The Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen of 1789, inspired by the Declaration of American Independence of 1776 and the philosophical spirit of the eighteenth century, marks the end of the Old Regime and the beginning of a new era.
The Declaration of the rights of man and of the citizen is, together with the decrees of August 4 and 11, 1789, on the suppression of feudal rights, one of the fundamental texts voted by the National Constituent Assembly formed after the meeting of the General States during the French Revolution.
The basic principle of the Declaration was adopted before July 14, 1789 and led to the development of numerous projects. After long debates, the deputies voted the final text on August 26.
The declaration defines "natural and imprescriptible" rights such as freedom, property, security, resistance to oppression. It also recognizes the equality of all citizens before the law and justice. Finally, it affirms the principle of the separation of powers.
King Louis XVI ratified it on October 5, under pressure from the Assembly and the people, who had come to Versailles. It served as a preamble to the first constitution of the French Revolution, approved in 1791.
The Declaration of 1789 will inspire, in the 19th century, similar texts in numerous countries in Europe and Latin America. The French revolutionary tradition is also present in the European Convention of Human Rights signed in Rome on November 4, 1950.
Declaration of the rights of man and citizen (August 26, 1789)
The representatives of the French people, constituted in the National Assembly, considering that ignorance, oblivion or contempt for the rights of man are the only causes of public calamities and corruption of governments, have resolved to expose, in a solemn declaration , the natural, inalienable and sacred rights of man, so that this declaration, constantly present to all the members of the social body, reminds them without ceasing of their rights and their duties; so that the acts of the legislative power and the executive power, being able to check each other at every moment for the purpose of any political institution, are more respected and so that the claims of citizens, henceforth founded on simple and indisputable principles, result in always for the benefit of the maintenance of the Constitution and the happiness of all.
Consequently, the National Assembly recognizes and declares, in the presence of the Supreme Being and under its auspices, the following rights of man and citizen:
First article.- Men are born and remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions can only be based on common utility.
Article 2.- The purpose of any political association is the preservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of man. Such rights are freedom, property, security and resistance to oppression.
Article 3.- The principle of all sovereignty resides essentially in the Nation. No body, no individual, can exercise an authority that does not expressly emanate from it.
Article 4.- Freedom consists of being able to do everything that does not harm another: for that reason, the exercise of the natural rights of each man has no other limits than those that guarantee the enjoyment of these same rights to the other members of society. These limits can only be determined by law.
Article 5.- The law only has the right to prohibit acts harmful to society. Nothing that is not prohibited by law can be prevented, and no one can be constrained to do something that it does not order.
Article 6.- The law is the expression of the general will. All citizens have the right to contribute to its elaboration, personally or through their representatives. It must be the same for everyone, whether it protects or sanctions. As all citizens are equal before it, all are equally admissible in all public dignity, office or employment, according to their abilities and without any distinction other than that of their virtues and their talents.
Article 7.- No man can be accused, arrested or detained, except in the cases determined by law and in accordance with the forms prescribed by law. Those who request, take, execute or enforce arbitrary orders shall be punished; but every citizen summoned or apprehended by virtue of the law must obey immediately; He is guilty if he opposes resistance.
Article 8.- The law should only establish strict and evidently necessary penalties, and no one can be punished except by virtue of a law established and promulgated prior to the crime, and legally applied.
Article 9.- Since every man is presumed innocent until proven guilty, if it is deemed indispensable to detain him, all rigor that is not necessary to seize his person must be severely repressed by law.
Article 10.- No one should be bothered by their opinions, including religious, on the condition that their manifestation does not disturb the public order established by law.
Article 11.- The free communication of thoughts and opinions is one of the most precious rights of man; consequently, every citizen can speak, write and print freely, in exchange for responding to the abuse of this freedom in cases determined by law.
Article 12.- The guarantee of the rights of man and of the citizen needs a public force; therefore, this force has been instituted for the benefit of all, and not for the particular benefit of those to whom it has been entrusted.
Article 13.- For the maintenance of the public force and for administrative expenses, a common contribution is indispensable; it must be divided equally among citizens, proportionally to their capacity.
Article 14.- Citizens have the right to verify, by themselves or through their representatives, the need for public contribution, to accept it freely, to monitor its use and to determine its pro rata, its base, its collection and its duration.
Article 15.- The company has the right to request accounts of its management from all public agents.
Article 16.- Any society in which the guarantee of rights is not established, nor the separation of powers determined, lacks a Constitution.
Article 17.- Since property is an inviolable and sacred right, no one can be deprived of it, except when public necessity, legally proven, clearly requires it, and on condition of fair and prior compensation.
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