Thomas Paine vs. Edmund Burke
Two men, both fighting for the same cause during the American Revolution took different sides in the French Revolution because of their political views. Thomas Paine took the side of the French, opposing his own country, because he believed in a system where people can govern themselves. Edmund Burke took the side of the English because he was supporting his country and believed in a system where there needs to be a higher power to keep people in their place.
Thomas Paine was a radical in the way he thought and believed in a total reform of the way people were living at that time. Burke was a Conservative and believed that things were fine just the way they were. Paine also believed in Thomas Jefferson’s statement all men are born equal and people should be able to make something of themselves. Burke believed that there should be a strict class system in which people could not move between one another. Although these men have two completely different political views, they both have positions that are well respected by society today.
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The first contrasting point between Paine and Burke’s political views is that Paine believed in a system where people can govern themselves and Burke believed that there still needed to be a higher power to tell people what to do. Paine thought that people should be able to tax themselves, therefore saying that people can fend for themselves. He did not think that all the power should rest in a center government. He thought maybe there could be a central government so things did not get out of hand, but it would not have much executive power.
His encounters with the indigenous peoples of the Americas made a deep impression. The ability of the Iroquois to live in harmony with nature while achieving a democratic decision making process, helped him refine his thinking on how to organize society. On the other hand, Burke still believed in a monarchy system. He thought that there needed to be a king and a queen to rule over the nation. All aspects of the nation had to be taken care of in proper means. Paine wrote in his book Rights of Man that “monarchies were the cause of poverty and wretchedness in the civilized world. He called monarchy “the enemy of mankind. ” Both men felt strongly about the way government should be run.
The second contrasting point is that Paine believed in the total reform of society and Burke believed that things were fine just the way they were. Paine thought that if people wanted something to change, they could get it done. He wrote in his book Rights of Man that “revolutions were necessary to destroy this “barbarous system” in order to create the conditions for peace, commerce, lower taxes, and the “enjoyment of abundance. He was referring to the American and French revolutions to get rid of the monarchy hold on them. Burke believed that wisdom of the past generations should rule current generations. He believed that everything set up by the past should not be reckoned with.
He thought that laws, religious commandments, scriptures, and general ways of living were perfect just the way they were. Paine attacked this theory once again in his book Rights of Man by stating, “Governing from dead generations is the most ridiculous and insolent of all tyrannies. Paine continuously attacked everything that Burke supported. These two men disliked each other very much. They continued to spread their theories though. The third contrasting point is that Paine believed that all men are created equal and they should be able to make something of themselves no matter their level of class. Burke believed that people should not be able to shift back and forth between class levels. Paine thought that even if someone is born into a poor family they could accumulate wealth through hard work.
His last published pamphlet, Agrarian Justice, further developed his idea in the Rights of Man, about how land ownership separated the majority of people from their rightful, natural inheritance, and means of independent survival. This statement fights the fact that the rich are going to just keep getting richer and the poor will never have a chance to accumulate wealth. Burke thinks that people who are already in a class should stay there. He thinks that things would become out of order if the poor begin to accumulate wealth and take money from the rich.
Paine thinks that the class system should dissolve and Burke wants people to stay right where they are. Overall, I think that Thomas Paine had the better argument. People at the time were looking for change. His political views supported the American and French Revolutions. Times were changing as well as the people in them. Burke’s theories just don’t appeal to the eyes and ears of those living in the time period. People wanted more freedom to do and say what they wanted. They did not want to be restricted by the class system that they were in. Everyone deserves a chance to be who they want to be.