Rights of Man

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Rights of Man by Thomas Paine is likely the author’s most famous work. The English-born American philosopher published it in 1791 and 1792. It is one of the first and broadly popular modern defenses of democracy.

In 1787, one of the Founding Fathers of the USA, Thomas Paine, decided to return to Europe. After three years in London, he relocated to France. His motivation was to witness the ongoing French revolution. Meanwhile, Edmund Burke published a pamphlet called Reflections on the Revolution in France denouncing the social and political changes.

Paine despised Burke’s comments and decided to answer his objections. Hence, he began to work on The Rights of Man. In the end, this publication was not only a defense of the French revolution but a much broader call for democracy and equality. Rights of Man consists of 31 articles.

Rights of Man
The original cover of Paine’s book


First, Paine argues that the people should be allowed to choose their government. He sees the hereditary, absolute monarchy as tyrannical. Only force can maintain this old regime. Instead, a transparent, representative democracy can reliably serve its citizens. 

If the monarch violates their rights, they should be able to overthrow them. Besides, human rights come from nature, not the government. Further, no legislation can challenge these rights. On the other, the government ought to protect its citizen’s liberty and property. It should also secure and protect them. 

Further, Paine talks about welfare. He calls for equality. And that society should take care of the poor, old, and weak. Besides, Paine proposes structured, progressive taxation. In addition, he suggests that poor families should not pay taxes. In summary, he wanted to tackle poverty.

Many of his thoughts were likely came as an inspiration from a fellow Englishman, John Locke. Further, the Rights of Man received an outstanding response from the public. Soon, it became one of the most read books in history. The Rights of Man is a shout-out for civil and human rights, republicanism, and representative democracy.