Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen
(807 words, 3 pages)

Adopted by the National Assembly during the French Revolution on August 26, 1789 and reaffirmed by the Constitution of 1958.

Preamble The Representatives of the French People, formed into a National Assembly, considering ignorance, forgetfulness or contempt of the rights of man to be the only causes of public misfortunes and the corruption of Governments, have resolved to set forth, in a solemn Declaration, the natural, inalienable and sacred rights of man, to the end that this Declaration, constantly present to all members of the body politic, may remind them unceasingly of their rights and their duties; to the end that the acts of the legislative power and those of the executive power, since they may be continually compared with the aim of every political institution, may thereby be the more respected; to the end that the demands of the citizens, founded henceforth on simple and uncontestable principles, may always be directed toward the maintenance of the Constitution and the happiness of all.

In consequence whereof, the National Assembly recognizes and declares, in the presence and under the auspices of the Supreme Being, the following Rights of Man and of the Citizen.

ARTICLE 1 All men are born and remain free, and have equal rights. Social distinctions are unjustifiable except insofar as they may serve the common good.

ARTICLE 2 The purpose of political association is to preserve the natural and inalienable rights of man, i.e., liberty, private property, the inviolability of the person, and the right to resist oppression.

ARTICLE 3 Sovereignty resides essentially in the nation as a whole; no group or individual can exercise any authority not expressly delegated to it or him.

ARTICLE 4 Liberty is the right to do anything which does not harm others. Thus, each man's natural rights are limited only by the necessity to assure equal liberty to others. Only the law can determine what restrictions must be made.

ARTICLE 5 The law can proscribe only those actions which harm society. Any action not forbidden by law cannot be disallowed, nor can anyone be forced to do what the law does not specifically command.

ARTICLE 6 Law is the overt expression of the general will. All citizens have the right to participate in legislation, either in person or through their representatives. The law must be framed to operate completely impartially. Since all are equal before the law, all are equally eligible, in accordance with their abilities, for all public offices and positions.

ARTICLE 7 No man can be indicted, arrested, or held in custody except for offenses legally defined, and according to specified procedures. Those who solicit, transmit, execute or cause to be executed arbitrary commands must be punished; but if a citizen is summoned or arrested in due legal form it is his duty to obey instantly.

ARTICLE 8 The law must impose only penalties that are obviously necessary. No one can be punished except under the correct application of an established law which must, moreover, have existed before he committed the offense.

ARTICLE 9 Everyone must be presumed innocent until he is pronounced guilty. If his arrest and detention are thought necessary, then no more force may be used than is necessary to secure his person.

ARTICLE 10 No one must suffer for his opinions, even for religious opinions, provided that his advocacy of them does not endanger public order.

ARTICLE 11 Free communication of thought and opinion is one of the most valuable rights of man; thus, every citizen may speak, write and print his views freely, provided only that he accepts the bounds of this freedom established by law.

ARTICLE 12 Some form of military or police force is necessary to guarantee the maintenance of the rights of man and of the citizen; thus, such a force exists for the benefit of all and not for... those who command it.

ARTICLE 13 To maintain the police force and to meet administrative expenses a financial levy is essential; this must be borne equally by all citizens, in accordance with their individual means.

ARTICLE 14 All citizens have the right to decide, either personally or through their representative, the necessity of a financial levy and their free assent to it must be obtained. They can appropriate it, and decide its extent, duration, and assessment.

ARTICLE 15 Society has the right to require of every public official an account of his administration.

ARTICLE 16 A society in which rights are not guaranteed, and in which there is no separation of powers, has no constitution.

ARTICLE 17 Since the right to private property is sacred and inviolable no one can be deprived of it except in certain cases legally determined to be essential for public security; in such cases a fair indemnity must first of all be granted.