Causes of Revolution Economic exploitation by England – Taxation, forcible quartering of soldiers, violation of property rights Legal domination – British soldiers to be tried only in England, forced alteration of MA charter, restriction of town meetings Governmental oppression – Colonies have no say in taxation, diminished voice in own govt
Thomas Paine B. Feb. 9 1737, Thetford, England Arrives in American colonies 1774 Common Sense: 1776 Rights of Man: 1790, supporting French Revolution, elected to National Convention, imprisoned by Robespierre 1793 Age of Reason: 1794, 1795, 1807 Returns to US 1803 Dies 1809
Common Sense January, 1776 Massively influential – Before its publication, about 1/3 of American colonials supported the break from Britain, 1/3 opposed, and 1/3 were undecided – After, it was closer to 2/3 in favor of Revolution Focused strongly on the containment of governmental power – Reason vs. passion, tradition
Common Sense Against the power of tradition & emotion: Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following pages, are not yet sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favor; a long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom. (section 1)
Common Sense Against the power of tradition & emotion: The prejudice of Englishmen, in favor of their own government by king, lords, and commons, arises as much or more from national pride than reason.
Common Sense Against the power of tradition & emotion: The will of the king is as much the law of the land in Britain as in France, with this difference, that instead of proceeding directly from his mouth, it is handed to the people under the most formidable shape of an act of parliament. For the fate of Charles the First, hath only made kings more subtle not more just.
Common Sense Against the power of tradition & emotion: Wherefore, laying aside all national pride and prejudice in favor of modes and forms, the plain truth is, that it is wholly owing to the constitution of the people, and not to the constitution of the government that the crown is not as oppressive in England as in Turkey. (section 2)
Common Sense Against the power of tradition & emotion: – Disinterested reason should be the guide to political action – In the following pages I offer nothing more than simple facts, plain arguments, and common sense; and have no other preliminaries to settle with the reader, than that he will divest himself of prejudice and prepossession, and suffer his reason and his feelings to determine for themselves; that he will put on, or rather that he will not put off, the true character of a man, and generously enlarge his views beyond the present day. (section 4)
Common Sense Reason is believed to be – Impartial & unbiased – A method of reaching universal & definitive truth – Comprehensible by anyone not blinded by passion or bias, regardless of social station (common sense) Thus, it is for Paine the source of just political authority
Common Sense Whats so bad about kings? (section 3) – Nature does not sanction division of men into Kings and Subjects. It is only customary. – The State of Nature as tool of criticism A government must not make things worse than they are in the State of Nature if they are to deserve compliance
Whats so bad about kings? The Bible, often used as a source of legitimacy by kings, is in fact anti-monarchical Samuel vs. a King for Israel (1 Samuel 8) – God & Samuel oppose (only God is king) – People demand king – Taxation, war, oppression the costs of kingship Capturing the past Thus, kingship is purely a human creation, no more inherently valid or necessary than any other.
Common Sense Whats so bad about kings? Hereditary succession is both unjust and impractical – Gives an ass in place of a lion for future generations (bad successors) – causes kings to think of themselves as a race apart, corrupts them – Puts the throne in hands of child or a (likely corrupt) regent – Instead of protecting against civil wars, HS promotes them. Would-be rulers can only come to power by force
Common Sense Why is independence necessary? (sect. 4) – England is violently oppressive, exploiting America for the good of England – England is too far away to govern America effectively, even if it wanted to. – Being a part of the British Empire will inevitably involve America in unnecessary imperial conflicts.
Common Sense By grounding political authority in reason, Paine is able to make a persuasive argument undermining the foundations of British government, which is based in tradition, religion, and custom.
Common Sense Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness Positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is a patron, the last a punisher. – The true end of government is security. (sect. 2)
Common Sense What is the basis of just government? Paine quotes Dragonetti: The science of the politician consists in fixing the true point of happiness and freedom. Those men would deserve the gratitude of ages, who should discover a mode of government that contained the greatest sum of individual happiness, with the least national expense.
Common Sense What is the basis of just government? – Freedom – Happiness – Efficiency
Common Sense How does Paine propose to achieve this? – Commerce – Local government with weak central government – Religious toleration – Rule of Law
Common Sense Commerce will lead to peace and prosperity: Our plan is commerce, and that, well attended to, will secure us the peace and friendship of all Europe; because it is the interest of all Europe to have America a free port. Her trade will always be a protection, and her barrenness of gold and silver secure her from invaders. (sect. 4)
Common Sense Local government with weak central government (sect. 5) Each colony equally represented Each colony retains sovereignty Weak executive (needs 60% congressional approval to pass laws) Continental Charter, guaranteeing political freedom, property, freedom of religion
Common Sense Religious toleration (sect. 5) As to religion, I hold it to be the indispensable duty of all government, to protect all conscientious professors thereof, and I know of no other business which government hath to do therewith… Were we all of one way of thinking, our religious dispositions would want matter for probation; and on this liberal principle, I look on the various denominations among us, to be like children of the same family
Common Sense Rule of Law (sect. 5) Let a day be solemnly set apart for proclaiming the charter; let it be brought forth placed on the divine law, the word of God; let a crown be placed thereon, by which the world may know, that so far as we approve of monarchy, that in America THE LAW IS KING. For as in absolute governments the King is law, so in free countries the law ought to be King; and there ought to be no other. But lest any ill use should afterwards arise, let the crown at the conclusion of the ceremony be demolished, and scattered among the people whose right it is. A government of our own is our natural right.
Common Sense American exceptionalism: The sun never shined on a cause of greater worth. 'Tis not the affair of a city, a country, a province, or a kingdom, but of a continent of at least one eighth part of the habitable globe. 'Tis not the concern of a day, a year, or an age; posterity are virtually involved in the contest, and will be more or less affected, even to the end of time, by the proceedings now. (sect. 1)
Common Sense Let the names of Whig and Tory be extinct; and let none other be heard among us, than those of a good citizen, an open and resolute friend, and a virtuous supporter of the RIGHTS of MANKIND and of the FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES OF AMERICA. (sect. 6) – What does it mean to define your cause as that of all humanity?
Declaration of Independence Should the 13 Colonies declare independence from Britain? July 1, 1776: vote 9 yes (New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Virginia, Rhode Island) 3 no (Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Delaware) 1 abstaining (NY lacked permission) July 2: Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Delaware change votes. Unanimous
Declaration of Independence We are reading the third draft. Jefferson was the sole author of the first, but it was revised in order to preserve the unity of the rebellious colonies. – Removal by congress of passage critical of the slave trade July 4, approved and sent to printer. Was it a revolution? The Declaration of Independence is the first utterance of the United States of America – Speaking the nation into existence (performative)
Declaration of Independence When in the Course of human Events, it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Natures God entitle them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the Separation.
Declaration of Independence State of Nature Laws of Nature (Locke) and Natures God (Deism?) Legitimacy of Rebellion Keen awareness that the attention of the world is on the United States First democratic government since classical times
Declaration of Independence WE hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness
Declaration of Independence If the truths are self-evident, why bother saying them? Why then do they need to be held? How does this influence the nature of the American state? – Written in the voice of a single, national people – The US is not a community of shared blood or culture, but of shared belief.
Declaration of Independence The role of God, the Creator: Who is he? – Deism vs. Revealed Religion What is his political function? – The source of political rights Political rights are an intrinsic part of being human.
Declaration of Independence What does it mean for all men to be created equal? Equal how? Is God (of some kind) necessary for this to be true? In the first utterance of the united American nation, equality is the foundational political good, and the basis for political liberty. – Equality is thus a first order good.
Declaration of Independence That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Declaration of Independence The purpose of government is the preservation of rights – Stemming from equality An inherent right to revolution Organization of power to be determined by the people. – Again, the people are prior, as are their security and happiness, to the government.
Declaration of Independence when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a Design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security.
Declaration of Independence Right and Duty – Duty how? – What is the relationship in this between positive and negative liberty? Freedom
Declaration of Independence Emerging tensions: – Which has priority, liberty or equality? – Is the United States an alliance of independent states, or is it a single, national people?