is there with any power in the first place.
“. . . the will of the king is as much the law of the land in Britain as in France . . . the fate of Charles the first, hath only made kings more subtle—not more just” (p. 11).
Paine includes all European monarchies in the same category of injustice, though the British think their constitutional monarchy makes them better. The English and French kings can make law in their lands; the execution of Charles I for abuse of royal power did not really take away the power of the English king.
“Mankind being originally equals in the order of creation, the equality could only be destroyed by some subsequent circumstance . . . “ (p. 12).
Paine asserts the idea that “all men are created equal,” so therefore, inequality in society or government is unnatural.
“In the early ages of the world, according to the scripture chronology, there were no kings; the consequence of which there were no wars” (p. 12).
Paine begins his argument linking kings with wars, showing that according to scripture, kings did not exist in the beginning.
“Government by kings was first introduced into the world by the Heathens . . . Monarchy is ranked in scripture as one of the sins of the Jews” (pp. 12,13).
According to the Old Testament, says Paine, the Jews were warned against having kings because it was a practice of primitive people and leads to war, suffering, and other crimes.
“Most wise men, in their private sentiments, have ever treated hereditary right with contempt” (p. 16).
Paine introduces the further democratic idea that inherited title and privilege are wrong, thus dismissing the nobility as having an innate right to rule.
“Of more worth is one honest man to society and in the sight of God, than all the crowned ruffians that ever lived” (p. 20).
Paine creates a popular democratic slogan equating kings with brutality and crime.
“I offer nothing more than simple facts, plain arguments, and common sense . . . “
The author claims he is only stating truths in an objective manner that everyone will agree on.