Paine and Burke

Topics: Democracy, United States Declaration of Independence, Age of Enlightenment Pages: 5 (1638 words) Published: April 25, 2012

This essay will examine the philosophical difference between Edmund Burke and Thomas Paine relating to the French and American Revolutions at the late Eighteenth Century. We are going to present a summary of the debate between these two different philosophers in the first part of this essay. The pros and cons of each man will be looked at in the second and third part of the essay and the final part of this essay will explain why Thomas Paine's view was more accepted and legitimate in America than Edmund Burke. In summary this essay will compare and contrast both Paine and Burke views of natural rights, human nature and the government.

Burke and Paine came from two different sides of the political world and different backgrounds. Paine was not educated and comes from Thetford in Norfolk and Burke was a practitioner from Ireland, went to Oxbridge university in Ireland and later became a Member of Parliament in 1765. Burke was a typical conservative who believed in history, tradition and the status quo. Paine was a trouble maker from the left and a Republican who believed in revolution and democracy, and that was why people liked him. Paine and Burke started writing and arguing in the late eighteenth century or early nineteenth century and it was the beginning of the industrial revolution. Both men were two of the several strongly opinionated individuals who argued back and forth in response to what the other one was saying about the French Revolution. Both men supported the American Revolution especially Burke, who condoled with the colonist in the North of America during that period but, he was seriously against the social revolution which took place in France in the late 1700s.

Burke extremely criticised about overthrowing of the existing monarchy in France, because after the French Revolution, there was more political change and it became Republicanism. In contrast to the American Revolution there was no social order because most of the leaders were already aristocratic and wealthy. These propertied men saw themselves as fit to rule in the colonies and not subjects but in France after the revolution the monarchy and much of the aristocracy were put to the guillotine by the unpropertied masses. In Burke's opinion, the Revolution in France was based on the theory the'' Rights of Man, with simple, universal, dogmatic propositions and demands'' (Burke, 1729-97, p. 121). He was the French Revolution as mounted to oppression of masses and criticised the French ruling class. Burke believed in slow changes that is tradition and saw what happened in France as throwing the baby out of the water thus the leaders took things too far because it should always be evolution not revolution.

Paine, who on the other hand spent most of his time in America and France supported both Revolutions and claimed that the Revolution that happened in France was the result of old centuries oppressive and dictatorship of the monarchy. He did not believe in the monarch and saw the monarchical system of government as the worst form of government. Paine rejected the ideas of Kings, Queens and the Monarchy. Thomas Paine saw monarchical ideas as inbreed and hereditary laws as unacceptable. Paine said '' Hereditary Kingship is Silly, Contemptible, and Thing’’ and '' The Government even in its best State is but necessary Evil; it’s worst State, an Intolerable one''. (Common Sense, 1776). In Thomas Paine's view there should be social contract with the people not the with the monarchy. In the sense that rulers must always govern with the permission of the people not with the government. Thus if there is no social contract with the people, then it will be seen as violating individuals born rights that is the natural rights of men.

Burke disagreed with Paine's natural rights and social contract arguments. Burke who was a Monarchist did not accept the idea of...
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