The Constitutions and Other Select Documents Illustrative of the History of France 1789-1907

Date: 1834–

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World History

Constitution of the Year I.

June 24, 1793. Duvergier, Lois, V, 352–358.

Duvergier, J. B., et al. Collection complète des lois, decrets, ordonnances, reglements, avis du Conseil d’État. Second ed. of vols. 1–31 inclusive. First ed., 32— Paris 1834–.

REFERENCES. Mathews, French Revolution, 227–229; Stephens, French Revolution, II. 530–535; Cambridge Modern History, VIII, 342; Aulard, Révolution française, Part II, Ch. IV; Lavisse and Ramband, Histoire générale, VIII, 179–180.

Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen.

The French people, convinced that forgetfulness and contempts of the natural rights of man are the sole causes of the miseries of the world, have resolved to set forth in a solemn declaration these sacred and inalienable rights, in order that all the citizens, being able to compare unceasingly the acts of the government with the aim of every social institution, may never allow themselves to be oppressed and debased by tyranny; and in order that the people may always have before their eyes the foundations of their liberty and their welfare, the magistrate the rule of his duties, the legislator the purpose of his commission.

In consequence, it proclaims in the presence of the supreme being the following declaration of the rights of man and citizen.

1. The aim of society is the common welfare.

Government is instituted in order to guarantee to man the enjoyment of his natural and imprescriptible rights.

2. These rights are equality, liberty, security, and property.

3. All men are equal by nature and before the law.

4. Law is the free and solemn expression of the general will; it is the same for all, whether it protects or punishes; it can command only what is just and useful to society; it can forbid only what is injurious to it.

5. All citizens are equally eligible to public employments. Free peoples know no other grounds for preference in their elections than virtue and talent.

6. Liberty is the power that belongs to man to do whatever is not injurious to the rights of others; it has nature for its principle, justice for its rule, law for its defence; its moral limit is in this maxim: Do not do to another that which you do not wish should be done to you.

7. The right to express one’s thoughts and opinions by means of the press or in any other manner, the right to assemble peaceably, the free pursuit of religion, cannot be forbidden.

The necessity of enunciating these rights supposes either the presence or the fresh recollection of despotism.

8. Security consists in the protection afforded by society to each of its members for the preservation of his person, his rights, and his property.

9. The law ought to protect public and personal liberty against the oppression of those who govern.

10. No one ought to be accused, arrested, or detained except in the cases determined by law and according to the forms that it has prescribed. Any citizen summoned or seized by the authority of the law, ought to obey immediately; he makes himself guilty by resistance.

11. Any act done against man outside of the cases and without the forms that the law determines is arbitrary and tyrannical; the one against whom it may be intended to be executed by violence has the right to repel it by force.

12. Those who may incite, expedite, subscribe to, execute or cause to be executed arbitrary legal instruments are guilty and ought to be punished.

13. Every man being presumed innocent until he has been pronounced guilty, if it is thought indispensable to arrest him, all severity that may not be necessary to secure his person ought to be strictly repressed by law.

14. No one ought to be tried and punished except after having been heard or legally summoned, and except in virtue of a law promulgated prior to the offence. The law which would punish offences committed before it existed would be a tyranny: the retroactive effect given to the law would be a crime.

15. The law ought to impose only penalties that are strictly and obviously necessary: the punishments ought to be propertionate to the offence and useful to society.

16. The right of property is that which belongs to every citizen to enjoy, and to dispose at his pleasure of his goods, income, and of the fruits of his labor and his skill.

17. No kind of labor, tillage, or commerce can be forbidden to the skill of the citizens.

18. Every man can contract his services and his time, but he cannot sell himself nor be sold: his person is not an alienable property. The law knows of no such thing as the status of servant: there can exist only a contract for services and compensation between the man who works and the one who employs him.

19. No one can be deprived of the least portion of his property without his consent, unless a legally established public necessity requires it, and upon condition of a just and prior compensation.

20. No tax can be imposed except for the general advantage. All citizens have the right to participate in the establishment of taxes, to watch over the employment of them, and to cause an account of them to be rendered.

21. Public relief is a sacred debt. Society owes maintenance to unfortunate citizens, either in procuring work for them or in providing the means of existence for those who are unable to labor.

22. Education is needed by all. Society ought to favor with all its power the advancement of the public reason and to put education at the door of every citizen.

23. The social guarantee consists in the action of all to secure to each the enjoyment and the maintenance of his rights: this guarantee rests upon the national sovereignty.

24. It cannot exist if the limits of public functions are not clearly determined by law and if the responsibility of all the functionaries is not secured.

25. The sovereignty resides in the people; it is one and indivisible, imprescriptible, and inalienable.

26. No portion of the people can exercise the power of the entire people; but each section of the sovereign, in assembly, ought to enjoy the right to express its will with entire freedom.

27. Let any person who may usurp the sovereignty be instantly put to death by free men.

28. A people has always the right to review, to reform, and to alter its constitution. One generation cannot subject to its law the future generations.

29. Each citizen has an equal right to participate in the formation of the law and in the selection of his mandatories or his agents.

30. Public functions are necessarily temporary; they cannot be considered as distinctions or rewards, but as duties.

31. The offences of the representatives of the people and of its agents ought never to go unpunished. No one has the right to claim for himself more inviolability than other citizens.

32. The right to present petitions to the depositories of the public authority cannot in any case be forbidden, suspended, nor limited.

33. Resistance to oppression is the consequence of the other rights of man.

34. There is oppression against the social body when a single one of its members is oppressed: there is oppression against each member when the social body is oppressed.

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

Constitutional Act.

Of the Republic.

1. The French Republic is one and indivisible.

Of the Division of the People.

2. The French people is divided, for the exercise of its sovereignty, into cantonal primary assemblies.

3. It is divided for administration and for justice into departments, districts and municipalities.

Of the Conditions of Citizenship.

4. Every man born and living in France fully twenty-one years of age;

Every foreigner fully twenty-one years of age, who, domiciled in France for a year,

Lives there by his own labor,

Or acquires property,

Or marries a French woman,

Or adopts a child,

Or supports an aged man,

Finally, every foreigner who shall be thought by the legislative body to have deserved well of humanity,

Is admitted to the exercise of the rights of French citizenship.

5. The exercise of the rights of citizenship is lost:

By naturalization in a foreign country;

By the acceptance of employments or favors proceeding from a non-popular government;

By condemnation to ignominious or afflictive penalties until rehabilitation.

6. The exercise of the rights of citizenship is suspended:

By the condition of accusation;

By a judicial order for contempt of court until the order is abrogated.

Of the Sovereignty of the People.

7. The sovereign people is the totality of French citizens.

8. It selects its deputies directly.

9. It delegates to electors the choice of administrators, the public arbitrators, criminal judges, and judges of cassation.

10. It deliberates upon the laws.

Of the Primary Assemblies.

11. The primary assemblies are composed of the citizens domiciled for six months in each canton.

12. They are composed at the least of two hundred and at the most of six hundred citizens summoned to vote.

13. They are constituted by the selection of a president, secretaries and tellers.

14. Their policing belongs to themselves.

15. No one can appear in them with arms.

16. The elections are conducted by either secret or open voting at the choice of each voter.

17. A primary assembly cannot in any case prescribe a uniform method of voting.

18. The tellers attest the vote of citizens who, not knowing how to write, prefer to vote by ballot.

19. Votes upon the laws are given by yes or no.

20. The will of the primary assembly is proclaimed as follows: The citizens met in primary assembly . . . to the number of . . . voters, vote for or vote against, by a majority of . . .

Of the National Representation.

21. Population is the sole basis of the national representation.

22. There is one deputy for every forty thousand persons.

23. Each union of primary assemblies aggregating a population of thirty-nine to forty-one thousand souls selects directly one deputy.

24. The selection is made by the majority of the votes.

25. Each assembly counts the votes and sends a commissioner for the general recording to the place designated as the most central.

26. If the first return does not give a majority, a second appeal is made and a vote is taken upon the two citizens who have received the greatest number of votes.

27. In case of an equality of votes the most aged has the preference, either as the one to be voted upon or as the one elected. In case of an equality of age, lot decides.

28. Every Frenchman exercising the rights of citizenship is eligible throughout the extent of the Republic.

29. Each deputy belongs to the entire nation.

30. In case of the non-acceptance, resignation, forfeiture, or death of a deputy, his replacement is provided for by the primary assemblies which selected him.

31. A deputy who has resigned cannot leave his post until after the admittance of his successor.

32. The French people assembles every year on the first of May for the elections.

33. They proceed to them, whatever may be the number of citizens there having the right to vote.

34. The primary assemblies meet in extraordinary session upon the request of one-fifth of the citizens who have the right to vote there.

35. The summons is issued in that case by the municipality of the usual place of meeting.

36. These extraordinary assemblies transact business only if a half plus one of the citizens who have the right to vote there are present.

Of the Electoral Assemblies.

37. The citizens meet in primary assemblies and select one elector for every two hundred citizens, whether present or not; two for three hundred-one to four hundred; three for five hundred-one to six hundred.

38. The holding of electoral assemblies and the method of election are the same as in the primary assemblies.

Of the Legislative Body.

39. The legislative body is one, indivisible, and permanent.

40. The session is for one year.

41. It meets the first of July.

42. The National Assembly cannot constitute itself if it is not composed of at least one-half of the deputies plus one.

43. The deputies cannot be questioned, accused, or tried at any time for the opinions that they have expressed within the legislative body.

44. They can be arrested for criminal acts, if taken in the act; but the warrant of arrest and the warrant of apprehension can be issued against them only with the authorisation of the legislative body.

Holding of the Sittings of the Legislative Body.

45. The sittings of the National Assembly are public.

46. The minutes of its sittings are printed.

47. It cannot deliberate unless it is composed of at least two hundred members.

48. It cannot refuse the word to its members in the order that they have claimed it.

49. It decides by the majority of those present.

50. Fifty members have the right to require a vote by roll call.

51. It has the right of discipline upon the conduct of its members within its own midst.

52. The policing of the place of its sittings and of the environs of which it has fixed the extent belongs to it.

Of the Functions of the Legislative Body.

53. The legislative body proposes laws and issues decrees.

54. Included under the general name of law are the acts of the legislative body in regard to:

Civil and criminal legislation;

The general administration of the revenues and ordinary expenses of the Republic;

The national domains;

The title, weight, impress, and denomination of the monies;

The nature, amount, and collection of the taxes;

The declaration of war;

Every new general division of the French territory;

Public instruction;

Public honors to the memory of great men.

55. Included under the special name of decree are the acts of the legislative body in regard to:

The annual establishment of the land and sea forces;

Permission or prohibition of the passage of foreign troops over French soil;

The introduction of foreign naval forces into the ports of the Republic;

Measures of general security and tranquility;

The annual and occasional distribution of public relief and work;

Orders for the coining of money of every sort;

Unforeseen and extraordinary expenses;

The local and special measures for an administration, a commune, or a class of public works;

The defence of the soil;

Ratification of treaties;

The appointment and dismissal of commanders-in-chief of the armies;

Proceedings to enforce the responsibility of members of the council and of public officials;

Accusation of those accused of plots against the general security of the republic;

Every alteration in the division of French territory into parts;

National rewards.

Of the Formation of the Law.

56. Projects of law are preceded by a report.

57. The discussion cannot begin and the law cannot be provisionally decreed until fifteen days after the report.

58. The project is printed and sent to all the communes of the Republic under this title: Proposed law.

59. Forty days after the sending of the proposed law, if in one-half of the departments plus one, a tenth of the regularly constituted primary assemblies of each of them do not object, the project is accepted and becomes law.

60. If there is objection, the legislative body convokes the primary assemblies.

Of the Title of the Laws and Decrees.

61. The laws, the decrees, the judicial orders, and all public acts are superscribed: In the name of the French people, the year . . . of the French Republic.

Of the Executive Council.

62. There is an executive council composed of twenty-four members.

63. The electoral assembly of each department selects a candidate. The legislative body chooses the members of the council from the general list.

64. It is renewed by a half at each legislature in the last month of its session.

65. The council is charged with the direction and supervision of the general administration; it can act only in the execution of the laws and decrees of the legislative body.

66. It appoints, from outside of its own body, the principal agents of the general administration of the Republic.

67. The legislative body determines the number and the duties of these agents.

68. These agents do not form a council; they are separate and are without direct relations with each other; they do not exercise any personal authority.

69. The council appoints, from outside its own body, the foreign agents of the Republic.

70. It negotiates the treaties.

71. The members of the council, in cases of betrayal of trust, are accused by the legislative body.

72. The council is responsible for the non-execution of the laws and decrees and for the abuses of which it does not give notice.

73. It recalls and replaces the agents within its appointment.

74. It is required to denounce them, if there is occasion, to the judicial authorities.

Of the Relations of the Executive Council with the Legislative Body.

75. The executive council resides near the legislative body; it has admittance and a separate position in the place of its meetings.

76. It is heard whenever it has a statement to make.

77. The legislative body summons it into its presence, in whole or in part, whenever it thinks expedient.

Of the Administrative and Municipal Bodies.

78. There is in each commune of the Republic a municipal administration;

In each district, an intermediate administration;

In each department, a central administration.

79. The municipal officers are elected by the communal assemblies.

80. The administrators are appointed by the department and district electoral assemblies.

81. The municipalities and the administrations are renewed each year by half.

82. The administrators and municipal officers have no representative character.

They cannot in any case alter the acts of the legislative body nor suspend the execution of them.

83. The legislative body fixes the duties of the municipal officers and the administrators, the rules of their subordination, and the penalties that they may incur.

Of the Tribunal of Cassation.

98. There is a tribunal of cassation for the whole Republic.

99. This tribunal does not have jurisdiction over the facts of cases.

It passes upon the violation of forms and upon clear infractions of the law.

100. The members of this court are appointed every year by the electoral assemblies.

Of the Public Taxes.

101. No citizen is exempt from the honorable obligation to contribute to the public expenses.

Of the National Treasury.

102. The national treasury is the central point of the receipts and expenditures of the Republic.

103. It is administered by responsible agents appointed by the executive council.

104. These agents are watched over by commissioners appointed by the legislative body, taken from outside of itself, and responsible for the abuses of which they do not give notice.

Of the Book-Keeping.

105. The accounts of the agents of the national treasury and of the administrators of the public monies are rendered annually to responsible commissioners appointed by the executive council.

106. These auditors are watched over by commissioners appointed by the legislative body, taken from outside of itself, and responsible for the abuses and errors of which they do not give notice.

The legislative body approves the accounts.

Of the Forces of the Republic.

107. The general force of the Republic is composed of the entire people.

108. The Republic supports, even in time of peace, a paid army and navy.

109. All Frenchmen are soldiers; they are all trained in the handling of arms.

84. The sittings of the municipalities and the administrations are public.

Of Civil Justice.

85. The code of civil and penal law is uniform for the whole Republic.

86. No attack can be made upon the right that the citizens have to cause their differences to be passed upon by arbitrators of their own choice.

87. The decision of these arbitrators is final, if citizens do not reserve the right to object.

88. There are justices of the peace elected by the citizens of the districts fixed by the law.

89. They conciliate and pass judgment without expense.

90. Their number and competency are regulated by the legislative body.

91. There are public arbitrators elected by the electoral assemblies.

92. Their number and their districts are fixed by the legislative body.

93. They have jurisdiction over cases which have not been finally terminated by the private arbitrators or by justices of the peace.

94. They deliberate in public.

They deliver their opinions orally.

They decide in the last resort, upon oral pleas or simple memorial, without proceedings and without expense.

They state the grounds for their decisions.

95. The justices of the peace and the public arbitrators are elected every year.

Of Criminal Justice.

96. No citizen can be tried upon a criminal charge except upon an accusation received by the jurors or decreed by the legislative body.

The accused have counsel chosen by themselves or officially appointed.

The examination is public.

The facts and the intent are declared by a trial jury.

The penalty is awarded by a criminal tribunal.

97. The criminal judges are elected every year by the electoral assemblies.

110. There is no commander-in-chief.

111. Distinctions of rank, their distinguishing marks and subordination exist only in relation to the service and during its continuance.

112. The public force employed for the maintenance of order and peace within the country acts only upon the written requisition of the constituted authorities.

113. The public force employed against enemies from abroad acts under the orders of the executive council.

114. No armed body can deliberate.

Of the National Conventions.

115. If, in one-half of the departments plus one, one-tenth of the regularly constituted primary assemblies of each of them request the revision of the constitutional act or the alteration of some of its articles, the legislative body is required to convoke all the primary assemblies of the Republic, in order to ascertain if there is occasion for a national convention.

116. The national convention is formed in the same manner as the legislatures and annexes the powers thereof.

117. It occupies itself, in relation to the constitution, only with the objects that have led to its convocation.

Of the Relations of the French Republic with Foreign Nations.

118. The French people is the friend and natural ally of the free peoples.

119. It does not interfere in the government of other nations; it does not permit other nations to interfere in its own.

120. It gives asylum to foreigners banished from their fatherland for the cause of liberty.

It refuses it to tyrants.

121. It does not make peace with an enemy that occupies its territory.

Of the Guaranty of Rights.

122. The constitution guarantees to all Frenchmen equality, liberty, security, property, the public debt, the free exercise of worship, a public education, public relief, unlimited freedom of the press, the right of petition, the right to meet in the popular societies, and the enjoyment of all the rights of man.

123. The French Republic honors loyalty, courage, old age, filial devotion, and misfortune. It places the trust of the constitution under the guardianship of all the virtues.

124. The declaration of rights and the constitutional act are graven upon tablets in the midst of the legislative body and m public places.


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Chicago: Duvergier, J. B., ed., "Constitution of the Year I.," The Constitutions and Other Select Documents Illustrative of the History of France 1789-1907 in The Constitutions and Other Select Documents Illustrative of the History of France 1789-1907, ed. Frank Maloy Anderson (New York: Russell Russell, 1908), 171–184. Original Sources, accessed December 1, 2023,

MLA: . "Constitution of the Year I." The Constitutions and Other Select Documents Illustrative of the History of France 1789-1907, edited by Duvergier, J. B., Vol. V, in The Constitutions and Other Select Documents Illustrative of the History of France 1789-1907, edited by Frank Maloy Anderson, New York, Russell Russell, 1908, pp. 171–184. Original Sources. 1 Dec. 2023.

Harvard: (ed.), 'Constitution of the Year I.' in The Constitutions and Other Select Documents Illustrative of the History of France 1789-1907. cited in 1908, The Constitutions and Other Select Documents Illustrative of the History of France 1789-1907, ed. , Russell Russell, New York, pp.171–184. Original Sources, retrieved 1 December 2023, from