Liberty, Equality, Fraternity

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The author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826), was deeply influenced by the European Enlightenment. He spent many years in Paris and was just as much at home among European intellectuals as he was on his plantation in…

The Declaration of Rights drafted in 1776 by George Mason for the state constitution of Virginia influenced both Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen. It clearly states that rights are…

Jean–Jacques Rousseau was the maverick of the Enlightenment. Born a Protestant in Geneva in 1712 (d. 1778), he had to support himself as a music copyist. Unlike Voltaire and Montesquieu, both of whom came from rich families, Rousseau faced poverty…

Little is known about women’s grievances or feelings in the months leading up to the meeting of the Estates–General in November 1789. They did not have the right to meet as a group, draft grievances, or vote (except in isolated individual…

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…

Vincent Ogé presented the views of his fellow mulatto property owners to a meeting of the white planter delegates who had come to Paris from Saint Domingue, the largest and wealthiest French colony. Ogé came to Paris to press mulatto claims for…

On 29 October 1793, a group of women appeared in the National Convention to complain that female militants had tried to force them to wear the red cap of liberty as a sign of their adherence to the Revolution, but they also presented a petition…
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