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1789: French Declaration of the Rights of Man

Source: The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of Citizens: A Contribution to Modern Constitutional History by Georg Jellinek, Dr. Phil. et Jur. , Professor of Law in the University of Heidelberg. Authorized translation from the German by Max Farrand, Ph.D.. Revised by the Author (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1901). Chapter V. Comparison with American Bills of Rights.

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Georg Jellinek compares, section by section, the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen with similar sections from American state Bills of Rights, in order to show how the latter influenced the former.



ART. I. Les homes naissent et demeurent libres et égaux en droits. Les distinctions sociales ne peuvent être fondées que sur l'utilité commune.

2. Le but de toute association politique est la conservation des droits naturels et imprescriptibles de l'homme. Ces droits sont la liberté, la propriété, la s?reté et la résistance à l'oppression.

VIRGINIA, I. That all men are by nature equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.

VIRGINIA, IV. That no man, or set of men, are entitled to exclusive or separate emoluments or privileges from the community, but in consideration of public services.

MASSACHUSETTS, Preamble to the Constitution. The end of the institution, maintenance, and administration of government is to secure the existence of the bodypolitic, to protect it, and to furnish the individuals who compose it with the power of enjoying, in safety and tranquillity, their natural rights and the blessings of life.

MARYLAND, IV. The doctrine of nonresistance, against arbitrary power and oppression, is absurd, slavish and destructive of the good and happiness of mankind.

3. Le principe de toute souveraineté réside essentiellement dans la nation. Nul corps, nul individu ne peut exercer d'autorité qui n'en émane expréssement. VIRGINIA, II. That all power is vested in, and consequently derived from, the people; that magistrates are their trustees and servants, and at all times amenable to them.
4. La liberté consiste à pouvoir faire tout ce qui ne nuit pas à autrui; aussi l'exercise des droits naturels de chaque homme n'a de bornes que celles qui assurent aux autres membres de la société la jouissance de ces mêmes droits. Ces bornes ne peuvent étre déterminées que par la loi.

MASSACHUSETTS, Preamble. The bodypolitic is formed by a voluntary association of individuals; it is a social compact by which the whole people covenants with each citizen and each citizen with the whole people that all shall be governed by certain laws for the common good.

MASSACHUSETTS, X. Each individual of the society has a right to be protected by it in the enjoyment of his life, liberty, and property, according to standing laws.

5. La loi n'a le droit de défendre que les actions nuisibles à la société. Tout ce qui n'est pas défendu par la loi ne peut être empêtre contraint à faire ce qu'elle n'ordonne pas.

MASSACHUSETTS, XI. Every subject of the commonwealth ought to find a certain remedy, by having recourse to the laws, for all injuries or wrongs which he may receive in his person, property, or character.

NORTH CAROLINA XIII. That every freeman, restrained of his liberty, is entitled to a remedy, to inquire into the lawfulness thereof, and to remove the same, if unlawful; and that such remedy ought not to be denied or delayed.

VIRGINIA, VII. That all power of suspending laws, or the execution of laws, by any authority, without consent of the representatives of the people, is injurious to their rights, and ought not to be exercised.1

6. La loi est l'expression de la volonté générale. Tous les citoyens ont le droit de concourir personnellement ou par leurs représentants à sa formation. Elle doit être la même pour tous, soit qu'elle protège, soit qu'elle punisse. Tous les citoyens étant égaux à ses yeux, sont également admissibles à toutes dignités, places et emplois publics, selon leur capacité, et sans autre distinction que celle de leurs vertus et leurs talents.

MARYLAND, V. That the right in the people to participate in the Legislature, is the best security of liberty, and the foundation of all free government.

MASSACHUSETTS, IX. All elections ought to be free;2 and all the inhabitants of this commonwealth, having such qualifications as they shall establish by their frame of government, have an equal right to elect officers, and to be elected, for public employments.

NEW HAMPSHIRE, XII. Nor are the inhabitants of this State controllable by any other laws than those to which they or their representative body have given their consent.

7. Nul homme ne peut être accusé, arrêté, ni détenu que dans les cas déterminés par la loi et selon les formes qu'elle a prescrites. Ceux qui sollicitent, expédient, exécutent ou font exécuter des ordres arbitraires, doivent être punis; mais tout citoyen appelé ou saisi en vertu de la loi doit obéir à l'instant; il se rend coupable par sa résistance.

MASSACHUSETTS, XII. No subject shall be held to answer for any crimes or no offence until the same is fully and plainly, substantially and formally, described to him; or be compelled to accuse, or furnish evidence against himself; and every subject shall have a right to produce all proofs that may be favorable to him; to meet the witnesses against him face to face, and to be fully heard in his defence by himself, or his counsel at his election. And no subject shall be arrested, imprisoned, despoiled, or deprived of his property, immunities, or privileges, put out of the protection of the law, exiled or deprived of his life, liberty, or estate, but by the judgment of his peers, or the law of the land.3

VIRGINIA, X. That general warrants, whereby an officer or messenger may be commanded to search suspected places without evidence of a fact committed, or to seize any person or persons not named, or whose offence is not particularly described and supported by evidence, are grievous and oppressive, and ought not to be granted.

8. La loi ne doit établir que des peines strictement nécessaires et nul ne peut être puni qu'en vertu d'une loi établie et promulguée antérieurement au délit et légalement appliquée.

NEW HAMPSHIRE, XVIII. All penalties ought to be proportioned to the nature of the offence.4

MARYLAND, XIV. That sanguinary laws ought to be avoided, as far as is consistent with the safety of the State; and no law, to inflict cruel and unusual pains and penalties, ought to be made in any case, or at any time hereafter.5

MARYLAND, XV. That retrospective laws, punishing facts committed before the existence of such laws, and by them only declared criminal, are oppressive, unjust, and incompatible with liberty; wherefore no ex post facto law ought to be made.

9. Tout homme étant présumé innocent jusqu' à ce qu'il ait été déclaré coupable, s'il est jugé indispensable de l'arrêter, toute rigueur qui ne serait pas nécessaire pour s'assurer de sa personne doit être sévèrement réprimée par la loi.

Cf. above, Massachusetts, XII; further

MASSACHUSETTS, XIV. Every subject has a right to be secure from all unreasonable searches and seizures of his person, his houses, his papers, and all his possessions.

MASSACHUSETTS, XXVI. No magistrate or court of law shall demand excessive bail or sureties, impose excessive fines6. . .

10. Nul doit étre inquiété pour ses opinions, même religieuses, pourvu que leur manifestation ne trouble pas l'ordre public établi par la loi. NEW HAMPSHIRE, V. Every individual has a natural and unalienable right to worship GOD according to the dictates of his own conscience, and reason; and no subject shall be hurt, molested or restrained in his person, liberty or estate for worshipping GOD, in the manner and season most agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience, or for his religious profession, sentiments or persuasion; provided he doth not disturb the public peace, or disturb others, in their religious worship.
11. La libre communication des pensées et des opinions est un des droits les plus précieux de l'homme; tout citoyen peut donc parler, écrire, imprimer librement sauf à répondre de l'abus de cette liberté dans les cas determinés par la loi.

VIRGINIA, XII. That the freedom of the press is one of the great bulwarks of liberty, and can never be restrained but by despotic governments.

PENNSYLVANIA, XII. That the people have a right to freedom of speech, and of writing, and publishing their sentiments

12. La garantie des droits de l'homme et du citoyen nécessité une force publique. Cette force est donc instituée pour l'avantage de tous, et non pour l'utilité particulière de ceux auxquels elle est confiée. PENNSYLVANIA, V. That government is, or ought to be, instituted for the common benefit, protection and security of the people, nation or community; and not for the particular emolument or advantage of any single man, family, or sett of men, who are a part only of that community.
13. Pour l'entretien de la force publique et pour les dépenses d'administration, une contribution commune est indispensable; elle doit ére également répartie entre tous les citoyens en raison de leurs facultés. MASSACHUSETTS, X. Each individual of the society has a right to be protected by it in the enjoyment of his life, liberty, and property, according to standing laws. He is obliged, consequently, to contribute his share to the expense of this protection; to give his personal service, or an equivalent, when necessary.
14. Tous les citoyens ont le droit de constater, par eux mêmes ou par leur représentants, la nécessité de la contribution publique, de la consentir librement, d' en suivre l'emploi, et d'en déterminer la qualité, l'assiette, le recouvrement et la durée. MASSACHUSETTS, XXIII. No subsidy, charge, tax, impost, or duties, ought to be established, fixed, laid or levied, under any pretext whatsoever, without the consent of the people, or their representatives in the legislature.
15. La société a le droit de demander compte à tout agent public de son administration.

See above, VIRGINIA, II; further

MASSACHUSETTS V. All power residing originally in the people, and being derived from them, the several magistrates and officers of government vested with authority, whether legislative, executive, or judicial, are the substitutes and agents, and are at all times accountable to them.

16. Toute société, dans laquelle la garantie des droits n'est pas assurée, ni la séparation des pouvoirs déterminée, n'a point de constitution.

NEW HAMPSHIRE, III. When men enter into a state of society, they surrender up some of their natural rights to that society, in order to insure the protection of others; and without such an equivalent, the surrender is void.

MASSACHUSETTS, XXX. In the government of this commonwealth, the legislative department shall never exercise the executive and judicial powers, or either of them; the executive shall never exercise the legislative and judicial powers, or either of them; the judicial shall never exercise the legislative and executive powers, or either of them; to the end it may be a government of laws, and not of men.

17. La propriété étant un droit inviolable et sacré, nul ne peut en être privé, si ce n'est lors que la nécessité publique, légalement constatée, l'exige évidemment, et sous la condition d'une juste et préalable indemnité.

MASSACHUSETTS, X. . . . But no part of the property of any individual can, with justice, be taken from him, or applied to public uses, without his own consent, or that of the representative body of the people. . .. And whenever the public exigencies require that the property of any individual should be appropriated to public uses, he shall receive a reasonable compensation therefor.

VERMONT, II. That private property ought to be subservient to public uses, when necessity requires it; nevertheless, whenever any particular man's property is taken for the use of the public, the owner ought to receive an equivalent in money.


[1.]Cf. English Bill of Rights, I.

[2.]English Bill of Rights, 8

[3.]Magna Charta, 39.

[4.]Magna Charta, 20.

[5.]English Bill of Rights, 10.

[6.]English Bill of Rights, 10.

Last modified April 10, 2014