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

Thomas Paine's Role in American History

posted Dec 16, 2012 20:14:53 by
In this article Wood describes Thomas Paine's role as founder and his legacy. Throughout the article Wood uses evidence to support his argument that Paine is overlooked in American history and "truly a citizen of the world" (215). Wood uses the first part of the article to defend why Paine should be considered a founding father of America, and how he is overlooked in American history. Throughout the rest of the article Wood continues to talk about how Thomas Paine was misunderstood and not treated right. While I do believe Paine is overlooked in American politics, I don't believe Paine believed he was an American, and therefore how can he be considered a founding father of the nation. Woods writes, "The United States was not home [for], but just a symbol for him, and from the time he returned to America in 1802 until his death in 1807, he was not happy." (218)Paine should be looked at and studied like other great philosophers and political ideologists of the time. He should be studied as someone who's writing "set forth in lucid prose much of what constituted radical, enlightened Anglo-American thinking during the last quarter of the 18th century." (210) Thomas Paine needs to be reconsidered in American history as a much more important character, as Woods states.
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3 replies
avatar said Dec 16, 2012 22:49:22
I definitely agree with your idea that Paine should be shown in a higher light, as his influence in history was quite distinct. However, I still do not believe that he could be considered a founding father on the same level as men like Washington or Franklin. You pointed out one of Wood's key thoughts that Paine was never truly connected to America, and therefore cannot be considered a true American hero. Along with that point, I believe other factors to Paine's lack of fame could be his lack of originality in thoughts, his limited involvement in the politics of new born America, and the little amount of traits he shared with our typical founding fathers. But because Paine did not have to withhold the status of a respectable gentleman, I believe Paine was able to more openly present radical ideas in a scathing, upfront manner. Perhaps if politicians and newscasters used as much clarity as Paine, there would not be as much confusion in the media or in the motives of politicians. However, politicians cannot afford to take on such radical views in today's world. Instead they are forced to take on more moderate stances to gain public approval. Paine's technique simply does not fit in modern society.
RichardSchweiker said Dec 17, 2012 01:11:27
I feel like the fact that Thomas Paine spent a large amount of time allowed him, like Franklin, to accumulate and absorbed many more ideas and perspectives. However, i feel it is challenging to label a man who spent much of his time overseas a Founding Father, mainly due to the detachment this could have caused. In post-Constitution and modern times, residence in the United States is crucial for qualification for Senate and Representative office, allowing for the representative and Senators to (hopefully) best represent the area in which they live. By spending his dying years in France, Paine began to lose relevance with the same people he had only years before invigorated. With the Revolutionary war over, Paine merely became an influential name on a page, losing the tangible and palpable nature his words previously held.
avatar said Dec 17, 2012 02:42:54
I agree with your statement that because Paine did not have to uphold a gentlemen's status he was able to more widely circulate radical ideas. I think that is a great way to view Paine: he was someone who circulated ideas to American thinkers and civilians. He brought ideas that had been in American minds to the forefront and made them part of the revolution and inspired a nation of people. While I do believe he lacked originality in thought, I think this may have helped him. He was able to transpose previous ideas into more related terms for the masses. I think his lack of originality lost him the respect of his contemporaries though. Paine was a very influential character in American history, though.
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