The National Assembly - the Rights of Man

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The Declaration of the Rights of Man - full text

"Men are born free and equal in their rights . . .These rights are liberty, property, security and resistance to oppression.

The fundamental source of all sovereignty resides in the nation.

The law is the expression of the general will. All citizens have the right to take part personally, or through representatives, in the making of the law."

Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen


The new National Assembly created the historic and influential document The Declaration of the Rights of Man, which stated the principle that all men had equal rights under the law. This document remained the basis for all subsequent declarations of human rights. (Compare The Universal Declaration of Human Rights).

Who was included in this equality? Adult free men. Women, though they had some rights, were far from equal citizens. France was also a colonial power with hundreds of thousands of slaves. In Saint Domingue alone (the most important colony) there were about 500,000. The question of slavery was to remain a contentious issue throughout the revolution. The debates in Paris eventually brought about the first successful slave revolt in history which resulted in a free Haiti. See Slavery and the French Revolution.

The word "revolution" was never uttered by these early revolutionaries. 

The Declaration of the Rights of Man

Part of Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité: The French Revolution Exhibit

The French Revolution

The French Revolution Primary Sources

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