How did cutting board Paine’s pamphlet usual Sense convince reluctant americans to give up the score of reconciliation through Britain and accept the separation from Britain — independence — to be the only option for maintaining their liberty?


By January 1776, the American nests were in open rebellion against Britain. Their soldiers had captured Fort Ticonderoga, besieged Boston, fortified new York City, and also invaded Canada. Yet few dared voice what many knew to be true — they were no longer fighting because that their rights as british subjects. They weren’t fighting because that self-defense, or protection of your property, or to force Britain come the negotiating table. They to be fighting because that independence. It take it a hard jolt to relocate Americans from professed loyalty to declared rebellion, and it came in huge part from cutting board Paine’s Common Sense. Not a dumbed-down rant because that the masses, as regularly described, Common Sense is a masterful item of argument and also rhetoric that proved the power of words.



Thomas Paine, Common Sense, 1776

Common Sense in making the change from the National liberal arts Center.>

Text Type

Literary nonfiction; persuasive essay. In the Text Analysis section, Tier 2 vocabulary words are identified in pop-ups, and Tier 3 native are explained in brackets.

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Text Complexity

Grades 9-10 complexity band.

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Click below for standards and an abilities for this lesson.


Common main point State Standards

ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.6 (Determine an author’s allude of check out or objective in a text and analyze exactly how an writer uses rhetoric to advance that suggest of see or purpose.)

Advanced Placement us History

3.2 (IB) (Republican creates of government uncovered expression in thomas Paine’s Common Sense.)

Advanced placement English Language and Composition

Reading nonfictionAnalyzing and identifying and also author’s use of rhetorical strategies

Teacher’s Note

This lesson focuses on the sections main to Paine’s discussion in Common Sense — section III and the Appendix to the 3rd Edition, released a month after the first edition. We execute not recommend assigning the full essay (Sections I, II, and IV require progressed background in British background that Paine’s reader would have known well). However, students have to be led through an introduction of the essay come understand how Paine constructed his arguments to a “self-evident” conclusion (See Background: Message, below.)

Activity: native Resistance come RevolutionCompare Paine’s message and rhetoric in 1776 through that the a moderate Patriot in 1768.

Lead students through an initial overview of the essay (see Background). Come begin, they can skim the full text and also read the pull-quotes (separated quotes in large bold text). What impression that Common Sense execute the estimates provide? What questions execute they prompt? Then guide students together they check out (perhaps aloud) section III of Common Sense and also the Appendix to the 3rd Edition (pp. 10-19 and also 25-29 in the complete text provided with this lesson).

Proceed to the close analysis of three excerpts in the Text Analysis below. (Note that part of Excerpt #3 is a usual Core exemplar text.)

This class is separated into two parts, both easily accessible below. The teacher’s guide includes a background note, the text evaluation with responses come the close reading questions, accessibility to the interactive exercises, and a follow-up assignment. The student’s version, an interaction worksheet that can be e-mailed, contains all of the over except the responses come the close reading questions.

Teacher’s guide (continues below)Background noteText analysis and nearby reading inquiries with answer keyInteractive exercisesFollow-up assignmentStudent variation (click to open)Interactive PDFBackground noteText evaluation and close analysis questionsInteractive exercises

Teacher’s Guide



The man at ideal does not look angry. To us, he projects the usual figure of a “Founding Father” — composed, elite, and also empowered. And to us his well known essays are awash in powdered-wig prose. But the portrait and also the prose belie the reality. Thomas Paine to be a firebrand, and his most prominent essay — Common Sense — to be a fevered no-holds-barred speak to for independence. That is attributed with transforming the birds of windy opinion at a critical juncture, convincing plenty of Americans that war for independence was the only choice to take, and also they had to take it it now, or else.

Common Sense showed up as a pamphlet for sale in Philadelphia top top January 10, 1776, and, as we say today, that went viral. The very first printing marketed out in two weeks and over 150,000 duplicates were offered throughout America and Europe. The is approximated that one fifth of Americans read the pamphlet or heard it check out aloud in public. Basic Washington bespeak it read to his troops. Within weeks, the seemed, reconciliation through Britain had actually gone from an honorable goal to a cowardly betrayal, if independence came to be the rallying cry of united Patriots. How did Paine accomplish this?

1. Timing.

Over a year elapsed between the outbreak of equipped conflict and also the statements of Independence. Throughout these fifteen months, numerous bemoaned the reluctance of americans to renounce their ties v Britain in spite of the escalating warfare about them. “When we room no longer fascinated v the Idea of a speedy Reconciliation,” created Benjamin Franklin in mid-1775, “we candlestick exert ourselves to some purpose. It spins then things will be done by Halves.”1 In addition, over there remained much discord amongst the colonies around their shared future. “Some timid minds are terrified at the word independence,” composed Elbridge Gerry in in march 1776, introduce to the colonial legislatures. “America has gone together lengths she cannot recede, and I am persuaded a few weeks or months at furthest will convince she of the fact, yet the fruit must have actually time to ripen in some of the other Colonies.”2 In this environment, Common Sense showed up like a “meteor,” composed John Adams,3 and propelled numerous to support independence. Many provided it at the moment with amazement.

“Sometime previous the idea would have actually struck me through horror. I now see no alternative;… Can any virtuous and brave American hesitate one minute in the choice?”

The Pennsylvania night Post, 13 February 1776

“We were blind, but on reading these enlightening works the scales have fallen from our eyes…. The theory of self-reliance hath remained in times past substantially disgustful; we abhorred the principle. The is now become our delightful theme and commands our purest affections. Us revere the author and highly prize and also admire his works.”

The New-London Gazette, 22 march 1776

2. Message.

What do Common Sense so esteemed and “enlightening”? part argue that Common Sense stated nothing new, that it simply put the call-to-war in fiery street language the rallied the typical people. Yet this trivializes Paine’s accomplishment. The did have a brand-new message in Common Sense — an ultimatum. Give up reconciliation now, or forever lose the chance for independence. If us fail to act, we’re self-deceiving cowards condemning our kids to tyranny and cheating the human being of a beacon of liberty. That is ours calling to version self-actualized nationhood for the world. “The cause of America is in a great measure the reason of every mankind.”


Paine split Common Sense into four sections v deceptively mundane titles, mimicking the erudite political pamphlets that the day. But his essay did not offer the same-old-same-old writing on brother heritage and also American rights. Here’s what he claims in Common Sense:

Introduction: The ideas I existing here are so new that many world will reject them. Readers need to clear your minds the long-held notions, apply common sense, and embrace the cause of America as the “cause of every mankind.” just how we respond to tyranny this day will matter for all time.

Section One: The English government you worship? It’s a sham. Man may need government to safeguard him from his fault nature, but that doesn’t typical he have to suffocate under brute tyranny. Simply as girlfriend would cut ties v abusive parents, you need to break native Britain.

Section Two: The monarchy you revere? It’s not our protector; it’s our enemy. It doesn’t care around us; the cares about Britain’s wealth. The has carried misery to people all end the world. And the really idea the monarchy is absurd. Why have to someone ascendancy over us simply because he (or she) is someone’s child? So angry is monarchy by its an extremely nature that God condemns that in the Bible.

Section Three: Our dilemm today? that folly to think we must maintain loyalty to a far-off tyrant. The self-sabotage to seek reconciliation. For us, appropriate here, ideal now, reconciliation means ruin. America need to separate indigenous Britain. Us can’t go earlier to the warm days before the stamp Act. You know that’s true; the time to recognize it. For heaven’s sake, we’re already at war!

Section Four: have the right to we win this war? Absolutely! overlook the naysayers that tremble at the believed of british might. Let’s build a continental Navy together we have built our continental Army. Let united state declare independence. If us delay, it will certainly be that lot harder to win. I know the possibility is daunting, but the prospect of inaction is terrifying.

A month later, in his appendix come the 3rd edition, Paine escalated his appeal come a utopian fervor. “We have it in our power to begin the world over again,” he insisted. “The date of birth of a brand-new world is at hand.”

3. Rhetoric.

“It is necessary to it is in bold,” created Paine years later on his rhetorical power. “Some civilization can be reasoned right into sense, and also others must be shocked right into it. To speak a bold thing that will stagger them, and also they will begin to think.”4 store this idea front and center as you study Common Sense.

As an knowledgeable essayist and a recent English immigrant through his own deep resentments versus Britain, Paine to be the right man at the right time to galvanize public opinion. That “understood much better than anyone else in America,” explains literary scholar Robert Ferguson, “that ‘style and also manner that thinking’ could dictate the challenging shift from commitment to rebellion.”5 before Paine, the language of political essays had actually been moderate. Educated males wrote civilly because that publication and kept their fury for personal letters and diaries. Then come Paine, cursing Britain together an “open enemy,” denouncing George III as the “Royal Brute of England,” and damning reconciliation as “truly farcical” and “a fallacious dream.” to think otherwise, that charged, was “absurd,” “unmanly,” and “repugnant come reason.” together Virginian Landon Carter created in dismay, Paine implied the anyone who disagreed v him “is nothing short of a coward and also a sycophant , i m sorry in plain definition must it is in a damned rascal.”6 Paine knew what he to be doing: the pen was his weapon, and also words his ammunition. He said with principles while convincing through raw emotion. “The suggest to remember,” to write Ferguson, “is the Paine’s natural and intended audience is the American mob…. He provides anger, the natural emotion of the mob, come let the most active groups discover themselves in the general will of a republican citizenry.”7 What if Paine had actually written the explanation of freedom with the exact same hard-driving rhetoric?


We organize these truths to it is in self-evident, that all males are developed equal, the they space endowed by their Creator with specific unalienable Rights, that among these room Life, Liberty and also the pursuit of Happiness. — the to secure this rights, federal governments are instituted among Men, deriving their simply powers native the consent that the governed, — that whenever any type of government becomes disastrous of these ends, it is the appropriate of the world to transform or come abolish it, and also to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its strength in together form, as to them shall seem most likely to result their Safety and Happiness.

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IF PAINE had actually WRITTEN IT:

NO man deserve to deny, there is no abandoning his God-given capacity to reason, that all men get in into presence as equals. No matter how lowly or majestic their origins, they get in life with 3 God-given rights — the ideal to live, to right to live free, and the ideal to live happy (or, at the least, to pursue joy on earth). Who would pick existence on any kind of other terms? therefore treasured room these civil liberties that man created government to defend them. Therefore treasured space they that man is duty-bound to destroy any kind of government the crushes them — and also start anew as males worthy that the title of complimentary MEN. This is the plain truth, impossible to refute.