Declaration of the Rights of Man
Approved by the National Assembly of France, August 26, 1789
The representatives of the French people, organized as a
National Assembly, believing that the ignorance, neglect, or contempt
of the rights of man are the sole cause of public calamities and of
the corruption of governments, have determined to set forth in a
solemn declaration the natural, unalienable, and sacred rights of man,
in order that this declaration, being constantly before all the
members of the Social body, shall remind them continually of their
rights and duties; in order that the acts of the legislative power, as
well as those of the executive power, may be compared at any moment
with the objects and purposes of all political institutions and may
thus be more respected, and, lastly, in order that the grievances of
the citizens, based hereafter upon simple and incontestable
principles, shall tend to the maintenance of the constitution and
redound to the happiness of all. Therefore the National Assembly
recognizes and proclaims, in the presence and under the auspices of
the Supreme Being, the following rights of man and of the citizen:
Men are born and remain free and equal in rights. Social
distinctions may be founded only upon the general good.
The aim of all political association is the preservation of the
natural and imprescriptible rights of man. These rights are liberty,
property, security, and resistance to oppression.
The principle of all sovereignty resides essentially in the
nation. No body nor individual may exercise any authority which does
not proceed directly from the nation.
Liberty consists in the freedom to do everything which injures
no one else; hence the exercise of the natural rights of each man has
no limits except those which assure to the other members of the
society the enjoyment of the same rights. These limits can only be
determined by law.
Law can only prohibit such actions as are hurtful to society.
Nothing may be prevented which is not forbidden by law, and no one may
be forced to do anything not provided for by law.
Law is the expression of the general will. Every citizen has a
right to participate personally, or through his representative, in its
foundation. It must be the same for all, whether it protects or
punishes. All citizens, being equal in the eyes of the law, are
equally eligible to all dignities and to all public positions and
occupations, according to their abilities, and without distinction
except that of their virtues and talents.
No person shall be accused, arrested, or imprisoned except in
the cases and according to the forms prescribed by law. Any one
soliciting, transmitting, executing, or causing to be executed, any
arbitrary order, shall be punished. But any citizen summoned or
arrested in virtue of the law shall submit without delay, as
resistance constitutes an offense.
The law shall provide for such punishments only as are strictly
and obviously necessary, and no one shall suffer punishment except it
be legally inflicted in virtue of a law passed and promulgated before
the commission of the offense.
As all persons are held innocent until they shall have been
declared guilty, if arrest shall be deemed indispensable, all
harshness not essential to the securing of the prisoner's person shall
be severely repressed by law.
No one shall be disquieted on account of his opinions, including
his religious views, provided their manifestation does not disturb the
public order established by law.
The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most
precious of the rights of man. Every citizen may, accordingly, speak,
write, and print with freedom, but shall be responsible for such
abuses of this freedom as shall be defined by law.
The security of the rights of man and of the citizen requires
public military forces. These forces are, therefore, established for
the good of all and not for the personal advantage of those to whom
they shall be intrusted.
A common contribution is essential for the maintenance of the
public forces and for the cost of administration. This should be
equitably distributed among all the citizens in proportion to their
All the citizens have a right to decide, either personally or by
their representatives, as to the necessity of the public contribution;
to grant this freely; to know to what uses it is put; and to fix the
proportion, the mode of assessment and of collection and the duration
of the taxes.
Society has the right to require of every public agent an
account of his administration.
A society in which the observance of the law is not assured, nor
the separation of powers defined, has no constitution at all.
Since property is an inviolable and sacred right, no one shall
be deprived thereof except where public necessity, legally determined,
shall clearly demand it, and then only on condition that the owner
shall have been previously and equitably indemnified.
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