Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, French Declaration des Droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen, one of the basic charters of human liberties, containing the principles that inspired the French Revolution. Its 17 articles, adopted between August 20 and August 26, 1789, by France’sNational Assembly, served as the preamble to the Constitution of 1791. Similar documents served as the preamble to the Constitution of 1793 (retitled simply Declaration of the Rights of Man) and to the Constitution of 1795 (retitled Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man and the Citizen).
The basic principle of the Declaration was that all “men are born and remain free and equal in rights” (Article 1), which were specified as the rights of liberty, private property, the inviolability of the person, and resistance to oppression (Article 2). All citizens were equal before the law and were to have the right to participate in legislation directly or indirectly (Article 6); no one was to be arrested without a judicial order (Article 7). Freedom of religion (Article 10) and freedom of speech (Article 11) were safeguarded within the bounds of public “order” and “law.” The document reflects the interests of the elites who wrote it: property was given the status of an inviolable right, which could be taken by the state only if an indemnity were given (Article 17); offices and position were opened to all citizens (Article 6).
The sources of the Declaration included the major thinkers of the French Enlightenment, such as Montesquieu, who had urged the separation of powers, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who wrote of general will—the concept that the state represents the general will of the citizens. The idea that the individual must be safeguarded against arbitrary police or judicial action was anticipated by the 18th-century parlements, as well as by writers such as Voltaire. French jurists and economists such as the physiocrats had insisted on the inviolability of private property. Other influences on the authors of the Declaration were foreign documents such as the Virginia Declaration of Rights (1776) in North America and the manifestos of the Dutch Patriot movement of the 1780s. The French Declaration went beyond these models, however, in its scope and in its claim to be based on principles that are fundamental to man and therefore universally applicable.
On the other hand, the Declaration is also explicable as an attack on the pre-Revolutionary monarchical regime. Equality before the law was to replace the system of privileges that characterized the old regime. Judicial procedures were insisted upon to prevent abuses by the king or his administration, such as the lettre de cachet, a private communication from the king, often used to give summary notice of imprisonment.
Despite the limited aims of the framers of the Declaration, its principles (especially Article 1) could be extended logically to mean political and even social democracy. The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen came to be, as was recognized by the 19th-century historian Jules Michelet, “the credo of the new age.”
The Declaration Of The Rights Of Man And The Citizens, 1789
The Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizens, 1789
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The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizens was formed by the
National Assembly on 27th August 1789. It was intended by the National
Assembly to be the preliminary statement of principles which the
constitution should be modelled. Thus allowing the nation of France to
be liberated and achieve a secure structure to their society. Marquis
de Lafayette, the commander of the National Guard and Thomas Paine, an
English political thinker, were major contributors in the drawing up
of the declaration. Lafayette made several drafts which he
subsequently sent to Thomas Jefferson, an American envoy to France.
Jefferson added some considerations of his own, based from American
experience. In particular, Jefferson made a provision to have an
amending constitutional convention on periodic intervals. The first
political paper written by Paine caught the attention of Benjamin
Franklin, another American envoy. In 1774 whilst in London, Franklin
offered Paine a letter of recommendation allowing Paine to immigrate
to America. After arriving in Philadelphia later that year, Paine
assisted in the writing of the Declaration of Independence before
leaving for France in 1791. However, despite being compiled by members
of different groups of society, the declaration was fundamentally a
bourgeois document. The clauses contained within the declaration echo
closely to the aims of the bourgeois. Equality was a fore front issue,
followed by property and a need to establish a taxation system.
The enlightenment is an apparent influence from the onset. Rousseau
stated "men are born free yet everywhere they are in chains"
(J.Merriman (1996) Pg416). This was an assertion against the Ancien
Regime, where birth rights distinguished citizens; peasants had no
opportunity to improve their social strata due to the high poverty and
oppression. Possibly the most liberating clause out of the
declaration, was the concept of popular sovereignty. It was considered
that absolute power should no longer reside in the hands of the
Monarch. Instead, sovereignty would rest with the nation, giving the
citizens the opportunity to exercise their power.
There are some clauses that centre wholly on the enlightenment
movement. To liberate a nation required certain minimal restrictions.
In 1762 Rousseau had published the Social Contract. Within it Rousseau
outlined that, "human beings agree to an implicit Social Contract
which gave them certain rights, in return for giving up certain
freedoms" (J.Hunt (1998) Pg7). This inferred that people have the
right to life, in return for giving up the freedom to kill others.
Release also arrived for religion....
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