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

posted Dec 17, 2012 21:26:52 by JillianMiles
Thomas Paine could be considered to be one of the most influential people of his time period when it comes to politics and new ways of thinking, but he should not be considered a founding father. He shared many of the same ideas as Adams, Jefferson and Franklin when it comes to human nature and society. But Wood makes a good argument saying that he was much more of an intellectual, or a writer than a founder. As proven by the enormous success of Common Sense, he had a gift of articulating his beliefs to the people in an understandable way, something the founders did not do. He guided and agreed with the founders on issues such as trade where he thought that "trade between peoples alone would be enough to tie states together." This shows a great deal of disagreements with monarchial societies because of the fact that they made alliances that would only cause further wars. These and his other beliefs written about in his other works were not too uncommon for the time period. Overall actually, many ideas about human nature, and government style were more widespread through the founders. Ultimately, the reason his legacy lives on is because of his talent and passion for writing, as opposed to a world leader or an innovator. He wasn't a founder, but a source of information as well as inspiration when forming the United States. His works live well past him and truthfully become his legacy, and it would be foolish to think that they were at all insignificant. Just because he wasn't as directly influential on the break from England and the forming of the Union, doesn't mean he didn't have an outspoken effect on it. His role was different, so his legacy looks different in physical form, but it continues to influence today's society in many ways.
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6 replies
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hannahgrove said Dec 17, 2012 22:11:30
I agree that he wasn't able to become as famed due to the lack of qualities like, most notably, being a world leader. Instead, he was mostly known for his writing and the fiery, yet clear manner in which he presented them. A modern parallel to this could be political consultants - they probably aren't as quick-tempered or aggressive as Paine was in his writing, but they have to do a lot with conveying ideas clearly to help support a certain candidate, or in Paine's case, a certain ideology the founding fathers wanted to convey to the people as more effective. Consultants are also not supposed to have the public image or leadership quality a candidate should possess. Similarly, Paine did not have much of either quality; however, he indirectly (as you say, outspokenly) influenced the big idea of the founding fathers through his lucid writing and ability to understand the "common man".
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JacobMoyar said Dec 17, 2012 23:46:39
I also agree that the reason he couldn't be considered as a founding father was because of his ideas and their lack of originality. Although this was the first time many Americans heard these ideas, it was only because he was the first Revolutionary writer to write on their level of understanding. Also, regarding Hannah's comment, I believe political consultants are not the best metaphor for Paine because while they write for a certain candidate to advise him on specific political issues that they specialize in, Paine wrote as more of a rant to anyone that would listen.
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ryanneighbors95 said Dec 18, 2012 00:43:28
Paine is a writer. Not a founding father. While he was a brilliant man, as Jillian said, the only reason his legacy is still alive is because of his lively writing. Paine served much more as a mouth piece to the public than as a policy writer and politician. While he did have an opinion on most policies (and strong opinions at that), he just isn't remembered for his advances in policy, but his ability as a writer. As Jacob said, Paine wrote in a ranting tone to anyone who would listen. In this sense, Paine almost serves as a modern day journalist would, writing an opinionated editorial. He published essays on his opinion (as seen in "Common Sense") and wrote in such a way that the commoners (not just the intellectuals) could read and educate themselves. In this way, Paine asserted himself as possibly the most influential writer of his time, however, just because you're an amazing writer doesn't mean you're founding father.
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carolineweakland said Dec 18, 2012 00:44:55
I agree with the above comments. Paine did not really have anything new to offer OR take any real action. In fact, he was absolutely too liberal, even SUPPORTING the French Revolution. He might have taken a seat in the National Convention in France to appear to be "a citizen of the world," but his view on war and violence does not match the French Revolution. This seems to discredit his facade and make him look more like what Wood's describes him like - an orphan. So, instead of trying to reach out as a revolutionary, he should primarily stick to writing his thoughts on government instead of trying to implicate them. His only success was selling the 150,000 copies as Woods notes, saying that "he became a man without a home, without a country, truly a citizen of the world," until, of course, he was imprisoned in France.
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JillianMiles said Dec 18, 2012 02:33:51
Thank you all for your comments. As opposed to political consultants being a metaphor in the modern world, I think Thomas Paine would be more representative of party leaders in political parties. These people generate mass attention by becoming the face and the voice of the party, but none of the ideas are unique or original. They are simply an effective way to get the message out into the public. Interesting points Caroline about the French Revolution, I didn't realize that. Again, although he only was successful as a writer, and most definitely not a founder, he did gain public support which was something the founders weren't focusing on.
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Mr_Ulmschneider said Dec 18, 2012 03:06:04
This is mostly an excellent discussion. I especially like your drawing a paralell between Paine and today's political consultants. In some ways, this is a better parallel than you give it credit for -- many of today's consultants are motivated strongly by ideology as well as by skill in their political craft, and Paine was nothing if not motivated by ideology.
"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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