What are the fundamental rights which every human being has, and the free exercise of which must be guaranteed to him or her by society? There was a time when man was supposed to have very few rights, and almost every department of his life was open to check the interference by the State, by the tribal chief or by the priesthood. The result of this was that the individual had no will or choice of his own, and was completely subordinated to the ruling class of the group or society of which he was a member.
But since the rise of democracy, there has been a move in the direction of respecting the freedom of the individual, which had not existed before. The liberal thought, which took rise in the eighteenth century in Europe as a result of the thinking and reasoning of men like Voltaire and the French encyclopedists, the unlimited exercise of authority over the individual by Church or State was seriously questioned, and it came to he recognized that some limits should be set to the power of society, and man should be given some rights and a measure of freedom consistent with the well-being of his fellow-citizens and the State of which he was a member.
When the American colonies fought their War of Independence against England. they drew up a document in which the rights of the individual were defined. It was declared that all men were born free and that no interference with their liberty could be brooked, and the War of Independence was being fought to vindicate this right to liberty.
When the French Revolution came in 1789, it set forth a threefold principle as the basis of the people’s struggle against their rulers. This principle was the principle of Liberty. Equality and Fraternity. Interpreted, this means that all men are free, and no one has the right to undue interference with them in their private life. Secondly, that all men are equal in the eyes of the law and the constitution, and that no one can claim privilege over anyone else on the score of birth, position or for any other reason. The fraternity is an emphasized form of this concept of Equality ; it means that all men are like brothers.
Democracy was established in Europe in the nineteenth century, though it has been fully successful only in Great Britain and France in Europe, and in the U.S.A.