Declaration of Rights of Man and of the Citizen - Encyclopedia

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DECLARATION OF RIGHTS OF MAN AND OF THE CITIZEN, a sort of manifesto issued in 1789 by the Constituent Assembly in the French Revolution, to be inscribed at the head of the constitution when it should be completed. It stated the fundamental principles which inspired the revolution. Historians have traced a connexion with the declarations of rights which preceded the constitution of some of the states of the American Union, especially of Virginia, but the situation in France at the time, and the influence of the writings of the philosophes made the proposal for such a statement very natural. The declaration overturned the political and social principles upon which the existent regime stood. It has served as a base for modern civil legislation and is still a force in European history. The final text voted by the Assembly was accepted by the king on the 5th of October 1789, at first conditionally, then with modifications. It contains a preamble and 17 articles. They proclaim and define political equality and liberty in its various manifestations, determine the character of the law and the conditions of its application, and state at the same time the restrictions upon the individual will which are necessary for the benefit of society. Similar declarations were attached to the constitution of 1793 and to that of the year III. See E. Blum, La Declaration des droits de l'homme et du citoyen, text with commentary (Paris, 1902); L. Bourgeois and A. Metin, Declaration des droits de l'homme et du citoyen, 1789 (Paris, 1901); G. Jellinck, Die Erklarung der Menschen and BUrgerrechte (Leipzig, 1895). This study has been translated into English by Rudolf Tombo (New York), and has aroused considerable controversy; see E. Boutmy, "La Declaration des droits de l'homme et du citoyen et M. Jellinek," in Annales des sciences politiques for the 15th of July 1902; also E. Walsh, La Declaration des droits de l'homme et du citoyen et l'assemblee constituant, Travaux preparatoires (Paris, 1903).

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