Thomas Paine’s Common Sense
Term Paper Assignment Part of the objective of the course is to further the college’s overall goal of training skilled writers. To this end, you are assigned a five-page paper. While not a research paper in the traditional sense, this project is nonetheless an exercise in how to write in college. Your paper is to be typed, double-spaced, with standard margins and page numbers on each page. You must also include a title page with the title of your essay, your name, your instructor’s name, the course number, and the date. The paper should feature standard American usage, spelling and grammar. If you feel you are having difficulty with regard to any of these aspects of this assignment, you are encouraged to send me a draft of the paper and I will review it to help you stay on track. You can also avail yourself of the resources available at The Learning Center. The subject of the paper is Thomas Paine’s Common Sense. It is permitted to use any edition of Common Sense for the purposes of this essay, and Common Sense is available free online at any number of sites, including at Project Gutenberg: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/147/147-h/147-h.htm You are to read his pamphlet and formulate a reader response. This assignment is not a traditional “book report”, and so there’s no need to summarize Paine’s work. The purpose of the essay is to develop an understanding of the political ideas that motivated American revolutionaries in their struggle for independence from England. It is up to you to formulate your own thesis for the assignment. In so doing, there are any number of questions that you might want to address: – What does Paine believe about the nature of political legitimacy? – What sources does Paine draw upon in crafting his argument? – What sources does Paine reject? – How does Paine’s essay represent the ideas of the historical era of which he was a part? – Is Common Sense relevant to our understanding of the US today? How so? – What concrete political proposals in Common Sense eventually wound up being institutionalized after the Revolution? – What elements of Paine’s argument do you find most surprising? His purpose is polemical, very much an exercise in persuasion: in this, he seems to have been successful, as this pamphlet was the most widely circulated political text during the Revolution. Paine is, in my reading of him, not a systematic political writer: his method is very much a hodgepodge of ideas borrowed from other authors of his time, which is one reason why he is often assigned as a representative of the American revolutionaries. The Project Draft is due by Wednesday, October 30, but you may request an extension. The final draft of the paper is due by Wednesday, November 27, but no extensions will be granted on this occasion, excepting exceptional circumstances. Please remember to cite all sources properly. All use of sources without attribution constitutes plagiarism and will be marked down in accordance with the Northeast State policy on academic honesty.