By R R Fennessy
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Extra info for Burke, Paine, and the Rights of Man: A Difference of Political Opinion
But they had no difficulty in understanding Paine when he told them: To know whether it be the interest of the continent to be independent, we need only ask this easy, simple question: Is it the interest of a man to be a boy all his life? 2 Paine evidently believed that such plausible simplifications constitute an appeal to the reason of his readers, and that such an appeal must be decisive, because reason is the supreme faculty in man: it is to be distinguished from other sources of conviction, such as beliefs, traditions, prejudices, emotion, imagination, custom.
But now at last people were beginning to think for themselves. Every human being was endowed with reason. To that reason Nature lay open, as it had been given to man by the Creator. The scientific study of natural phenomena was opening up a new world to be explored and exploited for the benefit of mankind. It was an age of discoveries and inventions, brought about by new methods of thinking. Why should not these new methods be applied also in the moral and political domain? Every man by using his reason for himself could detect the errors and fallacies into which he had been led by accepting traditional beliefs and prejudices.
As early as I777 he expressed the view that if a few thousand men landed in England with the declared design of deposing George III and bringing his ministers to trial, they would be supported by the people. " 4 However, even Paine must have realized that the Americans were in no position to organize an Armada, even if they had wanted to. So the English would have to manage on their own: Your present king and ministry will be the ruin of you: and you had better risk a revolution and call a congress, than be thus led on from madness to despair, and from despair to ruin.