"THE CLEAREST OF ALL EXPOSITIONS OF THE BASIC PRINCIPLES OF DEMOCRACY" (PMM): RARE 1791 EDITION OF PAINE'S RIGHTS OF MAN, WHERE PAINE "FULLY DEVELOPED HIS GREAT POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY"
PAINE, Thomas. Rights of Man: Being an Answer to Mr. Burke's Attack on the French Revolution. London: J.S. Jordan, 1791. Octavo, contemporary three-quarter brown sheep and marbled boards, black morocco spine label; pp.(iii-vi), viii-x, (7)-171. $8500.
1791 second edition, first issue, of Part I of Paine's Rights of Man, printed only days after the first edition, with publisher J.S. Jordan quickly issuing this edition after the Johnson original edition was immediately suppressed. One of Paine's most important, influential, and bestselling works, Rights of Man resulted in the prosecution in England of Paine, his publishers and booksellers, forcing Paine to flee to France. A handsome copy with an early British provenance.
Hoping Rights of Man "would do for England what his Common Sense had done for America," Paine answered Edmund Burke's attack on the French Revolution with his "celebrated answer, The Rights of Man" (Gimbel-Yale 59). Written "with a force and clarity unequalled even by Burke, Paine laid down those principles of fundamental human rights which must stand, no matter what excesses are committed to obtain them… The government tried to suppress it, but it circulated the more briskly… [Rights of Man is] the textbook of radical thought and the clearest of all expositions of the basic principles of democracy" (PMM 241). In this revolutionary work, "Paine's attack on monarchy went farther than he had attempted on Common Sense or the Crisis series… Rights of Man was one of the most ardent and clear defenses of human rights, liberty and equality in any language… Like Locke, Paine wrote that people have rights naturally, and as they joined together to form society and then government, they transformed a number of their natural rights into civil rights… Rights of free speech, opinion, conscience, association (in America those rights became embodied in the first amendment to the Constitution in the same year the first part of the Rights of Man appeared) were all part of the natural rights which a properly constituted government must protect" (Fruchtman, 225).
Of the Founding Fathers, it was Jefferson, in particular, who "evidently appreciated what America owed Paine and surely sensed how Paine's thinking had shaped his own. It was not only the Declaration of Independence that reflected Paine's influence. Jefferson's later work did as well… In the spring of 1791 Jefferson had hailed the first part of Rights of Man" (Kaye, 92). Part I of Rights of Man was dedicated to George Washington and the first edition was to be published on his birthday, February 22, 1791, but publisher Joseph Johnson immediately suppressed it. "Unnerved by the prospect of arrest and bankruptcy, Johnson suppressed the book on the very day of its scheduled publication. Alarmed by the prospect that the work would be stillborn, Paine reacted fast. He agreed to a deal with another publisher, J.S. Jordan on Fleet Street, and with the help of friends and a horse and cart delivered to him Johnson's printed, unbound sheets. Paine scurried around for the money to pay for the work… He then packed his trunk for Paris" (Keane, 304-5). Jordan took Johnson's unbound sheets of text and added a new title page with Jordan's imprint and a preface that Paine sent him from Paris. Jordan published his edition (the first edition, second issue) on March 16, 1791 and it sold out in hours. "Jordan had set a new edition in type [this stated 'second edition']… and had it on the market three days after the first appeared. It sold out within a few hours" (Hawke, 223-4).The British government considered prosecuting Paine for sedition shortly after the publication, but decided against it at the time because '"Paine had tempered argument and language so skillfully that it would be hard to make a charge of sedition stick in court. To prosecute would provide free advertising" (Hawke, 223-4). But in 1792, after publication of Part II, the British government took action. "Bookshops selling Rights of Man were visited and harassed by agents of the book police, and sometimes arrested, prosecuted, fined or imprisoned" (Keane, 335-60). Jordan was arrested in May 1792 for publishing Part II and pleaded guilty. The government issued a summons for Paine to appear in court on charges of seditious libel, and he was forced to flee to France. "Paine was found guilty, declared an outlaw, and the Rights of Man contraband" (Gimbel-Yale, 425). Rights of Man with "Second Edition" stated on title page: issued very soon after the first edition: very scarce first issue, variant a (Gimbel-Paine 97). Pagination as issued without loss of text; bound without half title. ESTC T5866. Gimbel-Paine, 97. Howes P31. Gimbel-Yale 59. Goldsmiths 15024. See Sowerby 2826. With armorial bookplate of the British Akers-Douglas family, traced to Aretas Akers-Douglas, 1st Viscount Chilston.
Text quite fresh with only light scattered foxing, tiny paper flaw to initial blank, mild rubbing to boards. A near-fine copy, especially desirable in a contemporary binding.