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Book Reviews - Note de lecture


Thomas Paine - Common Sense

I can't understand why Thomas Paine's Common Sense is not part of all American High Schools' curriculum. Actually, I don't understand why its reading is not mandatory. It should be. Perhaps it has to do with its revolutionary content which is at the very root of democracy, that is : the original American democracy, not the one that now exists, with its corrupted two party system where politicians do not represent the people who have elected them but are more interested in their own influence and power forgetting that they are mere puppets in the hands of their rich backers (that's "backers", not "bankers" although a "banker" can be a "backer").

Reminds me of OUR two-party political system (with the odd third, fourth, fifth parties that have very little hope of wining elections - although some parties have been replaced over the years but it's usually a long process). Is there a real choice in the upcoming elections between the Conservatives (Harper) and the Liberals (Trudeau) with other parties who could possibly, considering how fed up Canadians are of their politicians, hold "the balance of power" ?

My idea of a good political system is electing members of parliament and the Prime Minister separately. Imagine Harper at the head of a House of Commons whose majority would be liberal. Wouldn't that be great ?

My case rests.

Anyway, here's my favourite Thomas Paine's quotation :

"To establish any mode to abolish war, however advantageous it might be to Nations, would be to take from [a] Government the most lucrative of its branches."

And this is what he had to say about Monarchy and Hereditary Succession :

"Mankind being originally equals in the order of creation, the equality could only be destroyed by some subsequent circumstance; the distinctions of rich, and poor, may in a great measure be accounted for, and that without having recourse to the harsh, ill-sounding names of oppression and avarice. Oppression is often the CONSEQUENCE, but seldom or never the MEANS of riches; and though avarice will preserve a man from being necessitously poor, it generally makes him too timorous to be wealthy.

But there is another and greater distinction, for which no truly natural or religious reason can be assigned, and that is, the distinction of men into KINGS and SUBJECTS. Male and female are the distinctions of nature, good and bad the distinctions of heaven; but how a race of men came into the world so exalted above the rest, and distinguished like some new species, is worth inquiring into, and whether they are the means of happiness or of misery to mankind."

Remember : this was written in 1776, at a time when this sort of statement could make you a candidate to be accused of high treason and consequently to end up seriously dead. By hanging.

Finally, you might find his vocabulary a bit strange as he used, for example, the word "hath" instead of our modern "has", "had" or "have" but, believe me, his prose, written with the lowest denominator in mind, was in itself revolutionary by its simplicity.

The entire text of his "Common Sense" can be found in various formats - free of charge - at the following address :


For those who might prefer to read him in French (translated by F. Lanthenas in 1793) :


You might also want to watch a very interesting debate on Thomas Paine :


And a very interesting article on him and his writings can be read in La Revue Transatlantica at this address :


And, if you're wondering if the left is still alive in America, go on YouTube and type the following names :

Dick Gregory, Lewis Black, Bill Maher or Christopher Hitchens.

You might laugh and cry at the same time.

Copernique Marshall

P.-S. : Another site you might be interested in is https://librivox.org/ which contains 18.000 free audio books in English (plus 400+ in French). You'll find Thomas Paine there, as well.

P.-P.-S. : And, while I'm here, what do you want me to say about Trump ? - This : living a few kilometers from the USA border, moving to Australia might be an option if he gets elected.

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