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

The World Needs Some Common Sense

posted Dec 17, 2012 04:22:04 by Kia Jordan
Thomas Paine is very underrated in his contributions to America's political and governmental development. It's sad to say that his own contemporaries dismissed much of his ideals and even let them slip away after his death. Woods is correct in that the "Age of Paine" is certainly not at the forefront of U.S. History and barely exists when compared to the Jeffersonian Era and other founding fathers. In my opinion, each political/social era receives radical ideas differently than the previous or next era. Paine's ideas of the eighteenth century were "actually more radical than Marx's", yet Karl Marx's Communist Manifesto stirred up a lot of controversy during the nineteenth century and would go on to influence Joseph Stalin and Chairman Mao. I believe that the real reason Paine's ideals were dismissed is because America was simply not ready for his "enlightened international vision." This cyclic pattern is all too common in American history. For example, it has happened with the supposedly radical visions of Malcolm X. Both of these men had visionaries that were supported, but the majority of the country, at the time, was not ready for the direction they wished to drive America towards.
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3 replies
kayla.fynaardt said Dec 17, 2012 04:44:48
I agree that it is disappointing to see Thomas Paine so commonly dismissed when discussing America's Founding Fathers. However, I'm not sure that it is because his ideas were to radical, at least not the political ideals he put forth in his writings. His works were widely read and the gentleman and common man alike found that they shared his ideals. I think it was more, as Wood put it, that Paine had made such a poor image for himself in appearance and in his loud, outspoken character which made people of his time sort of separate themselves from him. I think that our modern society where being outspoken and perhaps a bit impolite in voicing one's opinion is more common reflects Paine's legacy. Perhaps, in a world more like ours, Paine's influence would have been recognized more fully from the beginning.
Anneshasengupta said Dec 17, 2012 04:56:21
I agree with Kayla. Ironically enough, Paine seems to be lacking some Common Sense himself. For someone who clearly thought much of himself, he never seemed to consciously further his political career through the careful and wily means that his revolutionary counterparts used. Instead, he seemed to have an unwavering loyalty to the strength of his own opinion. His shocking diatribes on Christianity, his strange and threadbare demeanor were all brave but unflinchingly foolish things to do if one wants to be remembered. But I think that's what I find most admirable about him. But I wonder, if we could ask him, if he would even care to be remembered.

Maybe today someone like Paine would be remembered differently, but I think it not. There are too many players in our screechingly populated world, and most accomplishments are limited to one or two lines of text. Perhaps a paragraph if you are near and dear to a writers heart, maybe another if you are favored in the eyes of the public. Thomas Paine was perhaps born into the era where he would be preserved best, and still not much at that.
Kia Jordan said Dec 17, 2012 05:07:56
That's an interesting point you've made Kayla. Perception is reality and image has a lot to do with how far you make it in life. In Paine's case, his poor image should not have undermined his iconic writings. I also think that if his image was so tarnished, then no one would have read his writings in the first place, but then again that's what could have drawn them to read it. It's hard to pinpoint exactly why he is not included in the Founding Fathers circle, since many of his ideals influenced the Declaration of Independence.
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