Extracts from the Constitution of 1793


Extracts from the Constitution of 1793, sometimes called the Montagnard or Jacobin Constitution. It was enacted by the National Convention in June, then endorsed by a public referendum. However it was suspended in October and never formally implemented:


“The people of France, convinced that neglect and contempt for the natural rights of man are the sole causes of the world’s misfortunes, have resolved to set out those sacred and inalienable rights in a solemn declaration, so that all citizens, being able to constantly compare the acts of government with the goal of any social institution, will never allow themselves to be oppressed and degraded by tyranny; so that the people may always have the basis of their liberty and happiness before their eyes, the magistrate the basis of his duties, and the legislator the object of his mission.

Consequently, it proclaims, in the presence of the Supreme Being, the following Declaration of the rights of man and the citizen.

Article 1. The goal of society is common happiness. The government is appointed to guarantee man the enjoyment of his natural and imprescriptible rights.

Article 2. These rights are equality, liberty, safety and ownership of property.

Article 3. All men are equal through nature and before the law.

?Article 4. The law is the free and solemn expression of the general will; it is the same for all men, whether it protects or punishes; it can only order what is right and useful to society; it can only forbid what is harmful to it.

Article 5. All citizens are equally eligible for public employment. Peoples who are free know no grounds for preference other than virtues and talents.

Article 6. Liberty is the power belonging to man to do all that does not harm the rights of others: its principle is nature; its rule, justice; its safeguard, the law; its moral limits are in this maxim: do not do unto another what you would not have done to you.

Article 7. The right to express one’s thoughts and one’s opinions, whether through the press or in any other way, the right to assemble peacefully, the freedom to practise religion, cannot be prohibited. The need to state these rights assumes either the presence or the recent memory of despotism.

Article 8. Safety consists in the protection granted by society to each of its members, for the preservation of their person, their rights and their property.

Article 9. The law must protect public and individual liberty from the oppression of those who govern.

Article 10. No man may be accused, arrested or detained, other than in cases established by the law and according to the conventions that it has laid down; any citizen who is called upon or seized by the authorities must obey immediately; he makes himself guilty by resisting…

Article 14. No man may be judged and punished until after he has been heard or legally summoned, and only in accordance with a law promulgated prior to the crime. A law that would punish crimes committed before it existed would be a tyranny; giving a retroactive effect to a law would be a crime.

Article 15. The law must only issue punishments that are strictly and clearly necessary; punishments must be proportionate to the crime and useful to society.

Article 16. The right of ownership of property is one that belongs to each citizen, to enjoy and to dispose at his will of his goods, his income, of the fruit of his labour and his industry.

Article 17. No type of work, cultivation or commerce may be forbidden to citizens’ ingenuity.

Article 18. Any man may commit his services or his time; but he may neither sell himself nor be sold. His person is not alienable property. The law recognises no domestic service whatsoever; only an agreement of care and recognition between the working man and the employer may exist.

Article 19. No man may be deprived of the least portion of his property without his consent, unless it is when legally recorded public necessity demands it, and on condition of a just and prior compensation.

Article 20. No tax may be established unless it is for general use. All citizens have the right to be involved in the establishment of taxes, to watch over their use and to have an account given of them.

Article 21. Public assistance is a sacred debt. Society owes subsistence to unfortunate citizens, either by obtaining work for them or by providing means of existence to those who are unable to work.

Article 22. Instruction is the right of all men. Society must further the progress of public reason with all its power, and make instruction available to all citizens…

Article 25. Sovereignty resides in the people. It is one and indivisible, imprescriptible and inalienable.

Article 26. No portion of the people may exercise the power of the entire people; but each section of the sovereign assembly must enjoy the right to express its will in complete freedom.

Article 27. Any individual who would usurp sovereignty should instantly be put to death by free men.

Article 28. A people always has the right to review, reform and change its Constitution. One generation may not subject future generations to its laws.

Article 29. Each citizen has an equal right to take part in the formation of the law and in the nomination of its mandatories or of its agents.

Article 30. Public offices are essentially temporary; they can be considered neither as honours nor as rewards, but as duties.

Article 31. Offences by the mandatories of the people and of their agents must never go unpunished. No man has the right to lay claim to greater inviolability than other citizens.

Article 32. The right to present petitions to the trustees of public authority may in no case be forbidden, suspended or limited.

Article 33. Resistance to oppression is the consequence of the other human rights.

Article 34. There is oppression against the social body when just one of its members is oppressed. There is oppression against each member when the social body is oppressed.

Article 35. When the government violates the rights of the people, insurrection is the most sacred of rights and the most indispensable of duties for the people and for each portion of the people.

The status of citizens [is given to]:

Article 4. Any man born and living in France, having reached the age of 20; any foreigner, having reached the age of 21, who, having lived in France for one year; lives there from his work; or acquires a property; or marries a French woman; or adopts a child; or supports an elderly person; finally, any foreigner who is judged by the legislative body as having truly earned humanity; is admitted to the exercise of the rights of a French citizen.

Article 5. The exercise of the rights of citizen is lost through naturalisation in a foreign country; through the acceptance of duties or favours emanating from an unpopular government; through condemnation to penalties involving the loss of civil rights or corporal punishment, until personal rehabilitation…”