In the Rights of Man, Thomas Paine presents an impassioned defense of the Enlightenment principles of freedom and equality that he believed would soon sweep the “arbitrary authority” of monarchy and aristocracy from Europe and the world.
Thomas Paine was one of the Founding Father’s of USA. Thomas Edison called him “one of the greatest of all Americans.”
Today’s liberals and progressives still claim him as their intellectual forefather. An idealist, a radical, and a master rhetorician, Thomas Paine wrote and lived with a keen sense of urgency and excitement. In this 1791 defense of revolution, he championed the right of an oppressed people—and in particular the right of the French people—to rise up to claim their own natural rights from those who would take them away. A spirited denunciation of the aristocracy and of hereditary government, The Rights of Man caused outrage in Great Britain with its call for democratic reforms of the English system, and Paine was convicted in absentia for seditious libel against the Crown. (He was, alas, not available to be hanged.)
He wrote in The Rights of Man, about titles:
Titles are like circles drawn by the magician’s wand, to contract the sphere of man’s felicity. …
Is it, then, any wonder that titles should fall in France? Is it not a greater wonder that they should be kept up anywhere? What are they? What is their worth, and “what is their amount?” When we think or speak of a Judge or a General, we associate with it the ideas of office and character; we think of gravity in one and bravery in the other; but when we use the word merely as a title, no ideas associate with it. Through all the vocabulary of Adam there is not such an animal as a Duke or a Count; neither can we connect any certain ideas with the words. Whether they mean strength or weakness, wisdom or folly, a child or a man, or the rider or the horse, is all equivocal. What respect then can be paid to that which describes nothing, and which means nothing? Imagination has given figure and character to centaurs, satyrs, and down to all the fairy tribe; but titles baffle even the powers of fancy, and are a chimerical nondescript.