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

The Pain of Thomas Paine

posted Dec 17, 2012 03:39:42 by StephanieHwang
Thomas Paine was, without a doubt, a gifted writer. His greatest acclaim is his widely read pamphlet Common Sense, which advocated colonial independence from Great Britain. He influenced both the American and French Revolution. Despite having many of the same views and being as influential of many of the Founding Fathers, Paine himself is not considered a Founding Father. It was his radical religious views that brought his downfall. Ordinary people do not take it lightly when they are deemed “unforgiveable.” “Roosevelt’s titled him that “’filthy little atheist,’” and the name stuck, despite the fact that Paine was not an atheist. Even though other elites shared the same view, Paine was antagonized because he was the only one that openly spoke about it. Wood argues that Paine is overlooked because he spoke out, and he thinks Paine should be considered a Founding Father because of his actions, saying we “have tended to ignore him.” I don’t think we have ignored Paine completely; he still appears in our history textbook today. Paine is mainly remembered for his writing, not for his radical religious views and not for being a Founding Father.
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3 replies
AlexCarr said Dec 17, 2012 04:00:47
I agree that Paine had a profound influence on the American political system, but do his actions specifically earn him the right to be considered a Founding Father. One more substantial difference between Paine and those we consider to be FFs that wasn't mentioned in the reading was that Thomas Paine was not really a "founder" as much as a "destroyer." He was not writing documents or going to conventions or creating the government, he was simply stating his beliefs on how much Great Britain and its monarchy sucked and how men ought to be equal. Does this really merit inclusion into the group of Founding Fathers of the United States? Or does it pertain more to the development of democracy in general? Or are those two things not mutually exclusive?
StephanieHwang said Dec 17, 2012 04:10:05
Paine should not be considered a founding father, despite his claims. He was merely able to restate the ideals that he gathered from others. He himself states that his ideals are “universal.” It is because of his writing abilities and passion that he is able to share his ideals with others. Unlike true founding fathers, Paine wasn’t able to truly assimilate into the American society. He floated because he was a man “without a nation.” Even though Paine was an American celebrity for his writing, it was not enough. He traveled between France and America, dissatisfied with not being titled a founding father. However, without actual political power, he falls in a class below the founding fathers and should be viewed as such.
[Last edited Dec 17, 2012 04:13:21]
Heather said Dec 17, 2012 04:13:21
I agree that Paine is primarily remembered for his writings, and his influence through the pamphlet Common Sense. However Wood's argument that Paine is not a founding father because of his religious convictions seems shaky. Thomas Jefferson is considered a founding father, even though his integrity and morals were brought into question with the Sally Heming's affair, during which he was accused of fathering several children with a female slave. Despite this event which would have been considered a horrible transgression at the time, he is still revered and respected as a founding father. Is the difference that Thomas Jefferson didn't admit to having the affair and so was victimized whereas Paine blatantly and openly spoke of his beliefs? Personally, I think that Paine is rightfully remembered for the way his writing changed the media's strategy for communicating to the people in language they understand. He was definitely a talented writer, but didn't make the political change necessary to be classified as a founding father.
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