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

Thomas Paine

posted Dec 17, 2012 03:33:44 by Heather
Thomas Paine established himself as a talented writer and was very influential in the course of American history; just not in the same way that the founding fathers were. Wood calls this apparent lack of reverence for Paine "astonishing" (207), considering his unique writing capabilities and similarities in beliefs with other founding fathers. However this is part of what disqualifies him from founding father status; the majority of his writings were reiteration of others' theories in such a way that it was more relate-able to every-day Americans. While this is notable and Paine should still be respected for the far-reaching implications of Common Sense, he didn't develop any distinct individual political theories. Wood even says that "Indeed, if Jefferson had ever written out in any systematic way what he believed about politics, it would have resembled much of The Rights of Man." (213) Although Paine related to the American people on one level, he also alienated them on another through his promotion of religious views that were considered unorthodox and his defiant statements that he was not promoting America, but instead certain beliefs and practices which America happened to embrace at the time. Because Paine wasn't a statesman and didn't have any political power to fall back on, he fell from the graces of the general public. While he is still respected and his literary influence is clearly evident today, I think classification of Paine as a founding father would be unwarranted.
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3 replies
14roppenheim said Dec 17, 2012 03:40:41
I do have to wonder, though, if putting ideas down on paper effectively is such a dime-a-dozen skill as Wood makes it out to be. Yes, Paine stuck mostly to the ideas of others, but he also broadcast them to the entire American public, which seems to me to be no small feat, and I'd imagine some of the more prominent figures may even have met over a cup of coffee tea and a discussion about how right that bloke with the hurty-sounding name was about the British. I'm still not sure it would be right to call him a Founding Father, as that name may perhaps be better suited to describing the people who came up with the ideas he parroted in the first place, but Wood's article does also seem to undermine just how important getting the message out is, and how difficult it can be without a Thomas Paine serving as a mouthpiece.
StephanieHwang said Dec 17, 2012 03:59:36
Paine’s radical ideals were garnered from pamphlets and lectures of the “most liberal and radical thinking in the English-speaking world.” Being a prolific writer and great orator, he is able to express and share his passion of these ideals, much to the dismay of others. Wood says that Paine’s demise came from his unorthodox views, but in truth, Paine was unable to truly assimilate into American society like many of his peers. Even though his writing was widely accepted by the public, he was never “fully accepted as a gentleman.” Having no “character not connections,” Paine never really belonged to a single group. Later on, Paine became passionate for his “lack of connections.” Because Paine considered himself a man without a nation, he was easily swayed to travel to France during their French Revolution. Paine claims he is a founding father because of his influence through his writing. However, he also claims that his ideas are universal. Paine’s obvious inability to stake his claim is what caused his downfall and dissatisfaction. I completely agree that Paine cannot and should not be considered one of the founding fathers.
Heather said Dec 17, 2012 04:25:24
I don't want to undermine the importance of Paine's work and how exceptional it was that he was able to reach so many people. I think that requires a very special skill. However I think that just because someone relates well to others through their writing doesn't qualify them as being remembered as a historical founder of a new political system. He performed the duty of modern media in making others' ideals relateable to the public, but he can't take credit for the ideas themselves. I also agree with Stephanie- Paine is almost hypocritical in the way that he seems so patriotic and attempts to embody American ideals in Common Sense, then later reiterates that "My attachment is to all the world, and not to any particular part, and if what I advance is right, it is right no matter where or who it comes from". If anything, I think that this admittance would have disenchanted the American public's view of him as their spokesperson and representative to the outside world.
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