General Features of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen

The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen was written originally by Abbé Sieyès and Marquis de Lafayette under the consultation of Thomas Jefferson; However, Robespierre and his Jacobin Party took power and rewrote the Declaration later on. The ideas of the declaration were strongly influenced by the principle of “natural right”, which refers to the inherent rights of human beings that cannot be restrained by any legal laws. Apparently, the conceptions mainly came from the political and philosophy of the Enlightenment and the U.S. Declaration of Independence of 1776, such as individualism, duties of a civil government, and separation of powers, etc. Now, allow me to chart the three major political upheavals around the age of Enlightenment, based on their characteristics.

The first would be the idea of separation of powers, the ruler must serve for the general will and treat its citizens with the principle of equality, which forbids the governor from being authoritarian; Second, it stresses the significance of law—the culpability of a person should be judged through existing laws, as it applies to everybody in the society, which shows no tolerance for avoidance of responsibilities, even the privileged hierarchy; Third, government should follow its distribution accordingly and proportionally, similar to the principle of distributive justice; Fourth, men are born free, no laws could be served as the instrumentalities to reject that inherent right; Finally, taxation without representation is intolerable, in order to levy taxes, the governor must gain consents from the representatives of people, etc. Thus, according to the following provisions of the declaration, it denies the Old Regimes’ principles, replaced it with liberal, democratic, and equal statements (regulations).

© 2017~2020 Christopher Wang 

International Educational Philosophy Seminar

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