Thomas Paine’s Republicanism and the French Revolution

Representative Paradigm or Marginal Thought?

in Journal of Early American History
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This article addresses Paine’s participation in the French Revolution, which has been largely either overlooked or caricatured by most scholars. It examines why the speeches he delivered and the writings he published in France during the various stages of the shift from monarchy to republic are significant and why they should not be merely considered as “a nice footnote to the politics of the Gironde” as Michael Walzer stated. My contention is that Paine’s contribution to the debates on republican institutions and on republican questions at key moments of the French Revolution after 1792 needs to be reappraised and is not marginal even if it has been marginalized. Paine’s viewpoint was seen as important by major agents of the Revolution either because it confirmed their own positions or because it contradicted them, which meant they had to defend these positions, as was the case in 1795 during the debate on the post-Thermidorian Constitution. Paine’s authority was used and exploited by his French political allies as well as by his French opponents. Paine’s republicanism is part of the history of the French Revolution and should be part of its historiography.

Thomas Paine’s Republicanism and the French Revolution

Representative Paradigm or Marginal Thought?

in Journal of Early American History



Alfred Owen Aldridge“Condorcet et Paine” in Revue de Littérature Comparée32 (1958): 53.


Alfred Owen Aldridge 195850.


Zofia Libiszowska“Thomas Paine et la Gironde” in Acta Universitatis Lodziensis1 no. 71 (1980): 92.


Franck AlengryCondorcet: Guide de la Révolution Française (Paris, Fra.: Giard, Brière1904) 204.


CondorcetŒuvres (Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt, Deu.: Friedrich Frommann Verlag1968) t. xii 337–414.


Bernard Vincent“Cinq inédits de Thomas Paine” in Revue Française d’Etudes Américainesno. 40 (1989): 226–230.


Antoine ThibaudeauMémoires sur la Convention et le Directoire (Paris, Fra.: Baudouin Frères1824) vol. 1 112–116. This important letter was dug out by Yannick Bosc.


Benjamin ConstantLes Principes de Politique (Geneva, Sui.: Droz1980) 28.


Philippe Raynaud“Y a-t-il une Philosophie Girondine?”300 ; Iain McLean Condorcet: Foundations of Social Choice and Political Theory (Aldershot U.K.: Elgar 1994) 16 and 26; Lucy M. Gidney L’Influence des Etats-Unis d’Amérique sur Brissot Condorcet et Mme Roland thèse de doctorat d’Université présentée à la Faculté de Lettres des Universités de Paris (Paris Fra.: Rieder 1930) 77.

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