La fete Nationale, Quartonze Juillet

Declaration of the Rights of Man

Bastille DayIt’s the 230th anniversary of La Fête Nationale, Le Quatorze Juillet, or, as I learned it growing up, Bastille Day in France. It “commemorates the storming of the Bastille prison on July 14, 1789. The French Revolution transformed France into a land of equality and democracy with the Declaration of the Rights of Man in August 1789, which I assume also now apply to women.

I don’t really know much about that document. What did it say, anyway?


“Men are born and remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions may be founded only upon the general good.” I’m reminded, via the musical Hamilton – which we’ll finally see in August 2019 – that while the French aided the colonists in the American Revolution, the news nation remained neutral in the French conflict with the same George III of England.

“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.” This appears to be an intractable fight in the United States, from abortion rights to gun control.

“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.” May we apply this to our use of social media?

“The security of the rights of man and of the citizen requires public military forces. These forces are, therefore, established for the good of all and not for the personal advantage of those to whom they shall be intrusted.” The lessons of Eisenhower seem forgotten as certain Americans are wowed by the “military parade that is a high point of the national holiday celebrations,” and wish to emulate in the US.

Of course, democracy is never a straight line. While the French Senate was founded in 1799, by 1804, Napoleon Bonaparte had declared himself the first Emperor of France. Americans should be aware that we’re not immune to such demagoguery.

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