Friday, October 11, 2013

"The Rights of Man" and the Victorian Era

"The hearts of the humane will not be shocked by ragged and hungry children, and persons of seventy and eighty years of age begging for bread. The dying poor will not be dragged from place to place to breathe their last, as a reprisal from parish to parish.  Widows will have a maintenance for their children, and not be carted away, on the death of their husbands, like culprits and criminals; and children will no longer be considered as increasing the distresses of their parents."
~ The Rights of Man, Part Two, Chapter 5, Ways and Means, by Thomas Paine

I thought this paragraph was interesting because it immediately after a list of proposed improvements to British government. Paine wrote this in 1792. Later in the mid-1800's during the height of the Victorian Era, Charles Dickens and other authors used fiction to highlight these same exact flaws in society. Although I can't say I blame them for ignoring Paine after all his harsh criticisms of their social and leadership structures, I can't help but wonder how different history would have been if the British had taken Paine's suggestions to heart.

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