Last Updated on August 7, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 517
Important quotes from Rights of Man by Thomas Paine focus on the French Revolution, various forms of government, and the rights that people have by virtue of birth. Rights of Man was partially written as a response to Edmund Burke's criticisms of the French Revolution and partially written to espouse the principles of a constitutional republic.
The entire first part of Paine's essay is a response to Edmund Burke, a former friend of Paine who criticized the French Revolution. Paine writes:
There is scarcely an epithet of abuse to be found in the English language, with which Mr. Burke has not loaded the French Nation and the National Assembly. Everything which rancour, prejudice, ignorance or knowledge could suggest, is poured forth in the copious fury of near four hundred pages. In the strain and on the plan Mr. Burke was writing, he might have written on to as many thousands. When the tongue or the pen is let loose in a frenzy of passion, it is the man, and not the subject, that becomes exhausted.
He is clearly distressed by what Burke has said. Paine saw the French Revolution as something positive and reasonable. Burke believed it was irrational and violent. Most of the first part of Paine's work is spent discussing why he believes the revolution sprung from reason and not irrationality.
Though Paine is clearly in favor of a constitutional republic, he believes most strongly in the rights of the people to choose their own government. He says that "I am not contending for nor against any form of government, nor for nor against any party here or elsewhere. That which a whole nation chooses to do, it has a right to do." It's clear that to Paine, a government gets its power from the will of the people. He argues repeatedly in the essay against government power being derived from history or people no longer living.
One of the things that Paine advocates for is the government helping people who need it. He says:
Were twenty shillings to be given immediately on the birth of a child, to every woman who should make the demand, and none will make it whose circumstances do not require it, it might relieve a great deal of instant distress.
Paine believed that transitioning to a constitutional republic from a monarchy would save money by avoiding war. That money, he said, could go to help people who needed it. People don't exist alone. Rather, everyone is part of the same society and needs to work together for the betterment of the collective population.
Paine also advocates for countries working together to help people all over the world. He believes that it's the right thing to do. Paine says, "The World is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion." He doesn't see people as separate from him based on their nationalities. Though people have the right to choose their government by country, that doesn't mean that each country has to function separately. They can come together to do more good as a unit.