Jusitification for the French Revolution

for the French Revolution

Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man opposes the
ridiculous conservative standpoint that Edmund Burke took towards the French

Revolution. Paine supported natural rights, and understood that democratic
institutions must be implemented in order to guarantee those rights. Paine
applied a combination of logic and common sense to discredit Burke’s opinion,
thereby proving the legitimacy of the revolution.

Burke understood a constitution to be an
inherited system, believing that as property is passed from father to son,
man must also transmit political privileges and the power of government.

However, Paine argued that no description of man has the right to such
power, and that every generation must be free to act for itself. He believed
that " the vanity and presumption of governing beyond the grave is the
most ridiculous and insolent of all tyrannies." Paine argued that the traditions
and polices inherited from father to son, aspects that Burke valued, must
be disposed, and that the circumstances and opinions of the world are continually
changing. Governments are for the living, not for the dead, and therefore
he reasonably concluded that only the living has the right to control their
political system.

Burke opposed the rights of man and supported
the privileges of the aristocracy, one of the main causes of the French

Revolution. While most European revolutions have been excited by personal
hatred, the revolution in France was generated by the rational contemplation
of the rights of man, and "distinguishing from the beginning between persons
and principles." Burke does not contemplate the important position of principles
in government; he instead focuses on the rights of the men serving the
government. Thus, most of his opinion towards the occasions of the

French Revolution are disqualified. The revolution was mainly concerned
with the unjust polices of French politics, and did not represent a personal
vendetta against the men in charge of the French government.

Paine wrote that " [the French people]
did not enter into society to become worse than [they were] before, nor
to have fewer rights than [they had] before, but to have those rights better
secured." He protested that the National Assembly was the means for the
people of France, without noble fathers, to be delegates of the nation.

At the same time, he understood that the authority of the National Assembly
would be different from the authority of future assemblies.