Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen

(1789)

Explanation and Analysis of the Document

On the August 4, 1789, Armand II, the duke of Aiguillon, a liberal nobleman, renounced rights, prerogatives, and dues in order to satisfy the peasants and restore order to the countryside. Effectively, this action ended the feudal system in France. On August 26, 1789, the National Assembly deputies faced the difficult task of composing a bill of rights that a majority of the deputies could accept. A lengthy debate ensued, with the following questions raised: Should the declaration be short and limited to general principles, or should it include a long explanation of the significance of each article? Should the declaration include a list of duties or only rights? What precisely were “the natural, inalienable, and sacred rights of man”? After several days of debate and voting, the deputies suspended their deliberations on the declaration, having agreed on seventeen articles that laid out a new vision of government. The basis of...

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Marquis de Lafayette (Library of Congress)

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