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

The Age of Paine?

posted Dec 16, 2012 23:26:00 by AbbyWilliams
Thomas Paine was a writer, and a good one at that, but should his "ability to put into readable form what others had conceived of" really qualify him to be remembered as a founding fathers? He was not an "original thinker", nor did he ever "utter a new thought" in any of his work. He wrote many great pieces like Common Sense, Rights of Men, and American crisis, which were all full of intellectual and bold thoughts on society,none of those ideas however belonged to Paine. Gordon Woods writes about Paine's life and accomplishments and tries to reason why he is so forgotten by many, and not given credit of being a founding father. Maybe it was his lack of gentlemanly qualities, or the fact that he spent his first 35 years of life in England and then later moved back to England after the revolution, never truly becoming an American. I however believe he never earned founding father status because he just doesn't match up with the others and what they did. Men like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, were all great men filled with new and bold ideas for America. They all dedicated their lives to shaping and founding America and that is why they deserve the title of founding father. Paine was a great writer and was able to put other's ideas into words the common man could understand; he got the word out, but "the United States was not home, just a symbol for him". Paine was a great writer,and will be remembered as one, but that is all. To be remembered and to be honored with the title of founding father, America has to be your everything, not just a phase in your life.
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2 replies
StephenDavis said Dec 17, 2012 00:17:37
I agree, Washington, Jefferson, and Adams definitely have "Founding Father" status for a reason. Paine was a social critic and ideologue unsuited to a position of power. Wood's description make him seem like an unlikable dude, a 18th-century Rosie O'Donnell if you will. Jefferson, for example, often had bitter disagreements with people like Burr and Hamilton, but knew how to lead the country and apply his political philosophy in practice. Can you imagine Rush Limbaugh being a Senator today? I know some of these clowns in Congress seem bad at times, but Limbaugh would be an immovable mass of molasses! Paine would have probably been the same way had he been in the Washington cabinet or the Constitutional Convention. Historians tend to remember leaders more than critics, which is probably why Paine has a lesser influence today (although he's relatively well-known, definitely not a complete unknown).

Kent would probably analyze this better than you or I could though...

[Last edited Dec 17, 2012 00:20:55]
GrantBroussard said Dec 17, 2012 01:57:55
I agree that the best way for Paine to be remembered would be as an effective writer, and not as a founding father. However, this role has echoed into our modern political world in a profound way. Politicians focus on the masses more now than at any time in history. Paine was destroyed by his critics, many of whom were of the elite. Nowadays, political figures are generally destroyed by the thoughts of the masses. Politics has become much more focused on the people, and we owe some of this to Paine. All great speeches are given in a way that is meant to be understood by all. Imagine if all speeches today were cluttered with random Latin phrases and philosophical references. I think we owe Paine a little more than just being a good writer, but definitely not founding father status. It would be truer to say he moved our methods of communication in a positive direction.
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