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 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
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
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 sacred nor
the separation of powers defined has no constitution at all.
17. Property being an inviolable and sacred right, no one shall be
deprived thereof except where public necessity, legally
determined, shall clearly demand it, and then only upon condition
that the owner shall have been previously and equitably