The French Revolution: The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen
The Declaration of Rights of Man and Citizen is a document written during the French Revolution as preamble to a new constitution. It was approved by the National Constituent Assembly on August 26, 1789.
The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen reflected the ideas of the Enlightenment, and so the key principles were liberty and equality.
The influence of the philosophers is evident, with Voltaire's support of religious freedom being expressed in the Declaration by saying that "no man may be accused, because of his opinions, even religious..." and Rousseau's belief about personal liberty expressed in "The Social Contract" is reflected through the statement that "All men are born free and equal in rights."
The interests of the bourgeoisie influenced the Declaration also, as the majority of the members of the National Constituent Assemblywere bourgeois and the Declaration was shaped with their interests in mind. This is evident when the Declaration states that "the right to property is inviolable and sacred". The bourgeois owned a lot of property as they were wealthy, and so this protected themselves. Because of this, various historians such as Peter McPhee and George Rude say that the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen is bourgeois idealism.
The Declaration also took ideas of equality and liberty from the American Declaration of Independence (1776).
Although the bourgeois wrote the document in their own best interests, it still cemented the principles of liberty and equality, and provided a positive starting point to the making of a constitution for France.