The Rights of Man HTML version
Rights Of Man
Among the incivilities by which nations or individuals provoke and irritate each other,
Mr. Burke's pamphlet on the French Revolution is an extraordinary instance. Neither the
People of France, nor the National Assembly, were troubling themselves about the affairs
of England, or the English Parliament; and that Mr. Burke should commence an
unprovoked attack upon them, both in Parliament and in public, is a conduct that cannot
be pardoned on the score of manners, nor justified on that of policy.
There is scarcely an epithet of abuse to be found in the English language, with which Mr.
Burke has not loaded the French Nation and the National Assembly. Everything which
rancour, prejudice, ignorance or knowledge could suggest, is poured forth in the copious
fury of near four hundred pages. In the strain and on the plan Mr. Burke was writing, he
might have written on to as many thousands. When the tongue or the pen is let loose in a
frenzy of passion, it is the man, and not the subject, that becomes exhausted.
Hitherto Mr. Burke has been mistaken and disappointed in the opinions he had formed of
the affairs of France; but such is the ingenuity of his hope, or the malignancy of his
despair, that it furnishes him with new pretences to go on. There was a time when it was
impossible to make Mr. Burke believe there would be any Revolution in France. His
opinion then was, that the French had neither spirit to undertake it nor fortitude to support
it; and now that there is one, he seeks an escape by condemning it.
Not sufficiently content with abusing the National Assembly, a great part of his work is
taken up with abusing Dr. Price (one of the best-hearted men that lives) and the two
societies in England known by the name of the Revolution Society and the Society for
Dr. Price had preached a sermon on the 4th of November, 1789, being the anniversary of
what is called in England the Revolution, which took place 1688. Mr. Burke, speaking of
this sermon, says: "The political Divine proceeds dogmatically to assert, that by the
principles of the Revolution, the people of England have acquired three fundamental
1. To choose our own governors.
2. To cashier them for misconduct.
3. To frame a government for ourselves."
Dr. Price does not say that the right to do these things exists in this or in that person, or in
this or in that description of persons, but that it exists in the whole; that it is a right
resident in the nation. Mr. Burke, on the contrary, denies that such a right exists in the
nation, either in whole or in part, or that it exists anywhere; and, what is still more strange
and marvellous, he says: "that the people of England utterly disclaim such a right, and
that they will resist the practical assertion of it with their lives and fortunes." That men