Thomas Paine: Rights of Man(1791)
Thomas Paine was Europe’s first modern radical, a man interested in supporting challenges to the established order wherever he found them. He made his name originally as an emigrant to British North America, where he wrote Common Sens (1776), a justification for the colonies’ rebellion against the “royal brute” of Britain, King George III. He had been in Philadelphia for only slightly more than a year, yet his ability to articulate the principles of independence from the Crown essentially set and won the argument for its advocates, leading directly to the Declaration of Independence just months later. By 1790, he had returned to Britain, where the French Revolution fired his imagination once more.
During the Revolutionary War in North America, Paine had counted Edmund Burke, the famous Anglo-Irish politician and philosopher, as a friend of his principles. Upon reading Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790), Paine was shocked to discover that Burke did not...
Thomas Paine (Library of Congress)View Full Size