This concise, thoughtful introduction to the work of Thomas Paine, author of Common Sense and Rights of Man, explores the impact of one of the most influential minds of the American and French Revolutions and the sources from which his thinking evolved.
In Jack Fruchtman Jr.'s helpful interpretation, Paine built his argument for radical revolution in 1776 on a study of nature and Providence and a belief in natural rights. Men and women owed it to themselves to break the chains of rank, hierarchy, and even organized religion in order to live freely, embracing the possibilities of invention, progress, and equality that lay ahead. In 1793, at the height of the French Revolution and its secularizing fury, Paine reminded readers that it was nature's God who created natural rights. The rights of man thus held out both the great potential of freedom and the requirement that human beings be responsible for those who were the least fortunate in society. On balance we may think of Paine as a secular preacher for the rule of reason.