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Apparentness Of Human Rights In The French And American Revolutions

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Autor:   •  December 1, 2010  •  1,500 Words (6 Pages)  •  648 Views

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What are human rights? Human rights are the rights given to each person so that they may be treated with dignity, equality, and respect. These rights are given to people to ensure the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in our society. However, human rights were not given as a birth right, but rather as a struggle that has occurred through many eras. As a result, many battles, conflicts, wars, and revolutions have been fought over this issue. The French and American revolutions are both two great examples of how confrontation has helped the cause for human rights and have provided laws and legal documents to ensure the rights of humans in today's society.

The French Revolution was a collision between a powerful aristocratic government and the people it ruled. After the Seven Years' War, the government of France could not manage its finances and attempted to introduce a series of new and increased taxes upon the nobles. The new tax increase was introduced to the high courts but rejected because of the control of these courts by the nobles. The only way to introduce new taxes into the French society was to call into order the Estates General, which had not met since 1614. The Estates General consisted of members from each of the social classes in French society during the 18th century, which included the clergy, nobility, and the Third Estate. During the meeting of the Estates General, the Third Estate felt it was being represented unfairly and broke away to establish the National Assembly. Upon its separation, the representatives of the National Assembly wrote the Declaration of the Rights of Man. Presenting seventeen articles, this declaration declared the sacred rights of man, and that "ignorance, forgetfulness, or contempt of the rights of man are the sole causes of public misfortunes and the corruption of governments" (Readings in Western Civilization 289).

The American Revolution, on the other hand, was a conflict between the colonies in the New World and the British, who exploited and used these colonies in a way to best suit their needs. Like France, Britain found itself in profound debt due to its participation in the Seven Years' War. King George III and his government looked to the American colonies to help them with their war costs. In 1763, the British forced the colonists to account for their financial difficulties with heavy taxation. A series of actions, including the Stamp Act, the Townsend Acts, and the Boston Massacre irritated the colonists and put a strain on the relationship between the them and the mother country. However, it was the government's attempt to tax tea that stirred colonists into action and laid the ground work for the American Revolution. In the wake of the revolution came events that led to the eventual drafting of the Declaration of Independence. This document "boldly listed the tyrannical acts committed by King George III and confidently proclaimed the natural rights of mankind and the sovereignty of the American states" (Buckler 695). After the thirteen colonies had freed themselves from the mother country and established victory over British troops, it was decided that the states should meet in order to fix the Articles of Confederation and unite the states as one nation. Delegates from each state, except Rhode Island, met in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in May 1787 for the first Constitutional Convention. This body proposed a constitution, along with a Bill of Rights, that was finally finished on September 12, 1787, but did not become legal until June 21, 1788. This document is the cornerstone for the American government; it describes the structure of the American government and ensures the rights and liberties of the American people.

The two most influential documents that resulted from these revolutions, the United States Bill of Rights and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man, ensured that the rights that were originally being fought for during the revolutions were gained, and that these rights would be granted to every citizen of these nations. One common belief that each of these documents possesses is that of individual rights within society. As all American citizens know today, the Bill of Rights boasts freedoms of speech, religion, press, assembly, and petition. These freedoms are highly respected in American society, as they give ability to the individual person to express whatever issues and beliefs they feel are important without being restricted in any way. The French Declaration of the Rights of Man reflects these freedoms in a similar way. It agrees with American idea of these freedoms, however, it limits them down to speech, writing, religion and printing. In no way do the French rights support gatherings to discuss these individual thoughts as does the American Bill of Rights. However, unlike the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of the Rights of Man states the responsibilities of the individual who chooses to express their thoughts in whatever way they so desire within society. According to this document, "Every citizen may, accordingly, speak, write, and print with freedom, but shall be responsible for such abuses of this freedom as shall be defined by law" (RWC 290). In essence, this article encourages freedom of expression, but is also threatening this freedom with punishment by law. Thus, this so called

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