Common Sense and Civil Disobedience

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The two pieces of work by Paine and Thoreau respectively, thoughpublished in the dawn of American independence continue to relevantin enlightening the people. They provide important insights on howindividuals should respond to their respective governments. Thispaper discusses the role of the individual as presented in the twoworks. It is a reflection on the role of individuals in relation tothe society and government.

According to Paine, one of the roles of the individuals is tochallenge the government of the day. He personally said that he knewthat many would not favor his argument because it challenges wayBritish government operated. He said that if individuals don`tquestion their ways things are done or run by governments, then itmakes them appear right (Paine and Isaac, 40). At the time, most ofthe colonists were satisfied with the way events were unfolding andthe way things were being done. He says that no one was invincibleexcept divine power. Similarly civil disobedience advocates that anindividual questions the laws of the land. It was against the slaverylaw that was still in force in America at the time. It says thatindividuals have a role to distinguish between a set of laws. In thecase of conflicting laws, an individual should opt for the higherlaws, with the highest ones being divine laws. It is clear that bothcommon sense and civil disobedience recognizes the existence ofdivine power and, therefore, divine laws

In Common Sense, the origin of the government is the evil of thepeople. Therefore the governments exist to stop people from engagingin evil acts (Paine and Isaac, 62). The people also have the role ofcondemning the ills in their government. The common good of thesociety is paramount. The government should not be entertained to dothings their way and should not solely determine what is good for thepeople. This implies that governments are necessary to stop peoplefrom committing an evil act. Hence, people would engage in activitiesthat could hurt others and that are why the government should bethere to restrain them.

Common Sense also advocates that the individual should judge thegovernment on the basis of its accomplishment of its goal ofprotecting life, liberty, and property (Paine, 12). As long thegovernment is playing that role, and then the individual shouldrecognize its legitimacy. This is in contrast to civil disobediencethat informs the individual not to follow the law which is unjust.This is irrespective of whether the government is performing itsfunction as required by law or not. Civil disobedience advocates thatthe individuals have roles in declaring independence from unjustlaws. The individual should not surrender their right to lawmakerseven if the lawmakers are the majority.

According To Common Sense, every society requires ways to regulateits activities. An individual has a role in creating laws that rulethem which would make them happier. This is contrary to civildisobedience that tells the individual not to participate in theinstitutions of the government. Also civil disobedience proposes thatthe individual should not follow the law even if that law is dictatedby the majority, but instead do what they think is right. Civildisobedience advocates that the individuals have roles in declaringindependence from unjust laws. The individual should not surrendertheir right to lawmakers. That, however, could be compared to Commonsense that appeals that oppressive governments are not recognized bythe individual.

Common Sense wants the individual to always question the status quo.Failure to do that would lead to governments that do not care aboutthe welfare of the people. It reiterates that people would realizetheir right to question the government and keep it on its toes. Itsays that that the entire humankind would always fight forindependence since it appeals to everyone (Paine and Isaac, 51). Itterms the government as a necessary evil whose function is to stopthe people from engaging in evil acts. Common Sense, therefore,insinuates that individuals should participate in their governance.Rules and laws should not be imposed on the individuals without theirparticipation. The individual has a duty to play their roles for thecommon good of whole societies. This notion is similar to that ofThoreau in Civil Disobedience. In relation to the independence of thenation, Civil Disobedience advocates that the individuals have rolesin declaring independence from unjust laws (Thoreau and Joseph 43).The individual should not surrender their right to lawmakers. Theright of the individual should reign supreme ultimately. It is,therefore, the role of the individuals to fight for their rights andquestion the actions of the government. Individuals, however, shouldbe ready to suffer the consequences just like Thoreau was jailed forfailing to pay tax. He had been jailed for questioning a bad law,slavery law.

Civil Disobedience advocates that the individuals have roles indeclaring independence from unjust laws. This is comparable to CommonSense where individual must, therefore, fight against any form ofoppression and should be independent in their thinking. Theindividuals should, however, be able ready for resistance by thegovernment of the day. The individuals should engage in a continuousendeavor to fight for the strengthening of good governance of theircountry. This is a legitimate role that individuals should play withpride. It is only when the individuals play their roles well ofpointing out the existence of bad laws in their constitution thattrue liberation can begin to manifest.

In Civil Disobedience progressive laws would contribute to theprogressiveness of states in all other sectors. It is also the roleof the individual to engage in nonviolent resistance to laws that arerepressive in nature (Thoreau, 25). It is also the role of theindividuals to sanctify the authority of the government. This impliesthat the government should recognize the fact that it derives itsauthority from the individuals. However, common sense advocates for arevolution by the people in the achievement of good governance. Theindividual should be able to fight and suffer the consequences. Thisis demonstrated after Paine was fired from his position foradvocating for the rights of the emerging working class.

Civil disobedience advocates that individuals engage in a continuousendeavor to fight for the strengthening of good governance of theircountry. This is a legitimate role that individuals should play withpride (Thoreau, and Joseph, 58). Progressive laws would contribute tothe progressiveness of states in all other sectors. Common sense,too, proposesthat the individuals demand changes to improve thewelfare of the people, even if revolutionary means are used toachieve that.

In conclusion, common sense and civil disobedience are different intheir approaches and definition. However, they have a commonobjective of promoting the welfare of the individual. They alsostrive to make governments address the interests of the people inmore comprehensive and inclusive ways.


Paine Thomas. Common sense. London J.Almon 1776.Print

Paine, Thomas, and Isaac Kramnick. Common Sense. HarmondsworthMiddlesex, England: Penguin Books, 1986. Print.

Thoreau, Henry D, and Joseph W. Krutch. Walden, and OtherWritings: By Henry David Thoreau. Toronto: Bantam Books, 1981.Print.

Thoreau, Henry D.Civil Disobedience.London:1849.Print