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

Thomas Paine

posted Dec 18, 2012 11:45:12 by davidmclayton0
Wood argues that although Paine was influential in shaping the entire philosophy of his time period, he has been largely ignored by Americans. While he was not one of the founding fathers in that he did not directly contribute to the writing of the Constitution, he was an enormously influential thinker who influenced the entire mindset of the period, revealing a (for the time) radical mindset that went completely against the monarchical thinking of the period. Wood specifically says that "Common Sense is the most radical and important pamphlet written in the American Revolution and one of the most brilliant ever written in the English language". It made Paine a representative of the entire revolutionary movement because "it did express more boldly and eloquently than any other writing what many of them had already come to think about America's tie to the British Crown". Despite Paine's literary and philosophical successes, however, he lacked the connections and friendships with the established aristocracy of the time, which helped contribute to the fact that he was largely forgotten and dismissed by America after a whole even after all he had done to foster freedom and independence.
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3 replies
davidmclayton0 said Dec 18, 2012 13:33:59
I disagree; it was probably more than just a lack of connections or influence that prevented Paine from becoming an influential figure. In fact, this was probably merely one more effect of an underlying cause: Paine was much too radical for most Americans. His support of the French Revolution, which left many Americans deeply uneasy, together with his seeming lack of attachment to the United States probably led to him being dismissed by the founding fathers and by the general public.
davidmclayton0 said Dec 18, 2012 13:36:34
Thanks for replying; you made some good points. It's entirely possible that radicalism was the cause of Paine's decline in recognition, but it's unlikely to be the main factor. Even complete radicals are remembered to some degree in American history, and Paine is not really the only founding father to support the French Revolution and other such radical ideas. His lack of connections with the established aristocracy led to him being dismissed as merely a radical, rather than remembered as a famous radical who had revolutionary new ideas and contributed to freedom in America.
AustinKoch said Dec 19, 2012 03:39:03
I agree with some of the points you made, but I believe Thomas Paine's separation from America as a whole was the greatest contributor to his minimal importance in today's historical terms. He spent a significant portion of his young adult life living overseas, and returned back there after his short tenure in America. His lack of connections, as you pointed out, was another example of his general distancing from the country he helped guide to revolution.
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