Rights of Man Background

Rights of Man Background

Rights of Man was a book that was written by Thomas Paine and published in 1791 and 1792. It was published in two sections separately, one in each of those years. Rights of Man contains 31 articles that center around the ideal that popular political revolution is natural and right when the government isn’t protecting the people and doing its job. This book used these ideas to defend the ideals of the French Revolution.

Thomas Paine was a political activist, revolutionary, philosopher, and author. He wrote a few pamphlets during the start of the American Revolution that really stirred up the rebels. A lot of his work revolved around natural human rights. Paine, among many other English philosophers, supported the French Revolution and even visited France a year after it began. Edmund Burke, a conservative intellectual, did not approve of the French Revolution, and his counter-revolutionary attack was extremely appealing to the classes that held land ownership and was an instant success for those classes. Paine’s work, though its publication was delayed, became more popular than Burke’s and many people read it.

In Rights of Man, Paine writes that the people and their monarch should have united interests and goals, and that the people are entitled to overthrow the government if this unity is not satisfied. In this light, the French Revolution is not despotic and mob-like and full of purposeless violence. The acts of the entire French monarchy, not just Louis XVI, are to blame for the revolution, and he describes the storming of the Bastille, an important prison in Paris, as the simultaneous destruction of despotism.

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