This paper will discuss the philosophical conflict between Edmund Burke and Thomas Paine concerning the French Revolution at the end of the Eighteenth Century. The first part of the paper will present a brief overview of the dispute. The second and third parts of the paper will present the main arguments of each man. The last part of the paper will briefly explain why Thomas Paine's views eventually gained more adherents than those of Edmund Burke.
Burke and Paine came from two opposite ends of the political spectrum. Burke was basically conservative, valuing tradition and the status quo. Paine was a firebrand of the left, advocating revolution and popular democracy. Ironically, Burke had sympathized with the colonists in North America during the period of troubles there, but he did not believe in the overall social revolution which took place in France in the last years of the 1780s. Paine, on the other hand, supported both revolutions. His writings are often credited with inspiring many of the American colonists to rebel against the mother country; they, in turn, were said to have been a source of inspiration for the French lower classes.
Burke simply did not believe in overthrowing the social order. The American Revolution did not result in a new social order, for most of the colonial rebel leaders were wealthy, propertied men. They simply wanted to rule the colonies as they saw fit, rather than subject themselves to the absente