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Writings of Thomas Paine — Volume 2 (1779-1792): the Rights of Man
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Writings of Thomas Paine — Volume 2 (1779-1792): the Rights of Man

3.98 of 5 stars 3.98  ·  rating details  ·  5,350 ratings  ·  68 reviews
One of Paine's greatest and most widely read works, considered a classic statement of faith in democracy and egalitarianism, defends the early events of the French Revolution, supports social security for workers, public employment for those in need of work, abolition of laws limiting wages, and other social reforms.
Kindle Edition, 10th Edition, 183 pages
Published November 22nd 2003 by Project Gutenberg (first published 1791)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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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
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
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
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
Robert Farwell
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
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
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
Mitch
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
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.
Codfather
Although the English used in this book is from a different age and requires your concentration - why use one word when you can use three ;-)

It however tells the tale of the early days of the French republic, and gives a detailed account of the political intrigues that led to the first republic.

It also gives us the foundations of what a lot of democracy should be about , with the inalienable rights of the citizens of a modern society - perhaps the modern politicians could do well to read this tex...more
Matt
Thomas Paine throws down with Edmund Burke over the French Revolution, hoping to do for it and a reformation of British government what he did for the American revolution with Common Sense. It was at times insightful and inspiring, at others painfully naive (and at times lengthy policy prescriptions and history of recent events). I can see how both American libertarians and liberals draw inspiration from him, and Rights of Man as a response to Burke frames the current tensions between conservati...more
Erin
Fascinating and historically significant book about the French revolution and its merits, as well as commentary on the 'new' form of government pioneered after the American Revolution. This book contains a lot of the opinions and theories of thought that founded the US, and as such, is a worthwhile read for any citizen of this great nation. There are also some comments pertaining to recent political chatter about issues such as caring for the children via education, the poor, and the aged. As a...more
Brent McCulley
Paine's support of such revolutionary ideas were not unprecedented. Although it's easy to read through Rights of Man and shake your head in agreement, hindsight is certainly 20/20. In reality, a lot of Paine's assertions as refutations to Burke are unwarranted and self-refuting.

Even still, this is a fantastic piece of historical literature; however, if one is to put forth more defensible revolutionary ideas revolving around political theory, inalienable rights, and the relationship between the s...more
Ed Holden
This is less of a generalized manifesto than I had anticipated. Instead, Thomas Paine was one of many pamphleteers who responded to Edmund Burke's essay on the French Revolution. And though Paine seems to have rhetorically pulverized Burke's arguments, I do feel like I'm missing something without having read Burke's side of the argument. Still, some good points all around: that a hereditary system of government is purely imaginary and need not be accepted by the true source of power, the public;...more
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  • The Wisdom of the Desert: Sayings from the Desert Fathers of the Fourth Century
  • Two Treatises of Government
  • Reflections on the Revolution in France
  • Areopagitica
  • The Spirit of the Laws (Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought)
  • The Essays
  • The Anti-Federalist Papers and the Constitutional Convention Debates
  • The Social Contract
  • The Discourses
  • On Liberty
  • Thomas Paine's Rights of Man: A Biography
  • A Treatise of Human Nature
  • Elements of the Philosophy of Right
  • The Condition of the Working Class in England
  • The Constitution of the United States of America
  • Letters on England
  • The Theory of Moral Sentiments
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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 of Thomas Paine Common Sense and Other Writings The Age of Reason Paine: Collected Writings: Common Sense/The Crisis/Rights of Man/The Age of Reason/Pamphlets/Articles & Letters (Library of America #76)

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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.” 566 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.” 305 likes
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