The authors trace the development of legal protection of the rights of mentally ill persons to the experiences of Gabriel-Honoré de Riqueti, the Count of Mirabeau, who was imprisoned without due process more than 200 years ago. influenced by the ideas of the leaders of the American Revolution, he later became a representative to the French Republic's National Assembly and played a pivotal role in defining human rights, including the rights of mentally ill persons, in France. He advocated involvement of judicial authorities in any decision to confine a citizen, even in the case of mental disorder. French civil commitment legislation of 1838 established the authority of physicians and civil officials in commitment decisions, but limited judicial involvement to review after commitment. A new 1990 law limits judicial involvement to review after commitment, but extends the rights of hospitalized patients in many areas.