Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Thomas Paine, best known for his works Common Sense (1776) and The American Crisis (1776-1783), turns his attention to the French Revolution in Rights of Man. The book was written during a two-year period, during which Paine participated in the revolution as a member of the French National Assembly. Rights of Man comprises several books that transcend the revolution by examining the nature of human rights and the potential for nations to secure peace through the adoption of governments based on these rights. These discussions make the book an object of continuing interest.
Rights of Man is divided into two parts. Part 1 is chiefly a reply to an attack on the French Revolution made by British politician Edmund Burke in his work Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790). Part 2 presents a discussion of the principles of government, advocating the constitutional republic that the French Revolution had sought to establish.
Part 1, dedicated to U.S. president George Washington, presents a main essay after a brief preface. In the essay, Paine points out a number of errors made by Burke about the French Revolution. Paine’s argument is somewhat disjointed, as he moves from point to point, replying to different parts of Burke’s essay. Paine primarily describes the consequences of his fundamental disagreement with Burke on the origin of the English monarchy. Burke claims that England’s...
(The entire section is 1334 words.)
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