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Common Sense | Study Guide

Thomas Paine

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Common Sense | Glossary


aristocracy: (n) a high-ranking social class. Membership in the aristocracy is often hereditary.

charter: (n) a document describing the formal organization and rights and privileges of a city, colony, or corporate body. England's Magna Carta, which served as the foundation of British common law, is a charter.

civil war: (n) a war between two parties (political factions, areas) within the same country

Continental Congress: (n) a convention of delegates from the 13 original American colonies. Originally formed in 1774 to discuss how to establish an effective and peaceful relationship with Great Britain, the Continental Congress became the colonies' legislative body during the Revolutionary War, and it served as the predecessor to today's U.S. Congress.

cordage: (n) ropes used in a ship's rigging

deism: (n) a belief in the existence of God based only on evidence from reason and nature. Deists do not subscribe to the theory of supernatural revelation, or God's disclosure of himself to his followers.

hereditary succession: (n) a political system in which a deceased ruler is replaced as the head of state by his or her next of kin

idolatry: (n, pl) the religious worship of idols. In the Bible this means worshipping an image of a deity other than God, and it is expressly forbidden.

pamphlet: (n) a publication between 5 and 48 pages in length and stitched or stapled together. Pamphlets are generally treatises or essays, often on a controversial or political subject.

popular radicalism: (n) an 18th- and 19th-century British political movement led by the working class to reform Parliament. One of its main goals was to secure voting rights for all men.

Parliament: (n) the governing body of Great Britain. The upper house, the House of Lords, is comprised of titled aristocrats. The lower house, the House of Commons, is run by elected public representatives.

pseudonym: (n) a fictitious name used to conceal an author's true identity

reconciliation: (n) a friendship or truce established after a disagreement or falling out

republican: (adj) relating to a state in which citizens exercise their power by voting. In a republic the will of the people is carried out by elected representatives.

seditious libel: (n) a false, scandalous, or malicious published statement made against the government

Tory: (n) in modern times, a member of the Conservative Party in Great Britain or Canada. Prior to 1832 Tories favored royal authority over Parliamentary rule.

treason: (n) the criminal offense of trying to overthrow a government or its leader

trial in absentia: (n) court of law proceeding in which the person who is the subject of the trial is not present. Absentia means "in the absence" in Latin.

tyranny: (n, pl) the unrestrained exercise or abuse of power

Voltaire: (n) French philosopher and author famous for speaking out against bigotry, tyranny, and cruelty. His most famous work is the satirical Candide (1758).

Whig: (n) during colonial times, a member of the pro-America political party. Whigs supported the Revolutionary War and favored American independence.

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