The Literary History of the American Revolution,1763-1783 - Vol. 1

By Moses Coit Tyler | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXI.
THOMAS PAINE AND THE OUTBREAK OF THE DOCTRINE OF INDEPENDENCE: JANUARY-JUNE, 1776.
I.-- Paine's arrival in America late in the year 1774, introduced by a letter from Franklin--His previous history in England.
II.--His first employment in Philadelphia--His eagerness for information as to American politics--His gifts and limitations for political discussion.
III.--His early opinion strongly in favor of reconciliation--The events of the year 1775 changed his opinion, and prompted him to write the first open and unqualified argument for American Independence.
IV.--History of American opinion as to Independence prior to 1776--The controversy had been conducted on a perpetual disavowal of the purpose or desire for Independence.
V.--The title of Paine's pamphlet happily indicates its character--An appeal from technical law to common sense--Its argument introduced by crude and pungent affirmations as to government in general and the British government in particular--A new era in American politics created by the transfer of the dispute from argument to arms--All considerations in force prior to April 19, 1775, are like last year's almanac--Disposal of the arguments based on filial sentiment, and on our former prosperity and happiness as colonies.
VI.--The positive disadvantages of the American connection with England --Interferes with the freedom of American commerce--Involves us in European wars and quarrels--The absurdity of a great continent remaining dependent on any external power--Our business too weighty and intricate to be managed any longer by a power distant from us and ignorant of us--Reconciliation, even if now possible, would be ruinous--The American people are competent to save American society from anarchy--Solemn warning to the American opponents of Independence--Freedom, a fugitive hunted round the globe, begs for an asylum in America.
VII.--The pamphlet, even in its crudities, exactly fitted for its purpose-- Effectiveness of its method of thought and statement--It uttered at the right moment what multitudes were waiting for--Numerous editions of it in America and Europe--Its authorship at first unknown, but ascribed to several eminent Americans, especially to Franklin.
VIII.--Evidence in contemporary writings of its enormous effects on public opinion between January and June, 1776.

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