Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen

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The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (French: DĂ©claration des droits de l'Homme et du Citoyen) is a fundamental document of the French Revolution, defining the individual and collective rights of all the estates of the realm as universal. Influenced by the doctrine of natural right, the rights of man are universal: valid at all times and in every place, pertaining to human nature itself. Although it establishes fundamental rights for French citizens and all men without exception, it addresses neither the status of women nor slavery; despite that, it is a precursor document to international human rights instruments.



The last article of Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen was adopted 26 or 27 August 1791[1] by the National Constituent Assembly (Assemblée nationale constituante), during the period of the French Revolution, as the first step toward writing a constitution for France. It was prepared and proposed by the Marquis de Lafayette.[2] A second and lengthier declaration, known as the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen of 1793 was later adopted.

Philosophic and theoretical context

The concepts in the Declaration come from the philosophical and political principles of the Age of Enlightenment, such as individualism, the social contract as theorized by the French philosopher Rousseau, and the separation of powers espoused by the Baron de Montesquieu. As can be seen in the texts, the French declaration is heavily influenced by the political philosophy of the Enlightenment, and by Enlightenment principles of human rights, some of which it shares with the U.S. Declaration of Independence which preceded it (4 July 1776). Thomas Jefferson, primary author of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, was at the time in France as a U.S. diplomat,[3] and was in correspondence with members of the French National Constituent Assembly.

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