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....