Dr. Mark Jendrysik presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association in Washington DC
Dr. Mark Jendrysik presented his research “The Birthday of a New World’: Thomas Paine on the Beginning and End of Political History” at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association in August 2019 in Washington, DC.
In Tom Paine and Revolutionary America, Eric Foner said that Paine was “a man with little interest in the past and unbounded optimism about the future.” What can account for Paine’s lack of interest in history and the past? Paine’s rejection of history is linked to the unique nature of the revolutionary times in which he lived and wrote. Tom Paine, properly considered, is the original end of history theorist. For him representative government and individual rights are the last ideas, because they are the only political ideas fully informed by and based on reason. There can be no new ideas to discover, only a refinement of the principles in practice. Paine’s thought creates a paradox. Reason frees us to discover true political principles. But once these principles are discovered and implemented during a revolutionary era, there isn’t much left to do. History begins and ends at a rather rapid pace. True political history can only be the history of free people. But once the clear and obvious principles of self-government and liberty are known, there is nothing left to do but implement them.