November Class Topic: Thomas Paine

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November Class Topic: Thomas Paine

Post  Mira W. on Fri Nov 28, 2014 11:42 am

A) What is Paine’s overall argument? Do you think his argument is effective?
   Paine urges America to realize that Britain, as an small island ruling over a continent, is only preventing them from moving forward as a nation. Whatever protection they might have provided was for their benefit only; America to them is solely a trade market. Having a continent depending on a country overseas is unacceptable - it is time America, like young adults from their parents, separated from the mother country. To be able to end the crisis currently overtaking America, people of the continent must rise against British rule, and achieve complete independence through a revolution.

B) Discuss where Paine appeals to his reader’s logic and where he appeals to his reader’s heart. Why are both appeals important?
   Paine begins his note with the words, "I offer nothing more than simple facts, plain arguments, and common sense," immediately appealing to those seeking logical arguments. Followed by the words, "The sun never shined on a cause of greater worth," Thomas shows the seriousness of the matter, appealing to emotions by letting the readers feel that they are going to make a mark in history. "’Tis not the concern of a day, a year, or an age (...) Now is the seed-time of continental union, faith and honour." He makes people believe it is their responsibility to make a change for the better in America, creating a sense of entitlement.

   To satisfy logical thinkers, he takes common preconceptions and beliefs and makes counter-arguments to disprove them. The third paragraph contained a couple of great examples: "I have heard it asserted by some, that as America hath flourished under her former connection with Great Britain (...) same connection is necessary towards her future happiness, and will always have the same effect." Paine calls this argument preposterous, and compares it to saying a child will never eat meat as it was fed milk by its mother while it was a baby. This ridicules the argument, labeling it illogical and stupid. He also argues that America would have flourished even more if it hadn't been held back by any European power. "But she has protected us, say some," he continues. To this statement, his counter-argument is that Britain would have protected Turkey - or any other country for that matter - had they been their main source of trade. The only reason America was protected was because it was beneficial to Britain.

   This argument leads to the last few, very powerful lines that appeal to the heart: "- her motive was INTEREST not ATTACHMENT; that she did not protect us from OUR ENEMIES on OUR ACCOUNT, but from HER ENEMIES on HER OWN ACCOUNT, from those who had no quarrel with us on any OTHER ACCOUNT, and who will always be our enemies on the SAME ACCOUNT." These words create feelings of indignation and rage that slowly build in the readers as they come upon the realization that they had been used by their mother country. Evidently, Paine uses arguments directed towards both the mind and the heart skillfully to create a persuasive piece of writing.

   Both appeals are crucial because this letter was intended to motivate everyone to take part in the war. To ignite a spark of pure need to achieve independence, Thomas' note must touch not only those who are led by their logic, but also those who are led by their hearts. To clear away all doubt concerning their participation in this war, Paine had to appeal to all decision-making factors - logical arguments convinced Americans that the revolution was indeed necessary, while emotional arguments fueled the fire in the hearts of people that made them willingly give up their lives for their country.

C) Paine's work is a persuasive argument that had an electrifying effect on the American population. Can you think of any other examples of persuasive writing that had a similar/comparable effect?
   Martin Luther's 95 theses had a similarly world-shattering effect on society. It convinced people to doubt the church and not accept everything the popes said. Had he not produced them, the entire course of history would have been different - in fact, our society and government might still be based solely on the Bible. Likewise, America might still be ruled by Britain had Thomas Paine not written his arguments in favor of the revolution.
Mira W.
Research Assistant
Research Assistant

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oh oh

Post  Gloria H. on Sun Nov 30, 2014 7:28 pm

i finished my topic and i could not really think of any specific texts that were persuasive in this way, but reading yours made it very obvious, thank youu

Gloria H.

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