Age of Enlightenment

Age of Enlightenment

The eighteenth century was the age of revolutions and wars of independence around the world. The century is commonly known as the "age of enlightenment," but one could also refer to it as the age of "humankind's awakening." Starting with the fifteenth century, Europe went through the period of rebirth. The ancient Greeks and Romans were brought to light after centuries of darkness during the Middle Ages. The world of ideas was changing and science was beginning to make progress. The map was changing, new territories were discovered and people were developing their horizons both geographically and culturally. Economic progress followed in the seventeenth century due to the exploitation of the newly found resources from the colonies and the industrial era that was on its way. Unfortunately, the eighteenth century brought a period of popular manifestation of dissatisfaction with the social order imposed by governments, social inequalities and injustices were at the origins of new ideas that spread rapidly around Europe and crossed the ocean into the American continent. Jean Jacques Rousseau, Voltaire and Thomas Paine were philosophers that questioned the authority of the state and wrote unilaterally from the point-of-view of a human being that was beginning to feel and act like being as important a part of society as any other human being.

Pain's Common Sense is both a manifest against the oppression of monarchy upon the colonies and an appeal to declare their independence. The economic factors were of primary importance and plaid the major role in the outbreak of the American Revolution, but the ideas and the visions of people like Paine gave the supporters of the Independence War and the common people the incentive and the spiritual basis at the same time. Paine's pamphlet is considered by some to be the most important material that gave a moral support to those who doubted the legitimacy of their acts pro-liberation from the British crown.

Revolutions need two equally important forces: spiritual as well as physical. One of the definitions Berger and Spoerer find for a revolution are: either "a widespread collective violence targeted at changing the political system, or as immediate and substantial constitutional reform implemented to prevent it" (Berger&Spoerer, 2001).

Thomas Paine was born in England in 1737 and went to school only until the age of 12. After a few failed attempts to find a suitable job, Paine eventually came to work as a tax collector in England. He failed at this job, too because of an article he published about the importance of raising the tax collectors salaries in order to keep them away from corruption methods. His meeting with Benjamin Franklin was decisive for his departure and settlement on the other side of the Atlantic, in Philadelphia. He started working as a journalist and published Common Sense in 1776, the year of the American Revolution. (http://www.ushistory.org/PAINE/).On February the 14th, 1776, Paine wrote in his introduction to his pamphlet: "who the Author of this Production is, is wholly unnecessary to the Public, as the Object of Attention is the doctrine itself, not the man" (Paine, 2005, pg. 6). Paine's pamphlet is a political work as well as a sociological one. Society and politics are his main subjects and his involvement into the American War of Independence is clearly traceable. The Declaration of Independence was written a half a year later and the ideas expressed by Paine in his pamphlet can be recognized in the document. Paine's main argument was based on the imminence of getting Independence for the colonies, one way or another. Paine saw in the chance of the thirteen colonies to become free of the oppression and exploitation of the British Empire the chance for the entire world to overthrow the old order and find its way to freedom. He was born, lived and worked under a monarchy until the age of 36 and one he came to America he found a way to express his personal aspiration to freedom he never had in England. Furthermore, his political philosophy envisioned the freedom for a whole country gained in the name of the greatest ideals of all: the individual liberty.

At the beginning, Paine was the supporter of a peaceful settlement between the British and the thirteen British colonies in North America. The first armed conflicts that took place in Lexington and Concorde made him change his mind on a peacefull solution and he understood that violence was the only way out. The troops need moral support in a war and he found just the right style to address the issue and make himself understood by the masses: the pamphlet. The success was immediate and unprecedented. Common Sense "sold more than 100,000 copies in three months[and] had a profound impact on public opinion and on the deliberations on the Continental Congress then meeting in Philadelphia" (Aldridge, (http://americanrevwar.homestead.com/files/PAINE.HTM).The pamphlet rose among numerous other pamphlets, articles etc. And receive public approval at a scale that remained unique in the history of the America War of Independence. First of all, the timing was perfect: it was published almost simultaneously with the publication of "the King's Speech to Parliament" and the Prohibitory Act of December 1775, that announced the embargo imposed by the House of Communes (Vincent, 2005, pg. 21). Anyone who reads about the biography of Thomas Paine is inclined to question some facts or at least is astonished by the evolution of his personality and the influence he came to have on one of the most important events in the history of the world: The American War of Independence. Until his late thirties, he was a common man from the working class who left school at the age of 12. but, revolutions are destined to make great people from commoners and Paine was definitely one of the most important figures in this sense. He became one of the leading spiritual parents of the American Revolution partially because he knew the cause of the oppressed classes very well. Paine was at the right time at the right place and had the right knowledge to seize the moment and influence the outcome of the movement in a radical manner. "Time and Space, both are to be found at the heart of Common Sense, shoulder to shoulder in the same cause, bent on achieving the same object, and with geography when need be, speeding to the aid of history " (Vincent, 2001, pg. 22-23). Up to a certain point, Paine's destiny itself was coinciding with that of the North American colonies under the British Empire.

Paine's pamphlet uses a sound reasoning and his argumentation is following the laws of the rhetoric without the use of an academic language that would condemn it to the grasp of a few readers instead to appeal to the masses. Pain's attack of monarchy in general and British monarchy in this case is very persuasive and it paved not only the way to Independence for the colonies, but also the way to the revolutions to come in Europe. Paine did not attend school for a long time, but he was certainly paying a great deal of attention to everything around him, beside what he learned in his readings. One of his attacks on monarchy may be his core philosophy in regard to the gain of knowledge: " There is something exceedingly ridiculous in the composition of monarchy; it first excludes a man from the means of information, yet empowers him to act in cases where the highest judgment is required. The state of a Kind shuts him from the world, yet the business of a king requires him to know it thoroughly; wherefore the different parts, by unnaturally opposing and destroying each other prove the whole character to be absurd and useless " (Paine, 2005, pg. 12). Moreover, Paineā€¦