On Reading Common Sense

Today I recorded part 3 of my Common Sense audiobook for YouTube. This one was nearly 50 minutes long 😮 so it will be a few days yet before I have actually edited and uploaded it.

I’m finding it very interesting thus far. Paine knew his audience and his format, and how to make his point several different ways (pathos, ethos, and logos—whew, I remember something from English 101).

Much of his argument for independence rests on religious reasons, which is rather ironic considering he was not particularly religious himself, at least not as much as you’d expect from the anonymous writer of this sermonesque pamphlet. For modern readers, this meta knowledge offers some additional insight on his writing technique, not to mention a few chuckles (and facepalms).

Overall, I have some reservations about many of Paine’s arguments, but still, it brings me a nostalgia for writers of the past—who even writes like this anymore? I’m also newly interested in the English history he references in his railing against the monarchy.

It’s worth noting Paine had only come to America in 1774, after experiencing serious financial and family losses in his native England. How much of his personal struggle was at the heart of the ire in Common Sense? One can only speculate, but I can’t help but wonder if there might be something there.


  1. I think Paine was a deist, but I don’t know how “religious” they were — that is, one could be deist and ignore the clockmaker god beyond an explanation for why there’s a universe, or one could be deist and earnestly try to live a good life in accordance with that clockmaker’s prescribed order.

    Paine is a terrific propagandist and was invaluable to the American patriot movement, but these days I don’t know how seriously to take him. As far as I know, he never held a post of responsibility.

    “They say they preached revolution, but let me say in my defense
    All I did wherever I go was talk a lot of Common Sense.”


    1. “propagandist” is a good way to put it. Every movement needs one, haha!

      By the way, I was pleasantly surprised to hear Dick Gaughan’s voice! We used to have a CD of Scottish singers, and it had his “No Gods & Precious Few Heroes.” I didn’t even know that was his name till just now, but his voice is pretty memorable.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is definitely on my ‘Get around to reading it eventually’ List. An important work by an important political author.


  3. you’re the only person i’ve ever heard of in 60 years who’s read this… kudos! maybe i’ll give it try…


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s