Thomas Paine's Rights of Man

  • by Christopher Hitchens
  • Narrated by Simon Vance
  • 3 hrs and 36 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Thomas Paine was one of the greatest political propagandists in history. The Rights of Man, first published in 1791, is the key to his reputation. Inspired by his outrage at Edmund Burke's attack on the uprising of the French people, Paine's text is a passionate defense of the rights of man. Paine argued against monarchy and outlined the elements of a successful republic, including public education, pensions, and relief of the poor and unemployed, all financed by income tax. Since its publication, The Rights of Man has been celebrated, criticized, maligned, and suppressed. But here, commentator Christopher Hitchens, Paine's natural heir, marvels at its forethought and revels in its contentiousness. Above all, he shows how Thomas Paine's Rights of Man forms the philosophical cornerstone of the world's most powerful republic: the United States of America.

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What the Critics Say

"Lucid and fast-moving....As with all Hitchens, well worth reading." (Kirkus)
"Brilliant portrait....An attractive introduction to Paine's life and work as a whole....Hitchens remains a great writer, and a thinker of depth, range, and vigour." (Prospect)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

No focus here

This books ends up talking about Edmund Burke more it does about the Thomas Paine. It does not quote from The Rights of Man once.

It only covers Paine's life in the US during the revolution, and during the revolution in France. It cannot be considered a biography because it does not tell of his beginnings—something I would have enjoyed knowing.

Not recommended.
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- Hal

Hitchens on Paine = Near Perfection

β€œIn a time when both rights and reason are under several kinds of open and covert attack, the life and writing of Thomas Paine will always be part of the arsenal on which we shall need to depend.”
― Christopher Hitchens, Thomas Paine's Rights of Man

While there is no imperfect time to read about Thomas Paine or read Christopher Hitchens, 2016 with Brexit and Trump seem to almost BEG for a steroid shot of rationality and intelligence. I read this because I was tired of the news, tired of the discourse, tired of FB debates and arguments that seemed inane and inept (I once saw a debate over some political issue that was carried out entirely using memes). I wondered how we could have dropped from a period where big ideas were discussed by big men (yes, and big women: see Mary Wollstonecraft) to this?

Anyway, about 10 years ago The Atlantic Monthly Press published this book as part of their series Books that Changed the World. Think about this for a minute. Thomas Paine, a largely self-educated son of a corset-maker, wrote a book that would be included on a short list among such books as:

1. Holy Bible: King James Version
2. Machiavelli's The Prince
3. Plato's The Republic
4. Darwin's The Origin of Species
5. The Qur'an
6. Homer's The Iliad/The Odyssey
7. Smith's The Wealth of Nations
8. Clausewitz's On War
9. Marx's Das Kapital

That isn't a lazy peer group. Think about this too. Thomas Paine had his fingers directly in two revolutions (American and French) and was working on a third (England). His words seem almost as natural as the Bible. His concepts are woven into the fabric of our modern sense of freedom, rights, democracy. He is THE prime example that simple words, in the right hands, can change the course of global events. Obviously, the French and American revolutions most certainly would have still happened without Thomas Paine, but the revolutions and the ideas behind them would not have been the same. This guy's words were matches of poetry AND power.

It is amazing, also, to me to think Thomas Paine didn't produce just one revolutionary book/pamphlet, but three (more, but I'll focus on his big three). At different times of my life I have loved, reverenced, and revered Common Sense, The Age of Reason, and Rights of Man as the great Paine book. Each seems destined to continue to be a source of inspiration and direction for those seeking freedom, rights, liberty, and justice. It is hard to imagine my country and the world as it would have been without him. IF that isn't tribute enough, here is final from Bertrand Russell (this appears in the front of the book):

"To all these champions of the oppressed Paine set an example of courage, humanity, and single-mindedness. When public issues were involved, he forgot personal prudence. The world decided, as it usually does in such cases, to punish him for his lack of self-seeking; to this day his fame is less than it would have been if his character had been less generous. Some worldly wisdom is required even to secure praise for the lack of it." - Bertrand Russell, The Fate of Thomas Paine.
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- Darwin8u "I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - Salinger ^(;,;)^"

Book Details

  • Release Date: 07-23-2007
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio