Thursday, November 20, 2008

My history paper

This is a paper that i have received an A.
An Argument about Independence between Leonard and Paine
For people who live in the present, the independence of the U.S. probably is like a natural phenomenon and beyond being questioned. However, throughout the history of America, the belief in independence was developing gradually with a lot of struggles. The two documents, the letter, To the Inhabitants of the Province of Massachusetts-Bay, 1774-1775, by Daniel Leonard, and the pamphlet, Common Sense, by Thomas Paine, represent two opposite opinions of independence during the American Revolutionary era. Due to their different political and philosophical backgrounds and economic interests, Leonard strongly attacked the idea of independence, while Paine strongly supported it.
Leonard was one of the wealthiest lawyers in Massachusetts[1]. As a beneficiary of the current social and political system, he valued the assistance from Britain and emphasized monarchy and the dependence on the British king. From Leonard’ point of view, there was nothing wrong with monarchy. He judged monarchy worked efficiently in Britain; Britain not only created North American colonies, but also enormously supported North American colonies in their development. He described Britain as a “nursing mother”, and reminded everybody to think about how Britain purchased the land for the colonies and protected the colonies from European military attacks.[2] Leonard valued what Britain had done to such a high degree; specifically, he believed that it was impossible to have the development of the colony without the dependence on Britain.
Besides thinking of the benefits from the dependence on Britain, Leonard believed that independence was harmful and could never achieve success. Leonard had a pretty negative view of American colonists who were in favor of independence. He not only described them by using words like “the foulest, subtlest and most venomous,” but also claimed that the revolutionaries “[were] not known in law” and did not share of power[3]. Could independence be a good thing or bring benefits if people who operate it were so evil? Moreover, Leonard pointed out that whenever war is proclaimed, trade, supply, and coast cities would be cut off; thus, colonists would have to face serious economic loss. In addition, although it seemed that many people supported independence, since their property was attached to British government, they would fight under the banners of loyalty if war broke.[4]
In contrast, Paine completely denied the concept of monarchy; he advocated equality among human beings and the independence of the North American colonies on an ideological level. Paine claimed that mankind is originally equal[5]. Based on this concept, there is no essential difference between the king and the subjects. Monarchy is not natural, but artificial. Because men are equal, it is not necessary that people depend on a king above. Consequently, the independence in the North American colonies should be regarded as a natural development. Most importantly, Paine asserted that in America the law is king. This idea contrasts to the concept that the king is law in absolute governments[6].
Paine also analyzed the advantages of American independence from a practical perspective. Unlike Leonard, Paine considered that Britain providing assistance and protection to the colonies was for its own sake rather than the colonies’. Also, Paine thought it was ridiculous to consider Britain to be a kind mother since the primary motivation for most of the British who immigrated to the new continent was that they were dissatisfied with the religious and financial situations in their mother country. In fact, Paine believed that “America would have flourished as much more had no European power had any thing to do with her.”[7] In addition, Paine warned about some of the disadvantages of dependence on Britain. For example, if the North American colonies depended on Britain, they would tend to be involved in European wars and would have a narrower trade market in Europe.[8]
The two documents make completely opposite points. Leonard stressed the benefits of dependence on Britain and attacked the idea of independence. In contrast, Paine advocated equality and independence. Today, independence has been proved by history and has become an obvious fact. While almost all the people in our generation agree with Paine’s argument, Leonard’s argument is still convincing because we can understand his political and economic contexts and how they are related to his argument. His documents reveal a realistic situation: during the American Revolution, independence was not supported by all the people; some people attacked it when it could not meet their immediately or long-term interests.
[1] Leonard, Daniel. Reading the American Past. Ed Michael P. Johnson. (Boston: Bedfor/St. Martin’s, 2007), 110.
[2] Leonard, P113.
[3] Leonard, P113.
[4] Leonard, P113.
[5] Paine, Thomas. Reading the American Past. Ed Michael P. Johnson. (Boston: Bedfor/St. Martin’s, 2007), 123.
[6] Paine, P126.
[7] Paine, P124.
[8] Paine, P124.


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