How is the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen similar to the American Declaration of Independence?

This activity engages students in a comparison of the American Declaration of Independence and the French Declaration of Rights of Man and Citizen. Students will focus on analyzing message, purpose, and audience. Students should complete the activity with an understanding that while the ideals underlying the two documents were very similar, the purpose and audience of the two documents differed significantly.

Suggested Teaching Instructions

This activity is intended for
students in grades 9-12 and should take approximately one class period. Translations of the Declaration of Rights of Man and Citizen are provided by the Avalon Project at Yale University.

Begin by asking students what rights Americans have. Possible answers will include liberty, speech, fair and speedy trial, etc. Next, ask them where these rights come from. Explain to students that ideas of
individual rights came from a French movement called the Enlightenment that influenced the Atlantic revolutions of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Both of the declarations featured in this activity were inspired by the ideals of the Enlightenment.

Direct students to the activity. Explain that they will focus on comparing and contrasting the Declaration of Independence from the USA and the Declaration of Rights of Man and Citizen from France. They will begin with a visual analysis
of the documents. Students may be concerned because the visual document for Declaration of Rights of Man and Citizen is in French, but reassure them that they will not need to read the document in the visual analysis (they will read translated excerpts of it later in the activity); for the visual analysis students just need to focus on the appearance of the document.

Encourage students to work with a partner or a small group as they analyze the documents and address the questions. Peer
support will likely help them gain a better understanding of the texts. Ask students to complete the visual analysis portion of the activity. When they have finished, process the following questions from the activity as a whole class:

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1. What do you notice about the features of each document?
2. Based on the appearance of the document and focusing on the features you observed in question 1, who might be the intended audience of each document? (Think in broad, general terms)

Students
may notice that the Declaration of Independence has signatures, similar to a petition, so perhaps the people who signed it are petitioning for something from an individual or a group. They may notice that the Declaration of Rights of Man and Citizen has multiple parts. It also has artwork, possibly signifying that it is a formal document intended for a public audience.

Move students on to the second part of the activity, where they will analyze excerpts from the introductory portions of
the documents. After they have completed the second set of analyses, process the questions as a whole class:

1. What are two main ideas from each excerpt?
2. What is one purpose of each excerpt?

Now ask students to work with their partner or group to find some similarities and differences between the excerpts of the two documents; after a few minutes ask students to share with the whole class.

Finally, ask students to move on to the final analysis set: excerpts from the body
of the two documents. After they have completed the analysis, process the discussion questions as a class:

1. What do the documents tell us about how America and France felt about individual rights?
2. Who is the “he” in the Declaration of Independence and why is “he” significant?
3. What is the purpose of each excerpt?

Ask students to work with their partner or group to find some similarities and differences between the excerpts of the two documents; after a few minutes ask
students to share with the whole class.

Once students have completed the document analysis and you have processed it as a class, direct students to the “When you’re done” section.

This activity was created by National Archives intern and social studies teacher Leah Bouas.

How is the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen similar to the American Declaration of Independence?

To the extent possible under law, National Archives Education Team has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to “Comparing American and French Revolutionary Documents“.

journal article

The Declaration of Independence, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, and the Bill of Rights

Human Rights Quarterly

Vol. 14, No. 4 (Nov., 1992)

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, pp. 478-484 (7 pages)

Published By: The Johns Hopkins University Press

https://doi.org/10.2307/762314

https://www.jstor.org/stable/762314

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Journal Information

After more than a quarter century, Human Rights Quarterly is widely recognized as the leader in the field of human rights. The Quarterly provides
information on important developments within the United Nations, and governmental and non-governmental regional human rights organizations. The journal highlights current work in human rights research and policy analysis, reviews of related books, and philosophical essays probing the fundamental nature of human rights as defined by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. By providing decision makers with insight into complex human rights issues, the Quarterly helps to define national and
international human rights policy.

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One of the largest publishers in the United States, the Johns Hopkins University Press combines traditional books and journals publishing units with cutting-edge service divisions that sustain diversity and independence among nonprofit, scholarly publishers, societies, and associations. Journals The Press is home to the largest journal publication
program of any U.S.-based university press. The Journals Division publishes 85 journals in the arts and humanities, technology and medicine, higher education, history, political science, and library science. The division also manages membership services for more than 50 scholarly and professional associations and societies. Books With critically acclaimed titles in history, science, higher education, consumer health, humanities, classics, and public health, the Books Division publishes 150 new
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In what ways is the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen similar to our Bill of rights?

The Bill of Rights and Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen are based on the same principles of natural rights; therefore each document is similar in protecting the people’s natural rights.

How does the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen relate to the US Constitution?

The first article contains the document’s central statement: “Men are born and remain free and equal in rights.” It states that the purpose of “political association” should be the preservation of these rights, enumerated as “liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression.” It also declares that both …

Was the Declaration of the rights of Man influenced by the Declaration of Independence?

It was thus heavily influenced by documents such as the American Declaration of Independence and American Constitution, and by Enlightenment ideals that explored the political relationship between individuals and the collective as detailed by Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

What was one major difference between the Declaration of the rights of Man?

A major difference in the two documents is that the French declaration makes no mention of God as the source of human rights, while the U.S. declaration affirms that human rights are derived from the “Creator” and that the role of the government is to protect these God-given rights.

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