Déclaration des droits de l’homme et du citoyen du 26 Août 1789
August 26, 1789

  The Representatives of the French People, formed into a National Assembly, considering ignorance, the lapse of memory or contempt of the rights of man to be the sole 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 at every moment [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 incontestable principles, may always be directed toward the maintenance of the Constitution and the happiness of all.

Consequently, the National Assembly recognizes and declares, in the presence and under the auspices of the Supreme Being, the following rights of the man and the citizen.

Article the 1st Men are born and remain free and equal in rights. The social distinctions can be founded only on the common utility.

Article 2 The goal of any political association is the conservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of the man. These rights are {personal} freedom [liberty], the {ownership of} property, {personal} safety and resistance to oppression [the ability to resist tyranny].

Article 3 The principle of any sovereignty lies primarily in the nation as a whole. No body nor individual can exert authority which does not emanate from the nation expressly.

Article 4 Freedom consists in being able to do all that does not harm others. Thus, the exercise of the natural rights of each man has limits only to the extent of those which ensure that the other members of society obtain the pleasure of these same rights. Such limitations can be determined only by the law.

Article 5 The law has the right to proscribe the actions harmful of society. All that is not forbidden by the law cannot be prevented, and no one can be constrained to do what the law does not specifically order.

Article 6 The law is the overt expression of the general will. All the citizens have the right to contribute personally, or by their representatives, to the formation of law {to the legislative process}. The law must be the same one for all, either that it protects, or that it punishes. All the citizens, being equal in its eyes, are also acceptable by all dignitaries, in all places and in all measure of public employment, according to their capacity and without other distinction than that of their virtues and their talents.

Article 7 No man can be indicted, be arrested or detained {in custody} except under those circumstances determined by the law, and according to its forms which are prescribed. Those which solicit, dispatch, carry out or make others carry out arbitrary commands must be punished; but, any citizen summoned or seized under the terms of the law must obey immediately: he makes himself guilty by resistance.

Article 8 The law should establish only such strict penalties as are obviously necessary; and, no person can be punished except under the terms of a law established and promulgated before the offense, and which is legally applicable.

Article 9 Every man is supposed innocent until having been declared guilty; {but,} if it be considered essential to arrest, any action, which is not necessary to secure the person, must be severely repressed at law.

Article 10 No person should fear for expressing opinions, even religious ones, provided that the manifestation of their opinion [advocacy] does not disturb the established law and order.

Article 11 The free communication of thought and the opinion is one of the most invaluable rights of the man: any citizen can thus speak, write, print freely, except that he must answer for his abuse this freedom in such cases determined by the law.

Article 12 The guarantee of human rights and of the citizen requires a police force: this force is thus instituted for the advantage of all, and not just for the particular utility of those {officials} to which it is entrusted.

Article 13 For the maintenance of the police force, and for the expenditure of administration, a common contribution [tax] is essential: it must be also distributed between all the citizens, respective of their faculties {to pay such taxes}.

Article 14 All citizens have the right to vote, by themselves or through their representatives, for the need for the public contribution, to agree to it voluntarily, to allow implementation of it, and to determine its appropriation, the {amount of} assessment, its collection and its duration.

Article 15 Society [the Public] has the right to require an account by any public agent of their administration.

Article 16 Any society in which the guarantee of {human} rights is not assured, nor the separation of powers set forth, has no {legal} constitution.

Article 17 Property {rights} being inviolable and sacred, one cannot lose the private use of property, if there is no public necessity, legally noted, required obviously, and under the condition of a just reimbursement as a predicate {to the taking}.

Note: Lafayette influenced the Declaration issued on August 26, 1789. He had been working on a version, which reflected suggestions made by Jefferson, who was in France at the time. Lafayette furnished an unsolicitated “first draft” to the French Congress, ironically just a few short days before the popular storming of the Bastille. {Voyez s.v.p.} No doubt, America's Constitution and Declaration of Independence influenced many in France. But, as a reader has pointed out, the settled historical record suggests cette déclaration, sauf nouvelle erreur, est le fruit du travail d'un comité que présidait à l'origine le marquis de Mirabeau, le “comité des cinq” . . . .

«Toute l'Europe a applaudi au sublime manifeste des États-Unis d'Amérique....»
[Mirabeau écrira, dans ses Lettres de Cachet (1782)]

It was not solely the product of Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette as many sites on the Net have reported, including this in the past. By the way, for another translation of this declaration see: -- full credit being given there solely to Lafayette, too.

Freedom of Conscience -- Edict of Nantes (1598)
Declaration of 1789 in French ici
Declaration of Rights 1688
American Declaration of 1776

En conclusion -- a particularly American point of view
THE RIGHTS OF MAN by Thomas Paine (1792)

Another English translation of the French Declaration here -- main page has many more document links, many American.

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