Thomas Paine and Chalmers

The pamphlet “Common Sense” published by Thomas Paine in January 1776 became a best seller in the colonies. He writes about the sufferings and injustice meted out to the colonies by England and the fight for Independence from England. One specific injury named by Paine, is that the colonies are directly involved in European wars, due to their connection to England. As a consequence, enemies of Great Britain, like Spain and France, automatically become enemies of the colonies, which is a further disadvantage or injury to the Colonies.

Moreover, being involved in the war and having enemies has a negative impact on America’s trade, “whenever a war breaks out between England and any foreign power, the trade of America goes to ruin” (102). Furthermore, Paine makes numerous arguments in favor of Independence, because he believes that: “Every thing that is right or reasonable pleads for separation” (102). He believes that a unity of all the colonies will be able to achieve anything, such as the fight to gain Independence from England.

He states that America has access to many natural resources, such as timber and iron and is able to manufacture many products. Therefore, an independent America would be a rich country. Paine argues that the “infant state of the colonies” is a further argument for Independence, because the people of the colonies are more united, since there are not too many people. Besides, Independence would give the colonies not only the possibility to be excluded from European wars and quarrels, but it would also give America a voice and a place amongst other nations.

On the other hand, Chalmers outlines numerous reasons why the colonies would not win against England. He thinks that the colonies do not have the manpower or the resources to defeat Great Britain. As Chalmers puts it: “We must confess that no power ever engaged such potent antagonists under such peculiar circumstances of infelicity” (108). In addition, Chalmers claims that an independent America would not be in the interest of France and Spain, because they might see their own interests endangered and would therefore treat America as a threat.

As a result, they might join forces with Canadians and “Savages”, which would be a dangerous situation for America. Not to mention, Chalmers disagrees with Paine on many issues, for example, he believes that the so called “infant state” of the colonies is not an argument for Independence, but rather against Independence. It would be as absurd as claiming “that twenty is inferior in number to two” (109) and that dependence on England actually secures peace for the colonies, instead of causing war as argued by Paine.

For the most part, Both Chalmers and Paine have reasonable and logical arguments supporting their opinion and both were trying to evaluate the situation. They both drew their conclusions from the facts that were available. From our perspective today and, with the knowledge that America succeeded in gaining Independence from Great Britain, it can be argued that Paine made the better case. He actually believed that America would succeed in achieving Independence, whereas Chalmers believed that Colonies gaining Independence from England was a wrong thing to do.