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Mr. Ulmschneider's Forums > AP Government: Madison, Paine, and Politics

Thomas Paine and the American Revolution

posted Dec 15, 2012 23:09:33 by SamAkers
As Wood describes, Thomas Paine was a man out of joint with the tidings of the time. Today, he is really only remembered for "Common Sense." Indeed, he isn't considered among the major players of the American Revolution. Perhaps this is due to the fact he wasn't here for the whole show. He had only been here 14 months when he penned his famous pamphlet. He hadn't lived through all of the previous tax acts and royal decrees; he was seen as an outsider by many of the Founding Fathers. Beyond that, as Wood explains, Paine wasn't a gentleman. This is compounded by the fact he seemed to be adverse to the social system of the day. Truly, his talent was writing. People of the time period said, "he is better in print than in flesh." Paine insisted his only connection to America was the ideology the founders had adopted. He claimed, "it was neither the place nor the people but the Cause itself that irresistibly engaged me in its support." All of these factors combine to put Paine on the outskirts of American revolutionary thought, and today he remains but a peripheral character in the American pageant.
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4 replies
ReynaHuang said Dec 16, 2012 02:54:10
I think you've got a good point about how Paine wasn't involved enough in all the different events that made up the revolutionary period. It was as if he popped up on the American scene and wrote a couple of pamphlets before leaving nearly as quickly as he came. I also definitely agree that the reason that Paine is so marginalized in the history of our creation as a nation is attributed to a whole number of factors that are put together. Putting all those things into consideration does make it difficult to not see why he's not regarded as highly as men such as Franklin or Jefferson.
StephanieHwang said Dec 17, 2012 04:24:51
Despite Paine’s claims, he cannot be considered as one of the founding fathers. He lacks the true American spirit found in the founding fathers. Like you stated, his only true influence was his pamphlet “Common Sense.” Writing that pamphlet is his only claim to fame in influencing the American Revolution. But he himself says that his ideals are universal; he was only able to put it into words. That is definitely not enough to be considered a founding father considering all the sacrifices people like Franklin and Jefferson made. Paine even embraced being an outsider. He traveled to France to participate in their revolution, and then he traveled back to America, complaining about not being considered a founding father. He may have been had he really stuck around during the American Revolution.
rjones122 said Dec 17, 2012 08:29:12
I would disagree that Paine cannot be treated as a founder because his only influence was one pamphlet and he wasn't present for the pre-Revolutionary buildup. Even though he was not responsible for the creation of the symbolic documents of the Revolution-- the declarations, articles, and constitution--he was responsible for the documents that at the time were more practical: documents that acted to unite the people in a way that even a constitution could not. His American Crisis helped America to get through the darker periods of turmoil. It is easy for us to look back in retrospect and see that in the long run, the Constitution was a successful document, but at the time the practical influence Common Sense had means that Paine deserves to be counted among the Founders.
SamAkers said Dec 17, 2012 21:24:06
Certainly Paine played an important role in the American Revolution, however I do not think he rises to the level of a founding father. The "Founding Fathers" wrote the pivotal government documents: The Declaration, Articles of Confederation, Constitution, and so on. The Founding Fathers fought in the Revolution and openly agreed to treason. The Founding Fathers met in small rooms to discuss the founding principles of the nation. I would argue Paine played a role in the revolution, but he didn't participate and sacrifice to the level of a true Founding Father.
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