England, 1787 - 1792
From what we now see, nothing of reform in the political world ought to be held improbable. It is an age of revolutions, in which every thing may be looked for.
– Rights of Man, February 1791
In 1787 Thomas Paine, who had a strong bent for science, returned temporarily to England to promote his design for an iron bridge. The storming of the Bastille in Paris in 1789, however, turned his interest back to “Political Bridges.” Rebutting conservative Whig Edmund Burke’s attack on the French Revolution, Paine went on in his two-part Rights of Man to undermine the established order of the British Constitution. “He seems Cock Sure of bringing about a Revolution in Great Britain,” recorded the New York–born aristocrat Gouverneur Morris, “and I think it quite as likely that he will be promoted to the Pilory.” Charged with “wicked and seditious writings,” Paine fled to France.
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