My review of Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man



The Founding Father’s most influential work: an impassioned defense of democracy and revolution in the name of human rights.

Whatever is my right as a man is also the right of another; and it becomes my duty to guarantee as well as to possess.

In Rights of Man, Founding Father of the United States Thomas Paine makes a compelling case in favor of the French Revolution. Written in response to Edmund Burke’s highly critical Reflections on the Revolution in France, its forceful rebuke of aristocratic rule and persuasive endorsement of self-government made it one of the most influential political statements in history. Paine asserts that human rights are not granted by the government but inherent to man’s nature. He goes on to argue that the purpose of government is to protect these natural rights, and if a government fails to do so, its people are duty-bound to revolution.

Originally published in two parts, in 1791 and 1792, Rights of Man was a popular sensation in the United States, while in England, its incendiary views were seen as a threat to the Crown. For its erudite prose and rigorous argumentation, it remains a classic text of political thought.


4 stars


An excellent dissertation on rights as seen by one of the Founding Fathers. I love the concepts, and the basics are easy to grasp.

1) Natural Rights are those that belong to us by merely existing.
2) Civil Rights are those that belong to us through our membership in civil society.
3) Civil Rights are an extension of, and are founded in, our Natural Rights.

My complaint is that a) it’s long winded and b) the writing style of the time is not to my general enjoyment. It’s a personal preference, based mostly on the way our language has evolved over time. It’s also something I have difficulty with from most authors pre-twentieth century, not just limited to 18th century works. There is also the issue that it is presented as a refutation of another’s letter. While not completely necessary, it would be a benefit to have that essay available as well so as to be perfectly clear what Paine is referring to.

The eBook was formatted well with no obvious spelling/grammar mistakes.