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By Thomas Paine

Collected And Edited By

Moncure Daniel Conway

1779 - 1792

[Redactor's Note: Reprinted from the "The Writings of Thomas Paine
Volume I" (1894 - 1896). The author's notes are preceded by a "*". A
Table of Contents has been added for each part for the convenience of
the reader which is not included in the printed edition. Notes are at
the end of Part II. ]


XIII The Rights of Man


* Editor's Introduction
* Dedication to George Washington
* Preface to the English Edition
* Preface to the French Edition
* Rights of Man
* Miscellaneous Chapter
* Conclusion

XIV The Rights of Man


* French Translator's Preface
* Dedication to M. de la Fayette
* Preface
* Introduction
* Chapter I Of Society and Civilisation
* Chapter II Of the Origin of the Present Old Governments
* Chapter III Of the Old and New Systems of Government
* Chapter IV Of Constitutions
* Chapter V Ways and Means of Improving the Condition of Europe,
Interspersed with Miscellaneous Observations

* Appendix
* Notes



WHEN Thomas Paine sailed from America for France, in April, 1787, he was
perhaps as happy a man as any in the world. His most intimate friend,
Jefferson, was Minister at Paris, and his friend Lafayette was the idol
of France. His fame had preceded him, and he at once became, in Paris,
the centre of the same circle of savants and philosophers that had
surrounded Franklin. His main reason for proceeding at once to Paris was
that he might submit to the Academy of Sciences his invention of an iron
bridge, and with its favorable verdict he came to England, in September.
He at once went to his aged mother at Thetford, leaving with a publisher
(Ridgway), his "Prospects on the Rubicon." He next made arrangements to
patent his bridge, and to construct at Rotherham the large model of it
exhibited on Paddington Green, London. He was welcomed in England by
leading statesmen, such as Lansdowne and Fox, and above all by Edmund
Burke, who for some time had him as a guest at Beaconsfield, and drove
him about in various parts of the country. He had not the slightest
revolutionary purpose, either as regarded England or France. Towards
Louis XVI. he felt only gratitude for the services he had rendered
America, and towards George III. he felt no animosity whatever. His four
months' sojourn in Paris had convinced him that there was approaching a
reform of that country after the American model, except that the Crown
would be preserved, a compromise he approved, provided the throne should
not be hereditary. Events in France travelled more swiftly than he had
anticipated, and Paine was summoned by Lafayette, Condorcet, and others,
as an adviser in the formation of a new constitution.

Such was the situation immediately preceding the political and literary
duel between Paine and Burke, which in the event turned out a tremendous
war between Royalism and Republicanism in Europe. Paine was, both in
France and in England, the inspirer of moderate counsels. Samuel Rogers
relates that in early life he dined at a friend's house in London
with Thomas Paine, when one of the toasts given was the "memory of
Joshua,"--in allusion to the Hebrew leader's conquest of the kings of
Canaan, and execution of them. Paine observed that he would not treat
kings like Joshua. "I 'm of the Scotch parson's opinion," he said,
"when he prayed against Louis XIV.--`Lord, shake him over the mouth of
hell, but don't let him drop!'" Paine then gave as his toast, "The
Republic of the World,"--which Samuel Rogers, aged twenty-nine, noted
as a sublime idea. This was Paine's faith and hope, and with it he
confronted the revolutionary storms which presently burst over France
and England.

Until Burke's arraignment of France in his parliamentary speech
(February 9, 1790), Paine had no doubt whatever that he would sympathize
with the movement in France, and wrote to him from that country as
if conveying glad tidings. Burke's "Reflections on the Revolution in
France" appeared November 1, 1790, and Paine at once set himself to
answer it. He was then staying at the Angel Inn, Islington. The inn
has been twice rebuilt since that time, and from its contents there is
preserved only a small image, which perhaps was meant to represent
"Liberty,"--possibly brought from Paris by Paine as an ornament for his
study. From the Angel he removed to a house in Harding Street, Fetter
Lane. Rickman says Part First of "Rights of Man" was finished at
Versailles, but probably this has reference to the preface only, as I
cannot find Paine in France that year until April 8. The book had been
printed by Johnson, in time for the opening of Parliament, in February;
but this publisher became frightened after a few copies were out (there
is one in the British Museum), and the work was transferred to J. S.
Jordan, 166 Fleet Street, with a preface sent from Paris (not contained
in Johnson's edition, nor in the American editions). The pamphlet,
though sold at the same price as Burke's, three shillings, had a vast
circulation, and Paine gave the proceeds to the Constitutional Societies
which sprang up under his teachings in various parts of the country.

Soon after appeared Burke's "Appeal from the New to the Old Whigs." In
this Burke quoted a good deal from "Rights of Man," but replied to it
only with exclamation points, saying that the only answer such ideas
merited was "criminal justice." Paine's Part Second followed, published
February 17, 1792. In Part First Paine had mentioned a rumor that Burke
was a masked pensioner (a charge that will be noticed in connection with
its detailed statement in a further publication); and as Burke had
been formerly arraigned in Parliament, while Paymaster, for a very
questionable proceeding, this charge no doubt hurt a good deal. Although
the government did not follow Burke's suggestion of a prosecution
at that time, there is little doubt that it was he who induced the
prosecution of Part Second. Before the trial came on, December 18, 1792,
Paine was occupying his seat in the French Convention, and could only be

Burke humorously remarked to a friend of Paine and himself, "We hunt
in pairs." The severally representative character and influence of these
two men in the revolutionary era, in France and England, deserve more
adequate study than they have received. While Paine maintained freedom
of discussion, Burke first proposed criminal prosecution for sentiments
by no means libellous (such as Paine's Part First). While Paine was
endeavoring to make the movement in France peaceful, Burke fomented the
league of monarchs against France which maddened its people, and brought
on the Reign of Terror. While Paine was endeavoring to preserve the
French throne ("phantom" though he believed it), to prevent bloodshed,
Burke was secretly writing to the Queen of France, entreating her not
to compromise, and to "trust to the support of foreign armies"
("Histoire de France depuis 1789." Henri Martin, i., 151). While Burke
thus helped to bring the King and Queen to the guillotine, Paine pleaded
for their lives to the last moment. While Paine maintained the right of
mankind to improve their condition, Burke held that "the awful Author
of our being is the author of our place in the order of existence;
and that, having disposed and marshalled us by a divine tactick, not
according to our will, but according to his, he has, in and by that
disposition, virtually subjected us to act the part which belongs to
the place assigned us." Paine was a religious believer in eternal
principles; Burke held that "political problems do not primarily
concern truth or falsehood. They relate to good or evil. What in the
result is likely to produce evil is politically false, that which is
productive of good politically is true." Assuming thus the visionary's
right to decide before the result what was "likely to produce evil,"
Burke vigorously sought to kindle war against the French Republic which
might have developed itself peacefully, while Paine was striving for
an international Congress in Europe in the interest of peace. Paine
had faith in the people, and believed that, if allowed to choose
representatives, they would select their best and wisest men; and that
while reforming government the people would remain orderly, as they had
generally remained in America during the transition from British rule
to selfgovernment. Burke maintained that if the existing political order
were broken up there would be no longer a people, but "a number of
vague, loose individuals, and nothing more." "Alas!" he exclaims,
"they little know how many a weary step is to be taken before they can
form themselves into a mass, which has a true personality." For the sake
of peace Paine wished the revolution to be peaceful as the advance of
summer; he used every endeavor to reconcile English radicals to some
modus vivendi with the existing order, as he was willing to retain Louis
XVI. as head of the executive in France: Burke resisted every tendency
of English statesmanship to reform at home, or to negotiate with the
French Republic, and was mainly responsible for the King's death and the
war that followed between England and France in February, 1793. Burke
became a royal favorite, Paine was outlawed by a prosecution originally
proposed by Burke. While Paine was demanding religious liberty, Burke
was opposing the removal of penal statutes from Unitarians, on the
ground that but for those statutes Paine might some day set up a church
in England. When Burke was retiring on a large royal pension, Paine
was in prison, through the devices of Burke's confederate, the American
Minister in Paris.

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