The Rights of Man – Thomas Paine

02 Sep

“…taxes are not raised to carry on wars, but that wars are raised to carry on taxes”

Every so often I get the urge to read one of those seminal books that have helped shape the world as we know it today. The Rights of Man definitely fits the bill in that respect.

The book is split into two parts, the first detailing the goings on of the French revolution and the second is a treatise on social reforms helping the common people actually live their lives and not just exist due to the whims of big business and politicians.

Having got this book as part of an epic birthday present containing many book related items, I had that certain fear of wondering how impenetrable the language would be, especially as this was by far the most Erudite book I received that year but a quick read reassured me it was all understandable.  Like usual and like i suspect most people, I did myself down for a while assuming it would go over my head when, lets face it we are all more intelligent than we give ourselves credit for…ego restored I read on…

Part one is a response to Irish politician Edmund Burke’s pamphlet, Reflections on the Revolution in France – which argued that the French Rev. would fail because it was based on abstract concepts –  and explains with a healthy amount of bias – in this readers eyes anyway – how noble the revolutionaries were and how bad the nobility had become. the latter, of course is undoubtedly true whereas the writings on the former make this band of radicals the most justified in history without any hint of atrocities which is really just to difficult to accept.

Part two, which was released a year later is a drier affair talking of social reforms, such as the introduction of social security, the abolition of a maximum wage, democracy and the safeguarding of certain rights that everybody should be entitled to.  Paine wanted everyone to be able to understand what he was saying and cause debate, so wrote the both parts in common language and not the needlessly flowery language so beloved by lawyers and politicians.  The British government actually tried the author for Treason, for his highly seditious act of wanting the public to have proper rights…

It doesn’t take long to read this book and the first part was fascinating reading, an eye-witness to events that were happening at the time.  The rhetoric is gung-ho and no holds barred but nonetheless comes over as highly rational and not as rabid as some of the articles today’s less balanced writers spew out.  Part two may be of limited interest to the casual reader but is fascinating as a historical document and to see how governments have built upon, or in some case diluted the rights of working class.

For a man of his times, albeit an influential reformer, Paine doesn’t bother with women’s rights strangely, making his examination of democracy slightly lopsided, the title in this case says it all. This can’t take away from what is a landmark work though, one which should be of interest for anyone wanting to understand the evolution of politics and human rights.


Posted by on 02/09/2013 in Classics, Journalism, Politics


Tags: , , , , , , ,

19 responses to “The Rights of Man – Thomas Paine

  1. sakuraandme

    02/09/2013 at 13:27

    That sounds like a book one of my brothers would love to read…actually he may have already! Lol
    I so love that…ego restored read on…LMAO You man you!

    Hope you had a great weekend. I had a drink for you and a dance. You had fun!! Lol
    Nite from Oz. Paula xxx


    • Ste J

      02/09/2013 at 13:33

      I wondered why I was exhausted all weekend, that would have been your fault then! It was fun though so you should do that for me more often please, thank you!

      I am an awesome man (that’s the ego talking, it’s getting bigger as well), if I was a woman I would be pretty rubbish at it I think (insert stereotype and gentle sexist humorous quip here). Have a great sleep for without that you can’t take over the world. xx


  2. Alastair

    02/09/2013 at 17:15

    I like this idea. It’s not the type of book I would read as it is of an area that holds no interest over me. I do like the way you have described it though. Plus that Paine was tried for Treason. Isn’t democracy lovely. Free speech, but if you say what I don’t like, I will incarcerate you 🙂

    Another great post.


    • Ste J

      02/09/2013 at 18:34

      Well why should us proles have any say or even a decent standard of living? Funny how history repeats itself, although to an arguably lesser extent these days. I suppose it’s an interesting snapshot of history but it is a bit dry in places and not the most dramatic of reads I’ll grant you.


      • Alastair

        02/09/2013 at 19:32

        Unfortunately history will constantly repeat itself. Maybe it will get lesser and lesser until there is nothing to repeat.


  3. nancyrae4

    03/09/2013 at 01:29

    Ok. I have to read this. Edmund Burke is my direct ancestor, I kid you not. No doubt I wouldn’t have aggreed with all of his thoughts, but now The Rights of Man is on my list. Very interesting post!


    • Ste J

      03/09/2013 at 18:14

      How fascinating! I love that we can chat and follow each others blogs for a bit now…then you come up with an awesome nugget of information like that. It makes reviewing books even more exciting when great things like this come to light.


  4. Cody McCullough

    03/09/2013 at 01:30

    Sounds like an interesting read. Now, I’m going to have to read it too. My backlog of books to read just keeps getting longer…. I guess I’ll just have to find some extra time. Keep up the good posts.


    • Ste J

      03/09/2013 at 18:19

      Far from me to be annoying but I shall do my best to add to your list…sorry (kind of).


  5. Seyi sandra

    03/09/2013 at 23:53

    Like you rightly mentioned, Paine did not mention women’s rights, not to be expected at that point in history. I love the ideals behind the French revolution, I might even let my husband buy me a copy. Great post!


    • Ste J

      04/09/2013 at 16:06

      I would recommend letting him and if he’s down the shops give him a list of other books as well, so you both feel like he got the most from his trip lol.


  6. RoSy

    04/09/2013 at 17:01

    Ok – You gotta’ know my fave part was when your ego was restored! 🙂


    • Ste J

      04/09/2013 at 17:31

      I like to cater for all tastes.


  7. Letizia

    05/09/2013 at 20:03

    What a fascinating read; haven’t read this one yet. That quotation on taxes is thought-provoking… makes me want to read more…


    • Ste J

      06/09/2013 at 18:48

      I knew it would grab your attention, I like to tailor the books I review to my regulars and to their bank balances as well.


  8. angela

    06/09/2013 at 02:55

    I remember reading this years ago…could not tell you anything about it! Along the same lines, when this is mentioned, I always think of another small pamphlet that discusses the invisible hand “The Wealth of Nations”.


    • Ste J

      06/09/2013 at 18:46

      The 1700’s were a fine time for thinkers and pamphlets as well…I wish intelligent people would hand me stuff in the street. I would much rather read something like this than get a flier for a free shot in some sterile bar. I may go on a pamphlet spree and build up a list of authors who wrote them and track the works down…it could be a whole new series of posts.


  9. Christina ~

    12/09/2013 at 01:53

    I love that I can always learn new things when I visit you… You have such a captivating way of writing this so as to make even someone with an aversion to learning history compelled to read it! I, of course, love history…most especially the pivotal points that are so often overlooked in our lacking educational system of the modern era.

    I shall add this to the TBR list…as I always do after reading one of your cracking reviews…I thank you dearest sir for I shan’t make it to the end of the list with you always there enticing me to read more….now…to find the time!! haha xxxxx~



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