Study Guide

Common Sense Injustice

By Thomas Paine


An inquiry into the constitutional errors in the English form of government is at this time highly necessary; for as we are never in a proper condition of doing justice to others, while we continue under the influence of some leading partiality, so neither are we capable of doing it to ourselves while we remain fettered by any obstinate prejudice. (1.26)

For Thomas Paine, America cannot be a just society until it frees itself from an unjust political system—namely the system that England uses. For Paine, total democracy is the only way forward as far as justice is concerned.

[We] see that bribery, corruption, and favouritism are the standing vices of kings. (2.9)

Kings aren't elected by the people. They're born as rulers and they rule for life, so how can anyone expect justice from them? Sure, you might get a nice king now and then, but that's a pretty huge gamble compared to having a democracy.

For all men being originally equals, no one by birth could have a right to set up his own family in perpetual preference to all others for ever, and though himself might deserve SOME decent degree of honours of his contemporaries, yet his descendants might be far too unworthy to inherit them. (2.10)

It's bad enough that a king gets to have power without being elected. But it's even more unjust for his descendants to rule into the future forever. This totally cuts off the possibility that someone who deserves to rule could ever rise to the top.

But Britain is the parent country, say some. Then the more shame upon her conduct. Even brutes do not devour their young, nor savages make war upon their families. (3.11)

Many people will argue with Thomas Paine and says that Britain is like a parent to American. But this just makes the injustice worse, says Paine, because no loving parent would ever treat a child as badly as Britain treats America without being considered evil.

Thousands are already ruined by British barbarity; (thousands more will suffer the same fate). (3.39)

Paine wants to be as clear as possible when telling his readers that British rule is killing America and ruining the lives of all Americans. If Americans don't step up soon in an armed rebellion, things are only going to get worse.

[Until] independence is declared, the Continent will feel itself like a man who continues putting off some unpleasant business from day to day, yet knows it must be done. (4.32)

British injustice has gotten so bad that America has reached a point of no return. Independence is going to come eventually, and there's no point in putting if off for future generations to deal with. That's just cowardice, plain and simple.

The bloody mindedness of the one, shew the necessity of pursuing the doctrine of the other. (A.1)

After the initial publication of Common Sense, the King of England made a speech saying that any American efforts to separate from Britain would be crushed with military force. For Paine, the harshness of this response only gives further evidence for why America should free itself from Britain as quickly as possible. Bad move, King.

The Speech, if it may be called one, is nothing better than a willful audacious libel against the truth, the common good, and the existence of mankind. (A.2)

The King's Speech that threatens the American people for rebelling is, in Paine's mind, the best reason available for fighting tooth and nail with the British forces. He's had enough of the King's halfhearted lies and unjust threats.

Our present condition, is, Legislation without law; wisdom without a plan; a constitution without a name. (A.16)

America can't continue in its present state of injustice without ruining the lives of generations to come. While they still rely on the British, the American people are in chaos, looking for some sense of order but finding none. It's time to seize control and sort this stuff out once and for all.

The property of no man is secure in the present unbraced system of things. (A.16)

Until America figures out its own political and legal system, no one's private property is going to be safe. This is partly because the whole country is in chaos, and partly because the British have such brutal tax systems that they can pretty much take whatever they want whenever they want.

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