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

Thomas Paine: Common Sense for the common man

posted Dec 17, 2012 18:18:33 by MatthewNestler
Wood argues that, because of the fact that he scared historians of the day, Paine has been ripped off on the modern attention he deserves. I argue that Paine is remembered as he deserves: as a common man. Every student can relate Paine to his most influential work- common sense. This work has been deemed almost as a simplistic text overtime and for good reason- it was. Paine's writing is described as "language as plain as the alphabet". This writing style, coupled with his drunken attitude and plain attire, allowed Paine to relate to the common man. While he is not remembered as a founding father, Paine's legacy of influence on the common American lives on. For this reason, I believe that Paine is receiving the recognition that a man of his simple but persuasive attitude deserves.
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6 replies
hannahgrove said Dec 17, 2012 22:23:59
I agree that Paine's relation to the common man due to his unconcerned appearance helped him influence the common man, rather than the noble gentleman or historian of that time. A modern comparison to Paine's legacy could be an examination of how politicians attempt to relate to the people. The common man, or middle class in our day, may not relate to a politician due to their fame and presumable wealth. This is perhaps why candidates will often visit small/local businesses with the media covering their visit. They do so in order to convey their sympathy or identification with the majority of the population, among other reasons.
13hbarth said Dec 17, 2012 23:21:03
I agree with both of you. Although Paine's ability to relate to everyday people was important, many of his contemporaries and past historians saw it as a weakness, because he was not considered a gentleman and did not express his ideas as diplomatically and fancily as someone like Jefferson. I agree with the author's statement that Paine was "a man out of joint with his times". These same qualities would serve him well in today's world. I think people would respect his ability to speak plainly and relate to the common man.
AnoushehBakhti-Suroosh said Dec 18, 2012 00:18:38
I would beg to differ. Although one can assume that most students' are able to relate Thomas Paine to his work "Common Sense," I don't consider this simple relation synonymous with understanding Thomas Paine's true contribution to the formation of our political thought process. While many can identify the exact implications of the ideals of our "founding fathers" such as Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, I do not believe that Paine's work can be considered as such. Therefore, I believe that Wood's argument deserves far more consideration that students who learn an unrepresentative amount about American History seem willing to allow. Students' knowledge of Paine today could certainly have a correlation with the perception of his work and goals in his own day.
carolineweakland said Dec 18, 2012 00:54:08
I disagree with Anousheh. Woods notes that his philosophical ideas are not revolutionary. His book, on the other hand, was revolutionary. Therefore, he only needs to be remembered for his book. All of us read through the article. Paine was contrasted to Hamilton, Franklin, and Jefferson. He differed from the three in that he did not have money, success, or owned a lot of land. Paine's work did have a significant influence over the thought process of Americans, but he does not nearly deserve as much attention as the other Founding Fathers. Paine was a free man, except while he was imprisoned in France during the French Revolution that he supported, to accumulate wealth and success. He lacked "connections," but he found a way to make that positive, giving him opportunity to grow as a philosopher, but he chose to support the French Revolution, discrediting his ideas and putting a damper on his reputation.
MatthewNestler said Dec 18, 2012 03:41:36
I agree that there is much uncounted for in the modern view of Paine. However it cannot be ignored that a large amount of Paine's work is a modification of the ideals of the "founding fathers" into a simpler English. While the fathers themselves took many ideals from the enlightenment, they were at least introducing new ideals into America. Paine did a great service to the country by making the ideals understandable to the simple man, but he did not introduce them into a new environment, I believe this is the key difference between Paine and the founding fathers.
davidmclayton0 said Dec 18, 2012 13:25:59
I disagree; Paine should not be remembered only for his book. While his ideas may not have been completely original, and were in fact common ideas of the time, he still managed to articulate them in a new way, which is what had such a great impact on the American people and the founding fathers. He was certainly a great philosopher in his own right, and should not just be "that guy that wrote that book".
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