Scholarly Articles and Other Contributions
 

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

1990

Abstract

The thorough examination of the influence of the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen on constitutions has long awaited proper implementation. The importance of the French act has never been questioned but its multi-sided impact has not been satisfactorily evaluated.

With respect to the American Constitution, this problem merits a specially comprehensive study. Although the American and French politics at the end of the eighteenth century were carefully examined, the links between the constitutional developments of both countries has never been researched exhaustively. The reasons seem to be threefold. First, with exception of the American Constitution, the French Declaration preceded all other written constitutions in the world and the influence of the French act on the European constitutions seemed to be the primary subject of attention. Second, the sequence in which the American Constitution and the French Declaration were adopted naturally favored the claim of American parentage of the French act.

This conclusion seemed to undermine the originality of the French Declaration and irritate the historians who believed that the key ideas of the Declaration were rooted in the philosophy of the French Enlightenment. Moreover, the American draftsmen emphasized the continuity of their constitutional works and eventually looked for roots in the British rather than in the French constitutional ideas and traditions. For these reasons, the American contribution to the process of drafting the French Declaration and the subsequent influence of the French act on the American constitutional development, particularly the formation of the American Bill of Rights, has never received desired attention.

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