Thomas paine the rights of man pdf

Not to be confused with Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. Thomas Paine, including 31 articles, posits that popular political revolution is permissible when a government does not safeguard the natural rights of its people. It was published in two parts in March 1791 and February 1792. Many English thinkers supported it, including Thomas paine the rights of man pdf Price, who initiated the Revolution Controversy with his sermon and pamphlet drawing favourable parallels between the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and the French Revolution.


Paine’s Rights of Man was printed by Joseph Johnson for publication on 21 February 1791, then withdrawn for fear of prosecution. Jordan stepped in and published it on 16 March. The 90,000-word book appeared on 13 March, three weeks later than scheduled.

It sold as many as one million copies and was “eagerly read by reformers, Protestant dissenters, democrats, London craftsman, and the skilled factory-hands of the new industrial north”. Paine argues that the interests of the monarch and his people are united, and insists that the French Revolution should be understood as one which attacks the despotic principles of the French monarchy, not the king himself, and he takes the Bastille, the main prison in Paris, to symbolise the despotism that had been overthrown.

It is a perversion of terms to say that a charter gives rights. It operates by a contrary effect—that of taking rights away.

The book’s acumen derives from the Age of Enlightenment, especially from the Second Treatise of Government, by John Locke. The fuller development of this position seems to have been worked out one night in France after an evening spent with Thomas Jefferson, and possibly Lafayette, discussing a pamphlet by the Philadelphia conservative James Wilson on the proposed federal constitution. Principally, Rights of Man opposes the idea of hereditary government—the belief that dictatorial government is necessary, because of man’s corrupt, essential nature. Paine refutes Burke’s definition of Government as “a contrivance of human wisdom”.

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