Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Reading Common Sense Nowadays


Which proud American never heard about a political pamphlet called Common Sense, by Thomas Paine? Without a doubt, this book that I read two months ago certainly has the same importance than the Declaration of Independence in American History. Obviously, Thomas Paine's objective, in 1776, was to promote the independence of the 13 British colonies of North America, eulogize republicanism and logically, decry monarchy. However, two of his wishes were just dreams.


Obviously, we can say straightforwardly that Paine plunges us into many topics in order to have a wide readership, but above all, to convince Americans why it's worth being an independent country. Obviously, he says eloquently that as an independent country, the 13 British colonies can have control over their economy and also their military. In the first place, it wasn't difficult for him to prove that taxation should only be done if it is approved by people who are elected by citizens...

To decry monarchy, Paine upholds that the Bible forbids it. Indeed, when Jews wanted to have a king, Samuel, their leader, was apparently told by God that it won't be tolerated. What is so ludicrous is when Paine says that in Catholic countries, reading the Bible is not encouraged as opposed to Protestant countries. Hence, the Catholics' so-called unconditional support to monarchy, in his own words. Still, how come such a largely Protestant country like Great Britain is still a monarchy?

Despite being interesting, Paine's book suffers from many weakness. For instance, think about the part in which he advocates republicanism. Paine believes that republicanism is the only stable and viable form of government. In fact, he points out that Holland, in the 17th century, never had any problems, unlike monarchies.

Of course, no one can deny that monarchies led to many coups d'État, bloodsheds and violent schemes, according to him. While this is true, Thomas Paine's argumentation definitely suffers from a lack of examples. Thus, he certainly didn't have enough knowledge in History to point out the succession of many dynasties in China's history, the Wars of Roses or Mary Stuart's attempt to unseat her cousin Elizabeth 1rst, the queen of England, in 1567.

So, let's ask ourselves a question: if monarchy means instability, how on earth did Great Britain maintain its monarchy to up until now? Without a doubt, Common Sense presents a very one-sided political analysis.

Nonetheless, with the distance that we can take with the book, we can really wonder if Paine's vision about republicanism is true. We can't blame him for not living long enough to be acknowledged of what happened in many South American countries after they became independent. Obviously, I'm talking about coups d'État that were led by generals who desired power.

Finally, two of Paine's wishes were just dreams. For instance, at this very moment, not all countries are democratic. Secondly, as time went by, we saw that whether a country applies republicanism or monarchy, it is never protected against instability. Even though I believe that Canada should become a republic, I still admit that republicanism has never guarantee stability throughout History. Nonetheless, even though the book lacks depth, it still remains an important part of a jigsaw puzzle that allows us to understand the American Revolution because of Paine's discourse on universal human rights.

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