Thomas Paine’s Common Sense Section 1
Thomas Paine argues for American independence from England because the British system of government does not offer the checks and balances of power that he believes America needs.
The government of England worked well when it was created, but it is not serving America well. Paine believes that the English Constitution probably made sense in the time it was created, but that time is long past. The Constitution of England was “noble for the dark and slavish times in which it was erected”. He argues that during this time the world was overrun with “tyranny” and having so much power in the government probably made these dark and unruly times easier to deal with. He argues that America has moved past the dark times and no longer needs these absolute controls from an oppressive government to make people behave civilly.
Paine believes that the British system of government is far too complex and does not allow the people enough power. The monarchy has far too much power. In Common Sense he writes, “The nation may suffer for years together without being able to discover which part the fault lies”. He believes that England, and their system of monarchy rule, does not take the desires of the people seriously. He believes that the Kings desire for power is a “natural disease of monarchy”. To expect a King to have the best interest of people in mind assumes he knows what the people are going through, but the nature of being a King means that he is already set apart from the people he is supposed to understand.
Paine goes on to make his final argument that there are no checks and balances in English government. He says this is because Kings rule from heredity, not intelligence. Meaning that you are not elected King because you are bright, but because it was your right of birth. Paine argues “the will of the King is as much the law of the land in Britain as in France”. Here he is saying that at least when the King speaks in Britain the people of Britain can actually hear it, they do not get it second hand like they do in France, but either way it’s still law. He believes that the happiness of the people being governed depends on representation. The relationship between Kings, aristocrats and the common people in England is not the type of government America should be striving for.
Paine lays out his case in his pamphlet Common Sense and asks Americans to consider a new form of government that has more checks and balances and allows representation from the people in all forms of government.