Item description for Common Sense: and Other Writings (Modern Library Classics) by Thomas Paine & Gordon S. Wood...
Overview Excerpts from the eighteenth-century firebrand's major works including "The American Crisis" and "The Age of Reason."
Publishers Description Includes the complete texts of "Common Sense; Rights of Man, Part the Second; The Age of Reason" (part one); "Four Letters on Interesting Subjects," published anonymously and just discovered to be Paine's work; and "Letter to the Abbe Raynal, " Paine's first examination of world events; as well as selections from "The American Crises" In 1776, America was a hotbed of enlightenment and revolution. Thomas Paine not only spurred his fellow Americans to action but soon came to symbolize the spirit of the Revolution. His elegantly persuasive pieces spoke to the hearts and minds of those fighting for freedom. He was later outlawed in Britain, jailed in France, and finally labeled an atheist upon his return to America.
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Studio: Modern Library
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 8.06" Width: 5.22" Height: 0.74" Weight: 0.55 lbs.
Release Date Feb 11, 2003
Publisher Modern Library
ISBN 0375760113 ISBN13 9780375760112
Availability 0 units.
More About Thomas Paine & Gordon S. Wood
Thomas Paine was born in England in 1737 and worked as a schoolteacher, storekeeper, and customs inspector before moving to Philadelphia in 1774. He quickly acquired a reputation as a journalist and published his hugely successful and influential pamphlet Common Sense in 1776. The Crisis, written when Paine was a soldier in the darkest days of the revolution--with its famous opening words, -These are the times that try men's souls---called for perseverance and prevented Washington's army from disintegrating. To honor him for defending the French Revolution in Rights of Man, France made him a citizen and elected him to their constitutional convention. He died in 1809.
Reviews - What do customers think about Common Sense: and Other Writings (Modern Library Classics)?
essential for research Mar 20, 2009
Although this edition of Paine's works dates from 1993 it is worth buying simply for the introduction by Gordon Wood. The paperback version is an inexpensive way to have most of Paine's important writings at hand, including the letters on interesting subjects that are not always found in other collections.
We have it in our power to make the world over again! Oct 31, 2008
This was a required reading for a graduate humanities class. John Keane's biography succinctly showed that Tom Paine (1737-1809) was the consummate revolutionary and a daring adventurer. Not only was he an important figure in the American Revolution, but he also traveled to France in 1791 to give that revolution a push. Paine traveled from England, just in time to stoke the flames of the revolution with his pamphlet Common Sense, in January 1776. To call Common Sense a sensation in the colonies is actually a bit of an understatement. It was an unparallel sensation and monumental work of Enlightenment rhetoric that quickly fanned the flames of rebellion throughout the colonies. In four months, over 120,000 copies were printed in the colonies--over 500,000 copies by years end. No other pamphlet printed in seventeenth century America came close to its success. Most importantly, Common Sense served to get the colonial patriots to drop their fear of open rebellion, and also emboldened those delegates who favored declaring independence from Britain. The delegates now had the confidence that a large segment of the colonists would support rebellion. Similar to the Declaration of Independence, the philosophical ideas in Common Sense are primarily from the English philosopher, John Locke (1632-1704). The most moving quote from the pamphlet became quite prophetic, when one considers the impact it ultimately had on the delegates in the congress, the drafting of the Declaration of Independence, and on the world. "We have it in our power to begin the world over again."
This was required reading for a graduate course in the history of the French Revolution. For Thomas Paine, the eighteenth century was the Age of Enlightenment because for the first time humankind was throwing off the millstones of religious dogmatism and political despotism. Paine essentially believed that the rights of man encompassed, "...all the intellectual rights, or rights of the mind, and also all those rights of acting as an individual for his own comfort and happiness, which are not injurious to the natural rights of others" (Paine, 68).
Paine's Rights of Man was an eloquent yet blistering rebuttal to Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France. Paine got right to the crux of the disagreement he had with Burke when he admonished him for his argument that governmental enactments of previous generations had the force and authority to bind citizens for all time. An example that Burke used was the English Parliament of 1688, which he praised as a model of the type of reform French citizens should emulate. Paine's answer was swift and cutting "Radical Enlightenment" reason. "Every age and generation must be as free to act for itself, in all cases, as the ages and generations which preceded it. The vanity and presumption of governing beyond the grave, is the most ridiculous and insolent of all tyrannies" (41-42). Paine also took Burke to task for his narrow understanding of French socio-political and economic problems leading up to 1789. Unlike Burke, Paine understood that the French Revolution, unlike the others that took place in Europe, was not just a revolt against the king. "Between the monarchy, the parliament, and the church, there was a rivalship of despotism, besides the feudal despotism operating locally, and the ministerial despotism operating everywhere" (48). Thus, what Paine witnessed, Alexis de Tocqueville and Georges Lefebvre observed, agreed with, and commented on, in their history's years later. The institutions that Burke defended in his Reflections, such as the nobility, Church, and monarchial rule, all became "fodder" for Paine's "grist mill" in his defense of France's new constitution.
Paine abhorred the institution of nobility and supported its dissolution for several reasons. "Because the idea of hereditary legislation is as inconsistent...and absurd as an hereditary mathematician....Because it is continuing the uncivilized principle of governments founded in conquest, and the base idea of man having property over man, and governing him by personal right" (83). No friend to tradition, Paine took Burke to task for defending the notion of, "...hereditary rights, and hereditary succession, and that a Nation has not a right to form a Government for itself" (Paine, 116). Paine defended the French constitution's eradication of tithes to the Catholic Church and it "...hath abolished or renounced Toleration, and Intolerance also, hath established UNIVERSAL RIGHT OF CONSCIENCE" (85). Finally, Paine unleashed a most scathing attack against Burke's suggestion that France should reform its absolutist monarchy into a benign form of constitutional monarchy similar to what Britain enjoyed. "All hereditary government is in its nature tyranny" (172). "It occasionally puts children over men, and the conceits of nonage over wisdom and experience. In short, we cannot conceive a more ridiculous figure of government, than hereditary succession" (173).
Thus, Paine's Radical Enlightenment polemic, which sold more than 200,000 copies throughout Europe, was his reasoned and articulate project towards developing a better world. Consequently, there is no doubt that Paine, whose Radical Enlightenment pen proved to be "mightier than the sword" of despotism both in the American and French Revolutions, understood the importance of the nurturing relationship that Enlightenment philosophes had on the French Revolution. "But all those writings and many others had their weight; and by the different manner in which they treated the subject of government...by their moral maxims and systems of economy, readers of every class met with something to their taste" (Paine, 94).
Recommended reading for anyone interested in political philosophy, enlightenment history, and the French Revolution.