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
- Men are born and
remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions may be founded
only upon the general good.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- Society has the
right to require of every public agent an account of his
- A society in
which the observance of the law is not assured, nor the separation
of powers defined, has no constitution at all.
- 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.