The United States’ history is rich with various events that influenced not only the development of the States itself but the worldwide political paradigm. The United States’ gaining of independence was such an event, creating a new economic and territorial unit. However, the States’ path to independence from Great Britain was not easy. Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence and Thomas Pain’s pamphlet Common Sense were the key manifests of this revolutionary movement. Different in form and tone, both of these works aimed to convey the reasoning behind the United States’ fight for independence.
The Declaration of Independence as the accumulation of the independence pursuit
The Declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Jefferson, argues against Great Britain’s oppression of the United States. In The Declaration, Jefferson (1776) refers to Holy Bible for the conformation of equality among all people as everyone is “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights”. It demonstrates the theological basis of Jefferson’s manifestation, which he uses to create the background for his political ideas. The author states that governments are created to ensure these rights for the citizens, and if leadership fails to provide them – it is society’s duty to dismantle such an ineffective system (Jefferson, 1776). After accentuating the deeds of the British government, which interfere with the States’ successful development, Jefferson utilizes this thesis to prove the need for political change. This way, the author emphasizes the desire of the American political elites and regular citizens to confront the unproductive regime and eliminate the influence of the British Empire.
Thus, The Declaration became one of the basic documents that install the key aspects of the United States’ independence from Great Britain. However, Jefferson’s work did not establish the United States’ autonomy as the representatives of different states accepted it in July of 1776, when the States’ war against the British oppression had only begun (Jefferson, 1776). The Declaration was manifest that solidified the independence pursuit of the American colonies in an official form. It provided the States’ citizens with a tangible conformation of the upcoming changes in their country’s current situation, which inspired them to keep fighting for the cause. The document also provided a solid foundation for the later development of the States’ self-sufficient legislation and executive systems. Therefore, Jefferson’s work effectively demonstrated the seriousness of the United States’ intentions concerning their autonomy from the British Empire.
Common Sense and exploring the significance of the fight for American autonomy
In many ways, Thomas Pain’s Common Sense was the predecessor of Jefferson’s Declaration as the authors explored similar ideas but expanded on them in different ways. Similarly to Jefferson, Pain emphasizes the universal God-given right for liberty and lists the obstacles for the United States’ evolvement, which were inflicted on the colonies by the British government (Pain, 1776). This way, the author thoroughly and clearly explains the negative influence that Great Britain has on American citizens while appealing to their religious beliefs. Pain (1776) expresses doubts about the legitimacy of the monarchy’s nature – he believes that such a system of hereditary power cannot be just in its essence and emphasizes the need for a democratic leadership model. This idea helps Pain to undermine the validity of the British authorities further, showing its government in a disadvantageous light. Then, the writer dismantles the British supporters’ arguments, thus eradicating any of his audience’s doubts about the importance of the States’ independence (Pain, 1776). Hence, Pain analyzes and proves the same theses to Jefferson while explaining his other views, which he believes will help the American audience understand the significance of their fight for autonomy.
Common Sense is written in a different tone to The Declaration – it is categorized as a pamphlet implying its informal style, which helped Pain to convey his ideas to a larger audience. On the contrary to Jefferson, in his work, Pain uses various tropes such as metaphors, comparisons, and pathos. For example, the author argues how irrational it is to expect that “because a child has thrived upon milk, that it is never to have meat” (Pain, 1776). Using a metaphor of parents and children, he explains that the United States does not need Great Britain’s guidance and protection. Such form of writing helped Pain appeal to all societal groups, as the language of Common Sense was easy to understand for common citizens and the intellectual elites. Thus, Pain’s pamphlet was an effective step in the States’ independence journey as it assisted in convincing Americans of the significance and fairness of such pursuit.
As Common Sense was published half a year before The Declaration, one may find that Jefferson drew inspiration from Pain’s work. The pieces have similar main theses: theological basis, emphasizing the role that government must play in societies, and stating the negative effects that the actions of Great Britain inflict on the States. However, the works are written to help achieve different goals. Declaration establishes the Americans’ desire for autonomy in an official form, therefore becoming the accumulation of the revolution. Meanwhile, Common Sense serves as its pushing force, explaining the importance of the independence movement to the public. Therefore, both works had an almost equal effect on revolutionary America, with Common Sense slightly surpassing The Declaration due to its appeal to a bigger audience. These pieces are still relevant in the present as they set an example for anticolonial fights in many other countries that are happening currently.
Jefferson, T. (1776). The Declaration of Independence. Web.
Pain, T. (1776). Common Sense.