FOUNDATION: Unit II. What Are Human Rights and Where Do They Come From? 7 of 15

Translating Moral Rights into National Law

Currier & Ives lithograph, 1876 “Washington Taking Control
of the American Army, at Cambridge, Mass., July 1775”

It took nearly a hundred years before John Locke’s ideas were put into practice by national governments.

In the eighteenth century, the first of these attempts to implement the ideas of Liberalism into national governmental systems came about. Efforts took the form of revolutions—first in the American Revolution when colonists revolted against the English crown, and then in the French Revolution, when the bourgeoisie (middle class) overthrew the monarch and aristocracy.

French Cartoon or Poster
“Aristocratic Heads on Pikes”

Note that both the American and French Revolutions are considered Liberal revolutions, proclaiming the liberty of the individual and establishing the rights of ordinary people (especially the right to property).

The French Revolution had a much bloodier aftermath than the American Revolution. How do they compare with the late twentieth century Eastern European revolutions that overthrew Communism?

Europe in Retrospect: The French Revolution
Fullerton: The French Revolution
The History Guide: Lectures on Modern European Intellectual History – Thomas Paine
PBS: Freedom, A History of the US -- Revolution