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Rights of Man

(Great Books in Philosophy)

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  9,464 ratings  ·  182 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.
Paperback, 229 pages
Published November 29th 2000 by Adamant Media Corporation (first published 1791)
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Chelsea Emery Yes, Thomas Paine was from England and wrote in English

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Jon Nakapalau
Under what circumstances is political revolution permissible? What should the people do when a government no longer safeguards the rights of all classes? I look at the turmoil that is going on in America right now and wish that our elected officials would read this book; perhaps this old ideological 'midwife' could help our country now - as it labors to give birth to our future.
Sean Barrs
“The World is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion.”

The ruling governments have no special rights; they have no privileges and they have no entitlements. At least, they ought not to have according to Paine. For him the government exists to serve; it has a duty to its nation the same way a solider or a peacekeeper may have. And if they break that duty, if they become corrupt, then it is our moral right to call for revolution.

“Whatever is my right as a man
· Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France, 1790
· Thomas Paine, Rights of Man, 1791

These two pamphlets represent the premier bare-knuckle political prize-fight of its time. In the blue corner – Irish statesman and Whig grandee, aesthetic theorist and small-C conservative, it's the Dublin Dynamo, Edmund ‘Berserk’ Burke. And in the red corner – the stay-maker's son from rural Norfolk, the world's first true international revolutionary, delivering the right hooks of man, it's Thomas ‘
Robert Owen
Oct 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-history
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
Dannii Elle
Paine’s political manifesto details how governments and hierarchies are, in his opinion, corrupt, as they rely on the power of a few rather than of everyone equally. He devises a plan where the elite few, who often gain power through birth rights, to have their control abolished and a democratic, representative and equal community created in its place, where every person has an equal say and an equal part in the running of the community. Power to all or power to none!

The latter part of this refo
Dec 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: aere-perennius, 2012
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
Kate Woods Walker
Feb 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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
Michael Cabus
Oct 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Thomas Paine lived in the town I live in, in New Jersey. It's the town he lived the longest in, and was affectionate for it, once writing while in France that he wished he was home in Bordentown and that he missed his horse buttons.

Despite his affection there is scant evidence or memorial; no Thomas Paine day, no historical tours..just a statue in a park. Even in statue Paine looks poised for action, like a sort of contained energy in marble.

Writing is also a still art form, there within a mome
Ben Lever
Apr 02, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics
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
John Doyle
Jul 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, philosophy
The Rights of Man is a political masterwork that lays bare the bankruptcy of governments and political systems that derive their authority from any other source than the People. In his time, Paine was specifically eviscerating monarchies (i.e. 18th century Britain) that established themselves through military conquest and then claimed legitimacy over generations based on biology. By contrast, the revolutions in America and France had established the primacy of the nation (i.e. the People) to def ...more
Sean Chick
Aug 12, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Ian Ayris
Apr 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Years ahead of his time, the all too unknown Englishman, Thomas Paine - from Thetford, Norfolk - had a large hand in setting out the constitutions for both the French Revolution and the newly formed country of America. Rights of Man is Paine's political treatise - a reply to the insanely monarchical English philosopher, Edmund Burke - wherein he sets out his view for a new politics - basically inventing the idea of a fair tax system, pensions, welfare benefits for the poor and needy, and blastin ...more
Nandini Goel
Feb 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
“Rights of Man by Thomas Paine” is an excellent piece of work where Paine focuses on the flaws and ascendancies of one type of government over the other.
In the first part, Paine discusses about the various rights of man where he says that men are all of one degree and consequently all men are born equal with equal natural right and every child born into the world must be considered as deriving its existence from god.
After that Paine put forwards his inputs by condemning Mr Burke with whose writ
Toni Daugherty
Nov 02, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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!
R.K. Byers
Nov 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing
perhaps the most amazing thing about this treastie on freedom is that it's dedicated to my favorite slave-owner, George Washington!
Natural rights are nonsense on stilts. Still, Paine’s attacks on monarchy and privilege are fun.
Oct 29, 2018 rated it it was ok
I read this following reading Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France as it is Paine’s response to that work. I was honestly surprised that I disagreed more with Paine’s ideas (on which my own government is at least in part based) than with Burke’s. I did not agree with the philosophical foundation for Paine’s ideas - Rousseau, Locke, and others. And the historical results of the French Revolution fail to match with what Paine was sure would happen when these ideas were implemented as th ...more
Thomas Paine was an Englishman, participated in the American Revolution and wrote this book in 1792 from the homonymous declaration coming out of the French revolution to defend these principles. A little book, very well written, well-argued, where it theorizes what the liberals who made the revolutions of this century that is the world today in the West. So he says it would end all wars and the money spent on them would use with older people, children's education, health, country roads, etc.
Thomas Ray
Thomas Paine, Rights of Man (1792). Abridged from 90,000 down to 7200 words by Glyn Hughes in this pdf:

Paine justly knocks monarchy. He supposes representative government will abolish many of the world's ills. Sadly, no.

England had Rule by Landowner enshrined in law.

The 21st century world is increasingly ruled by an aristocracy of wealth. As Noam Chomsky explains in Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky, real power is in the private economy. Corporat
3.5 stars
When I did a political compass test once, they showed my results in contrast to a bunch of famous people and political thinkers. And my results came up very close to Thomas Paine. Not having read him before, I was curious and decided to find out whether this close overlap was really as close as the compass results made them.

The answer to that question, as I discovered here, is: sort of. Paine´s views on religion aren´t so different to mine (not discussed in this book though) but while
Jul 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Written in response to Edmund Burke's "Reflections on the French Revolution," Paine obliterates the ideology of monarchical government. I probably should have read Burke's piece first to get a better understanding of Paine's counter-arguments, but this still provides a solid philosophical analysis of the role of government and the origin of sovereignty. He even goes to the length that countries start wars to increase their coffers from taxes, an interesting position I had not considered before. ...more
Tom Lowe
Jan 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
If you really want to fully understand the American Revolution and what we were fighting against, I recommend you read this amazing book. Paine analyzes, in full detail, the societies and governments of The United States, Britain, and post-revolutionary France. The monarchy and aristocracy of Britain suffers the most from the pen of Thomas Paine. It truly was an evil empire we were up against. The landed gentry of England was relatively tax free, compared to the tax burden laid on the merchants, ...more
Matt Smart
May 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
I knew nothing of the French Revolution so I was pleased to see that Paine actually explains much of the situation within his rebuttal of Edmond Burke.

While I feel like I missed half the story by skipping over Burke’s original essay, I think Paine makes a compelling case for the abandonment of a hereditary government.

TRoM is organized really well so even someone of my ignorance of 18th century writings could follow along with his arguments.
Guy Sandison
Apr 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Two very different books, bound as one.

The first considering when it’s permissible to overthrow governments, and what guise government should take, and on what principles it should be constituted.

The second, asking what should government actually do, with a plan to both cut taxes for the majority and increase spending on the oppressed.

A clear, relatively easy to read summary of classical Liberalism.
Jeremy Egerer
Oct 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A masterpiece of political literature that deserves to be read by every American. Essentially beginning as a refutation of Burke's confusing, backward Reflections on the Revolution in France, it ends as a treatise about why governments exist and how they ought to behave. Thomas Paine is a saint.
Jan 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
A lot of really important and relevant information is in this book. Paine gets a little lost in breaking down numbers of the history of taxation in part 2 but other than that, this is an essential read especially considering our current political climate.
Nov 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
"my country is the world, and my religion is to do good."
May 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

I would not want to be on the receiving end of the retort, as Mr. Burke was. Systematically and convincingly, Paine moves from point to point and utterly destroys all of Burkes arguments, making Burke look the fool. In so doing, Paine provides the basis for the government by which America was founded, most strikingly in his stance that "all men are created equal", a phrase which the founders borrowed exactly. More then this however, his general argument, that the government should for the co
Daniel Hageman
Good context having first read Levin's Great Debate. Though, I wouldn't read this without also reading Levin's work, if only for the sake of hearing Burke's legitimate points of view on Paine's shortcoming when it comes to the practicality of government setup.
May 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
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Thomas Paine 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 corset maker by trade, a journalist ...more

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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.” 759 likes
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