Don’t Exclude Me, Paine and Shklar!

In Common Sense, Thomas Paine expresses utter disdain towards Britain for its treatment of the colonialists.  Paine and his fellow civic republicans sought to limit the influence of the Crown since “her own interest leads her to suppress the growth of ours in every case which doth not promote her advantage” (33).  Paine conveys his desire for increased manpower in order to suppress the political control of the British monarchy.

Paine references various groups within colonial society, which he wishes to exclude.  He thinks the Quakers, the Tories and the Whigs should stay out of government, which seems to contradict the civic republican ideal of the importance of community.  The Quakers thought that the colonialists shouldn’t go to war against the Crown, that they should be passive.  Thus, Paine wrote, in response, “neither he nor you [the Quakers] have any claim or title to Political Representation” (47).  Paine also explicitly excludes two other groups for being cowardly in writing:  “Let the names of Whig and Tory be extinct; and let none other be heard among us, than those of a good citizen, an open and resolute friend, and a virtuous supporter of the RIGHTS of MANKIND and of the FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES OF AMERICA (46).

This idea of exclusion reminded me of an ABC News article that I read about a week or so ago (  This story is about a 55-year-old woman named Selena Forte from Cleveland who said that a recruiter for an employment agency told her she would not be considered for a job with a delivery company because she has been without work for too long.  To me, Forte’s denied access to the working world is directly analogous to Paine’s desired exclusion of Quakers, Tories and Whigs from government.  Forte was denied a job opportunity because she possessed an undesirable trait:  long-lasting unemployment; Thomas Paine wanted these aforementioned groups in colonial America to stay out of government for possessing an undesirable trait as well:  passivity.

The case of Selena Forte is also interesting in regards to Judith Shklar’s definition of citizenship in her book American Citizenship: The Quest for Inclusion.  Shklar writes that having the right to vote and the ability to work to better society are the traits required to be considered an American citizen.  Even if we assume that Forte has the right to vote, she was, at least temporarily, denied the ability to work by a Cleveland-based employment agency and would thus not encompass Shklar’s qualities of citizenship.

In addition to comparing it to this instance of job discrimination, Shklar’s definition of citizenship can also be compared to Common Sense as far as exclusion is concerned. Shklar constantly uses slavery as the fundamental example of exclusion since slaves were neither able to vote nor work for the benefit of others as far as her definition goes.

While both Shklar and Paine provide dated examples of group exclusion, there are contemporary examples as well, such as the adverse selection problem seen in the health insurance industry.  Certain people who qualify for health insurance aren’t given coverage because they have pre-existing health problems and would be too expensive to insure.

Since U.S. citizens currently aren’t required to have health insurance and since the U.S. is the only country that can profit from basic health coverage, insurance companies avoid adverse selection and increase profits by choosing healthy recipients–those who will be cheapest to insure.

While they are not as explicit as both Paine and Shklar’s examples of exclusion, job discrimination and the adverse selection problem provide contemporary examples of exclusion, which also relate, in some way or another, to government.

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6 Responses to Don’t Exclude Me, Paine and Shklar!

  1. jakmel says:

    Very interesting post but I will have to disagree on your argument about Paine and exclusion. I don’t think Paine actually wanted to exclude groups such as Tories and Whigs but rather include them. It is evident that Paine understands the oppression these groups would be under in America, if their side were to lose the war. Thus, although Paine did not want to exclude this group, he knows they would be “excluded” if the Americans won the rebellion . In regards to the Quakers I don’t think Paine wanted to exclude them either. He was arguing in that instance that if the Quakers preach not taking part in politics, what gives them the right to criticize him about wanted to rebel and fight against the British Empire.

    In regards to the definition of exclusion I believe Paine and Shklar’s would slightly differ. While Shklar argues that people who can’t vote and work are a class of people who are excluded, I think Paine would take that notion further. I think Paine would argue that there are people who can vote and work that are still excluded. These people, in my opinion, are people who can vote and work but there vote really does not matter. For instance, due to the of the use of the electoral college in Presidential elections, democrats, who can vote, in a state like Texas really don’t have a say in the election in their state, because the Republican party majority is so large. The state of Texas going democrat is basically impossible, hence democrats in that state are being excluded because their vote does not matter. In short, Paine would consider people excluded when their ambitions are retarded by the tyranny of the majority.

  2. davidkoz says:

    I agree with you that Paine wanted to include these groups but, as we read and discussed in lecture, the Quakers and the Tories seemed unwilling to participate thus changing his stance.

  3. arlaurin says:

    I agree with Davidkoz that Paine wanted to exclude them. It’s not that he didn’t like them or thought they were not worthy, he just didn’t want to include them in a time of revolution because they wouldn’t exactly be on the “right” side. I never felt when reading “Common Sense” that he was fully opposed to them at all times, just during this fight.

    • matwalker35 says:

      I also agree with both davidkoz, and arlaurin. Although their comments are not recent, after reading Paine my interpretation of Paine on this topic was quite similar. To me Paine excluded Quakers and Tories because they were not willing to participate in the movement towards revolution in seeking independence from Britain’s tyrannical rule. Yet Paine also viewed them as pacifist that had no part in the colonist view of an independent nation. Although Paine excluded other people besides Quakers and Tories from this amazing time in history, he mentioned multiple times that this group being discussed had no standing with the colonist dreams of an independent nation to call their own.

  4. megsavel says:

    I agree that Paine wanted to exclude Quakers and Tories. It came down to loyalty for Paine. The Quakers and Tories were loyal to the Crown and unwilling to fight for revolution. Reading Common Sense I got the impression that Paine did want to exclude these groups from society if the Americans won the war. Those that were unwilling to fight for their freedom, as American citizens should not be included in the society that they were unwilling to stick their necks out for.

    You bring up a very interesting point regarding those denied health insurance because of pre-existing conditions as representing the excluded in today’s society. It is so pertinent an observation because of the possible ramifications of being denied insurance. Those without insurance are more likely to incur high medical costs that can result in a whole range of other problems for those individuals.

  5. Courtney M says:

    Job discrimination is definitely a modern day issue linked to exclusion. Although Shklar distinguishes between working and earning, today the two terms are almost always analogous, so when I refer to work, I mean the ability to have a job and earn a salary. In that sense, there are definitely groups excluded from finding jobs and having the ability to earn a salary. Today we see many older workers getting laid off because companies are hiring recent college grads and other young workers. Even though these new workers are inexperienced, they still have a long future ahead of them, so the company knows they are dependable. Other instances of course include people with disabilities, or in the case of the homeless, jobs can be denied to those without a permanent address. These are just some examples of job discrimination, but I definitely agree that this notion of “exclusion” is pervasive in the job industry today.

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