Thomas Paine claims: A huge house of an argument built on slender stilts

The '6,000-word narrative' is perhaps 20 pages out of 300 pages of 'Rights of Man'

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The Independent Online

This is a fascinating and interesting discovery but I think it a misleading take on what is happening.

I would agree with Jonathan Clark in that I think it was possibly true Paine got the 6,000-word narrative from another source.  But in my opinion, what’s important isn’t to state the narrative of events leading to the Revolution is the most important part. That misses the point.

More broadly, what worries me is one keeps seeing references to the “6,000-word narrative”. That’s perhaps 20 pages out of 300 pages of Rights of Man, when looking at parts 1 and 2. To read the entirety of the text differently on the basis of who wrote this 6,000-word section, and discard the relevance of the rest – that’s wrong. Rights of Man is about using the French Revolution to make a case for human rights and the need to reform government. The 6,000-word narrative is a small part embedded in a wider text. Clark builds this huge house of an argument on some pretty slender stilts.

The details of the French Revolution and the events aren’t that important to the ordinary reader – the audience Paine is trying to reach. He wants to move common folk to seek out their rights and to reject monarchy and absolutism. As to the authorship of the 6,000-word section, is it plausible that it was Lafayette? Certainly. Circumstantial evidence suggests it might have been but to say it was is, in my opinion, going too far.

Dr Larkin is at the University of Delaware and an authority on Thomas Paine

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