The Rights of Man HTML version

Part I. Being An Answer To Mr. Burke's Attack On The
French Revolution
Editor's Introduction
WHEN Thomas Paine sailed from America for France, in April, 1787, he was perhaps as
happy a man as any in the world. His most intimate friend, Jefferson, was Minister at
Paris, and his friend Lafayette was the idol of France. His fame had preceded him, and he
at once became, in Paris, the centre of the same circle of savants and philosophers that
had surrounded Franklin. His main reason for proceeding at once to Paris was that he
might submit to the Academy of Sciences his invention of an iron bridge, and with its
favorable verdict he came to England, in September. He at once went to his aged mother
at Thetford, leaving with a publisher (Ridgway), his " Prospects on the Rubicon." He next
made arrangements to patent his bridge, and to construct at Rotherham the large model of
it exhibited on Paddington Green, London. He was welcomed in England by leading
statesmen, such as Lansdowne and Fox, and above all by Edmund Burke, who for some
time had him as a guest at Beaconsfield, and drove him about in various parts of the
country. He had not the slightest revolutionary purpose, either as regarded England or
France. Towards Louis XVI. he felt only gratitude for the services he had rendered
America, and towards George III. he felt no animosity whatever. His four months'
sojourn in Paris had convinced him that there was approaching a reform of that country
after the American model, except that the Crown would be preserved, a compromise he
approved, provided the throne should not be hereditary. Events in France travelled more
swiftly than he had anticipated, and Paine was summoned by Lafayette, Condorcet, and
others, as an adviser in the formation of a new constitution.
Such was the situation immediately preceding the political and literary duel between
Paine and Burke, which in the event turned out a tremendous war between Royalism and
Republicanism in Europe. Paine was, both in France and in England, the inspirer of
moderate counsels. Samuel Rogers relates that in early life he dined at a friend's house in
London with Thomas Paine, when one of the toasts given was the " memory of Joshua,"-
in allusion to the Hebrew leader's conquest of the kings of Canaan, and execution of
them. Paine observed that he would not treat kings like Joshua. " I 'm of the Scotch
parson's opinion," he said, "when he prayed against Louis XIV.-`Lord, shake him over
the mouth of hell, but don't let him drop! ' " Paine then gave as his toast, " The Republic
of the World,"-which Samuel Rogers, aged twenty-nine, noted as a sublime idea. This
was Paine's faith and hope, and with it he confronted the revolutionary storms which
presently burst over France and England.
Until Burke's arraignment of France in his parliamentary speech (February 9, 1790),
Paine had no doubt whatever that he would sympathize with the movement in France,
and wrote to him from that country as if conveying glad tidings. Burke's " Reflections on