The Rights of Man | Study Guide

Thomas Paine

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The Rights of Man | Part 2, Preface | Summary

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Summary

Paine wrote this piece a year after the first part of Rights of Man was published. He waited to continue writing his thoughts on the subject to see how it was received in England, given it was a different style of thinking and expression. He also waited because Burke promised to write again on the subject. However, Burke went on to publish two more works that didn't delve deeply into the topic at hand. Paine takes Burke to task for writing his appeal to political parties rather than to the nation itself. Paine believes it the duty of governments to be open to discussing their shortcomings. He also believes it is the duty of every man to point out these shortcomings. Paine believes the monarchy and aristocracy will endure no more than seven years in Europe.

Analysis

By delving further into the topic, Paine is able to address a few more issues he finds fault with in Burke's arguments. The fault of much of Burke's logic, in Paine's view, is he sees power as hereditary and revolutions as being against a person rather than governing principles. He points out, "A little matter will move a party, but it must be something great that moves a nation," and revolutions are what move a nation. Paine also believes a strong and healthy government is one that is absolutely transparent and can withstand its faults being pointed out. In fact, "it is a duty which every man owes to society to point them out." It is only when a government can evolve and course-correct with the input of its citizens it can continue to govern in a way that ensures the rights of man.

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