Rhetorical Devices in Common Sense

Rhetorical Devices Examples in Common Sense:

Introduction 2

"In the following sheets, the author hath studiously avoided every thing which is personal among ourselves. Compliments as well as censure to individuals make no part thereof. ..."   (Introduction)

This section displays a strategic rhetorical appeal to the audience. Paine's use of ethos helps to demonstrate lack of biases and further reinforces the universal mentality of the proposed new nation.

"Time makes more converts than reason...."   (Introduction)

This is one of the more famous lines in "Common Sense," and it explains Paine's belief that people are unlikely to be convinced of something through logic and reasoning alone. Instead, people are more easily persuaded by the passage of time and the opportunity to see the those things come to fruition as time carries on.

"A mere absurdity!..."   (I. Of the Origin and Design of Government in General, with Concise Remarks on the English Constitution)

The Constitution of England is no longer a successful means of governance, Paine argues, primarily because it is utterly contradictory. The three checks he mentions are not representative of England's citizens, nor do they appropriately balance each other as they should.

"The remains of monarchical tyranny in the person of the king...."   (I. Of the Origin and Design of Government in General, with Concise Remarks on the English Constitution)

This can be read as foreshadowing the checks and balances that became a part of the United States Constitution to ensure that neither the President, nor any single branch of the government, could become all-powerful.

"tho’ the disgrace of human nature..."   (I. Of the Origin and Design of Government in General, with Concise Remarks on the English Constitution)

This parenthetical aside is an explicit way for Paine to state what he thinks of the absolute government of England. It clearly clarifies his beliefs before breaking down the components of the English constitution.

"I offer a few remarks on the so much boasted constitution of England..."   (I. Of the Origin and Design of Government in General, with Concise Remarks on the English Constitution)

Paine uses another persuasive tactic here in his decision to look at a real-world comparison for the sake of his argument. This is successful because he chooses the constitution of England, a document which his audience would have been familiar with and which the colonists had been living under for years.

"a mode rendered necessary by the inability of moral virtue to govern the world..."   (I. Of the Origin and Design of Government in General, with Concise Remarks on the English Constitution)

This line serves as a critical explication of how Paine views the concept of government as a whole. Government is not inherently necessary, but because human morality cannot be relied upon, a government is needed.

"let us suppose a small number of persons settled in some sequestered part of the earth, unconnected with the rest..."   (I. Of the Origin and Design of Government in General, with Concise Remarks on the English Constitution)

This is an ideal example of persuasive technique, wherein Paine creates a fictitious situation as an example to further prove his point.

"Wherefore, security being the true design and end of government, it unanswerably follows that whatever form thereof appears most likely to ensure it to us, with the least expence and greatest benefit, is preferable to all others...."   (I. Of the Origin and Design of Government in General, with Concise Remarks on the English Constitution)

At this point Paine begins to construct his plans for what he believes to be the ideal structure of the government. He prioritizes security as a key element in the creation of a successful government.

"For were the impulses of conscience clear, uniform, and irresistibly obeyed, man would need no other lawgiver..."   (I. Of the Origin and Design of Government in General, with Concise Remarks on the English Constitution)

This demonstrates a recognition of the flaws of humanity and the rationale behind Paine's advocacy for government—despite his earlier frustrations against it.

"Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices...."   (I. Of the Origin and Design of Government in General, with Concise Remarks on the English Constitution)

Society is created by our own desires, but the government is a necessary evil to keep those desires in check. It is important to clarify that Paine is not against government, generally, he is simply seeking to demonstrate the natural need for a broader government structure.

"Antiquity..."   (II. Of Monarchy and Hereditary Succession)

"Antiquity" references the ancient past, particularly the period prior to the Middle Ages. In this context Paine is referencing a time from long ago to further support his claims.

"there have been (including the Revolution) no less than eight civil wars and nineteen rebellions..."   (II. Of Monarchy and Hereditary Succession)

This further refines Paine's claim with another method of persuasion, wherein he looks at history and provides numbers and previous events to back up his argument.

"I shall neither copy their humility, nor disturb their devotion...."   (II. Of Monarchy and Hereditary Succession)

Paine inserts himself into the narrative once more to clarify his disapproval but also to note that he will not enforce his views upon those who do worship the right of hereditary succession.

"unwise, unjust, unnatural..."   (II. Of Monarchy and Hereditary Succession)

Paine's use of explicit, inarguable diction serves to both further reinforce his argument about the problems of hereditary success within monarchical structures and also helps to demonstrate his own point of view.

"delusion..."   (II. Of Monarchy and Hereditary Succession)

Paine uses strong diction here to reinforce his belief that having a king is a terrible idea for a new country.

"As the exalting one man so greatly above the rest cannot be justified on the equal rights of nature, so neither can it be defended on the authority of scripture..."   (II. Of Monarchy and Hereditary Succession)

In this section Paine refines his points by repeating his assertion about the equality of men, and then he shifts to reference the Bible to further reinforce his claims.

"it is the pride of kings which throw mankind into confusion..."   (II. Of Monarchy and Hereditary Succession)

This is one of the more famous lines in the text and speaks to what Paine believes to be one of the fatal flaws of a monarchical government. By elevating a single man into a position of utmost power over others, monarchy fuels the pride of the king. This pride subsequently pushes the king to act in pursuit of his own best interests, rather than the best interests of his people.

"it is infinitely wiser and safer, to form a constitution of our own in a cool deliberate manner..."   (III. Thoughts on the Present State of American Affairs)

A government of America's own is a natural right and is essential in preserving the safety and integrity of the American colonies. Paine crafts this argument to appeal to the reader's logos by explaining how his belief is the most sound course of action.

"Where there are no distinctions there can be no superiority, perfect equality affords no temptation..."   (III. Thoughts on the Present State of American Affairs)

For the colonies to succeed on their own, each colony must see itself and others as equal. With this sentence Paine restates his argument and clarifies it further.

"I have heard some men say, many of whom I believe spoke without thinking, that they dreaded an independance..."   (III. Thoughts on the Present State of American Affairs)

By appealing to the masses, Paine utilizes an excellent rhetorical tactic to address the concerns of many. This allows him to develop a deeper relationship with the reader and to subsequently more easily convince them of his arguments.

"nothing but independance, i.e. a continental form of government, can keep the peace of the continent and preserve it inviolate from civil wars..."   (III. Thoughts on the Present State of American Affairs)

Many colonists feared the seeming inevitability of civil wars, and here Paine addresses that concern while explaining that only an independent government, like the one he is advocating for, can prevent those wars. This marks a shift in Paine's rhetoric, too, wherein he has now transitioned to acknowledge the colonists' fears.

"Is the power who is jealous of our prosperity, a proper power to govern us?..."   (III. Thoughts on the Present State of American Affairs)

Paine uses a rhetorical question as a means of opening up the discussion further. If America does not fight for their independence, their progress will be stunted entirely by the ruling force of Britain, because the British would see a colony that is more successful than its ruling government as a threat to the parent country's own success.

"I am not induced by motives of pride, party, or resentment to espouse the doctrine of separation and independance..."   (III. Thoughts on the Present State of American Affairs)

This line serves as a clarification on Paine's part that his arguments are not made by virtue of his own feelings, be they prideful or vindictive.

"But if you have, and still can shake hands with the murderers, then are you unworthy of the name of husband, father, friend, or lover..."   (III. Thoughts on the Present State of American Affairs)

Paine uses biting diction to unequivocally denounce those who are in opposition to American independence from Britain.

"Interested men, who are not to be trusted; weak men, who cannot see; prejudiced men, who will not see..."   (III. Thoughts on the Present State of American Affairs)

This is a deliberate and pointed breakdown of those who are in opposition to American independence. By identifying those who do not support an independent America, he highlights the flaws of each type and subsequently invalidates their position.

"Even the distance at which the Almighty hath placed England and America, is a strong and natural proof, that the authority of the one, over the other, was never the design of Heaven..."   (III. Thoughts on the Present State of American Affairs)

Paine invokes divinity as another way of proving that separation is not just natural, but necessary. He uses the physical distance between England and America to demonstrate that if God had truly intended for the two countries to be connected, they would have been geographically close together.

"by the same method of reasoning, England ought to be governed by France...."   (III. Thoughts on the Present State of American Affairs)

This is some savvy, persuasive rhetoric from Paine. He looks at the other side of the argument, playing a sort of what-if game, and uses a convincing example of the king of England's origins to further reinforce his point.

"Not one third of the inhabitants, even of this province, are of English descent..."   (III. Thoughts on the Present State of American Affairs)

The use of this statistic, though not cited or particularly specific, reinforces his earlier argument that Britain should not be thought of as America's mother country, and subsequently colonists should not feel that sort of attachment to their colonial ruler.

"this is certainly a very round-about way of proving relationship, but it is the nearest and only true way of proving enemyship..."   (III. Thoughts on the Present State of American Affairs)

Again, Paine highlights the separation of American interest and British ruling interest. He notes here that, though some claim the colonies are united solely through England, they are actually united through Great Britain's imposed "enemyship."

"we should examine the contrary side of the argument..."   (III. Thoughts on the Present State of American Affairs)

Another example of how Paine employs different tactics in this persuasive essay; in this case he takes the time to examine the other side of the argument in order to better understand and reinforce his own views. This further supports Paine's work because it directly demonstrates the extent of his knowledge on the topic.

"’Tis not the affair of a city, a country, a province, or a kingdom, but of a continent..."   (III. Thoughts on the Present State of American Affairs)

This is a critical quote to note because it highlights the deeply held belief that the cause of the revolution extends beyond the thirteen colonies. Paine's diction here helps to extend the importance of the pamphlet's argument.

"In the following pages I offer nothing more than simple facts, plain arguments, and common sense..."   (III. Thoughts on the Present State of American Affairs)

Paine continues to be explicit and straightforward in his intentions for the piece, and in doing so he creates a trustworthy relationship between himself and the reader.

"In a former page I likewise mentioned the necessity of a large and equal representation..."   (IV. Of the Present Ability of America, with Some Miscellaneous Reflections)

Once again Paine uses repetition of ideas as a rhetorical device, to further build upon his arguments. In this case, towards the end of the pamphlet, it is a savvy move to bring the argument back around to what he began with because it shows a cohesive argument.

"We are sufficiently numerous, and were we more so, we might be less united..."   (IV. Of the Present Ability of America, with Some Miscellaneous Reflections)

This is Paine's rationale for his previous argument against a common concern for colonial supporters. He argues that the colonies exist in a perfect balance, wherein they are populous enough to defend themselves, but not so overrun that unity becomes problematic.

"The infant state of the Colonies, as it is called, so far from being against, is an argument in favour of independence..."   (IV. Of the Present Ability of America, with Some Miscellaneous Reflections)

This is a primary example of one of Paine's key rhetorical devices, whereby he acknowledges the potential weakness in his argument and then manipulates it so it may be seen as a strength. In this case he writes that the relative youth of America should be considered an advantage, rather than a hindrance.

"proof that the above estimation of the navy is just..."   (IV. Of the Present Ability of America, with Some Miscellaneous Reflections)

These calculations were not a part of the initial pamphlet, but their addition adds much needed evidence to Paine's earlier claims that America could have a navy as large as England but with a fraction of their debt.

"A national debt is a national bond..."   (IV. Of the Present Ability of America, with Some Miscellaneous Reflections)

In Paine's eyes, national debt should not hinder the colonies' separation from Britain; rather, it should instead be looked upon as a way to increase national unity.

"The more sea port towns we had, the more should we have both to defend and to lose..."   (IV. Of the Present Ability of America, with Some Miscellaneous Reflections)

Though their navy was not strong, all the ports and coastal towns made for an ideal foundation upon which to benefit from having a navy. These refrains from Paine are another rhetorical tactic through which he hopes to convince readers of his arguments.

"yet our present numbers are sufficient to repel the force of all the world..."   (IV. Of the Present Ability of America, with Some Miscellaneous Reflections)

Though a country does not draw its strength from population alone, one of the reasons Paine sees this as an ideal time to seek independence is because the colonies have enough people and arms to defend themselves independently. The goal is to help readers feel encouraged by this information and raise their trust in his argument.