The Rights of Man | Study Guide

Thomas Paine

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The Rights of Man | Part 2, Introduction | Summary

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Summary

America's independence from England would not have gained much attention if it hadn't also been accompanied by a revolution of its principles of government. It generated and encouraged new ideas about the role of government. Its actions also brought its citizens—from different religions and backgrounds—together through shared ideals. Paine posits more revolutions are to come, given how many governments have tried the patience of their citizens. The only way for universal peace is through a revolution in the system of governments because monarchical governments are militaristic by nature, meaning they often engage in wars. In the past, revolutions extended only to small groups of people. However, the revolutions of the present are affecting nations, promising a new era for the rights of man.

Analysis

The reason Paine points out America's independence would have mattered little "had it not been accompanied by a revolution" is America charted a path for other oppressed nations. Although countries have gained independence in the past, they often created a government that modeled or emulated the one they left behind. In America's case the people decided to create a government with counter-principles to England's monarchy. Paine claims the influence of government "founded on a moral theory, on a system of universal peace, on the indefeasible hereditary rights of man, is now revolving from west to east." Where once monarchies and hereditary governments held power and influence, now the reverse is beginning to happen as nations realize the "promises [of] a new era to the human race." This belief also aligns with Paine's notion governments should always be shifting and evolving to reflect the current age, with outmoded styles of governing being done away with and replaced by new ones that are more representative.

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