Study Guide

Common Sense Passivity

By Thomas Paine


Thomas Paine knows that many readers of Common Sense will be staunchly against war with Britain for various reasons. He goes on to tackle these reasons one by one, but at the same time he hints that the type of people who make these arguments are cowards.

For Paine, passive submission to Britain is not an option, not with all of the mental and physical violence that Britain has done to America over the years. When justice is being smashed, it is a person's duty to step up and defend it.

Questions About Passivity

  1. Do you think Thomas Paine is too hard on pacifists, or is his attitude justified? Why?
  2. What are some of the different reasons for people not wanting to go to war with Britain? Which is the most convincing?
  3. Why does Paine dedicate the last part of his Appendix to criticizing a Quaker author who wrote a text condemning America's war with Britain? How does Paine want people to think of this person and his/her ideas?

Chew on This

In Common Sense, Thomas Paine shows a hate-on for antiwar protesters that is still very much part of American culture today.

In Common Sense, Thomas Paine demonstrates that pacifism always tends to do more harm than good in the long run.

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