SIX DECLARATIONS OF RIGHTS COMPOSED DURING THE FRENCH REVOLUTION
Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen
Adopted by the National Assembly on 27 August 1789
The representatives of the French people, formed into a National Assembly, considering that ignorance, neglect, or contempt of the rights of man, are the sole causes of public misfortunes and the corruptions of government, have resolved to set forth in a solemn declaration, the natural, sacred, and inalienable rights of man: in order that this declaration, continually before all members of society, may be a perpetual reminder of their rights and duties; in order that the acts of the legislative and executive powers may be compared at any moment with the aim of every political institution and may accordingly be more respected; and in order that the demands of the citizens, founded henceforth upon simple and incontestable principles, may always be directed towards the maintenance of the Constitution and the welfare of all.
Consequently, the National Assembly recognizes and proclaims, in the presence and under the auspices of the Supreme Being, the following rights of man and citizen.
- Men are born and remain free and equal in their rights; social distinctions can be based only on common utility.
- The aim of all political associations is the preservation of the natural and inalienable rights of man; these rights are liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression.
- The source of all sovereignty resides essentially in the nation; no individual, nor any group, may exercise authority which does not emanate expressly from it.
- Liberty consists of the power to do whatever does not harm others; the exercise of the natural rights of every man has no other limits that those which are necessary to secure to every other man the free exercise of the same rights; such limits are determined by law only.
- The law has the right to forbid only actions which are harmful to society. Whatever is not forbidden by law may not be prevented, and no one may be constrained to do what it does not prescribe.
- The law is the expression of the general will; all citizens have the right to contribute personally, or through their representatives, to its formation; it must be the same for all, whether it protects or punishes. All citizens, being equal in the eyes of the law, are equally admissible to all honours, employments and public offices, according to their capacity, and without other distinction than that of virtues and talents.
- No man may be accused, arrested, or detained except in cases determined by law, and according to the forms prescribed thereby. Whoever solicit, expedite, or execute arbitrary orders, or have them executed, must be punished; but every citizen summoned or apprehended in pursuance of the law must obey immediately; he renders himself culpable by resistance.
- The law is to establish only penalties that are absolutely and obviously necessary; and no one may be punished except by virtue of a law established and promulgated prior to the offence and legally applied.
- Since every man is presumed innocent until declared guilty, if arrest be deemed indispensable, all unnecessary severity for securing the person of the accused must be severely repressed by the law.
- No one is to be disquieted because of his opinions, even religious, provided their manifestation does not disturb the public order established by law.
- Free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious rights of man. Consequently, every citizen may speak, write, and print freely, subject to responsibility for the abuse of such liberty in the cases determined by law.
- The guarantee of the rights of man and citizen necessitates a public force; such a force, therefore, is instituted for the advantage of all and not for the particular benefit of those to whom it is entrusted.
- A common tax is indispensable for the maintenance of the public force and for the expenses of administration, this tax must be assessed equally on all citizens in proportion to their means.
- Citizens have the right to ascertain, by themselves or through their representatives, the necessity of the public tax, to consent to it freely, to supervise its use, and to determine its assessment, payment and duration.
- Society has the right to require of every public agent an accounting of his administration.
- Every society in which the guarantee of rights is not assured or the separation of powers not determined has no constitution at all.
- Since property is a sacred and inviolable right, no one may be deprived of it unless a legally established public necessity obviously requires it, and upon condition of a just and previous indemnity.