Common Sense examines how Americans defended the right to resist unjust laws and how this right of resistance was transformed into a right of revolution. It examines Thomas Paine's views on the difference between society and government, his defense of republican government, his total rejection of hereditary monarchy, and his belief that Americans should take up arms against the English government.
The Declaration of Independence articulates the principles of the American Revolution. This program discusses natural rights, government by consent, the social contract, the difference between alienable and inalienable rights, and the right of revolution against oppressive governments.
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George H. Smith is an author, editor, educator, and speaker. His first book was the very popular Atheism: The Case against God. Smith began teaching in the 1970s and for nearly twenty years spent his summers instructing university students in political philosophy and American political and intellectual history at seminars sponsored by the Cato Institute and the Institute for Humane Studies. His many articles and book reviews have appeared in a wide range of publications, including Reason, the New York Times, and the Journal of Libertarian Studies.
Thomas Paine (1737-1809) was a pamphleteer, revolutionary, radical, liberal, intellectual, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. Born in Great Britain, he emigrated to America at the suggestion of Benjamin Franklin just in time to promote the American Revolution with his powerful, widely read pamphlet, Common Sense. Later, he was a great influence on the French Revolution. He wrote Rights of Man as a guide to the ideas of the Enlightenment. Despite an inability to speak French, he was elected to the French National Assembly in 1792. Regarded as an ally of the Girondists, he was seen with increasing disfavor by the Montagnards and in particular by Robespierre. He was arrested in Paris and imprisoned in December 1793; he was released in 1794. He became notorious with his book, The Age of Reason, which advocated deism and took issue with Christian doctrines. While in France, he also wrote a pamphlet titled Agrarian Justice, which discussed the origins of property and introduced a concept that is similar to a guaranteed minimum income. He remained in France until 1802, when he returned to America on an invitation from Thomas Jefferson, who had been elected president.
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), a Founding Father and primary author of the Declaration of Independence, was born in Virginia into a wealthy and socially prominent family. Considered eloquent in his writing, Jefferson took on much of the writing needed by the Virginia House of Burgesses and the Continental Congress, both of which he was a member. In 1800 Jefferson was elected president in a tie vote that ironically was decided by Alexander Hamilton. In 1809, after two terms as president, Jefferson returned to his home in Monticello, where he developed, among other projects, plans for the University of Virginia. In addition, he sold his collection of books to the government to form the basis of the Library of Congress.
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