The Rights of Man HTML version
When I began the chapter entitled the "Conclusion" in the former part of the RIGHTS OF
MAN, published last year, it was my intention to have extended it to a greater length; but
in casting the whole matter in my mind, which I wish to add, I found that it must either
make the work too bulky, or contract my plan too much. I therefore brought it to a close
as soon as the subject would admit, and reserved what I had further to say to another
Several other reasons contributed to produce this determination. I wished to know the
manner in which a work, written in a style of thinking and expression different to what
had been customary in England, would be received before I proceeded farther. A great
field was opening to the view of mankind by means of the French Revolution. Mr.
Burke's outrageous opposition thereto brought the controversy into England. He attacked
principles which he knew (from information) I would contest with him, because they are
principles I believe to be good, and which I have contributed to establish, and conceive
myself bound to defend. Had he not urged the controversy, I had most probably been a
Another reason for deferring the remainder of the work was, that Mr. Burke promised in
his first publication to renew the subject at another opportunity, and to make a
comparison of what he called the English and French Constitutions. I therefore held
myself in reserve for him. He has published two works since, without doing this: which
he certainly would not have omitted, had the comparison been in his favour.
In his last work, his "Appeal from the New to the Old Whigs," he has quoted about ten
pages from the RIGHTS OF MAN, and having given himself the trouble of doing this,
says he "shall not attempt in the smallest degree to refute them," meaning the principles
therein contained. I am enough acquainted with Mr. Burke to know that he would if he
could. But instead of contesting them, he immediately after consoles himself with saying
that "he has done his part."- He has not done his part. He has not performed his promise
of a comparison of constitutions. He started the controversy, he gave the challenge, and
has fled from it; and he is now a case in point with his own opinion that "the age of
chivalry is gone!"
The title, as well as the substance of his last work, his "Appeal," is his condemnation.
Principles must stand on their own merits, and if they are good they certainly will. To put
them under the shelter of other men's authority, as Mr. Burke has done, serves to bring
them into suspicion. Mr. Burke is not very fond of dividing his honours, but in this case
he is artfully dividing the disgrace.
But who are those to whom Mr. Burke has made his appeal? A set of childish thinkers,
and half-way politicians born in the last century, men who went no farther with any
principle than as it suited their purposes as a party; the nation was always left out of the
question; and this has been the character of every party from that day to this. The nation