French Declaration of the Rights of
Man and Citizen, 1793
Maloy Anderson, ed., The Constitutions and Other
Select Documents Illustrative of the History of
France 1789-1901 (Minneapolis: H. W. Wilson, 1904),
oppression is the consequence of the other rights
of man. There is oppression against the social body
when a single one of its members is oppressed:
there is oppression against each member when the
social body is oppressed. When the government
violates the rights of the people, insurrection is
for the people and for each portion of the people
the most sacred of rights and the most
indispensable of duties."
The French people, convinced that
forgetfulness and contempts of the natural rights of
man are the sole causes of the miseries of the world,
have resolved to set forth in a solemn declaration
these sacred and inalienable rights, in order that all
the citizens, being able to compare unceasingly the
acts of the government with the aim of every social
institution, may never allow themselves to be oppressed
and debased by tyranny; and in order that the people
may always have before their eyes the foundations of
their liberty and their welfare, the magistrate the
rule of his duties, the legislator the purpose of his
In consequence, it proclaims in the presence of the
supreme being the following declaration of the rights
of man and citizen.
1. The aim of society is the common welfare. Government
is instituted in order to guarantee to man the
enjoyment of his natural and imprescriptible
2. These rights are equality, liberty, security, and
3. All men are equal by nature and before the law.
4. Law is the free and solemn expression of the general
will; it is the same for all, whether it protects or
punishes; it can command only what is just and useful
to society; it can forbid only what is injurious to
5. All citizens are equally eligible to public
employments. Free peoples know no other grounds for
preference in their elections than virtue and
6. Liberty is the power that belongs to man to do
whatever is not injurious to the rights of others; it
has nature for its principle, justice for its rule, law
for its defense; its moral limit is in this maxim: Do
not do to another that which you do not wish should be
done to you.
7. The right to express one's thoughts and opinions by
means of the press or in any other manner, the right to
assemble peaceably, the free pursuit of religion,
cannot be forbidden.
The necessity of enunciating these rights supposes
either the presence or the fresh recollection of
8. Security consists in the protection afforded by
society to each of its members for the preservation of
his person, his rights, and his property.
9. The law ought to protect public and personal liberty
against the oppression of those who govern.
10. No one ought to be accused, arrested, or detained
except in the cases determined by law and according to
the forms that it has prescribed. Any citizen summoned
or seized by the authority of the law, ought to obey
immediately; he makes himself guilty by resistance.
11. Any act done against man outside of the cases and
without the forms that the law determines is arbitrary
and tyrannical; the one against whom it may be intended
to be executed by violence has the right to repel it by
12. Those who may incite, expedite, subscribe to,
execute or cause to be executed arbitrary legal
instruments are guilty and ought to be punished.
13. Every man being presumed innocent until he has been
pronounced guilty, if it is thought indispensable to
arrest him, all severity that may not be necessary to
secure his person ought to be strictly repressed by
14. No one ought to be tried and punished except after
having been heard or legally summoned, and except in
virtue of a law promulgated prior to the offense. The
law which would punish offenses committed before it
existed would be a tyranny: the retroactive effect
given to the law would be a crime.
15. The law ought to impose only penalties that are
strictly and obviously necessary: the punishments ought
to be proportionate to the offense and useful to
16. The right of property is that which belongs to
every citizen to enjoy, and to dispose at his pleasure
of his goods, income, and of the fruits of his labor
and his skill.
17. No kind of labor, tillage, or commerce can be
forbidden to the skill of the citizens.
18. Every man can contract his services and his time,
but he cannot sell himself nor be sold: his person is
not an alienable property. The law knows of no such
thing as the status of servant; there can exist only a
contract for services and compensation between the man
who works and the one who employs him.
19. No one can be deprived of the least portion of his
property without his consent, unless a legally
established public necessity requires it, and upon
condition of a just and prior compensation.
20. No tax can be imposed except for the general
advantage. All citizens have the right to participate
in the establishment of taxes, to watch over the
employment of them, and to cause an account of them to
21. Public relief is a sacred debt. Society owes
maintenance to unfortunate citizens, either procuring
work for them or in providing the means of existence
for those who are unable to labor.
22. Education is needed by all. Society ought to favor
with all its power the advancement of the public reason
and to put education at the door of every citizen.
23. The social guarantee consists in the action of all
to secure to each the enjoyment and the maintenance of
his rights: this guarantee rests upon the national
24. It cannot exist if the limits of public functions
are not clearly determined by law and if the
responsibility of all the functionaries is not
25. The sovereignty resides in the people; it is one
and indivisible, imprescriptible, and inalienable.
26. No portion of the people can exercise the power of
the entire people, but each section of the sovereign,
in assembly, ought to enjoy the right to express its
will with entire freedom.
27. Let any person who may usurp the sovereignty be
instantly put to death by free men.
28. A people has always the right to review, to reform,
and to alter its constitution. One generation cannot
subject to its law the future generations.
29. Each citizen has an equal right to participate in
the formation of the law and in the selection of his
mandatories or his agents.
30. Public functions are necessarily temporary; they
cannot be considered as distinctions or rewards, but as
31. The offenses of the representatives of the people
and of its agents ought never to go unpunished. No one
has the right to claim for himself more inviolability
than other citizens.
32. The right to present petitions to the depositories
of the public authority cannot in any case be
forbidden, suspended, nor limited.
33. Resistance to oppression is the consequence of the
other rights of man.
34. There is oppression against the social body when a
single one of its members is oppressed: there is
oppression against each member when the social body is
35. When the government violates the rights of the
people, insurrection is for the people and for each
portion of the people the most sacred of rights and the
most indispensable of duties.