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Rights of Man

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3.99 of 5 stars 3.99  ·  rating details  ·  5,919 ratings  ·  73 reviews
Rights of Man presents an impassioned defense of the Enlightenment principles of freedom and equality that Thomas Paine believed would soon sweep the world. He boldly claimed, "From a small spark, kindled in America, a flame has arisen, not to be extinguished. Without consuming ... it winds its progress from nation to nation." Though many more sophisticated thinkers argued ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published February 26th 2004 by Barnes & Noble (first published 1791)
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Robert Owen
In an age of brilliant political writers, Paine, a naturalized American citizen and inspired propagandist for the American Revolutionary cause, represents perhaps the era’s most radical and unfiltered ideological voice. Written in the immediate aftermath of the French Revolution and the somewhat removed aftermath of the American, “The Rights of Man”, published in two parts (1791 and 1792) is one of Thomas Paine’s most influential treatises on the nature and form of just government. In it, Paine ...more
Sean Chick
Flawed but vastly superior to Burke. Paine relies more upon the argument that man has rights, than any form of historical tradition. Paine was right in that there is no “political Adam” from which all laws derive. People have a right to revolution, because government is a construct of man, not an organic system ordained by god and the dead hand of tradition. Also, the unity of man is an absolute and based upon natural rights, while nobles hold their position through coercion and war. He correctl ...more
Ben Lever
This books has patches of brilliance buried in amongst many pages of Paine picking a fight with Edmund Burke. This is somewhat typical of "classics" of political theory like this - they were designed only as pamphlets to deal with the issues of the day, and were not meant to be timeless.

While there is indeed timeless wisdom in here, a modern reader must sift through a lot of dirt to get to it - hence the two-star rating
Toni Daugherty
I'm re-reading this book in light of the current administration. I'm confident that Pres. Bush played "hookie" the week his college class read & discussed this book.

everyone interested in politics & mankind should give this a go!
Katie Lynn
Definitely not my favorite of Thomas Paine's works. Second half is better than the first, so stick with it.

"But with respect to religion itself, without regard to names, and as directing itself from the universal family of mankind to the divine object of adoration, it is man bringing to his maker the fruits of his heart; and though these fruits may differ from each other like the fruits of the earth, the grateful tribute of everyone is accepted."

"It is the faculty of the human mind to become wha
...more
Kate Woods Walker
A pleasure to read beginning to end, Rights of Man by Thomas Paine is the third book in a discussion series in which I am currently participating, and for the life of me I can't figure out why this masterpiece of history, philosophy, politics and statecraft was not the lead-off book in the series. Not only does the clear-thinking Paine lay out with understatement and restraint winning arguments against the ridiculous Edmund Burke and his Reflections on the Revolution in France, but in the first ...more
Darwin8u
Thomas Paine is one of those writers who seemed to have been dropped by a deist God 200 years before the world was really ready for him. His energy, honesty and political bravery was intense. By his voice alone he helped to transform the West. Common Sense, the Rights of Man, and finally the Age of Reason have all thrown the political and social gauntlet down and caused people to either cheer him (Common Sense) or hiss his name (Age of Reason).

The Rights of Man was visionary in its call for int
...more
Reformed Covenanter
While I do not fully agree with Edmund Burke nor do I particularly like ancien regime France, nonetheless, this book largely consisted of 105 pages of ranting. He makes some good points, but I thought his earlier work, Common Sense, was a more cogent, reasonable argument.
Sidharth
A great polemic on the inherent rights of human beings, and the difference between a nation and government. Besides being a very enlightening little book that clearly explains much of the philosophical basis of the United States, Paine's witty attacks on Edmund Burke's defense of British and French aristocracy make it an entertaining read as well. It is, of course, slightly chilling in retrospect to read Paine's endless praises of the French Revolution, knowing now that in just a few years it wo ...more
Iain
Thomas Paine was a prodigious and unrepentant nail in the coffin of the age of kings and queens. Considered the 'Father of the American Revolution" with his pro-independence pamphlet Common Sense and later adopting the name of his revolutionary writing as his pen name, in the American Crisis, sums up his key weapon against monarchical despotism and that was his common sense. In 'The Rights of Man' Paine furthers his loathing of any system that oppresses and enslaves the poor with the majority of ...more
Dustin
I probably should have read Burke's "Reflections on the Revolution in France" first because the first half of The Rights of Man is basically one big rebuttal of that piece, but it was still an interesting read.
Jeff Gabriel
This unabridged version contained not only the original letter or pamphlet to Washington which served as a direct response to Edmund Burke, but also a couple of different follow on pieces of somewhat lower quality. The response to Burke is brilliant and not only serves as an interesting piece of history at the time of the French Revolution, but as a reminder of principles continuing to drive the American one.

Paine's unfailing belief in the total superiority of the American form of government has
...more
RK Byers
perhaps the most amazing thing about this treastie on freedom is that it's dedicated to my favorite slave-owner, George Washington!
Delilah
I read The Social Contract and Rights of Man one after the other.

As a fierce supporter of the books, not downloads, I will first review the aesthetics of these two books. Both works are quite light considering the heavy content. I bought these first hand, so the covers are smooth, and the pages firm and crisp. I enjoy Wordsworth Classics beige pages, which I find very easy on the eyes, compared to the reflective, stark whites of the computer I look at for 8 hours a day (plus blogging time). I e
...more
Don
Well, good to cross this one of my list of 'great books to read before you die'. Paine's polemical style rankles and there are large sections where he caricatures Burke's arguments to the point of ridicule. Whatever you think of the political tradition he represented, Burke was a great thinker and a worthy opponent of radical, progressive currents.

Paine also suffers from being so wrong in his confident assertions about the benefits that would come from the triumph of rational, representative gov
...more
Russio
The first 20 pages or so are incendiary - essential reading. And you can stick with Paine all the way through, especially if you are a republican socialist like me. The problem is that I am a 21st Century MTV-generation dude and, as a result, am used to seeing politics communicated in the white noise of soundbites (I wonder what Paine would make of that)? After the first twenty pages my cries of "Right on!" became slowly replaced by mutterings of "Oh yeah, I get it now."

The whole thing is writt
...more
Ronald Wise
One of Paine's most famous publications, which got him tried in absentia in England and sentenced to death. There are some strange aspects to this book: While presenting some very convincing arguments for representative, constitution-based democracy over hereditary monarchies, much of the text is a direct attack on Edmund Burke's prior condemnation of the French Revolution. The last part of the book is strange in that it uses actual tax revenue figures in Great Britain to argue against aristcrac ...more
Leo
In the Rights of Man, Thomas Paine offers a rebuke of Edmund Burke’s unflattering analysis of the French Revolution. Mr. Paine revisits the arguments for republicanism and liberty he wielded in the American Revolution to defend the early French Revolution. Few of Mr. Burke's arguments are directly addressed by Mr. Paine, there is a heavy selection bias in this rebuttal. I suggest that you can gain the most from this text by reading Mr. Burke’s work and recognizing the conversational nature of th ...more
Katy
This work by renowned philosopher and political influence Thomas Paine was addressed to George Washington as a document Paine hoped Washington would find useful. However, its message is not only wide-sweeping but immediate. Though the rights of man in contemporary society are greater than perhaps Paine could have even imagined, the work still proves incredibly useful to anyone who may feel as if they are being oppressed. This document reaches out to each individual in a given society and encoura ...more
Ben
This work, broken into two parts, contains Thomas Paine's defense of the French Revolution against Edmund Burke's criticism of it in "Reflections on the Revolution in France." The first part is as fierce as Paine's polemic against General Howe in "The American Crisis." Paine's logic and reasoning are well-structured and supported even if his critique is perhaps incendiary in nature. The first part, addressed to President Washington, is much more enjoyable a read than the second half, which is ad ...more
Mitchell
A great piece of revolutionary treatise. Paine's critique of Burke is nothing short of polemic gold, and his ideas on the rights of man are of course very interesting. The following excerpt grasped my attention immediately and is a great representation of Paine's ideas:
“There never did, there never will, and there never can, exist a Parliament, or any description of men, or any generation of men, in any country, possessed of the right or the power of binding and controlling posterity to the "end
...more
Robert
The Rights of Man is a passionate defense of the French revolution and representative government. Most interesting to me is late in the second part of the book where Paine lays out a strategy to lower taxes mainly by targeting spending on war and aristocracy, while increasing spending on social welfare for children, the old, poor, and unemployed. (He even confers a *right* to the life-long worker in old age to a sort of proto-social security.)

Some of the other reviews try to fit Paine into the m
...more
Clint
“Democracy swept Europe with the sabre when it was founded on the Rights of Man. It has done literally nothing at all since it has been founded only upon the wrongs of man, or, more strictly speaking, its recent failure has been due to its not admitting the existence of any rights or wrongs, or indeed of any humanity.” -G.K. Chesterton

Thomas Paine's tract on representative government is one of the essential works of political theory. Perhaps slightly too engrossed in Enlightenment-era idealism (
...more
Olivia
One of the Young Women I mentor at church was bumped up to AP English from the regular English track. Her first AP assignment was to read this book and write an analysis using specific templates. She was terrified and so I offered to read the book as well and hold her hand while she wrote the essay in hopes that she would realize as only Bob the Builder AND Barack Obama say best, "Yes, we can!". I did a fairly thorough reading of the first half of the book and a not-so-thorough reading of the se ...more
Jenna
Though this book was written for the generation of the American Revolution and mainly dealt with improvements that England could make to their government, I found that a lot of the principles could still be applied today. I learned a lot about what a constitution should do for it's country and what the government should do in following that constitution.

I think that a quote from the end of the book really sums it up. "When it shall be said in any country in the world my poor are happy; neither
...more
Rob Manwaring
I wonder if I had actually read this during my undergad days, I might not have had to re-submit my woeful essay on Shelley and Blake?

Blistering piece of political pamphleteering! It's scary and depressing to think how relevant it still remains today. Paine's defence of democracy and attack on the Monarchy is insightful, angry, passionate, but also rational and clear-sighted. He has a nifty turn of phrase too, I like his comment about Burke's sympathy for the French aristocracy, "He pities the p
...more
Khalil James
Reading this book, centries after the period of its intended audience, speaks to us of the importance of rule by the nation, rather than that by government. This relic of exemplary progress describes the time when equality, peace, freedom, and basic welfare were allowed to bloom from the bud of reason. It still amazes me how the principles so easily taken for granted today were seen as radical and against the status quo during the late 1700's. In fact, it was Paine, the unlikely Englishman, who ...more
Summers
Of course, very interesting. I have often heard this quoted, but hadn't realized how very long and detailed it was. Too much detail, even for me! But his ideas were the basis of our government ("Common Sense" also covers the inalieanable rights) so very interesting. Amazing how all of our forefathers came up with a system that was nowhere else in the world at that time! (Very clear how much he disliked Britain, loved France and absolutely loved America.)
Karl
It is evident that there are certain conditions which are a sine qua non of human flourishing. Whether we choose to call these the ‘rights of humanity’ or not is of no real significance. The point is that, lacking them, society can be neither happy nor healthy.

It is refreshing to see Paine show these conditions the same sort of admiration that Edmund Burke has elsewhere shown to the frills on Marie Antoinette’s lingerie.
Albert Avany
Definitely not as good as Common Sense. Especially since he repeats a lot of his ideas. He spends the book essentially using Common Sense to call Mr. Burke an idiot in as many ways as possible... and he gets very creative at times. 5* because its not just a defense of basic human rights, its an example on how to spit hot fire at your enemies
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  • The Wisdom of the Desert: Sayings from the Desert Fathers of the Fourth Century
  • Reflections on the Revolution in France
  • Two Treatises of Government
  • Areopagitica
  • The Basic Political Writings
  • The Spirit of the Laws (Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought)
  • On Liberty and Other Essays
  • The Condition of the Working Class in England
  • The Discourses
  • On the Republic/On the Laws
  • The Essays
  • The Anti-Federalist Papers and the Constitutional Convention Debates
  • On Revolution
  • The Essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Democracy in America
  • Proposed Roads to Freedom: Socialism, Anarchism and Syndicalism
  • Letters on England
  • A Treatise of Human Nature
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Thomas Paine (February 9, 1737 – June 8, 1809) was an English-American political activist, author, political theorist and revolutionary. As the author of two highly influential pamphlets at the start of the American Revolution, he inspired the Patriots in 1776 to declare independence from Britain. His ideas reflected Enlightenment-era rhetoric of transnational human rights. He has been called "a c ...more
More about Thomas Paine...
Common Sense Common Sense, The Rights of Man and Other Essential Writings Common Sense and Other Writings The Age of Reason Collected Writings: Common Sense/The Crisis/Rights of Man/The Age of Reason/Pamphlets/Articles & Letters

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“Independence is my happiness, and I view things as they are, without regard to place or person; my country is the world, and my religion is to do good.” 610 likes
“Whatever is my right as a man is also the right of another; and it becomes my duty to guarantee as well as to possess.” 329 likes
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