The Constitution of 1791 on individual rights (1791)


The following extracts from the Constitution of 1791, passed by the National Assembly in September 1791, pertain to civil and individual rights:


“The Constitution guarantees as natural and civil rights:

1st, that all citizens are admissible to offices and employments, without other distinction than virtues and talents.

2nd, that all taxes shall be assessed equally upon all citizens, in proportion to their means.

3rd, that similar offences shall be punished with similar penalties, without any distinction of persons.

The Constitution guarantees likewise as natural and civil rights:

Liberty to every man to come and go without being subject to arrest or detention, except according to the forms determined by the Constitution.

Liberty to every man to speak, write, print, and publish his opinions without having his writings subject to any censorship or inspection before their publication, and to worship as he pleases.

Liberty to citizens to assemble peaceably and without arms in accordance with police regulations.

Liberty to address individually signed petitions to the constituted authorities.

The legislative power may not make any laws which infringe upon or obstruct the exercise of the natural and civil rights recorded in the present title and guaranteed by the Constitution; but, since liberty consists of being able to do only whatever is not injurious to the rights of others or to public security, the law may establish penalties for acts which, assailing either public security or the rights of others, might be injurious to society.

The Constitution guarantees the inviolability of property, or a just and previous indemnity for that of which a legally established public necessity requires the sacrifice…

Property reserved for the expenses of worship and for all services of public benefit belongs to the nation, and is at its disposal at all times…

Citizens have the right to elect or choose the ministers of their religions.

A general establishment for public relief shall be created and organised to raise foundlings, relieve the infirm poor, and furnish work for the able-bodied poor who have been unable to procure it for themselves.

Public instruction for all citizens, free of charge in those branches of education which are indispensable to all men, shall be constituted and organised, and the establishments thereof shall be apportioned gradually, in accordance with the division of the kingdom.

National festivals shall be instituted to preserve the memory of the French Revolution, to maintain fraternity among the citizens, and to bind them to the Constitution, the Patrie, and the laws.

A code of civil law common to the entire kingdom shall be drafted.”