Book Review: 46 Pages: Thomas Paine, Common Sense, and the Turning Point to Independence

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Recently my family has been on a book binge. That is, they spend a lot of time at Barnes and Nobles, picking up random books on varying subjects. One such book was 46 Pages: Thomas Paine, Common Sense, and the Turning Point to Independence by Scott Liell (ISBN: 1-56731-781-2). This book, as it suggests, is about the writing of Common Sense, and it's effect on the American Independence movement at the time. While my emphasis has always been Ancient Roman, Greek, and Celtic history, I am non the less fascinated with any revolutionary movement and the social impact that led up to it.

Setting the Stage
Perhaps unlike most historical commentary, this book excels at setting the stage. Picture yourself in the shoes of the Colonies and their grievances. They felt, as is natural, that the Administration of the colonies were poor, and were appealing to the one person they felt could properly manage it: the King. Yes, the colonies were not all distrustful of a Monarchy that ruled them, but rather the Parliament that failed to manage them properly. They appealed to the King to intercede on their behalf, and they would stop their little rebellion and return to the British fold.

Being a US Citizen, and having subsequently being educated in the United States, I have been indoctrinated since grade school with the belief that the Revolution was throwing off the King's oppression, and settling for a rule by the people. Perhaps it's because the concept is easy for grade school students to understand (stops all those questions about why we don't have a king). Personally, I think it's because most Americans believe that now. Why do they believe it? Because of Common Sense

Thomas Paine
Thomas Paine is a very interesting character. Villafied by the British after the Revolution, he became the sole reason for the American Revolution and the desire for independence. Why? Because he was able to appeal to people at their level, while introducing the common man to political concepts that were previously exclusive to the rich and upper middle class.

He began as a student who hated "Dead Languages", and became an apprentice in his father's Corset shop. He then became an Excise tax collector, and was introduced to political debate as he went to London to secure a cost of living raise for his fellow tax collectors. At this time he was introduced to Benjamin Franklin, George Lewis Scott, and Edward Gibbon (author of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire).

From there, he was fired (the second time) from the Excise group, and he felt it was because of his lobbying of Parliament. This time, he gained the support of Benjamin Franklin, and came over to the Americas, specifically to Philadelphia. it was at this time that he began his campaign for Independence, trying to convince the Colonists that anger and frustration with Parliament shouldn't be separated from the Crown.

The Book
Over all, I found the book well written. It was a little difficult to get into, but after the first chapter the book began to read more of a story and less than a lecture. In my opinion, all history books should be organized and published for recreational reading, and not as text books. The great books of History (i.e., Livy's History of Rome, Plutarch's Lives, etc.) were all written in this style.

Scott Liell did a wonderful job in my opinion, as he not only commented on the 46 Pages that changed the Colonies, but also included them in the Appendix. If you ever wanted to know more about this little-known document, I would highly recommend this book.