Title page from the first edition
|Subject||The French Revolution|
Rights of Man (1791), a book by Thomas Paine, including 31 articles, posits that popular political revolution is permissible when a government does not safeguard the natural rights of its people. Using these points as a base it defends the French Revolution against Edmund Burke's attack in Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790).
Thomas Paine was an English-born American political activist, philosopher, political theorist, and revolutionary. One of the Founding Fathers of the United States, he authored the two most influential pamphlets at the start of the American Revolution and inspired the patriots in 1776 to declare independence from Britain. His ideas reflected Enlightenment-era ideals of transnational human rights. Historian Saul K. Padover described him as "a corsetmaker by trade, a journalist by profession, and a propagandist by inclination".
The French Revolution was a period of far-reaching social and political upheaval in France and its colonies beginning in 1789. The Revolution overthrew the monarchy, established a republic, catalyzed violent periods of political turmoil, and finally culminated in a dictatorship under Napoleon who brought many of its principles to areas he conquered in Western Europe and beyond. Inspired by liberal and radical ideas, the Revolution profoundly altered the course of modern history, triggering the global decline of absolute monarchies while replacing them with republics and liberal democracies. Through the Revolutionary Wars, it unleashed a wave of global conflicts that extended from the Caribbean to the Middle East. Historians widely regard the Revolution as one of the most important events in human history.
Edmund Burke was an Irish statesman born in Dublin, as well as an author, orator, political theorist and philosopher, who after moving to London in 1750 served as a member of parliament (MP) between 1766 and 1794 in the House of Commons with the Whig Party.
It was published in two parts in March 1791 and February 1792.
Paine was a very strong supporter of the French Revolution that began in 1789; he visited France the following year. Many English thinkers supported it, including Richard Price, who initiated the Revolution Controversy with his sermon and pamphlet drawing favourable parallels between the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and the French Revolution. Conservative intellectual Edmund Burke responded with a counter-revolutionary attack entitled Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790), which strongly appealed to the landed class and sold 30,000 copies.Paine's Rights of Man was printed by Joseph Johnson for publication on 21 February 1791, then withdrawn for fear of prosecution. J. S. Jordan stepped in and published it on 16 March. The 90,000-word book appeared on 13 March, three weeks later than scheduled. It sold as many as one million copies and was "eagerly read by reformers, Protestant dissenters, democrats, London craftsman, and the skilled factory-hands of the new industrial north".
Richard Price was a Welsh moral philosopher, nonconformist preacher and mathematician. He was also a political pamphleteer, active in radical, republican, and liberal causes such as the American Revolution. He was well-connected and fostered communication between a large number of people, including several of the Founding Fathers of the United States.
The Revolution Controversy was a British debate over the French Revolution, lasting from 1789 through 1795. A pamphlet war began in earnest after the publication of Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790), which surprisingly supported the French aristocracy. Because he had supported the American colonists in their rebellion against England, his views sent a shock-wave through the country. Many writers responded, defending the revolution in France, among them Thomas Paine, Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin. Alfred Cobban calls the debate that erupted "perhaps the last real discussion of the fundamentals of politics" in Britain. The themes articulated by those responding to Burke would become a central feature of the radical working-class movement in Britain in the 19th century and of Romanticism. Most Britons celebrated the storming of the Bastille in 1789, believing that France's monarchy should be curtailed by a more democratic form of government. However, by December 1795, after the Reign of Terror and war with France, there were few who still supported the French cause.
The Glorious Revolution, also called the Revolution of 1688, was the overthrow of King James II of England by a union of English Parliamentarians with the Dutch stadtholder William III, Prince of Orange, who was James's nephew and son-in-law. William's successful invasion of England with a Dutch fleet and army led to his ascension to the throne as William III of England jointly with his wife, Mary II, James's daughter, after the Declaration of Right, leading to the Bill of Rights 1689.
Paine argues that the interests of the monarch and his people are united, and insists that the French Revolution should be understood as one which attacks the despotic principles of the French monarchy, not the king himself, and he takes the Bastille, the main prison in Paris, to symbolise the despotism that had been overthrown.
The Bastille was a fortress in Paris, known formally as the Bastille Saint-Antoine. It played an important role in the internal conflicts of France and for most of its history was used as a state prison by the kings of France. It was stormed by a crowd on 14 July 1789, in the French Revolution, becoming an important symbol for the French Republican movement, and was later demolished and replaced by the Place de la Bastille.
Despotism is a form of government in which a single entity rules with absolute power. Normally, that entity is an individual, the despot, as in an autocracy, but societies which limit respect and power to specific groups have also been called despotic.
Human rights originate in Nature; thus, rights cannot be granted via political charter, because that implies that rights are legally revocable, hence, would be privileges:
Natural and legal rights are two types of rights. Natural rights are those that are not dependent on the laws or customs of any particular culture or government, and so are universal and inalienable Legal rights are those bestowed onto a person by a given legal system.
... It is a perversion of terms to say that a charter gives rights. It operates by a contrary effect—that of taking rights away. Rights are inherently in all the inhabitants; but charters, by annulling those rights, in the majority, leave the right, by exclusion, in the hands of a few ... They ... consequently are instruments of injustice ... The fact, therefore, must be that the individuals, themselves, each, in his own personal and sovereign right, entered into a contract with each other to produce a government: and this is the only mode in which governments have a right to arise, and the only principle on which they have a right to exist.
Government's sole purpose is safeguarding the individual and his/her inherent, inalienable rights; each societal institution that does not benefit the nation is illegitimate—especially monarchy and aristocracy. The book's acumen derives from the Age of Enlightenment and has been linked to the Second Treatise of Government, by John Locke (even though Paine himself claimed to have never read this work).
The Age of Enlightenment was an intellectual and philosophical movement that dominated the world of ideas in Europe during the 18th century, the "Century of Philosophy".
John Locke was an English philosopher and physician, widely regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers and commonly known as the "Father of Liberalism". Considered one of the first of the British empiricists, following the tradition of Sir Francis Bacon, he is equally important to social contract theory. His work greatly affected the development of epistemology and political philosophy. His writings influenced Voltaire and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, many Scottish Enlightenment thinkers, as well as the American revolutionaries. His contributions to classical republicanism and liberal theory are reflected in the United States Declaration of Independence.
The fuller development of this position seems to have been worked out one night in France after an evening spent with Thomas Jefferson, and possibly Lafayette, discussing a pamphlet by the Philadelphia conservative James Wilson on the proposed federal constitution.
Rights of Man concludes in proposing practical reformations of English government: a written Constitution composed by a national assembly, in the American mould; the elimination of aristocratic titles, because democracy is incompatible with primogeniture, which leads to the despotism of the family; a national budget without allotted military and war expenses; lower taxes for the poor, and subsidised education for them; and a progressive income tax weighted against wealthy estates to prevent the re-emergence of a hereditary aristocracy.
Principally, Rights of Man opposes the idea of hereditary government—the belief that dictatorial government is necessary, because of man's corrupt, essential nature. In Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790) Edmund Burke says that true social stability arises if the nation's poor majority are governed by a minority of wealthy aristocrats, and that lawful inheritance of power (wealth, religious, governing) ensured the propriety of political power being the exclusive domain of the nation's élite social class—the nobility.
Rights of Man denounces Burke's assertion of the nobility's inherent hereditary wisdom; countering the implication that a nation has not a right to form a Government for governing itself. Paine refutes Burke's definition of Government as "a contrivance of human wisdom". Instead, Paine argues that Government is a contrivance of man, and it follows that hereditary succession and hereditary rights to govern cannot compose a Government—because the wisdom to govern cannot be inherited.
Edmund Burke's counter-revolutionary Reflections on the French Revolution delineates the legitimacy of aristocratic government to the 1688 Parliamentary resolution declaring William and Mary of Orange—and their heirs—to be the true rulers of England. Paine puts forward two arguments against this view. Firstly, he argues that "Every age and generation must be as free to act for itself in all cases as the age and generations which preceded it." Secondly, Paine counters that the institution of monarchy should not be historically traced from 1688, but from 1066, when William of Normandy forcibly imposed his Norman rule upon Englishmen.
Thomas Paine's intellectual influence is perceptible in the two great political revolutions of the eighteenth century. He dedicated Rights of Man to George Washington and to the Marquis de Lafayette, acknowledging the importance of the American and the French revolutions in his formulating the principles of modern democratic governance.
Thus, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen (Déclaration des droits de l'Homme et du citoyen) can be encapsulated so: (1) Men are born, and always continue, free and equal in respect of their rights. Civil distinctions, therefore, can be founded only on public utility; (2) The end of all political associations is the preservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of man; and these rights are liberty, property, security, and resistance of oppression; and (3) The nation is essentially the source of all sovereignty; neither can any individual, nor any body of men, be entitled to any authority, which is not expressly derived from it.
These capsulations are akin to the self-evident truths concept that the U.S. Declaration of Independence expresses.
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In the closing chapters of Rights of Man, Paine addresses the condition of the poor and outlines a detailed social welfare proposal predicated upon the redirection of government expenditures.From the onset, Paine asserts all citizens have an inherent claim to welfare. Paine declares welfare is not charity, but an irrevocable right. Paine's understanding of welfare seemingly follows his idea of political government. He notes, "Man did not enter into society to become worse than he was before, nor to have fewer rights than he had before, but to have those rights better secured". In congruence with his previous works, Paine emphasizes the compatibility between individual rights and societal wellbeing. He fervently contends that crippling poverty undermines the rights of an individual, and consequently the legitimacy of government. Not surprisingly then, Paine staunchly opposed and criticizes the English Poor Laws in place at the time, claiming the laws are highly ineffective and primitive in nature. Paine critiques the societal conditions promulgated by the Poor Laws saying, "When in countries that are called civilized, we see age going to the workhouse and youth to the gallows, something must be wrong with the system of government". He argues for their complete abolition, and in their place the enactment of a welfare program that assists the young, old, and struggling individuals. Paine's welfare proposal is pillared by education and tax reform. Paine contends the poor population consists mostly of children and the elderly, who are unable to participate in the workforce. In addition to the elderly and children, Paine also concedes that there are still some others rendered poor from the economic burden of tax and children. In accordance with his belief that charity as a natural right, Paine presumes only republican or democratic regimes can effectively carry out successful welfare programs. Though Paine does not directly condone or promote up-rise against the British monarchy, and utilizes rather subdued rhetoric in comparison to his other controversial works, revolutionary currents run beneath the surface of the text.
An implication that arises from Paine's social welfare reformation is cost. Paine observes, at the time of his writing, England's rough population to be about 7 million people.He also supposes that around one-fifth of the population is poor. The number of poor then, according to Paine's estimations, would total around 1,400,000 people, in need of support. Paine contended the remedy for financing such a large welfare endeavor would be to cut military expenditures of the state and redirect the funds towards the people of the state. Paine argued that since the age of revolution rendered a new era of peace, the government no longer need devote so many resources toward monarchical wars. Instead, Paine suggests, the surplus of tax revenue could be reintegrated back into society with the formation of a welfare program. He also estimates that near £4 million, out of £17 million in total tax revenues from customs and excise duties, could be salvaged from the government's expenditure and redirected and redistributed to the people of the nation. Paine questions, "Is it, then, better that the lives of one hundred and forty thousand aged persons be rendered comfortable, or that a million a year of public money be expended on any one individual, and him often of the most worthless or insignificant character?" Paine concludes that by his model £3,640,000 will be remitted to the poor.
Education is a foundational cornerstone of Paine's welfare plan. Paine claims, "A nation under a well-regulated government, should permit none to remain uninstructed".Paine largely focuses on educating the youth population. He contends that, educating children will ultimately compel the betterment of society holistically. Paine insists a proactive social welfare system that educates the country's youth, will act as a preventive measure, and engender greater knowledge amongst the population. He explains that poor children and young people are typically deprived of equal access to education. Poor children coming from poor families are often forced to seek apprenticeships and work, and are thus subsequently robbed of the ability to pursue education. Poverty then, becomes cyclical in nature and undoubtedly increases with time. Lack of education amongst the young population, Paine asserts, will also lead to increased violence and crime. To combat this problem, Paine proposes a remission of taxes to poor families; £4 a year for every child under the age of 14, granting the parents of the children send them to school. For 630,000 children, Paine estimates the cost to be £2,520,000. Paine states, "By adopting this method, not only the poverty of the parents will be relieved, but ignorance will be banished from the rising generation, and the number of poor will hereafter become less, because their abilities, by the aid of education, will be greater". In the same vein, Paine also suggest women should receive maternity benefits immediately after the birth of a child.
Paramount to Paine's welfare plan, is care of the elderly population. Paine divides age into two classes; the first he calls "the approach of age" class and the second "old age" class.Those classified as being in the "approach of age" group are over fifty years of age yet under 60 years of age, while "old age" commences at the age of sixty years old. Paine notes that though individuals in the approach of age class retain their mental faculties, the decline of their physical health limits their ability to work, which consequently affects their earnings. Those of old age, Paine declares, are fully incapable of laborious work and are ultimately driven to work themselves to death in current society. Paine resolves to pay approach of age persons the sum of £6 per annum out of the surplus taxes, and to pay old age persons £10 per annum. Figuring there will be 70,000 persons in the approach of age class and 70,000 persons in the old age class, Paine estimates the expense to be 1,120,000.
In tandem with redirecting government expenditures, Paine suggests the development of what some may call a "workhouse", or place of employment for poor people.Paine's describes the workhouse as being a building, or buildings, with the capability of holding a minimum of 6,000 people. In these buildings, operating businesses would indiscriminately accept applications, so that every city citizen could find employment. In order for Paine's plan to be carried out effectively, he cites some conditions that must be met. He resolves that each person seeking employment from these workhouses must stay in the program for a minimum of three months; however, during their residency all employees shall receive wholesome meals, warm lodgings, receive a proportional stipend for the work they've completed, and may work as long or as little as they deem appropriate. The asylum, Paine declares, would assist any persons in temporary distress and would serve around 24,000 people a year. To finance the development of this project, Paine suggest using the revenue from the state's coal tax. Paine states that at the time he is writing, the tax revenue is used to support the Duke of Richmond. Paine ultimately finds this particular deplorable, and calls for the reallocation of coal tax funds back to the people.
Paine concludes his section on welfare by listing the eight central tenets of his welfare proposal, or what he calls the "enumerating particulars", which are as follows:
1.) Abolish 2 million poor rates.
2.) Provision for 252,000 poor families.
3.) Education for 1,030,000 children.
4.) Comfortable provision for 140,000 aged persons.
5.) Donation of 20 shillings each for 50,000 births.
6.) Donation of 20 shillings each for 20,000 marriages.
7.) Allowance of £20,000 for the funeral expenses of deceased travelers far from home.
8.) Employment at all times for the casual poor in cities.
According to Mark Philp, "In many respects Rights of Man is a disordered mix of narrative, principled argument, and rhetorical appeal—betraying the composite materials Paine used and the speed with which it was composed."
It was quickly reprinted and widely circulated, with copies being read aloud in inns and coffee houses, so that by May some 50,000 copies were said to be in circulation. Of the 300 or more pamphlets which the revolution controversy spawned, Rights of Man was the first to seriously damage Burke's case and to restore credit to the French both in Britain and America.
The publication of Rights of Man caused a furore in England; Paine was tried in absentia, and convicted of seditious libel against the Crown, but was unavailable for hanging, being in France and never returning to England. (Sir Archibald Macdonald, 1st Baronet served as the prosecutor.)
Thomas Paine was not the only advocate of the rights of man or the only author of a work titled Rights of Man. The working-class radical, Thomas Spence, is among the first, in England, to use the phrase as a title. His 1775 lecture, usually titled The Rights of Man, and his later The Rights of Infants, offer a proto-geoist take on political philosophy mirroring Paine's work Agrarian Justice.Paine's acquaintance Mary Wollstonecraft, whom he met via their common publisher, wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Men as one of the very first responses to Burke's attack on Richard Price. Her work was in print in December 1790, and was well reviewed. She extended the arguments in the book for which she is best remembered, the 1792 A Vindication of the Rights of Woman .
The Age of Reason; Being an Investigation of True and Fabulous Theology is a work by English and American political activist Thomas Paine, arguing for the philosophical position of Deism. It follows in the tradition of eighteenth-century British deism, and challenges institutionalized religion and the legitimacy of the Bible. It was published in three parts in 1794, 1795, and 1807.
Social justice is a concept of fair and just relations between the individual and society. This is measured by the explicit and tacit terms for the distribution of wealth, opportunities for personal activity, and social privileges. In Western as well as in older Asian cultures, the concept of social justice has often referred to the process of ensuring that individuals fulfill their societal roles and receive what was their due from society. In the current global grassroots movements for social justice, the emphasis has been on the breaking of barriers for social mobility, the creation of safety nets and economic justice.
The English Poor Laws were a system of poor relief which existed in England and Wales that developed out of late-medieval and Tudor-era laws being codified in 1587–98. The Poor Law system was in existence until the emergence of the modern welfare state after the Second World War.
Common Sense was a pamphlet written by Thomas Paine in 1775–76 advocating independence from Great Britain to people in the Thirteen Colonies. Writing in clear and persuasive prose, Paine marshaled moral and political arguments to encourage common people in the Colonies to fight for egalitarian government. It was published anonymously on January 10, 1776, at the beginning of the American Revolution, and became an immediate sensation.
The welfare state is a form of government in which the state protects and promotes the economic and social well-being of the citizens, based upon the principles of equal opportunity, equitable distribution of wealth, and public responsibility for citizens unable to avail themselves of the minimal provisions for a good life. Historically, late-19th-century Imperial Germany (1871–1918) was the first welfare state, which Chancellor Otto von Bismark established with the social-welfare legislation that extended the privileges of the Junker social class to ordinary Germans. Sociologist T. H. Marshall described the modern welfare state as a distinctive combination of democracy, welfare, and capitalism.
Welfare is a type of government support for the citizens of that society. Welfare may be provided to people of any income level, as with social security, but it is usually intended to ensure that the poor can meet their basic human needs such as food and shelter. Welfare attempts to provide poor people with a minimal level of well-being, usually either a free- or a subsidized-supply of certain goods and social services, such as healthcare, education, and vocational training.
Hannah More was an English religious writer and philanthropist, remembered as a poet and playwright in the circle of Johnson, Reynolds and Garrick, as a writer on moral and religious subjects, and as a practical philanthropist. Born in Bristol, she taught at a school established there by her father and began writing plays. She became involved with the London literary elite as a leading Bluestocking member. Her plays and poetry became more evangelical and she joined a group campaigning against the slave trade. In the 1790s she wrote several Cheap Repository Tracts on moral, religious and political topics, for distribution to the literate poor. Meanwhile, she did increasing philanthropic work in the Mendip area, encouraged by William Wilberforce.
Reflections on the Revolution in France is a political pamphlet written by the Irish statesman Edmund Burke and published in November 1790. One of the best-known intellectual attacks against the French Revolution, Reflections is a defining tract of modern conservatism as well as an important contribution to international theory. Above all else, it has been one of the defining efforts of Edmund Burke's transformation of "traditionalism into a self-conscious and fully conceived political philosophy of conservatism".
The Poor Law Amendment Act 1834 (PLAA), known widely as the New Poor Law, was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom passed by the Whig government of Earl Grey. It completely replaced earlier legislation based on the Poor Law of 1601 and attempted to fundamentally change the poverty relief system in England and Wales. It resulted from the 1832 Royal Commission into the Operation of the Poor Laws, which included Edwin Chadwick, John Bird Sumner and Nassau William Senior. Chadwick was dissatisfied with the law that resulted from his report. The Act was passed two years after the 1832 Reform Act extended the franchise to middle class men. Some historians have argued that this was a major factor in the PLAA being passed.
A Vindication of the Rights of Men, in a Letter to the Right Honourable Edmund Burke; Occasioned by His Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790) is a political pamphlet, written by the 18th-century British liberal feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, which attacks aristocracy and advocates republicanism. Wollstonecraft's was the first response in a pamphlet war sparked by the publication of Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790), a defense of constitutional monarchy, aristocracy, and the Church of England.
The 1794 Treason Trials, arranged by the administration of William Pitt, were intended to cripple the British radical movement of the 1790s. Over thirty radicals were initially arrested; three were tried for high treason: Thomas Hardy, John Horne Tooke and John Thelwall. In a repudiation of the government's policies, they were acquitted by three separate juries in November 1794 to great public rejoicing. The treason trials were an extension of the sedition trials of 1792 and 1793 against parliamentary reformers in both England and Scotland.
Enquiry Concerning Political Justice and its Influence on Morals and Happiness is a 1793 book by philosopher William Godwin, in which Godwin outlines his political philosophy. It is the first modern work to expound anarchism.
Welfare in France includes all systems whose purpose is to protect people against the financial consequences of social risks.
A House of Industry was established in Dublin by an act of parliament in 1703, "for the employment and maintaining the poor thereof." In 1729 the House of Industry became a foundling hospital as well. It was located at the present site of St. James's Hospital, James's Street, and included 14 acres (57,000 m2) of land. The upkeep of this institution was paid for through taxes levied on sedan chairs, hackney coaches and a House Tax applied throughout the city. After the tax was lifted on 5 January 1823, the workhouse was mainly supported through grants from the Irish Parliament.
Mark Philp is a British political philosopher and historian of political thought who specialises in British political thought in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. He has published books on Thomas Paine and on responses to the French Revolution in Britain.
The Royal Proclamation Against Seditious Writings and Publications was issued by George III of Great Britain on 21 May 1792 in response to the growth of radicalism in Britain inspired by the French Revolution, in particular the phenomenal popularity of Thomas Paine's Rights of Man.
The trial of Thomas Paine for seditious libel was held on 18 December 1792, in response to his publication of the second part of the Rights of Man. The government of William Pitt, worried by the possibility that the French Revolution might spread to England, had begun suppressing works that espoused radical philosophies.
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