1-4: A New Hope

Assignment 1-4

Assignment 1-4: A New Hope

Part 1 of 2: Read the description of life in France prior to the French Revolution. Bold, Underline or Highlight the descriptions that imply a lack of human rights. (One is already done for you in italics) You should find at least 10.

Life in France before the French Revolution

Society was divided into layers. (Article 1) At the very top was the king. The king was there by God’s will. He had absolute power to make laws. He was the law. At least that was the theory. In reality, the king was very much influenced by the wealthy nobility (2nd Estate). They were the top layer of the society and held important official positions. They had special powers and privileges, and could demand taxes and services from those under them. Nobles rode horses through the peasants ‘wheat crops while hunting, and their pet doves ate the seed the peasants needed for the next season’s food crop. They had to pay heavy taxes, and had no say in how they were used.


The next layer was the clergy (1st Estate) or, really, the rich and influential clergy, such as bishops. They too had special rights and privileges, and were governed by special church laws, not those of the state. The Catholic Church was the only legal church. There was no freedom of speech or ideas. The nobles and the king were terrified that the peasants and the urban poor might develop revolutionary ideas.


Next came the bourgeoisie, the middle‐class people of wealth (3rd Estate). The richest of them could buy their way into the nobility. Most could not, and resented the constant demands on them for taxes to support the king and his government. But those with money could always buy various public offices and use the position to make wealth for themselves. Near the bottom were the peasants–the rural poor–and the city workers (3rd Estate as well).The laws exploited them. They had no vote. They were presumed guilty if arrested for a crime, and had no right to legal representation if they could not afford it. They could be tortured by the officials of the state. Their property could be seized, and their personal rights had to give way before traditional obligations, such as the obligation to work for their nobles for nothing.There were fewer rights for women of all classes than for their male peers. Some nobles and clergy recognized the injustice of the society they were living in and supported change, but most accepted the system which gave them great wealth and privileges.


This was the nature of French society before the 1789 revolution, a revolution which removed the powers and privileges of the king, nobles and the church and led to the execution of the king and queen. A National Assembly including representatives from all classes was created. They drew up the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.



Part 2 of 2: Determine which abuses of rights were addressed by the Declaration of Rights of Man and the Citizen. Write the Article number of the Declaration of Rights next to the human rights violation you indicated in the reading above.


 Extracts from the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen

 Approved by the National Assembly of France, 26 August 1789

The representatives of the French people, organized as a National Assembly, believing that the ignorance, neglect, or contempt of the rights of man are the sole cause of public calamities and of the corruption of governments, have determined to set forth in a solemn declaration the natural,inalienable [cannot be taken away],  and sacred rights of man, in order that this declaration, being constantly before all the members of the Social body, shall remind them continually of their rights and duties… Therefore the National Assembly recognizes and proclaims, in the presence and under the auspices of the Supreme Being, the following rights of man and of the citizen:


1   Men are born and remain free and equal in rights.Social distinctions may be founded only upon the general good…

4   Liberty consists in the freedom to do everything which injures no one else; hence the exercise of the natural rights of each man has no limits except those which assure to the other members of the society the enjoyment of the same rights.These limits can only be determined by law…

6      Law is the expression of the general will. Every citizen has a right to participate personally, or through his representative, in its foundation. It must be the same for all, whether it protects or punishes. All citizens, being equal in the eyes of the law, are equally eligible to all dignities and to all public positions and occupations, according to their abilities, and without distinction except that of their virtues and talents.

7      No person shall be accused, arrested, or imprisoned except in the cases and according to the forms prescribed by law…

8      The law shall provide for such punishments only as are strictly and obviously necessary, and no one shall suffer punishment except it be legally inflicted in virtue of a law passed and promulgated before the commission of the offence.

9      As all persons are held innocent until they shall have been declared guilty, if arrest shall be deemed indispensable, all harshness not essential to the securing of the prisoner’s person shall be severely repressed by law.

10   No one shall be disquieted on account of his opinions, including his religious views, provided their manifestation does not disturb the public order established by law.

11   The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man. 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…

13   A common contribution is essential for the maintenance of the public forces and for the cost of administration. This should be equitably distributed among all the citizens in proportion to their means.

14   All the citizens have a right to decide, either personally or by their representatives, as to the necessity of the public contribution; to grant this freely; to know to what uses it is put; and to fix the proportion,the mode of assessment and of collection and the duration of the taxes.

15   Society has the right to require of every public agent an account of his administration…

17 Since property is an inviolable and sacred right, no one shall be deprived thereof except where public necessity, legally determined, shall clearly demand it, and then only on condition that the owner shall have been previously and equitably indemnified.