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By the mid-nineteenth century, these clashes increasingly focused on the issue of slavery and Southern Secession from the Union. Yet the view from the Southern states was, quite naturally, the reverse.

While politicians and editorialists throughout the rest of the nineteenth century continued to employ the empty rhetoric of common sense, a group of Protestant theologians worked to provide the concept with some content. Drawing on the Scottish tradition of Common Sense philosophy—which asserted that commonly held opinions are our most trustworthy guide to truth—writers connected to the Princeton Theological Seminary naively suggested that spontaneous universal concord on every matter of moral, scientific, and spiritual significance should be possible.

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Men and women need only open their eyes to apprehend directly the timeless, objective, self-evident truth about all things: God, nature, right and wrong. For these theologians, the very idea of a genuine as opposed to a spurious conflict between reason and faith, science and religion—let alone between opposing political views—began to seem inconceivable. They thus tended to trace disagreements to defects in the mind or morals of whomever dissented from prevailing religious, scientific, social, cultural, or political opinion.

Maybe the dissenter had succumbed to the sin of pride, which led him astray. Or perhaps he made an innocent error of reasoning, or got caught up in futile metaphysical speculation. And then there was the most ominous possibility—that he was seduced by unbelief or false religion. Whatever the case, the disagreement was assumed to flow not from the intrinsic complexity of either the world or the nature of the mind but rather from an accidental failing rooted in a particular individual or group—a defect that could potentially be removed, thus restoring the inevitability of universal agreement based on self-evident common sense.

And yet by the turn of the century, whatever cultural, moral, and religious consensus prevailed in the United States seemed to be collapsing on multiple fronts. At the same time, industrialization was transforming American life in unpredictable ways, disrupting small-town life, driving the young to seek their fortunes in those same cities, exposing them to unimaginable moral temptations and objectionable ideas.

The American Revolution

Meanwhile, the nations schools were beginning to introduce Christian children to disturbing new unbiblical theories about the origins of the human race. For many, the suggestion that human beings evolved from apes sounded both morally monstrous and fundamentally unscientific—a form of demonic speculation wholly divorced from a properly commonsensical study of the natural facts. The political and cultural history of the American twentieth century was shaped in countless ways by two movements that arose in direct reaction to these destabilizing trends: populism in politics and fundamentalism in religion.

These were the views of those who lived in small, homogeneous agricultural communities and who believed their way of life to be under assault by the decadence and corruption of urban economic and political elites.

Thomas Paine -- Common Sense -- Reading Revolutions

That explosion took place in the decade following the Second World War, with the paranoid anti-communist crusade of Joseph McCarthy. The Republican senator from Wisconsin may have overreached in his efforts to root out Communists and thereby turned himself into a one of the most reviled figures in American political history, but he also unintentionally managed to unleash a wildly influential style of politics. It has inspired the racist rantings of George Wallace and countless other opponents of segregation and black civil rights.

The controversy between Bell and Paine played out in the press over the next several weeks and, in no small part, helped further ignite the popularity and widespread dissemination of Common Sense.

Thomas Paine's "Common Sense"

Bell tried to compete against Bradford with a second unauthorized edition and gathered these additions to differentiate his work for the purpose of marketing. Nevertheless, Bell could not easily compete since Paine refused to copyright the work and granted free permission for anyone to reprint it.

Paine, Thomas. Bell in Third-Street, Add to cart Add to wishlist. What's more, Paine uses statistics to make his argument. All of Paine's high-flown rhetoric would've amounted to little had he not also cited a list of tangible reasons why it was in America's best interest to break free from Britain.

Here are just a few of the points he makes:. Paine generally does this by invoking God. Note here how even Paine's appeals to a higher cause are tied to his ever-present logic.

Common Sense, by Thomas Paine (1776)

He's invoking God, but he's essentially making the same points he did before: How does it make sense for a small, unfriendly island to rule a large, welcoming continent across the ocean from it? Any reconciliation with Britain would be improbable and impractical, given the blood already shed on both sides and the lack of trust on both sides.

Here he quotes Milton: "Never can true reconcilement grow, where wounds of deadly hate have pierced so deep.

Britain's interests in America begin and end with Britain's needs, not America's. Sponsored Business Content.