I’m not done reading Rights of Man yet but here’s what I have so far.
I’m appreciating all the one-liners (page references are according to the Adelaide ebook).
“What Athens was in miniature America will be in magnitude.” (140)
“Reason obeys itself; and Ignorance submits to whatever is dictated to it.” (99)
“…as there is but one species of man, there can be but one element of human power; and that element is man himself.” (101)
Okay, so the last one isn’t exactly one line, but still. I know that give the subject matter, one-liners are basically inevitable, but seeing how concisely Thomas Paine can state his ideas is refreshing.
There are, of course, callbacks to earlier books.
Rousseau (and maybe some Hobbes?): “We have now, in a few words, traced man from a natural individual to a member of society, and shown, or endeavoured to show, the quality of the natural rights retained, and of those which are exchanged for civil rights.” (38)
Plato: “If there existed a man so transcendently wise above all others, that his wisdom was necessary to instruct a nation, some reason might be offered for monarchy…” (86)
Césaire/Walcott: “Titles are but nicknames, and every nickname is a title. The thing is perfectly harmless in itself, but it marks a sort of foppery in the human character…” (47)
I’m in Part the Second right now, and a lot of it is Paine comparing/contrasting European governments with the American. So much of what he says in lauding is completely different from how the US government is so often criticized. It’s interesting.
One more thing: at the very, very beginning, Paine seems pretty polite towards Mr. Burke, but everything else Paine’s said about him after that is just complaint after complaint. I don’t get it. Am I missing something?
Short blog post, I guess. Thanks for reading, everyone.