Abstract

Perhaps the least self-evident right of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen was that of “resistance to oppression.” Emerging from the Anglo-American rights tradition as a check on corrupt power, the term was adapted by the marquis de Lafayette for French politics in his Declaration of Rights proposed on July 11, 1789. Following the Bastille's fall and the contestations of the early to mid-Revolution, resistance to oppression would come to suggest a general right to protest against measures violating human rights. Indeed, the revised 1793 Declaration of Rights enshrined insurrection as “the most sacred of duties” (le plus saint des devoirs). Yet in the Constitution of the Year III, the right of resistance would be eliminated entirely. Based upon a broad reading of debates in the National Assemblies and printed public sphere, this article examines how revolutionaries attempted to grapple with both the possibilities and limitations of protest as they attempted to construct a democratic regime.

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