The late eighteenth century was a transitional era: a time when feudal dominance was coming to an end in Europe and when thirteen North American colonies began to feel the oppressive hand of imperialist Great Britain. History was made in 1776 when the thirteen colonies united in defiance of their mother country and penned the Declaration of Independence. Only a few short years later the French masses revolted in a similar fashion under the Declaration of the Rights of man. Both documents were inspired by living under an oppressive rule, but the methods each used to inspire a following we’re different. Because of their geographic locations, the Declaration of Independence is an aggressive list of complaints meant to unify the colonies, and the Declaration of the Rights of Man contains more possible solutions meant to incite action.
The colonists of North America felt that the country was theirs for the taking. They had become tired with subscribing to law that came from an entire Ocean away without their representation in government. They believed that this separation between ruler and ruled violated their unalienable right to liberty. Following the French philosophers Rousseau and Montesquieu, writers such as John Locke and Thomas Pain began to emphasize the grievances that the British were forcing on the colonies. When Thomas Jefferson then wrote the Declaration of Independence, his words focused on the wrongdoings of the king and on creating a unified colonial mindset. The colonists knew that there was a revolution coming, but because of the geographic distance between the two nations, the most pressing issue to revolutionaries was creating a unified American front for when conflict ensued. There is no urgency in this declaration because of the distance between ruler and ruled so instead the focus is primarily on promoting patriotism and on forcing the colonists to think of themselves as a unified nation.
Similarly, the Declaration of the Rights of Man hopes to inspire the third estate of France to rebel against the first and second. Using the principles of those from the Declaration of Independence, the Declaration of the Rights of Man defines what the third estate believes to be their undeniable rights. In Contrast to the American writing however, the French propose a solution; a whole new legislative government. In this way they learned from their American predecessors and created a plan of action instead of a list of complaints. This was because of the greater sense of urgency in their proximity to those thy we’re rebellin against.
Both documents are a symbol of freedom and liberty, uniting oppressed groups under tyrannical regimes. Their writings differed however because ogeographic location and urgency.