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

Articulating Author

posted Dec 17, 2012 05:08:11 by JacobMoyar
Although “founding father” may not be an appropriate title for Paine, our memory of him should not be allowed to fade into history. He contributed just as much to the creation of our country but in a different way from the other revolutionary leaders. He did not come up with his own original ideas but simply regurgitated and publicized those of previous intelligent minds in a way that the public could easily understand. Paine’s rejection of tyranny and injustice through writing (that, if published, would match the monumental multivolume editions of the revolutionary leaders) has earned him his place among history’s greats. He not only contributed to the creation of a new country with a new system of government, but he also wrote with an eloquence that brought him instant fame in the public eye. To me, it seems Thomas Paine was not as much a “founding father” as he was an “articulating author” of the United States; equally significant, but having different characteristics.
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4 replies
rjones122 said Dec 17, 2012 07:52:34
The Founding Fathers themselves did not necessarily generate their own ideas but rather recycled the ideas of the prominent Enlightenment thinkers at the time; however, Paine's influence undoubtedly stemmed from his ability to make his message heard even to a general public that did not possess the same education of the founders. In today's time this is reflected in the tone politicians take: by writing to a low level of education and appealing to emotional rhetoric, they tap in to the same fame that Paine did. I would therefore concur with your idea that Paine's notability comes from his communicating ability, but I would disagree that this precludes him from being a founding father because they themselves were reusing enlightenment ideas that had already been proposed.
MatthewNestler said Dec 17, 2012 18:34:16
I agree with Robert. While Paine did regurgitate many ideas from the founding fathers, they themselves used others ideas (as Robert pointed out). I disagree, however, with Jacobs opinion that Paine should have been considered a founding father. The founding fathers represented more than their ideas, they represented the American upper class. Paine's drunken ways and simple language allowed him to relate to the common man but would cause him to be a bad representative to the upper class American. This coupled with his self proclaimed atheism means that he would have been too edgy for the time period- indeed he would be edgy even today. A transitioning nation needs stability and putting a man such as Paine on display to the nation as a founder might have caused more instability than it would be worth.
JacobMoyar said Dec 17, 2012 23:42:08
Thank you for your responses. I understand that the founding fathers weren't coming up with their own completely original ideas, but Paine in particular wrote about ideas that were identical to many of the other English and American writers of the time. He only stood out because of his ability to write in a way that the public could better understand. Also, Nestler, I was arguing against Paine being a founding father, not for it.
Mr_Ulmschneider said Dec 18, 2012 03:13:12
Jacob - do you think it was unusual for Paine to argue for the level and intensity of democratic participation and leveling of social and class barriers that he did, though? While many of his ideas were conventional for the time, Wood's piece does mention the degree to which his views of small-d democracy were radical and unusual. They also did not carry through the Revolution or into the constitution -- which might indeed disqualify him from the role of Founding Father.
"An honest heart being the first blessing, a knowing head is the second." (Thomas Jefferson to Peter Carr, August 19, 1785)
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