The Rights of Man HTML version
Paine's Preface To The French Edition
The astonishment which the French Revolution has caused throughout Europe should be
considered from two different points of view: first as it affects foreign peoples, secondly
as it affects their governments.
The cause of the French people is that of all Europe, or rather of the whole world; but the
governments of all those countries are by no means favorable to it. It is important that we
should never lose sight of this distinction. We must not confuse the peoples with their
governments; especially not the English people with its government.
The government of England is no friend of the revolution of France. Of this we have
sufficient proofs in the thanks given by that weak and witless person, the Elector of
Hanover, sometimes called the King of England, to Mr. Burke for the insults heaped on it
in his book, and in the malevolent comments of the English Minister, Pitt, in his speeches
In spite of the professions of sincerest friendship found in the official correspondence of
the English government with that of France, its conduct gives the lie to all its
declarations, and shows us clearly that it is not a court to be trusted, but an insane court,
plunging in all the quarrels and intrigues of Europe, in quest of a war to satisfy its folly
and countenance its extravagance.
The English nation, on the contrary, is very favorably disposed towards the French
Revolution, and to the progress of liberty in the whole world; and this feeling will
become more general in England as the intrigues and artifices of its government are better
known, and the principles of the revolution better understood. The French should know
that most English newspapers are directly in the pay of government, or, if indirectly
connected with it, always under its orders; and that those papers constantly distort and
attack the revolution in France in order to deceive the nation. But, as it is impossible long
to prevent the prevalence of truth, the daily falsehoods of those papers no longer have the
To be convinced that the voice of truth has been stifled in England, the world needs only
to be told that the government regards and prosecutes as a libel that which it should
protect.* This outrage on morality is called law, and judges are found wicked enough
to inflict penalties on truth.
The English government presents, just now, a curious phenomenon. Seeing that the
French and English nations are getting rid of the prejudices and false notions formerly
entertained against each other, and which have cost them so much money, that
government seems to be placarding its need of a foe; for unless it finds one somewhere,
no pretext exists for the enormous revenue and taxation now deemed necessary.
Therefore it seeks in Russia the enemy it has lost in France, and appears to say to the
universe, or to say to itself. "If nobody will be so kind as to become my foe, I shall need