Declaration of the Rights of Man (1789)

Coauthored by Thomas Jefferson and General Lafayette, this declaration was approved by the National Assembly of France in 1789. Unlike the American Declaration of Independence, its content consists more of philosophical principles rather than specific grievances against an abusive king. But similarly, it led to a revolution that inspired the hearts of individuals around the world. Read this list aloud to hear the echoes that unite humanity.
E-text available here.

Here are links to our lists on rights: The Declaration of Independence, Declaration of the Rights of Man, Declaration of the Rights of Woman, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. calamity
    an event resulting in great loss and misfortune
    The representatives of the French people, organized as a National Assembly, believing that the ignorance, neglect, or contempt of the rights of man are the sole cause of public calamities and of the corruption of governments...
  2. unalienable
    incapable of being repudiated or transferred to another set forth in a solemn declaration the natural, unalienable, and sacred rights of man, in order that this declaration, being constantly before all the members of the Social body, shall remind them continually of their rights and duties
  3. grievance
    a complaint about a wrong that causes resentment
    and, lastly, in order that the grievances of the citizens, based hereafter upon simple and incontestable principles, shall tend to the maintenance of the constitution and redound to the happiness of all.
  4. auspices
    kindly endorsement and guidance
    Therefore the National Assembly recognizes and proclaims, in the presence and under the auspices of the Supreme Being, the following rights of man and of the citizen
  5. distinction
    a discrimination between things as different
    1. Men are born and remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions may be founded only upon the general good.
  6. association
    a formal organization of people or groups of people
    2. The aim of all political association is the preservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of man.
  7. oppression
    the state of being kept down by unjust use of authority
    These rights are liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression.
  8. sovereignty
    the authority of a state to govern another state
    3. The principle of all sovereignty resides essentially in the nation.
  9. consist
    have its essential character
    4. Liberty consists in the freedom to do everything which injures no one else; hence the exercise of the natural rights of each man has no limits except those which assure to the other members of the society the enjoyment of the same rights.
  10. prohibit
    command against
    5. Law can only prohibit such actions as are hurtful to society.
  11. participate
    be involved in
    6. Law is the expression of the general will. Every citizen has a right to participate personally, or through his representative, in its foundation.
  12. eligible
    qualified for or allowed or worthy of being chosen
    All citizens, being equal in the eyes of the law, are equally eligible to all dignities and to all public positions and occupations, according to their abilities, and without distinction except that of their virtues and talents.
  13. prescribe
    issue commands or orders for
    7. No person shall be accused, arrested, or imprisoned except in the cases and according to the forms prescribed by law.
  14. arbitrary
    based on or subject to individual discretion or preference
    Any one soliciting, transmitting, executing, or causing to be executed, any arbitrary order, shall be punished.
  15. virtue
    the quality of doing what is right
    But any citizen summoned or arrested in virtue of the law shall submit without delay, as resistance constitutes an offense.
  16. inflict
    impose something unpleasant
    8. The law shall provide for such punishments only as are strictly and obviously necessary, and no one shall suffer punishment except it be legally inflicted in virtue of a law passed and promulgated before the commission of the offense.
  17. indispensable
    absolutely necessary
    9. As all persons are held innocent until they shall have been declared guilty, if arrest shall be deemed indispensable, all harshness not essential to the securing of the prisoner's person shall be severely repressed by law.
  18. disquiet
    make uneasy or cause to be worried or alarmed
    10. No one shall be disquieted on account of his opinions, including his religious views, provided their manifestation does not disturb the public order established by law.
  19. precious
    held in great esteem for admirable qualities
    11. The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man.
  20. accordingly
    (sentence connectors) because of the reason given
    Every citizen may, accordingly, speak, write, and print with freedom, but shall be responsible for such abuses of this freedom as shall be defined by law.
  21. security
    the state of being free from danger or injury
    12. The security of the rights of man and of the citizen requires public military forces.
  22. advantage
    the quality of having a superior or more favorable position
    These forces are, therefore, established for the good of all and not for the personal advantage of those to whom they shall be intrusted.
  23. contribution
    an amount of money given
    13. A common contribution is essential for the maintenance of the public forces and for the cost of administration.
  24. equitable
    fair to all parties as dictated by reason and conscience
    This should be equitably distributed among all the citizens in proportion to their means.
  25. grant
    give as judged due or on the basis of merit
    14. All the citizens have a right to decide, either personally or by their representatives, as to the necessity of the public contribution; to grant this freely
  26. proportion
    relation with respect to comparative quantity or magnitude
    and to fix the proportion, the mode of assessment and of collection and the duration of the taxes.
  27. account
    a record or narrative description of past events
    15. Society has the right to require of every public agent an account of his administration.
  28. assure
    make certain of
    16. A society in which the observance of the law is not assured, nor the separation of powers defined, has no constitution at all.
  29. inviolable
    incapable of being transgressed or dishonored
    17. Since property is an inviolable and sacred right, no one shall be deprived thereof except where public necessity, legally determined, shall clearly demand it
  30. indemnify
    make amends for; pay compensation for
    and then only on condition that the owner shall have been previously and equitably indemnified.

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