Life: Exclusionary by Nature

In his famous work Common Sense, Thomas Paine tries to rally every colonist to join him in his effort to get rid of the British and start a new nation governed by the colonies.  Throughout the entire work, it is obvious how Paine feels about a revolution — pretty damn strongly.  He makes many arguments about how it is necessary to get rid of the British.  For example, he speaks of monarchy and rule by hierarchy and how unfair and ridiculous it is.  He talks about certain legislation passed by the throne, such as the Stamp Act and other taxes, that he feels the King has no business passing.  His language is strong, his stance obvious, and his emotions run high.

Paine’s goal is to get everyone on board — nearly an impossible task.  He feels that in order for the revolution to be successful, ever single colonist must be down for the cause and ready, willing, and able to take action.  Unfortunately for him, there were many people who did not feel the same way he did, especially the Tories and the Quakers.  The Tories, also known as Loyalists, were those colonists that were loyal to the king of England and were everything but sympathetic to the revolutionary cause.  It would clearly be extremely hard, probably impossible for Paine to sway any of these Loyalists over to his side — try convincing a Yankees fan to root for the Red Sox and see what happens.  The Quakers, a peace-loving, non-confrontational people, were also against a revolution.  So how did Paine get around this big problem?  He simply excluded those who did not agree with him.  In addition to the Tories and Quakers, Jews, slaves, women, those who didn’t own property, and Native Americans were also excluded in Paine’s revolutionary cause.

To most, this may seem absurd, and it definitely is in some ways.  At the time at which Common Sense was written, exclusion was clearly evident in everyday life.  For example, slaves and women were not treated equally as white men.  Those who didn’t own land could not enjoy the same privileges as those who did.  So I guess it is safe to say that hundreds of years ago, was much more common than it is today.

Or is it?  Maybe people don’t consider it exclusion, or maybe people just don’t notice, but we are constantly surrounded by exclusion.  Take for example our own government.  A representative from a predominantly white, upper-class district will naturally exclude any minorities and lower class citizens.  He only cares about his constituents, and when a bill comes to a vote, that representative will straight up not care at all for minorities and lower class citizens.  Even more basic, many institutions are exclusionary.  Some golf clubs exclude certain people, whether they admit to it or not.  Sure it’s an ugly truth, but a truth nonetheless.  Some schools exclude certain people, and fraternities and sororities exclude pretty much everyone.  Even social circles and groups of friends refuse to mingle with anyone else.  Our lives are filled with exclusion, but such is the nature of life.

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3 Responses to Life: Exclusionary by Nature

  1. vanessabarton says:

    First Paine did not explicitly exclude some of those people you mentioned and you cannot attribute a reason as to why, I assuming you never had the conversation with Paine. As to certain representatives excluding minorities and social classes is certainly not unheard of but your example does not prove it. Simply being concerned with the values of your constituents is what civic republicanism is all about. They do not exclude those people they simply do not speak on behalf of them and certainly are not going to vote against what the people they are representing believe is important. Remember that they are delegates and act or serve on behalf of the people they represent not all people in the United States. I am certainly not saying that exclusion does not happen in current times by any means, I disagree however with the support your argument carries.

  2. Courtney says:

    Exclusion is definitely a very real, but unfortunate, occurrence in today’s society. Although Paine explicitly excludes the Tories, Quakers, and arguably the Jews as well, I feel that this type of deliberate, public exclusion is less commonly seen today. Much more common is the implicit exclusion, where in Paine’s case, he doesn’t publicly announce in the pamphlet that they aren’t included, yet simply by not mentioning them, we can infer his intentions. A great example is something I heard in one of my psychology classes here at U of M. Recently, experimenters submitted two job applications to an American company. The applications were completely identical, except on one application they put an African American sounding name (i.e. “Jamal”) and on the other application they put a White sounding name (i.e. “John”). “John” got a call back, “Jamal” didn’t. As far as African Americans have come since the Civil Rights Movement, there is still a lot to be accomplished because these exclusions exist every day, in schools, restaurants, politics, jobs, etc. Like Paine, this company didn’t come right out and say “We wish not to hire an African American,” and had this been real life and not an experiment, “Jamal” would have never known he was being excluded. This is unfortunately the reality of today’s society.

  3. flitvak says:

    Paine’s exclusion of a certain demographic of the American population at the time was not by any means an action that should be condemned. The inclusion of the entirety of the population as Robert Tepper wrote, was an impossibility and Paine does not deserve criticism. His pamphlet reflected a fundamental characteristic of the revolution, pragmatism, and engaged a portion of the population that at the time was willing to make a difference. His rhetoric however, was written for the common man, a battle cry for help from all walks of life. He solely excludes Quakers, Tories and Jews because he refutes their ideals and would gladly accept their help in rebellion. Paine even hints at the idea of Loyalist contributions.
    I do agree with Tepper’s statement that including all Americans is impossible but I’m not sure what the central point of this post is. Obviously, exclusion occurs in everyday life. Tepper treats government representatives with disdain and makes a huge generalization when saying, “a representative from a predominantly white, upper class district will naturally exclude any minorities and lower class citizens. He only cares about his constituents, and when a bill comes to a vote, that representative will straight up not care at all for minorities and lower class citizens.” One should be careful when one makes an assumption like this. Yes, there are certain scenarios in which this occurs but it is not always true. Furthermore there is an admirable quality about those who represent one set of constituents. It is the nature of a representative democracy as vanessabarton says. These people are delegates and serve on the behalf of the people. Just as there are upper-class representatives, there are those who care for minorities and lower class citizens.

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