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CHAPTER III.: THE BILLS OF RIGHTS OF THE INDIVIDUAL STATES OF THE NORTH AMERICAN UNION WERE ITS MODELS. - Georg Jellinek, The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of Citizens: A Contribution to Modern Constitutional History 
The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of Citizens: A Contribution to Modern Constitutional History, by Georg Jellinek. Authorized translation from the German by Max Farrand, revised by the Author (New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1901).
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THE BILLS OF RIGHTS OF THE INDIVIDUAL STATES OF THE NORTH AMERICAN UNION WERE ITS MODELS.
The conception of a declaration of rights had found expression in France even before the assembling of the States General. It had already appeared in a number of cahiers. The cahier of the Bailliage of Nemours is well worth noting, as it contained a chapter entitled “On the Necessity of a Declaration of the Rights of Man and of Citizens”,1 and sketched a plan of such a declaration with thirty articles. Among other plans that in the cahier des tiers état of the city of Paris has some interest.2
In the National Assembly, however, it was Lafayette who on July 11, 1789, made the motion to enact a declaration of rights in connection with the constitution, and he therewith laid before the assembly a plan of such a declaration.3
It is the prevailing opinion that Lafayette was inspired to make this motion by the North American Declaration of Independence.4 And this instrument is further declared to have been the model that the Constituent Assembly had in mind in framing its declaration. The sharp, pointed style and the practical character of the American document are cited by many as in praiseworthy contrast to the confusing verbosity and dogmatic theory of the French Declaration.5 Others bring forward, as a more fitting object of comparison, the first amendments to the constitution of the United States,6 and even imagine that the latter exerted some influence upon the French Declaration, in spite of the fact that they did not come into existence until after August 26, 1789. This error has arisen from the French Declaration of 1789 having been embodied word for word in the Constitution of September 3, 1791, and so to one not familiar with French constitutional history, and before whom only the texts of the constitutions themselves are lying, it seems to bear a later date.
By practically all those, however, who look further back than the French Declaration it is asserted that the Declaration of Independence of the United States on July 4, 1776, contains the first exposition of a series of rights of man.7
Yet the American Declaration of Independence contains only a single paragraph that resembles a declaration of rights. It reads as follows:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness; That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
This sentence is so general in its content that it is difficult to read into it, or deduct from it, a whole system of rights. It is therefore, at the very start, improbable that it served as the model for the French Declaration.
This conjecture becomes a certainty through Lafayette’s own statement. In a place in his Memoirs, that has as yet been completely overlooked, Lafayette mentions the model that he had in mind when making his motion in the Constituent Assembly.8 He very pertinently points out that the Congress of the newly formed Confederation of North American free states was then in no position to set up, for the separate colonies, which had already become sovereign states, rules of right which would have binding force. He brings out the fact that in the Declaration of Independence there are asserted only the principles of the sovereignty of the people and the right to change the form of government. Other rights are included solely by implication from the enumeration of the violations of right, which justified the separation from the mother country.
The constitutions of the separate states, however, were preceded by declarations of rights, which were binding upon the people’s representatives. The first state to set forth a declaration of rights properly so called was Virginia.9
The declarations of Virginia and of the other individual American states were the sources of Lafayette’s proposition. They influenced not only Lafayette, but all who sought to bring about a declaration of rights. Even the above-mentioned cahiers were affected by them.
The new constitutions of the separate American states were well known at that time in France. As early as 1778 a French translation of them, dedicated to Franklin, had appeared in Switzerland.10 Another was published in 1783 at Benjamin Franklin’s own instigation.11 Their influence upon the constitutional legislation of the French Revolution is by no means sufficiently recognized. In Europe until quite recently only the Federal constitution was known, not the constitutions of the individual states, which are assuming a very prominent place in modern constitutional history. This must be evident from the fact, which is even yet unrecognized by some distinguished historians and teachers of public law, that the individual American states had the first written constitutions. In England and France the importance of the American state constitutions has begun to be appreciated,12 but in Germany they have remained as yet almost unnoticed. For a long time, to be sure, the text of the older constitutions in their entirety were only with difficulty accessible in Europe. But through the edition, prepared by order of the United States Senate,13 containing all the American constitutions since the very earliest period, one is now in a position to become acquainted with these exceptionally important documents.
The French Declaration of Rights is for the most part copied from the American declarations or “bills of rights”.14 All drafts of the French Declaration, from those of the cahiers to the twenty-one proposals before the National Assembly, vary more or less from the original, either in conciseness or in breadth, in cleverness or in awkwardness of expression. But so far as substantial additions are concerned they present only doctrinaire statements of a purely theoretical nature or elaborations, which belong to the realm of political metaphysics. To enter upon them here is unnecessary. Let us confine ourselves to the completed work, the Declaration as it was finally determined after long debate in the sessions from the twentieth to the twenty-sixth of August.15
[1.]“De la nécessité d’établir quels sont les droits de l’homme et des citoyens, et d’en faire une déclaration qu’ils puissent opposer à toutes les espèces d’injustice.”—Archives parlementaires I. Série, IV, pp. 161 et seq.
[2.]Archives parl., V, pp. 281 et seq.
[3.]Arch. parl.,VIII, pp. 221, 222.
[4.]Cf. e.g. H. v. Sybel, Geschichte der Revolutionszeit von 1789 bis 1800, 4. Aufl., I, p. 73.
[5.]Cf. Häusser, Geschichte der franz. Revolution, 3. Aufl., p. 169; H. Schulze, Lehrbuch des deutschen Staatsrechts, I, p. 368; Stahl, Staatslehre, 4. Aufl., I, p. 523; Taine, loc.cit.: La révolution, I, p. 274: “Ici rien de semblable aux déclarations précises de la Constitution américaine.” In addition, note 1: cf. la Déclaration d’indépendance du 4 juillet 1776.
[6.]Stahl, loc. cit., p. 524; Taine, loc. cit. The fact that Jefferson’s proposal to enact a declaration of rights was rejected is expressly emphasized in a note.
[7.]Stahl, loc. cit., p. 523, does mention, in addition, the declarations of the separate states, but he does not specify when they originated, nor in what relation they stand to the French Declaration, and his comments show that he is not at all familiar with them. Janet, loc. cit., I, p. v et seq., enters at length into the subject of the state declarations in order to show the originality of the French, and he even makes the mistaken attempt to prove French influence upon the American (p. xxxv). The more detailed history of the American declarations he is quite ignorant of.
[8.]Mémoires, correspondances et manuscripts du général Lafayette, publiés par sa famille, II, p. 46.
[9.]“Mais les constitutions que se donnèrent successivement les treize états, furent précedées de déclarations des droits, don’t les principes devaient servir de règles aux représentans du peuple, soit aux conventions, soit dans les autres exercises de leur pouvoirs. La Virginie fut la première à produire une déclaration des droits proprement dite.”— I bid., p. 47.
[10.]Recueil des loix constitutives des colonies angloises, confédérées sous la dénomination d’ ÉtatsUnis de l’Amérique-Septentrionale. Dédié à M.le Docteur Franklin. En suisse, chez les libraires associés.
[11.]Cf. Ch. Borgeaud, Établissement et revision des constitutions en Amérique et en Europe, Paris, 1893, p. 27.
[12.]Especially the exceptional work of James Bryce, The American Commonwealth, Vol I, Part II., The State Governments; Boutmy, Études de droit constitutionnel, 2me éd., Paris, 1895, pp. 83 et seq.; and Borgeaud, loc. cit., pp. 28 et seq.
[13.]The Federal and State Constitutions, Colonial Charters, and other Organic Laws of the United States. Compiled by Ben: Perley Poore. Two vols., Washington, 1877. Only the most important documents of the colonial period are included.
[14.]This is not quite clear even to the best French authority on American history, Laboulaye, as is evident from his treatment of the subject, Histoire des États-Unis, II, p. II.
[15.]Cf. Arch. Parl., VIII, pp. 461–489.