The central question informing Thomas Paine's Common Sense is whether or not the United States should go to war with Britain in order to gain their independence. Paine is firmly in the "Yes" column and wants his readers to be, too.
But he can't convince them without talking about the stark realities of war and weighing them against the damage that'll be done if America keeps submitting to Britain. As we know today, America would eventually take up his call to arms and boot the Brits out of America. But at the time, there were still many folks who wanted nothing to do with a long and bloody war.
Questions About Warfare
Do you think Paine gives his readers a realistic sense of what they can expect from war with Britain, or does he downplay how bad it's going to be? Use evidence from the text to support your answer.
What are some of the arguments Paine gives in favor of war? Are they convincing?
Why does Paine go to such lengths to explain how much money it'll cost the U.S. to build the warships it needs?
What is Paine's opinion of people who speak out against war? Is it a fair opinion? Why or why not?
Chew on This
In Common Sense, we see that war can be justified if the costs of not fighting are greater than the costs of fighting.
Despite the author's intentions, Common Sense shows us that war doesn't accomplish anything that wouldn't have happened anyway.