Liberty, Equality, Fraternity

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John Locke (1632–1704) wrote his Second Treatise of Government early in the 1680s and published it in 1690. In it Locke proposed a social contract theory of government and argued against the idea of "divine right," which held that rulers had a…

The abolition of the feudal system, which took place during the famous night session of 4–5 August 1789, was precipitated by the reading of a report on the misery and disturbances in the provinces. The voting was carried in a fervor of enthusiasm…

Jacques–Guillaume Thouret (1746–94), a lawyer from Rouen, spoke for the Constitutional Committee of the National Assembly that included, among others, Sieyès and Rabaut Saint–Etienne. His report formed the basis for the subsequent legislation…

Few deputies opposed the property requirements for voting and holding office. One of the few who did, Maximilien Robespierre (1758–94), a lawyer from Arras in northern France, made a reputation for himself as a determined and devoted defender of…

On 21 December 1789, a deputy raised the question of the status of non–Catholics under the new regime; his intervention started a long debate that quickly expanded to cover Jews, actors, and executioners, all of them excluded from various rights…

Although he himself came from a family that had been forced to convert from Calvinism to Catholicism by the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, Abbé Jean–Siffrein Maury (1746–1817) made his reputation as a spokesman for the interests of…

The National Convention drew up this new declaration of rights to attach to the republican constitution of 1793. The constitution was ratified in a referendum, but never put into operation. It was suspended for the duration of the war and then…

After the fall of Robespierre and the dismantling of the Terror, the National Convention drafted yet another republican constitution. The new constitution was also approved in a referendum and put into effect 26 October 1795. It remained until…

Village priests served as community leaders in a variety of respects, including keeping a register of births, marriages, and deaths. One such curate, the abbé Lefeuvre, also included in his register impressions of life during the severe winter of…

The difficulty of life in rural regions led some to leave home and seek a better life elsewhere, particularly in the growing cities. Such migration worried some observers, who feared villages would be emptied and no one would be left to work the…
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