- Author: Thomas Paine
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By Thomas Paine.Table of Contents Titlepage Imprint Editor’s Introduction The Rights of Man Part First: Being an Answer to Mr. Burke’s Attack on the French Revolution Dedication Paine’s Preface to the English Edition Paine’s Preface to the French Edition Rights of Man Declaration of the Rights of Man and of Citizens by the National Assembly of France Observations on the Declaration of Rights Miscellaneous Chapter Conclusion Part Second: Combining Principle and Practice French Translator’s Preface (1792) To M. de la Fayette Preface Introduction I: Of Society and Civilisation II: Of the Origin of the Present Old Governments III: Of the Old and New Systems of Government IV: Of Constitutions V: Ways and Means of Improving the Condition of Europe: Interspersed with Miscellaneous Observations Appendix Endnotes Colophon Uncopyright Imprint
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When Thomas Paine sailed from America for France, in April, 1787, he was perhaps as happy a man as any in the world. His most intimate friend, Jefferson, was Minister at Paris, and his friend Lafayette was the idol of France. His fame had preceded him, and he at once became, in Paris, the centre of the same circle of savants and philosophers that had surrounded Franklin. His main reason for proceeding at once to Paris was that he might submit to the Academy of Sciences his invention of an iron bridge, and with its favorable verdict he came to England, in September. He at once went to his aged mother at Thetford, leaving with a publisher (Ridgway), his Prospects on the Rubicon. He next made arrangements to patent his bridge, and to construct at Rotherham the large model of it exhibited on Paddington Green, London. He was welcomed in England by leading statesmen, such as Lansdowne and Fox, and above all by Edmund Burke, who for some time had him as a guest at Beaconsfield, and drove him about in various parts of the country. He had not the slightest revolutionary purpose, either as regarded England or France. Towards Louis XVI he felt only gratitude for the services he had rendered America, and towards George III he felt no animosity whatever. His four months’ sojourn in Paris had convinced him that there was approaching a reform of that country after the American model, except that the Crown would be preserved, a compromise he approved, provided the throne should not be hereditary. Events in France travelled more swiftly than he had anticipated, and Paine was summoned by Lafayette, Condorcet, and others, as an adviser in the formation of a new constitution.
Such was the situation immediately preceding the political and literary duel between Paine and Burke, which in the event turned out a tremendous war between Royalism and Republicanism in Europe. Paine was, both in France and in England, the inspirer of moderate counsels. Samuel Rogers relates that in early life he dined at a friend’s house in London with Thomas Paine, when one of the toasts given was the “memory of Joshua,”—in allusion to the Hebrew leader’s conquest of the kings of Canaan, and execution of them. Paine observed that he would not treat kings like Joshua. “I’m of the Scotch parson’s opinion,” he said, “when he prayed against Louis XIV—‘Lord, shake him over the mouth of hell, but don’t let him drop!’ ” Paine then gave as his toast, “The Republic of the World,”—which Samuel Rogers, aged twenty-nine, noted as a sublime idea. This was Paine’s faith and hope, and with it he confronted the revolutionary storms which presently burst over France and England.
Until Burke’s arraignment of France in his parliamentary speech (February 9, 1790), Paine had no doubt whatever that he would sympathize with the movement in France, and wrote to him from that country as if conveying glad tidings. Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France appeared November 1, 1790, and Paine at once set himself to answer it. He was then staying at the Angel Inn, Islington. The inn has been twice rebuilt since that time, and from its contents there is preserved only a small image, which perhaps was meant to represent “Liberty,”—possibly brought from Paris by Paine as an ornament for his study. From the Angel he removed to a house in Harding Street, Fetter Lane. Rickman says Part First of Rights of Man was finished at Versailles, but probably this has reference to the preface only, as I cannot find Paine in France that year until April 8. The book had been printed by Johnson, in time for the opening of Parliament, in February; but this publisher became frightened after a few copies were out (there is one in the British Museum), and the work was transferred to J. S. Jordan, 166 Fleet Street, with a preface sent from Paris (not contained in Johnson’s edition, nor in the American editions). The pamphlet, though sold at the same price as Burke’s, three shillings, had a vast