Both France and the United States have a Bill of Rights. Both documents list rights of the individual. The United States Constitution Bill of Rights, the French Rights of Man, and the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights all share one set purpose. They all were created in the best interest of the citizens to ensure freedom and equality throughout a nation. In this essay, I will compare the similarities between three important U.S. Bill of Rights Amendments with others written in the French Rights of Man and the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
For over 200 years, the Constitution has served as the cornerstone of our Nation’s democracy. It has guaranteed us freedom in our decisions and equality in our lives. The twenty-four Amendments to the Constitution bind us together to form a nation and help unite us with our government.
The first Amendment I would like to expand upon is Amendment I. The first Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” This Amendment is basically stating that all American citizens have the right to say and write what they wish, the right to meet together peaceably, and the right to complain to the government. It also states that Congress cannot set up an official religion or keep people from worshiping as they wish. This Amendment ensures the freedom of speech, press, assembly, and free exercise of religion.
This amendment is extremely significant in my life. My family and I are Roman Catholics and worship our God every Sunday in church. If that freedom of worship was taken away from me or never instilled throughout my childhood, I am positive that I would be leading a different type of lifestyle today. I am proud of who I am and who my country allows me to be. The right to choose your own religion is often taken for granted in our diversely filled country.
I discovered some interesting similarities while comparing Amendment I from the U.S. Constitution Bill of Rights with others written in the French Rights of Man. Article number 10 of the French Rights states,” No one shall be disquieted on account of his opinions, including his religious views, provided their manifestation does not disturb the public order established by law.” This simply means that the citizens of France have the freedom of speech as well as religion. The rights depicted in the first Amendment can also be compared with the rights in Article number 11 of the same doctrine, “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.” In other words, this article is stating that the people of France have the freedom of press as well as speech.
Another similarity I found to Amendment I of the Bill of Rights came from the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In Articles 18 through Article 21, the doctrine states everyone is entitled to freedom of thought, religion, opinion, speech, peaceful assembly, and government action. These articles from both the French Rights of Man and the UDHR are generally summarizing the concepts stated in First Amendment of the Bill of Rights.
The second Amendment of the Bill of Rights I selected for my comparison is the Fourth Amendment. Amendment VI states, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” In simpler terms, this Amendment is stating that an official cannot search a person or his home or seize his property without a warrant. A judge can issue a warrant only if it is necessary to catch a criminal or prevent a crime. This right’s primary purpose is to protect citizens against unwarranted search.
A slightly similar right was written in the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 12 states, “ No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honor and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against interference or attack.” This statement is not completely the same as the one explained above from the Bill of Rights. This Article only means that everyone is allowed a sense of privacy in their lives. The law was made to protect the nation’s people against attacks.
After reading the seventeen Articles of the French Rights of Man, I learned that the doctrine does not supply a similar right. The only Article which mentioned a citizens’ property was Article 17. It states, “Since property is an inviolable and sacred right, no one shall be deprived thereof except where public necessity, legally determined, shall clearly demand it, and then only…” This is only saying that the government can not take away someone’s land or property unless legally permitted or it is a public necessity. There is no guarantee of privacy in ones’ property. A search is allowed without a judge appointed warrant.
Amendment VI is another essential part of the Bill of Rights Doctrine. It sates, “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which…and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; … and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.” This Amendment means that a person accused of a crime must be tried quickly. He cannot be held in jail while the police look for evidence. The trial must be held in public. The Amendment also states that the accused has a right to have his case heard by a jury in the state the crime was committed. He must be told of what he is accused and must be able to see and hear witnesses against him. If he cannot pay for a lawyer, the court has to appoint one.
Other articles that protect rights to a fair trial and council cannot be found in both the French Rights of Man and in the UDHR. The right of a fair trial is not mentioned in the French Rights of Man. It does state although, “As all persons are held innocent until they shall have been declared guilty, if the arrest shall be deemed indispensable, all harshness not essential to the securing of the prisoner’s person shall be severely repressed by law,” in Article 9. This means everyone arrested is thought to be innocent until declared or labeled guilty. In the Universal Declaration rather, Articles 10 and 11 state that everyone is entitled to a fair and public trial. It also says that all men charged with crimes are innocent until proven guilty. Even though this sounds similar to the U.S. doctrine, I found one difference. The 6th Amendment guarantees the supply of defense. A public assistance lawyer is appointed if the accused has no representation in court.
There are a few rights listed in the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights which are not included in both the French Rights of Man and the U.S. Bill of Rights. One right mentioned in the UDHR is Article 4. “No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.” This right is stating that slavery, in any form, is illegal. The use of slaves and the trading of slaves is not permitted by law. Another human right that wasn’t written of in the other two doctrines is Article 16. This article of the UDHR states that any men and women over the legal age have the right to marry. This gives a person the right to start a family without any limitation due to race, religion or nationality. Article 13 is another right that was only included in this doctrine. It states, “Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state. Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and return to his country.” This article gives a citizen freedom to come and go as they please. Travel and choice of residence is a legal option.
In closing, this comparison proved that the U.S. Constitution Bill of Rights, the French Rights of Man, and the UDHR hold many similarities, as well as differences. These three doctrines were great accomplishments that united people together to form strong world powers.