A yearning for a civil society destined to enhance the “common good” is typical of most civic republicans. In an effort to promote the revolutionary spirit against the British crown, Thomas Paine exemplifies this ideology in his pamphlet, Common Sense. While civic republicanism suggests that the betterment of the society can be achieved through complete, collective cooperation, the question of what to do with dissenters is generally ignored. However, as unanimity is far from practical, opposition is inherently expected. Therefore, excluding particular groups is necessary in order for Thomas Paine’s philosophy to operate. Paine uses exclusion – explicitly and implicitly – as a ploy for maintaining support in a time where opinions were crucial to the rebellious fervor.
Paine delves into explicit reasons, regardless of their legitimacy, for why certain groups pose a threat to the revolution. In doing so, Paine noticeably rejects these opposing forces in order to facilitate his desire for radical change. For example, Paine lashes out at the colonial Quakers, who compromised a large population in Pennsylvania. Essentially Paine downplays Quakers as being hypocrites and having no place in political affairs. “The principles of Quakerism have a direct tendency to make a man the quiet and inoffensive subject of any, and every government which is set over him…wherefore, the principle itself leads you to approve of every thing, which ever happened, or may happen to kings as being his work” (Paine, 65-66). In other words, because of the Quakers’ strong connection between God and state, he argues that they do not belong in the political arena, and instead should wait to see how their God will determine the outcome of the revolution. Furthermore, Paine continues to press against the Quaker ideology in that if God and government were so closely aligned, then one could not be blamed for overthrowing a king. By exploiting contradictions in Quakerism, Paine attempts to eliminate a rival to the revolution.
Paine also blatantly attacks Tories – those remaining loyal to the British crown – and Jewish people claiming, “monarchy is ranked in scripture as one of the sins of the Jews” (Paine, 13). Additionally, Paine never mentions racial minorities, women, slaves, Native Americans, and other groups from his work. Unlike the three previous groups he openly excludes, Paine implicitly excludes these people, as he does not discuss these their place in the revolution. It is plausible to assume this is because he does not even view the aforementioned groups as citizens. Should Paine have considered these groups as citizens, it would be necessary for him to discuss their association to the movement. However, because they are left out of the text, as readers, we must also realize the qualifications of citizenship of the time period.
Nonetheless, Paine systematically excludes such groups, as he saw them as a threat to Common Sense. By removing these perceived adversaries from the revolution, Paine could more successfully attract his intended audience – those uncertain about the future of the colonies as well. It is important to understand that this time in American history was extremely volatile. This made propaganda and other forms of editorials very influential in progressing the revolutionary movement. Paine ceased upon such instability in order to promote his concepts for an independent United States. However, Paine demonstrates that these goals could not be achieved if the aforesaid “challenger” were to be included. “It is the madness of folly to expect mercy from those who have refused to do justice; and even mercy, where conquest is the object, is only a trick of war…” (Paine, 79).