In this article, Wood points out that "at the age of thirty-seven he had failed at everything he had ever tried" (208). I find this to be an intriguing point made about Thomas Paine. For his incredible intellectual contribution to the reasoning behind the American Revolution, in modern-day study he is portrayed in a more minor light. His pamphlets, particularly "Common Sense," had a profound effect on the colonies at the time, but I wonder whether it is hard to imagine him in the role of a "founding father" because of the inherent qualities of the traditional founding fathers that he lacks. Think of the men that historians and Americans perceive as the founding fathers: Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Franklin... these men all portray a commanding sense of leadership and intimidatingly strong-willed determination that characterized the sentiment behind the Revolution. Thomas Paine simply "does not quite fit in" (207). His demeanor does not fit the bill of someone with strong leadership qualities; his Revolutionary sentiment cannot be heartfelt but to a certain degree because it is only conveyed through written language. He seems to me "the man behind the curtain" (yes, Wizard of Oz reference...). So, when John Keane describes him as "the greatest public figure of his generation" (207), I find it hard to believe, because he wasn't a leader, he wasn't a public speaker, he didn't have that commanding presence and reputation attributed to the other founding fathers, and that's why his legacy is much less prevalent as a major contributor to the Revolution than the true founding fathers. So I would say I consider him an intellectual influence on the political scene of America rather than a public figure.
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