Study Guide

Common Sense Patriotism

By Thomas Paine


The cause of America is in a great measure the cause of all mankind. (I.4)

Paine isn't modest when he talks about the stakes of American independence. In his mind, Americans aren't just fighting for their own independence, but for the very concept of freedom all over the world. For this reason, oppressed people from all nations should root for the patriots to win.

Now is the seed-time of continental union, faith and honour. The least fracture now will be like a name engraved with the point of a pin on the tender rind of a young oak; the wound will enlarge with the tree, and posterity read it in full grown characters. (3.4)

In 1776, Paine insists that Americans need to unite in order to drive the British out of America. Any disunity at this point will only become worse as time drags on.

The conferring members being met, let their business be to frame a continental charter, or Charter of the United Colonies. (3.47)

One of the first things that America should do as an independent country is create a constitution that protects its democracy and the rights of all Americans. Paine makes a good call here, because this is exactly what America would end up doing.

O ye that love mankind! Ye that dare oppose, not only the tyranny, but the tyrant, stand forth! (3.53)

For Paine, anyone who believes in freedom from tyranny needs to step up and fight the British. There's just no way around it. You're either on the patriots' side or the evil King of England's.

O! receive the fugitive, and prepare in time an asylum for mankind. (3.53)

America isn't just a group of colonies; it's a potential haven for anyone in the world looking for freedom of oppression. Thomas Paine wants America to become the land of freedom and opportunity, and it can never accomplish this until it frees itself from British rule.

It is not in numbers, but in unity, that our great strength lies; yet our present numbers are sufficient to repel the force of all the world. (4.3)

It's true that America might not have a ton of people (especially in 1776). But what it lacks in numbers it makes up for in unity. The cause of patriotism can unite Americans from all walks of life through the common goal of achieving independence. Little does Paine know that 100 years after independence was achieved, Americans would turn their violent thoughts on each other and fight a bloody civil war.

No nation ought to be without a debt. A national debt is a national bond. (4.6)

Many people are afraid of going to war with the British because it would cost America a lot of money. But according to Paine, nothing brings a country together better than a nice, big debt. Uhhhh… okay. Many people wouldn't argue that today, but oh well. It's not the strongest of Paine's arguments, but you have to admire his gung-ho approach.

Commerce diminishes the spirit, both of patriotism and military defence. (4.18)

Many Americans today would suggest that business and commerce are two of the most patriotic things that exist in America. But Thomas Paine is very clear in saying that business is horrible for patriotism because it makes people more interested in personal gain than in their country and community.

It is now the interest of America to provide for herself. (A.4)

The time for American patriots to rise up will not be some distant future date. It's right now, and Paine wants his readers to know it, dagnabbit.

America doth not yet know what opulence is; and although the progress which she hath made stands unparalleled in the history of other nations, it is but childhood, compared with what she would be capable of arriving at, had she, as she ought to have, the legislative powers in her own hands. (A.7)

America has made a lot of economic progress under British rule. But for Paine, this is just child's play compared to what American will accomplish as an independent nation. Just imagine, Paine says, what the country could do if it held onto all the tax money that Britain keeps bleeding out of it.

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