How did the Enlightenment and American revolution influence Thomas Paine's point of view of the French revolution in the book The Rights of Man?

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pholland14 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Paine was an outspoken supporter of the French Revolution.  In his work The Rights of Man, he stated that human rights originate in nature and that these cannot be taken away by the government.  To Paine, government only existed to safeguard the rights of the people, and when government ceased to do this, it should be abolished.  Paine's appeal to natural law restates what John Locke pointed out during the Enlightenment, and this thought appears again in the Declaration of Independence, one of the key documents of the American Revolution.  

Paine was against hereditary government as it did not always put the most qualified people in office—that is, the people who would best safeguard the liberties of the people.  Paine thought that turnover in government would ensure that the people's rights were safeguarded because leaders who ignored the people could be replaced.  While Paine met with criticism from conservatives such as Edmund Burke, who claimed that government stability was important because it kept the public from being swept away by its passions, Paine was very popular in America with men such as Thomas Jefferson, who put liberties ahead of social order. 

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Rights of Man

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