Throughout history propaganda has been used in order to express an opinion for the purpose of influencing actions of individual and groups. Many times it has been proven to be very effective and lead to major changes in society. Thomas Paine’s common sense and the declaration of independence are considered the two most potent documents of propaganda seen in American history.
Thomas Paine’s Common Sense was written in the year 1776. During this time period America was attempting to gain its independence from Great Britain. Thomas Paine, a thirty-nine-year-old agitator from England, wrote the 97 page pamphlet. It sold a total of 120,000 copies in just three months. In his writings he urged America’s immediate break from its mother country. He utilized propaganda in order to give his writing give a great impact on the reader. Paine gave reason as to why he believed that America should govern itself. “We may as well, assert that, because a child has thrived upon milk, it is never to have meat or that the first twenty years of our lives is to become a precedent for the next twenty”
This excerpt, taken from Common Sense explains how separating from Britain was just another step in the life of the country. He sees that all he says in the pamphlet should be clearly seen and considered “common sense”. He also refers to the government of England as murderers and tyrants. Paine uses the people’s moral values to his advantage by also stating, “O! You that love mankind! You that dare oppose the not only tyranny but the tyrants, stand forth,” People were in a sense forced to fight against England not only because they are considered tyrants but also because if they didn’t they would be considered to be against all mankind. This was now a battle for mankind.
The Declaration of Independence was written in 1176 by Thomas Jefferson a thirty-three-year-old man. It embodied the doctrine of natural rights and John Locke’s theory of natural rights. The Declaration of Independence listed the grievances of the colonist toward the government and the wrongs done to the colonies by George III. It was also propaganda. The declaration was signed to achieve American independence but it was more than that. Not only was it a declaration of independence, it also sent out the message that human rights are to be fought for if they are not given. “They are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights”. People in the new America responded to this statement mainly because they were religious and by bringing in the idea of the “creator” into the writing they now made this tied to the duties of religion. The document was more than just a declaration of independence. It was a struggle for human rights.
Thomas Paine’s Common Sense and the Declaration of independence were seen by many colonists and influenced America’s way of living. The incisive eloquent language and ideas used by Paine and Jefferson in these two documents of American history, allowed them to be very successful pieces of propaganda.