Olivia Taylor

Western Civilization II

Primary Source Paper


The French Revolution is an infamous part of not only French history, but also the history of Europe and the world. The revolution has many long lasting effects throughout the world. This revolution was not only significant historically, but also within the context of political and philosophical ideas. When discussing the revolution, the political ideology behind it is important to note. The revolution was a political upheaval of the monarchy and the status quo in France at the time. Two very important pieces of political ideology that were produced around this time period were The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen[1] and The Tennis Court Oath. Both voiced the opinions of an oppressed people, one through a formal document and other through a speech[2]. These items, though produced over 200 years ago, still aid in the understanding of such an infamous period in history.

When walking through Simpson Library, there is quite a collection of descriptions of rights from different time periods and cultures. This is where The Declaration can be found. This particular replication of the document was produced in commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the document by the 100th congress of the United States. It was produced along side of The American Bill of Rights within this congressional resolution, “Two of the world’s greatest statements of human rights were legislated within a month

of each other in 1789” (Declaration of Rights… 9). Many parallels can be drawn between the American Bill of Rights and the Declaration, “Both the American Bill of Rights and the French Declaration stand in a tradition of expressions of human rights, each borrowing from that tradition and contributing to it” (Declaration of Rights… 9). It is very important that documents such as these are well preserved and learned from considering the importance of their content.

Setting the stage for this speech and declaration requires one to look at the history of the country leading up to their creation. France was engaged in much political and social turmoil and many of the common people were very upset with the way things were, and they were unhappy with the absolute rule of the king. The economic conditions and division between the classes were undesirable. The discontentment of the status quo was coming as a result of French aid to the Americans during their revolution. The French people had a perfect example of a successful revolution and now saw that they did not have to live with these conditions. New philosophical ideals had also come to light about the role of the government and the rights of people. These events helped lead to the production of this revolutionary declaration and speech.

The Declaration consists of a preamble and 17 different articles and was proposed by the National Assembly and was adopted on August 26, 1789. The Declaration outlined the rights and the significance of the individual within society. Some of the principles outlined within the declaration include the idea that when compiling the document the authors were inspired by Enlightenment ideals and declarations from American states. A shift in thinking came about as far as the worth of the individual. The Enlightenment also touched on the role of the state and how the states purpose was to protect the citizens. It is also credited with ending the Ancien Regime, and called fault in many previously followed ideals such as divine right and patriarchal monarchy. The declaration discusses issues such as just punishments for crimes (Article 8), the idea of innocent until proven guilty (Article 9), and probable cause is needed to be arrested/ accused for a crime (Article 7). The Declaration touches on very important issues for any society, the value and rights of the citizen and men. This is demonstrated in the very first article, “Men are born and remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions may be based only on considerations of the common good.” (Article 1, Declaration of Rights… 1). This article was derived from the push to emphasize the worth of the individual in a time when many were being oppressed. The situation in France left many citizens left out of the political process and considered of less importance. The Declaration also talks about the role of the state within society, “The aim of every political association is the preservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of man. These rights are Liberty, Property, Safety, and resistance to oppression.” (Article 3, Declaration of Rights… 1). This was in direct result from the ruling of the current king who was an absolute monarch.

Another important expression of ideals during this time was the Tennis Court Oath[3]. The Oath was delivered on June 20th, 1789, on an indoor tennis court. The Third Estate was under direct pressure from an absolute monarch to disband because they posed a threat to his rule. They however did not disband and replied, “Go tell your master that we are here by the will of the people, and that we shall be removed only at the point of a bayonet(The Tennis Court Oath, Versailles 1). The Assembly then vowed to not disband until a national constitution was adopted:

It decrees that all members of this Assembly shall immediately take a solemn oath not to separate, and to reassemble wherever circumstances require, until the constitution of the kingdom is established and consolidated upon firm foundations; and that, the said the oath taken, all member and each one individually shall ratify steadfast resolution by signature. (Llewellyn, Thompson 1)


The Third Estate was the underprivileged sector of French Society and they were standing for social change within France. They had previously been ruled by a monarchy that allowed the third estate to ben oppressed in many different ways. The Oath was the formal voicing of their stance on the issues of the Assembly and a call to be recognized by the French monarch who ruled at the time. The King after this then acknowledged the Third Estate and the National Assembly. This then lead to the forming and drafting of The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen.

These sources help people today understand such an important time in history. They give insight the opinions of Frenchmen of the past on important topics such as how a state should be governed and the basic rights of citizens and men. The Oath helped them call out for the need of The Declaration within French Society and the need for the National Assembly to be recognized. The Declaration helped outline very important ideals such as the importance of worth of an individual in society and the role of the state within society. The ideals expressed are something that can stand to be reviewed in modern time and are of great significance. Much can be learned from these pieces even though written over 200 years ago. It also speaks to their importance the fact that they have been so well preserved and handed down over the years to the reach us today.




  • “France History – Causes of the French Revolution.” Causes of the French

Revolution. Bonjour La France, n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2015. < http://www.bonjourlafrance.com/france-facts/france-history/causes-of-the-french-revolution.htm>



  • “Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen”. Encyclopædia Britannica.    

Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2015. Web. 12 Nov. 2015 <http://www.britannica.com/topic/Declaration-of-the-Rights-of-Man-and-of-the-Citizen>.



  • “Declaration of Rights of Man and Citizen” (1789), United States. Cong. Senate. Committee on Foreign Relations. The French Declaration of the

Rights of Man and of the Citizen and The American Bill of Rights. By Claiborne De Borda Pell. 100 Cong., 317 sess. S. Doc. 101-9. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.



  • Llewellyn and S. Thompson, “The Tennis Court oath”, Alpha History, accessed

Nov 18, 2015, http://alphahistory.com/frenchrevolution/tennis-court-oath/





  • “The Tennis Court Oath: HistoryWiz.” The Tennis Court Oath: HistoryWiz. HistoryWiz, 1999-
  1. Web. 26 Oct. 2015. <http://www.historywiz.com/tenniscourt.htm>



  • “The Tennis Court Oath, Versailles, 1789.” The Tennis Court Oath, Versailles,
  1. 1789. The British Library, n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2015 http://www.bl.uk/learning/histcitizen/21cc/utopia/revolution1/tennis1/tennis.html

[1] From now on The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen will simply be referred to as The Declaration.

[2] The Declaration was physically found in Simpson Library and is in document form. The Oath was found online and is through the medium of a speech.

[3] The Tennis Court will now be referred to as simply the Oath.


11 Comments so far

  1.    codybeacorn on December 10, 2015 12:55 am

    This was a nice paper! I like how you went very deep in detail on the Declaration. To make it a little better though, you could have also went equally into detail about the tennis court oath. It seems as if you ran out of information to present on the topic. Also to make it a little longer you could have went into the background of each source and what influenced them. Just some friendly suggestions. Again though, great paper!

  2.    Ram Katha on September 9, 2017 2:04 am

    An impressive share, I just given this onto a colleague who was doing a little bit evaluation on this. And he the truth is purchased me breakfast because I discovered it for him.. smile. So let me reword that: Thnx for the treat! But yeah Thnkx for spending the time to debate this, I really feel strongly about it and love reading more on this topic. If doable, as you become experience, would you mind updating your blog with extra particulars? It is extremely useful for me. Large thumb up for this blog submit!

  3.    Kupon Kodları on June 19, 2020 10:45 am

    Wisdom is easily acquired when hiding under the bed with a saucepan on your head.

  4.    Hairstyles on June 19, 2020 5:52 pm

    Excellent site. Plenty of helpful info here. I抦 sending it to some buddies ans also sharing in delicious. And of course, thank you for your sweat!

  5.    Free Stuff on June 19, 2020 8:13 pm

    I am extremely inspired with your writing abilities and also with the structure in your blog. Is that this a paid topic or did you customize it yourself? Anyway stay up the nice high quality writing, it is uncommon to look a nice blog like this one these days..

  6.    Hairstyles on June 20, 2020 1:39 am

    At this time it appears like Expression Engine is the best blogging platform available right now. (from what I’ve read) Is that what you are using on your blog?

  7.    Hairstyles on June 20, 2020 4:29 pm

    The root of your writing whilst sounding agreeable initially, did not really work very well with me after some time. Someplace throughout the sentences you were able to make me a believer unfortunately only for a very short while. I still have a problem with your jumps in assumptions and one would do nicely to help fill in those breaks. In the event you can accomplish that, I will definitely end up being fascinated.

  8.    Hairstyles on June 20, 2020 9:04 pm

    I used to be recommended this blog by way of my cousin. I am no longer positive whether this submit is written by way of him as nobody else recognize such exact approximately my difficulty. You are amazing! Thanks!

  9.    Custom T-shirts on June 21, 2020 12:30 am

    There’s certainly a great deal to know about this subject. I love all of the points you have made.

  10.    Rymden 77 on June 21, 2020 2:43 am

    Enjoyed reading through this, very good stuff, appreciate it. “Be not careless in deeds, nor confused in words, nor rambling in thought.” by Marcus Aurelius Antoninus.

  11.    islamadora mortgage on June 22, 2020 3:42 am

    I went over this site and I conceive you have a lot of superb information, saved to bookmarks (:.

Name (required)

Email (required)


Speak your mind