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:
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
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
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
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 at all.
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 equitably indemnified.