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Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Primary Sources - Workshop in American History Common Sense and the American Revolutionhomesitemap
Introduction -Link Before You Watch - link Lectures and Activities Classroom and Applications - Link

Workshop 2: Lectures & Activities

Activity One:
What Is Paine's Argument?

After viewing Lecture One, analyze Common Sense and then compare it with local declarations of independence and the Declaration of Independence. Use the questions to guide your analysis. Facillitators Note

Note: This activity has two sets of questions: those that relate to specific documents and appear on each document page and more general, "big picture" questions listed below. You may begin with general or specific questions depending upon your preference.

Consider These Questions


What are Paine's arguments for independence?


What is Paine's approach? Consider his use of language, his use of emotional versus logical arguments, and his intended audience.


What are the arguments made by the local and national declarations?


Do the declarations echo Paine's pamphlet other than in accepting his general conclusion?


What is the relationship between Common Sense and the other documents? Who influenced whom?

Image of Pauline Maier

"This is a time when there weren't mass media; there was a mass medium, which is newspapers and pamphlets. It's the printed word that could appeal to large audiences. So the only rival to the newspaper was the spoken word, and the spoken word is not a mass medium. "
— Pauline Maier

  Primary Sources: Documents

(Click here for information on using primary source documents)


image of a generic historical documentCommon Sense, January 10, 1776 HTML Version | PDF Version (35 pages)

Common Sense, a pamphlet written by Thomas Paine, makes a case, in accessible and stirring language, for independence.

image of a generic historical documentThe Olive Branch Petition, July 5, 1775

The Olive Branch Petition, adopted by the Second Continental Congress and submitted to King George III, attempts to assert the rights of the colonists while maintaining their loyalty to the British crown.

image of a generic historical documentThe Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776

Congress adopts the formal Declaration of Independence on July 4.

image of a generic historical documentBuckingham County, Virginia, Statement of Independence, June 14, 1776

Buckingham County, Virginia, gives these instructions to their delegates to the Second Continental Congress.

image of a generic historical documentJames City County, Virginia, Statement of Independence, April 24, 1776

A majority of freeholders in James City County, Virginia, vote to give these instructions to their representatives to the Second Continental Congress.

image of a generic historical documentMalden, Massachusetts, Statement of Independence, May 27, 1776

Malden, Massachusetts, residents unanimously adopt these instructions, which they give to their representative to the Second Continental Congress.

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