The Impact of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen on the French Revolution
Course: HIST 1801E Major Issues In World History
By: Andrew Grossman- 250790710
Professor: Dr. Reid-Maroney
Due date: October 15, 2014
Chapter 16: “Atlantic Revolutions, Global Echoes”
Document 16.1: The French Revolution and the “Rights of Man”
German philosopher and revolutionist Karl Marx once said, 1“It is not history which uses men as a means of achieving - as if it were an individual person - its own ends. History is nothing but the activity of men in pursuit of their ends.” Historical sources provide accurate first hand knowledge of historical events and figures that enables the reader to form fact-based conclusions. Prior to the French revolution, natural, political, and civil rights were non-existent because of the authoritarian monarchy ruling over French citizens. As the European Enlightenment dispersed increasingly across Europe, lower and middle class citizens began understanding the concept of human rights and demanded their implementation. The corruption-laced monarchy’s ruling over Europe began to be exposed, prompting the threat of revolutions and a change in political systems. As the starvation in France reached its breaking point due to inflated food prices, the French citizens could no longer tolerate the ruling monarchy. The idea of a revolution became a reality and the installation of new leadership became immanent. As the French revolution commenced in 1789, the National Assembly of representatives converged and instituted a declaration, which outlined the equality of men in society. The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen narrates a new revolutionary shift in the way French society, in the late 1700’s, began to demand implementation of human rights and equality among citizens. 2The principal author of the declaration, Marquis de Lafayette, was in direct contact with Thomas Jefferson throughout the creation of the declaration, resulting in noticeable similarities to the American Declaration. The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen was a pivotal document that enhanced the legitimacy of the French Revolution and was a starting point that shaped the direction of the revolution. As Thomas Sankara once said, 3“The French Revolution taught us the rights of man.”
The focus of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen was to promote the implementation of citizen rights as a means to halt public misfortune and government corruption. The declaration can be divided into four main categories. The categories are as follows; the right to equality and freedom, a just system of law that was to remain rational in its decisions, freedom of religion and speech and the equal taxation and inviolability of land ownership by the government.
The first part of the declaration focuses on the equality of all men in society and termination of segregated social classes. Granting all French citizens the right to be equal members of society was a cornerstone in the declaration and major factor in the creation of the revolution. French citizens had to be guaranteed that there would not be an authoritarian monarchy sanctioning their daily activities and oppressing their lives. 4“The purpose of all political association is the preservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of man. These rights are liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression.” The declaration states core human rights as well as a means for the government to operate in a way that benefits all members of society. Poverty, oppression, and corruption were all major factors that pressured French citizens in pushing for a democratic country free of authoritarianism.
The second section of the declaration is centered on the limits of the law and it’s ability to be carried out justly. During the time that King Louis XVI ruled over France, the law was ultimately...
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