HomeLiterature Study GuidesThe Rights Of ManPart 1 Declaration Of The Rights Of Man And Of Citizens Summary

The Rights of Man | Study Guide

Thomas Paine

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The Rights of Man | Part 1, Declaration of the Rights of Man and of Citizens | Summary

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Summary

The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen states the people of France have formed a national assembly. They have formed the assembly because they believe "ignorance, neglect, or contempt of human rights" are the sole reasons for the government's corruption. They hope by forming the national assembly respect for political institutions can be restored among the people of France. The declaration recognizes all men are born free and equal in their rights and are able to resist oppression by the government. No one individual is allowed to have authority over others, and laws should prohibit only actions that are hurtful to society. These laws should always be an "expression of the will of the community," and the same laws should be applied to all. People are not allowed to be persecuted for their religious opinions, should be given freedom of speech, and should always be presumed innocent until a conviction has been proven.

Analysis

Paine provides a copy of the national assembly of France's Declaration of the Rights of Man and of Citizens to show how constitutions can and should be made to benefit citizens. They are a necessary hallmark of representative government and prove Paine's point they should descend from man's natural rights to liberty and equality—civil laws should mirror natural laws. The declaration outlines why it was created, and its writers believe it important to note that "ignorance, misfortunes, or contempt of human rights are the sole causes of public misfortunes and corruptions of government." This statement reminds the reader France was required to create a new representative system of government from the ground up to ensure it was not tainted by these qualities from the previous government. Paine believes such transparency is essential to true and successful representative government.

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