The Rights of Man HTML version
Paine's Preface To The English Edition
From the part Mr. Burke took in the American Revolution, it was natural that I should
consider him a friend to mankind; and as our acquaintance commenced on that ground, it
would have been more agreeable to me to have had cause to continue in that opinion than
to change it.
At the time Mr. Burke made his violent speech last winter in the English Parliament
against the French Revolution and the National Assembly, I was in Paris, and had written
to him but a short time before to inform him how prosperously matters were going on.
Soon after this I saw his advertisement of the Pamphlet he intended to publish: As the
attack was to be made in a language but little studied, and less understood in France, and
as everything suffers by translation, I promised some of the friends of the Revolution in
that country that whenever Mr. Burke's Pamphlet came forth, I would answer it. This
appeared to me the more necessary to be done, when I saw the flagrant
misrepresentations which Mr. Burke's Pamphlet contains; and that while it is an
outrageous abuse on the French Revolution, and the principles of Liberty, it is an
imposition on the rest of the world.
I am the more astonished and disappointed at this conduct in Mr. Burke, as (from the
circumstances I am going to mention) I had formed other expectations.
I had seen enough of the miseries of war, to wish it might never more have existence in
the world, and that some other mode might be found out to settle the differences that
should occasionally arise in the neighbourhood of nations. This certainly might be done if
Courts were disposed to set honesty about it, or if countries were enlightened enough not
to be made the dupes of Courts. The people of America had been bred up in the same
prejudices against France, which at that time characterised the people of England; but
experience and an acquaintance with the French Nation have most effectually shown to
the Americans the falsehood of those prejudices; and I do not believe that a more cordial
and confidential intercourse exists between any two countries than between America and
When I came to France, in the spring of 1787, the Archbishop of Thoulouse was then
Minister, and at that time highly esteemed. I became much acquainted with the private
Secretary of that Minister, a man of an enlarged benevolent heart; and found that his
sentiments and my own perfectly agreed with respect to the madness of war, and the
wretched impolicy of two nations, like England and France, continually worrying each
other, to no other end than that of a mutual increase of burdens and taxes. That I might be
assured I had not misunderstood him, nor he me, I put the substance of our opinions into
writing and sent it to him; subjoining a request, that if I should see among the people of
England, any disposition to cultivate a better understanding between the two nations than
had hitherto prevailed, how far I might be authorised to say that the same disposition
prevailed on the part of France? He answered me by letter in the most unreserved
manner, and that not for himself only, but for the Minister, with whose knowledge the
letter was declared to be written.