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American Political Thought Essay

United States of America has one of the unique political systems in the world which has also proved itself as one the successful political systems in the world. The roots of this political system are not only based on historically conflicting process but also it advocated the emergence of American identity as its main focus of attention. In this regard, many important contributions have been made to the overall political thought of America which gave rise to an overall political identity of the individual American culture as well as the whole society.

These contributions have been made in order to forge a distinct American identity as well as defining the American way of life. Most important contributions, in this regard have been made by Franklin, Winthrop, Paine as well as Apess. All attempted to clarify and forge a distinct American identity however with slight variations. This wok will attempt to study the work of Franklin and Paine to understand and analyze how both of these authors attempted to address the issue of American identity besides discussing how both the authors differed on main themes of American identity. Franklin and American Identity

Before discussing the idea of American identity and how Franklin defined and argued for it, it is very important to understand that Franklin was a person who saw the emergence of new country into an entirely different and practical way. One of his foremost contribution in terms of carving out the identify for Americans was the fact that he believed that American Identity is based on the actions and attitudes of the individuals rather than their racial and religious backgrounds. It was because of this reason that Franklin emphasized on the fact that one who gets the respect is one who is hard working. (Friedman, 2008).

Thus the main theme or the focus of Franklin’s American Identity was based on the hard and honest work however, it is also important to understand the context within which the thoughts of the Franklin took shape. Franklin’s idea of American identity emerged in a very troubling time in the history of America. The so called times of revolutions and the role of Benjamin Franklin in the overall scene suggest that such theme was based on the necessities of the time as it was rather compulsory at that time to carve out an identity of a nation which is hard working and honest so that a solid and stable beginning for a nation can be made.

Besides, it is also critical to understand that Franklin’s American way of life was purely based on the pluralism as the race; religion, culture as well as other characteristics were considered as the founding variables for the American identity. The overall shape which Franklin attempted to give to the American life was that of the nation which was beyond any discrimination and was largely focused on creating an independent society which is not restrictive in nature. “Franklin’s abandonment of Puritanism in favor of the enlightenment’s rationalism reflects a central shift in American society in the eighteenth century.

In addition, his works reflect the growing awareness of America as a country with values and interests distinct from those of England–a movement that, of course, finds its climax in the Revolution. ” (Larson, 2008). This quote by Larson clearly demonstrates how Franklin attempted to carve out an American Identity and a way of life which focused more on the material world and its needs, however, as discussed above that the thoughts of Franklin should also be viewed in a particular context of the time within which he lived. Thomas Paine and American Identity

Paine’s idea of American identity and the American life however were largely based on giving hope and promise to a nation which was ridden by war. He is often cited as the main influence behind changing Americans into radicals as his ideas were mainly based on the revolutionary thoughts of bringing social change into the world by turning existing systems of governance, religion and economics upside down. (Kaye, 2008). His ideas of American identity were largely based on bashing each and everything which is coming into the way of prosperous America.

His foresight of seeing America as one of the richest nations in the world proved correct because his thoughts on American identity and American life were mostly focused on concentrating the material world. His ideas of separating religion from American life as well as encouraging democracy to take its roots into the American society was more or less similar to that of Franklin however, Paine’s ideas were much more force full and attempted to create an identity for Americans which was more tolerant, free and independent from any material influences.

Such identity was based on tailoring a nation which was not only going to be hard working and rich but at the same time arrogant and aggressive too. This aspect of American life, as envisioned by Paine is still reflected in the current society of America which is not only the richest society in the world but at the same time most aggressive and violent in nature to against those with the potential to hurt American interests.

Apart from that, the early writings of Thomas Paine suggest that he was a strong advocate of an American way of life which rejects monarchy and believes in bringing democracy as the only means of bringing justice in the society. Paine also emphasized that independence of the society and individuals would ensure economic independence also. He also stressed on the equal rights among citizens of the country without discriminating on the bases of race, gender and religion. Comparison

If we make a comparison between the ideas and thoughts of Paine and Franklin, we will come to know that Franklin’s tone is much softer and he emphasized on the subtle but practical side of the American life however, Paine, on the other hand, was much more forceful in his voice in favor of carving almost an identical American identity as Franklin advocated. Both emphasized on equal rights, democracy, and separation of religion from State’s affairs however, Paine was much more radical and forceful in his message.

Apart from that, what is distinctive for Paine is the fact that he proved himself as more aggressive advocate of the new American values as compared to Franklin who though made significant and most important contribution but is believed to have failed in propagating his message and teachings of American identity in the way in which Paine succeeded. Paine succeeded in bringing rationalism as one of the main ingredients of American identity and American way of life which Franklin could not.


1. Friedman, M. J. (2008, Feburary 13).American Identity: Ideas, Not Ethnicity. Retrieved Oct 24, 2008, from America. gov: http://www. america. gov/st/diversity-english/2008/February/20080307154033ebyessedo0. 5349237. html 2. Kaye, H. J. (2008). Reclaiming Thomas Paine, Reviving Democracy and American Labor . Retrieved Oct 24, 2008, from http://www. aflcio. org/: http://www. aflcio. org/mediacenter/speakout/harvey_kaye. cfm 3. Larson, D. M. (2008). Benjamin Franklin. Retrieved Oct 24, 2008, from http://www9. georgetown. edu: http://www9. georgetown. edu/faculty/bassr/heath/syllabuild/iguide/franklin. html

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