Declaration of Rights

by Thomas Paine (1793)

The object of all union of men in society being maintenance of their natural rights, civil and political, these rights are the basis of the social pact: their recognition and their declaration ought to precede the Constitution which assures their guarantee.

  1. The natural rights of men, civil and political, are liberty, equality, security, property, social protection, and resistance to oppression.

  2. Liberty consists in the right to do whatever is not contrary to the rights of others: thus, exercise of the natural rights of each individual has no limits other than those which secure to other members of society enjoyment of the same rights.

  3. The preservation of liberty depends on submission to the Law, which is the expression of the general will. Nothing unforbidden by law can be hindered, and none may be forced to do what the law does not command.

  4. Every man is free to make known his thoughts and opinions.

  5. Freedom of the press, and every other means of publishing one's opinion, cannot be interdicted, suspended, or limited.

  6. Every citizen shall be free in the exercise of his religion.

  7. Equality consists in the enjoyment by every one of the same rights.

  8. The law should be equal for all, whether it rewards or punishes, protects or represses.

  9. All citizens are admissible to all public positions, employments, and functions. Free nations recognize no grounds of preference save talents and virtues.

  10. Security consists in the protection accorded by society to every citizen for the preservation of his person, property, and rights.

  11. None should be sued, accused, arrested, or detained, save in cases determined by the law, and in accordance with forms prescribed by it. Every other act against a citizen is arbitrary and null.

  12. Those who solicit, further, sign, execute, or cause to be executed, such arbitrary acts are culpable, and should be punished.

  13. Citizens against whom the execution of such acts is attempted have the right to repel force by force; but every citizen summoned or arrested by authority of the Law, and in the forms by it prescribed, should instantly obey: he renders himself guilty by resistance.

  14. Every man being presumed innocent until legally pronounced guilty, should his arrest be deemed indispensable, all rigor not necessary to secure his person should be severely represssed by law.

  15. None should be punished save in virtue of a law formally enacted, promulgated anterior to the offence, and legally applied.

  16. Any law that should punish offences committed before its existence would be an arbitrary act. Retroactive effect given to the law is a crime.

  17. The law should award only penalties strictly and evidently necessary to the general safety. Penalties should be proportioned to offences, and useful to society.

  18. The right of property consists in every man's being master in the disposal, at his will, of his goods, capital, income, and industry.

  19. No kind of labor, commerce, or culture, can be prohibited to any one: he may make, sell, and transport every species of production.

  20. Every man may engage his services and his time; but he cannot sell himself; his person is not an alienable property.

  21. No one can be deprived of the least portion of his property without his consent, unless evidently required by public necessity, legally determined, and under the condition of a just indemnity in advance.

  22. No tax shall be imposed except for the general welfare, and to meet public needs. All citizens have the right to unite personally, or by their representatives, in the fixing of imposts.

  23. Instruction is the need of all, and society owes it to all its members equally.

  24. Public succours are a sacred debt of society; it is for the law to determine their extent and application.

  25. The social guarantee of the rights of man rests on the national sovereignty.

  26. This sovereignty is one, indivisible, imprescriptible, and inalienable.

  27. It resides essentially in the whole people, and every citizen has an equal right to unite in its exercise.

  28. No partial assemblage of citizens, and no individual, may attribute to themselves sovereignty, or exercise any authority, or discharge any public function, without formal delegation thereto by the law.

  29. The social guarantee cannot exist if the limits of public administration are not clearly determined by law, and if the responsibility of all public functionaries is not assured.

  30. All citizens are bound to unite in this guarantee, and in enforcing the law when summoned in its name.

  31. Men united in society should have legal means of resisting oppression.

  32. There is oppression when any law violates the natural rights, civil and political, which it should guarantee.

    There is oppression when the law is violated by public officials in its application to individual cases.

    There is oppression when arbitrary actions violate the rights of citizen against the express purpose (expression) of the law.

    In a free government the mode of resisting these different acts of oppression should be regulated by the Constitution.

  33. A people possesses always the right to reform and alter its Constitution. A generation has no right to subject a future generation to its laws; and all heredity in offices is absurd and tyrannical.

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