The French Declaration of the
Rights of Man and Citizen (1789)
The representatives of the French people, organized in National
Assembly, considering that ignorance forgetfulness or contempt
of the rights of man are the sole causes of public misfortunes
and of the corruption of governments have resolved to set forth
in a solemn declaration the natural, inalienable and sacred rights
of man in order that such declaration continually before all members
of the social body
may be a perpetual reminder of their rights and duties; in
order that the acts of the legislative power and those of the
executive power may constantly be compared with the aim of every
political institution and may accordingly be more respected; 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.
Accordingly the National Assembly recognizes and proclaims
in the presence and under the auspices of the Supreme Being the
following rights of man and citizen.
1. Men are born and remain free and equal in rights; social
distinctions may be based only upon general usefulness.
2. The aim of every political association is the preservation
of the natural and inalienable rights of man; these rights are
liberty, property, security and resistance to oppression.
3. The source of all sovereignty resides essentially in the
nation; no group, no individual may exercise authority not emanating
4. Liberty consists of the power to do whatever is not injurious
to others; thus the enjoyment of the natural rights of every man
has for its limits only those that assure other members of society
the enjoyment of those same rights; such limits may be determined
only by law.
5. The law has the right to forbid only actions which are
injurious to society. Whatever is not forbidden by law may not
be prevented, and no one may be constrained to do what it does
6. Law is the expression of the general will; all citizens
have the right to concur personally, or through their representatives
in its formation; it must be the same for all, whether it protects
or punishes. All citizens being equal before it, are equally admissible
to all public offices, positions, and employments, according to
their capacity, and without other distinction than that of virtues
7. No man may be accused arrested, or detained except in the
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.
8. 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 offense
and legally applied.
9. 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
10. No one is to be disquieted because of his opinions, even
religious, provided their manifestation does not disturb the public
order established by law.
11. Free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the
most precious of the 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.
12. 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.
13. For the maintenance of the public force and for the expenses
of administration a common tax is indispensable; it must be assessed
equally on all citizens in proportion to their means.
14. 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 quota, assessment, payment, and duration.
15. Society has the right to require of every public agent
an accounting of his administration.
16. Every society in which the guarantee of rights is not
assured or the separation of powers not determined has no constitution
17. Since property is a sacred and inviolable right, no one
may be deprived thereof unless a legally established public necessity
obviously requires it, and upon condition of a just and previous