Approved by the National Assembly of France, August 26, 1789

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 law.

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 their means.

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 assured, 
nor the separation of powers defined, has no constitution at all.

17. 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.


The above document was written by The Marquis de Lafayette, 
with help from his friend and neighbor, American envoy to France,
Thomas Jefferson.  Lafayette, you may recall, had come to the
Colonies at age 19, been commissioned a Major General, and was
instrumental in the defeat of the British during the American
Revolutionary War.  He considered one special man his 'father':
George Washington.

French King Louis XVI signed this document, under duress, but
never intended to support it.  Indeed, the Revolution in France
soon followed, leading to the tyrannical rule of Napolean 


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