HCS Inc. - Information Databases - Freedom Documents
DECLARATION OF THE RIGHTS OF MAN AND OF THE CITIZEN (1789)
The representatives of the French people, organized as a National
Assembly, believing that the ignorance, neglect, or contempt of the
rights of man re 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:
1. Men are born and remain free and equal in rights.
Social distinctions may be founded only upon the general good.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. 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.
10. 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.
11. 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.
12. 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.
13. 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 means.
14. 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.
15. Society has the right to require of every public agent an
account of his administration.
16. A society in which the observance of the law is not assured,
nor the separation of powers defined, has no constitution
17. 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
This document was written by The Marquis de Lafayette, with help from
Thomas Jefferson and was approved by the National Assembly of France on
August 26, 1789.