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Thomas Paine, Rights of Man

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“Thomas Pain, Rights of Man

By Gwyneth Jones

        Thomas Paine, the author of Rights of Man, was a young man from England who I believe was very drawn to conflict and also very passionate about the sides he took. In England, it is said that he was fired from most jobs fairly quickly because he was perceived as an uncooperative “troublemaker”. My opinion is that Paine likely found some error in the jobs he took that he disagreed with. My perception of him is of being a very passionate person, so it is likely he disagreed with something about his jobs and tried to change it and speak out against it. Of course, such actions will result in being fired. When Paine eventually moved to America thanks to a recommendation letter from Benjamin Franklin, he found something he strongly disagreed with in the colonies: the abuse that the American colonies were subject to. This led him to encouraging other Americans to formally break away from Britain. Paine had also disagreed with slavery in America, leading him to publish a series of editorials that protested the American institution of slavery.

        Thomas Paine continued on to leave America and head to France once he caught wind of the storming of the Bastille in Paris, eager to be a part of this new revolution. This contributed to my belief of him being fairly drawn to conflict. He had strong opinions regarding the French Revolution and whole heartedly supported it. When his former friend, Burke, published his work Reflections that protested against the Revolution, Paine felt betrayed and thus published a rebuttal against Burke’s philosophy and commentary in the Rights of Man. Paine defended the French Revolution by supporting the basis of liberty and individual freedom, and by asking what their present governments of Europe are if not a scene of iniquity and oppression. He even specifically called out Burke by saying he and his supporters have been susceptible to the bribery of corruption. In his work, Paine also spoke against the monarchial system of government, where he said that the government is not and cannot be the property of any one man or family. Instead, it is the property of the entire community, since it is at the expense of the community that the government is supported. Paine also stated that the act of making men into kings and subjects is romantic and barbarous, since he believes that a citizen’s only obedience should be to the laws and not to any one person.

        I respect Thomas Paine a lot because of his ability to speak up and defend what he believes in. Expressing one’s opinion is usually how conflicts start, but it is also how change can be brought about. If no one speaks up about the wrongs in a community or the wrongs in a government, nothing changes. Thomas Paine did well by publishing his thoughts regarding individual rights and liberty in works such as Common Sense and the American Crisis. He had many supporters, and so popular were his works that General Washington had Common Sense read aloud to his troops in 1776. I admire his ability to speak out and influence so many people in history.

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