Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, revolutionary manifesto adopted on August 26, 1789, by the National Assembly of France and attached as the preamble to the new constitution of 1791. It was written principally by Abbé (later Count) Emmanuel Sieyès. The declaration enumerated a number of rights with which “all men” were held to be endowed and that were described as inalienable.
In effect, this revolutionary pronouncement nullified the divine right of kings to rule, which was the age-old basis of French government. These inalienable rights included participation, through chosen representatives, in the making of laws; equality of all persons before the law; equitable taxation; protection against loss of property through arbitrary action by the state; freedom of religion, speech, and the press; and protection against arbitrary arrest and punishment.
Historians are divided in their opinions on the political origins of the declaration. Some see in its revolutionary pronouncements the influence of the U.S. Declaration of Independence and the bills of rights of a number of state constitutions in the United States. Others trace the ideas embodied in the declaration to English principles of democratic rights. Still others interpret its strong emphasis on individual rights as an expression of the Calvinistic doctrine of freedom of conscience.
A large body of opinion holds that the declaration was a product of the current of ideas known as the Age of Enlightenment and expounded by the French philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau in his Social Contract. Marxists regard it as a statement of the basic principles of the revolutions that brought feudalism to an end and established the capitalist system of society. The declaration had great influence on political thought and institutions. It was a model for most of the declarations of political and civil rights adopted by European states in the 19th century and for the bill of rights of the constitution of the Weimar Republic of Germany (1919-33). "France" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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