The Beginnings of Patriotism

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"I read, I study, I examine, I listen, I reflect,

and out of all this I try to form an idea

into which I put as much common sense as I can." [1]

- December 16, 1777, Marquis de Lafayette (age 20)

On August 27th, 1789, the Marquis de Lafayette put forth his bill of rights,[2] The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, based on the American Declaration of Independence, at the National Assembly of France. It would produce the notion that the beginning of the 19th century also brought with it the 'Age of reason'.[3]

The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen spelt out such 'natural and indefeasible' rights as liberty, property, security, and the right to resist oppression. The Declaration also recognized equality, notably before the law and justice. Finally, it asserted the principle of the separation of powers.

Though, in practice, the bill would fall short of success it managed to create a strong sense of nationalism throughout France, as can be seen in the document entitled Instruction to the Temporary Commission at Lyons.[5] The fanaticism previously connected with the Church was shifted with great encouragement (or more accurately, force) to the protection of the State.

Thomas Paine, an English radical thinker, defined his support of the ideals of the French Revolution in his book, The Rights of Man. The Rights of Man echoed such sentiments as the irrationality of hereditary succession,[6] the principle that, in government especially, 'absolute power corrupts absolutely'[7] and also the endorsement of Liberty. In spite of his support, between the publication of Part One and Two of The Rights of Man, Paine would become 'disillusioned' by the direction of the Revolution. However, he attributed this failure to 'the people, the nation...not the idea'...