Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Rights of Man pub

The following is now on Rebel Road at Unite education 

Rights of Man – Thomas Paine
179 High Street, Lewes BN17 1YE 

The Rights of Man was Tom Paine’s seminal work and inspired both the French and American revolutions. 

Born in Thetford, Norfolk on 29 January 1737 he became teacher in London before moving to Lewes in 1768 to work as an excise officer and where he became involved in local politics and began to take up writing seriously. When his employers dismissed him, Paine emigrated to America and settled in Pennsylvania. 

He published Common Sense in 1776 and in which he attacked the British Monarchy and argued for American independence based on the superiority of republican democracy. He served with George Washington’s armies. After independence Paine returned to Britain in 1787 and four years later he published his most influential work, The Rights of Man.

Paine denounced hereditary government and proposed equal political rights by arguing for all men over 21 to be given the vote. He was also in favour of progressive taxation, family allowances, old age pensions and maternity grants. He also wanted the House of Lords abolished. The government was outraged and his book was banned. 

When he was charged with seditious libel he fled to France and from where he said he would forsake all profits on his book in return for it being widely published. This made it possible for the issuing of cheap editions and despite the ban over 200,000 copies were sold in the next two years.

In 1792, Paine, by now a French citizen, was elected to the National Convention where he upset French revolutionaries by opposing the execution of Louis XVI and was himself imprisoned. American pressure eventually secured his release but not before he completed Age of Reason in which he criticised Christianity. 

He moved back to America in 1802 and died in New York on 8 June 1809 and by which time the Rights of Man had sold over 1.5 million copies in Europe.

The Rights of Man public house is on the High Street in Lewes and is situated next to the Law Courts and just opposite what were Paine’s lodgings when he lived in the Sussex town. The pub opened in December 2012 and is part of the Harveys group, which for sometime now has brewed a hopped strong pale Tom Paine Ale. 

Unite would like to thank Harveys for allowing us to use their photograph of the pub sign, which was designed by Julian Bell and whose work can be found at www.jbell.co.uk 

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