Common Sense: and The American Crisis I (Penguin Classics)

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9780143107590: Common Sense: and The American Crisis I (Penguin Classics)

The writings that inspired the American Revolution—in an expanded new edition

Thomas Paine’s Common Sense may well be the most influential polemic in all of American history. Published anonymously in 1776, six months before the Declaration of Independence, this incendiary call for Americans to revolt against British rule converted millions to the cause of independence and set out a vision of a just society liberated from the yoke of the crown. Paine’s pamphlet was the first to speak directly to a mass audience—and his assertive and often caustic style embodied the democratic spirit he advocated.

This expanded edition also features Paine’s The American Crisis I, the first in a series of pamphlets aimed at bolstering American morale during the Revolution. An introduction by preeminent constitutional expert Richard Beeman traces Paine’s origins and illuminates the significance of these writings.

For more than sixty-five years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,500 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

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About the Author:

THOMAS PAINE (1737–1809) was one of the most celebrated figures of the American Revolution. His works include Common SenseRights of Man, and The Age of Reason.

RICHARD BEEMAN is John Welsh Centennial Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania. He is editor of the Penguin Civic Classics series and the author of seven books, including The Penguin Guide to the United States Constitution. He lives in Philadelphia.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Of the Origin and Design of Government in General. With Concise Remarks on the English Constitution

Some writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins. 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.

Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one; for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries by a government, which we might expect in a country without government, our calamities are heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer. Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence; the palaces of kings are built on the ruins of the bowers of paradise. For were the impulses of conscience clear, uniform, and irresistibly obeyed, man would need no other lawgiver; but that not being the case, he finds it necessary to surrender up a part of his property to furnish means for the protection of the rest; and this he is induced to do by the same prudence which in every other case advises him out of two evils to choose the least.

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