France\'s administrative system, her national emblem (the tricolor flag) her national holiday (July 14), her national anthem (the Marseilles) and even the lady with the red cap, (a descendant of the figure of Liberty) are all part of the French Revolution\'s familiar legacy.
Most of France\'s present legal and political tenets, too, date from the French Revolution; the notion of national sovereignty, individual liberty for those who comply with law and the concept fraternity.
Everyone takes these things for granted now, but they were hotly disputed at the time. The year 1789 opened an era of internal strife whose result has been a distinctive political style that also belongs to the legacy from those times.
The French revolutionaries felt that their ambition was a universal one. In their Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen of August 26, 1789, the members of the Constituent Assembly had all of humanity in mind. Subsequently the same optimism spread to members of the intellectual elite elsewhere in Europe who viewed the events taking place in France as an example rather than a threat.
The French Revolution of 1789 was a torch bearer. The revolutionary decade led to a progressive movement that brought along hope to the humanity in general for a better and civilized world. The 1776 Declaration of Independence had been the first to mention man\'s right to happiness; the French Revolution was the first political movement in Western History to include it among its programme.
No text was ever more widely read nor more effective for purposes of revolutionary propaganda abroad than the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man. It was brief and consisted of seventeen articles that amounted to a veritable \'modern gospel\' in the eyes of French patriots.
Both spontaneous propaganda (in the theatre and foreign press) and the orchestrated kind (via the army and subsidized newspapers) contributed heavily to the impact this universally valid text had in Europe and elsewhere.
In his study of the Declaration of Rights\' the historian Jacques Godechot pointed out that though the text often ran into opposition from authorities elsewhere, it enhanced France\'s stature all over the world.
Town like Strasbourg near the German border turned to printing and distributing these basic revolutionary texts; speakers in various assemblies pointed out that the Declaration of Rights was worth more than whole artillery battalions in the struggle against enemy forces, and foreigners who agreed with the tenets of 1789 promulgated them in their own countries-men like Thomas Paine with his Rights of Man and his conservative contemporary Edmund Burke in Reflections on the Revolution in France.
On August 26. 1792 the people\'s representatives in the Legislative Assembly sought to hall Paine as an \'apostle for the Rights of Man\'.
The Rights of Man are at the very core of the festivities held in commemoration of the French Revolution\'s Bicentennial. The Arche de La Defense monument in Paris will stand as the symbol of the 1989 commemoration. Just as the Eiffel Tower still bears witness to the ceremonies held for the 1889 Centennial and Exposition Universelle, this arch will celebrate the rights of man and may, in years to come, serve as a reminder of the principles of 1789.
From the many projects for temples of Liberty, palaces of Equality and other monuments in honour of civic virtues that were the work of revolutionary architects, to the sober elegance of the Arche de La Defense, runs a thread that testifies to unmistakable kinship of the French people with the spirit of 1789.
Based on an article written by Monseeur Maurice Agulhon Professeur au College de France, Paris.
To commemorate the Bicentenary of the French Revolution Pakistan Post Office is issuing one stamp of Rs 7 denomination on June 24, 1989.