Thomas Paine was famous for his political writings advocating the revolution. His rhetorical document The American Crisis was very persuasive and influential. Some of Paine’s political ideas were praised and some were argued, and his views on religion made him an outcast. The American Crisis was a valuable work informing the American people that they owed no loyalty to Britain and would only survive if all ties were to be severed completely. His writing was a major force behind the American Revolution. Paine had such a way with words that he used three different techniques in his rhetorical document to call forth the support and patriotism of the colonists: comparing and contrasting, derision, and confidence-building. Paine’s writing was meant to provoke outrage and support from the colonists, and to get them to fight for their freedom, by using comparing and contrasting techniques. He wrote “…to suppose that He has relinquished the government of the world, and given us up to the care of devils”, which compared the British monarchy to devils and showed Americans that the British were morally corrupt.
Paine then equated freedom with overall contentment when he wrote “I am as confident, as I am that God governs the world, that America will never be happy till she gets clear of foreign dominion.” He explained to the American colonists that they will never be content until they rid themselves of the British. He reasoned with the colonists that because freedom equals happiness, they ultimately desired freedom. Paine got the point across without jumping around the issue or speaking timidly about their situation at that time. Paine also used derision to get support from the colonists. He ridiculed those who would swear allegiance to Britain, or give in to them out of fear and cowardice. He showed a great deal of brotherly love and respect to the ones who would stand up and fight for their cause, but completely destroys any last shreds of integrity a coward would still have when he said “The heart that feels not now is dead; the blood of his children will curse his cowardice, who shrinks back at a time when a little might have saved the whole, and made them happy.”
Paine did not stop there. Instead, he went on to ridicule not just the British government, but the very king himself. He called the king “a common murderer, a highwayman, or a house-breaker.” If the seriousness of his document did not hit home with the colonists, it definitely did when he made that statement. That was not something anybody would do in those days because ridiculing the British throne would cost your life. If that was not enough, he continued to slay the character of the king by calling him “a sottish, stupid, stubborn, worthless, brutish man.” Paine not only ridiculed the throne, but defiled it completely. Pain used another technique to gain the support and patriotism of his fellow countrymen, even George Washington, by using confidence-building techniques. He reminded the colonists that it was their duty to stand up for those who cannot themselves, and gave them another reason to rebel against the British. In this case, it isn’t the poor or socially helpless he campaigned on behalf of, but the future generations of America. “A generous parent should have said, ‘If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace,’ and this single reflection, well applied, is sufficient to awaken every man to duty.”
Making the colonists view every future generation of America as their very own children was a great way to inspire a sense of security and protection, and make them realize what their sacrifices would ultimately produce. He made his countrymen see that it would obviously be a very hard road, but worth every bit of effort put forth by everyone when he said “he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.” Words like these have a way of instilling a sense of pride in people who know that they are trying to work for a common cause at a very high price. Paine used these words to strengthen the wills of his countrymen and promote an unwavering unity to fight for the cause that they came to this country for in the first place. Likewise, he also wrote to build confidence in George Washington.
He wanted to instill an iron will into him when he said “Voltaire has remarked that King William never appeared to full advantage but in difficulties and in action; the same remark may be made on General Washington, for the character fits him.” He also wrote of the cowardice of the Tories to boost confidence in George Washington when he said “And what is a Tory? Good God! what is he? I should not be afraid to go with a hundred Whigs against a thousand Tories, were they to attempt to get into arms. Every Tory is a coward; for servile, slavish, self-interested fear is the foundation of Toryism; and a man under such influence, though he may be cruel, never can be brave.” Thomas Paine was a man who knew how to take words and formulate them into phrases that were just as powerful as weapons.
He used three techniques to gain the support and patriotism of the colonists: comparing and contrasting, derision, and confidence-building. He was trying to show the colonists that they were fighting to create a country of free men, and to continue any ties with the British would negate all the work that already been done, and would make the lives that were already sacrificed be done in vain. Paine used his wording and phrasing in the right place at the right time. It is much to his credit that America found its strength and stood up to fight for freedom. It might be certain actions by enemies that ultimately lead men into battle, but it is words that fuel their motivation and determination to push ahead when they feel they have nothing left to give.