Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen

On August 26, 1789, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen was adopted by the French National Assembly, which also was known as the Constituent Assembly, owing to its self-appointed task of framing a constitution for the French nation. This body began as one of three Estates, or orders, within the Estates-General, which had been convened in early May by King Louis XVI. The three orders of which the Estates-General consisted were the nobility, the clergy, and the Third Estate, made up of all other French citizens.

This remarkable event—the summoning of the Estates-General, the first since 1614—was precipitated by the bankruptcy of the French government and its desperate need to raise revenue. The crown's attempts to levy taxes on those who ...

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