Thomas Paine, Rights of Man, & Independence Day, 2020

Siddharth Mehrotra
2 min readJul 4, 2020

In Pt. I of his booklet on The Rights of Man (1791), the American political writer Thomas Paine wrote, in passing,

“In England… the country is cut up into monopolies… and the qualification of electors proceeds out of those chartered monopolies. Is this freedom? Is this what Mr. Burke [author of certain Reflections on the Revolution in France] means by a Constitution?

In these chartered monopolies, a man coming from another part of the country is hunted from them as if he were a foreign enemy… every one of those places presents a barrier in his way, and tells him he is not a freeman; — he has no rights. Within these monopolies are other monopolies… And within these monopolies are still others. A man even of the same town, whose parents were not in circumstances to give him an occupation, is barred, in many cases, from the natural right of acquiring one, be his genius or industry what it may”.

Some 229 years later, on the anniversary of the day usually commemorated as the victory-day of Paine’s persuasion, we, his compatriots and successors, look upon the present state of our Union, and cannot help but feel a slight sense of dissatisfaction with it; because, as we can see, were we to replace the name of England with that of the Americas, and the aristocratic monopolies with commercial, or administrative monopolies, we could repeat the rest of Paine’s description verbatim, without any other change, and tell no less than the exact truth.

It is perhaps not inappropriate, to consider this regrettable state of affairs on this day of all days, and take some thought for what might be done to improve it, and how to declare our independence once more.