Natural Rights and Civil Rights as Taught by Thomas Paine

Feb 14, 2011
0 min read

“Natural rights are those which always appertain to man in right of his existence. Of this kind are all the intellectual rights, or rights of the mind, and also all those rights of acting as an individual for his own comfort and happiness, which are not injurious to the rights of others.”

“Civil rights are those which appertain to man in right of his being a member of society. Every civil right has for its foundation some natural right pre-existing in the individual, but to which his individual power is not, in all cases, sufficiently competent. Of this kind are all those which relate to security and protection.”

And there you have it, two points beautifully illustrated by the incomparable Thomas Paine.


  1. Are these found in “the Right’s of Man” ?

  2. It appears as though Thomas Paine was inspired to write about rights because of the Americans insisting that they had rights. Is the U.S. Constitution what made him want to write “The Rights of Man”? Although he wrote this document to defend the French Revolution, I can’t help wondering if the U.S. Constitution influenced him, but it might have just been the French Constitution.

    • Personally, I have no clue. I’m sure the environment as a whole made an impact seeing as how these things were being hotly debated at the time. I’m not sure how much it matters seeing that the principles being advocated were essentially the same in both places.

  3. Natufian Chūnagon essentially natural rights are classical liberties in the “negative” sense. These derive from natural law. Jacobins believed largely in what was to become “positive rights.” These are understood as “human rights,” a largely misleading doctrine formalized by the U.N. Free will doesn’t necessarily equate to free-ride & what is universal doesn’t necessarily equate to what is universally acceptable. Nation isn’t the state. Civil rights are similar to “human rights” in that they are bestowed by the state – an irony unto itself which is why equal liberties shouldn’t necessarily mean egalitarianism. However the notion of civil rights is implicative of your role therein society. Although natural rights did give the basis for civil rights, being deriviative of natural law means civil rights as w/ human rights are a myth. There are property rights from natural law which coalesce w/ natural rights. Then there is national sovereignty. This is deriviative of natural order. These aren’t synonymous but they do interconnect by abstract & by application.

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