After Thomas Paine fled to France in 1792, John Thelwall was the most important leader of working-class radicalism in Britain. According to one observer, he was "one of the boldest political writers, speakers, and lecturers of his time." But his contribution to social and political thought has been underappreciated by modern historians of political thought.
In this volume, Gregory Claeys attempts to restore Thelwall to his rightful place by reproducing for the first time his major political writings: The Natural and Constitutional Rights of Britons, the Tribune writings, Sober Reflections on the Seditious and Inflammatory Letter of the Rt. Hon. Edmund Burke to a Noble Lord, and The Rights of Nature, Against the Usurpations of Establishments. These works tell us much about the 1790s reform movement in Britain. They also show the innovation of Thelwall's thought, which began to move in directions quite dissimilar from his better-known compatriots like Paine. Thelwall's emphasis on the poor and the means by which the working classes received a just reward for their labor were to be central themes in the radical movement of the following century.