Ideas from 'Declaration of the Rights of Man' by Mirabeau and committee [1789], by Theme Structure

[found in 'Les Philosophes' (ed/tr Torrey,Norman L.) [Perigee 1980,399-50131-2]].

green numbers give full details    |     back to texts     |     unexpand these ideas


25. Society / B. The State / 1. Purpose of a State
The purpose of society is to protect the rights of liberty, property, security and resistance
                        Full Idea: The aim of all political associations is the conservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of man. These rights are liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression.
                        From: Mirabeau and committee (Declaration of the Rights of Man [1789], 02)
                        A reaction: Radical thinkers will obviously be doubtful about property being on the list, because that entrenches huge inequalities, between peasants and their landlords. Resistance to oppression will bother the likes of Edmund Burke.
25. Society / B. The State / 2. State Legitimacy / e. General will
The law expresses the general will, and all citizens can participate
                        Full Idea: The law is the expression of the general will. All citizens have the right to take part in person or through their representatives in its formulation. It must be the same for all, whether it protects or whether it punishes.
                        From: Mirabeau and committee (Declaration of the Rights of Man [1789], 06)
                        A reaction: Now you are wondering who qualifies as a 'citizen'. Rousseau would have been excited until he found that the citizens could send 'representatives', instead of voting themselves. Rousseau aimed at foundational laws, not all of the laws.
25. Society / B. The State / 3. Constitutions
There is only a constitution if rights are assured, and separation of powers defined
                        Full Idea: Any society in which the guarantee of Rights is not assured, nor the separation of Power determined, has no Constitution.
                        From: Mirabeau and committee (Declaration of the Rights of Man [1789], 16)
                        A reaction: I wonder if they had Britain in mind with this one? The British latched onto Magna Carta in the early 19th century, because it offered some semblance of a constitution.
25. Society / C. Social Justice / 2. Social Freedom / b. Freedom of belief
No one should be molested for their opinions, if they do not disturb the established order
                        Full Idea: No man is to be molested on account of his opinions, even his religious opinions, provided that their manifestation does not disturb the public order established by law.
                        From: Mirabeau and committee (Declaration of the Rights of Man [1789], 10)
                        A reaction: Virtually any opinion will 'disturb' the established order a little bit, so this gives the option of suppressing quite mild beliefs, on the grounds of their small disturbance. It is still a wonderful proposal, though.
25. Society / C. Social Justice / 2. Social Freedom / c. Free speech
Free speech is very precious, and everyone may speak and write freely (but take responsibility for it)
                        Full Idea: The free communication of thoughts and opinions is one of man's most precious rights. Every citizen may therefore speak, write, and publish freely; except that he shall be responsible for the abuse of that freedom in cases determined by law.
                        From: Mirabeau and committee (Declaration of the Rights of Man [1789], 11)
                        A reaction: Wonderful, and very nicely expressed. Tom Paine will have been a huge influence on this clause.
25. Society / C. Social Justice / 3. Social Equality / b. Political equality
All citizens are eligible for roles in the state, purely on the basis of merit
                        Full Idea: All citizens being equal in the eyes of the law are equally eligible to all honours, offices, and public employments, according to their abilities and without other distinction than that of their virtues and talents.
                        From: Mirabeau and committee (Declaration of the Rights of Man [1789], 06)
                        A reaction: This proclamation of meritocracy must have rung bells around the cities of Europe, and was a reason why many people enjoyed being invaded by Napoleon.
25. Society / C. Social Justice / 4. Legal Rights / c. Property rights
Property is a sacred right, breached only when essential, and with fair compensation
                        Full Idea: Since property is an inviolable and sacred right, no man may be deprived of it except when public necessity, lawfully constituted, evidently requires it; and on condition that a just indemnity be paid in advance.
                        From: Mirabeau and committee (Declaration of the Rights of Man [1789], 17)
                        A reaction: This covers compulsory purchase orders. Is the ownership of slaves inviolable? Will aristocrats be compensated for the confiscation of their vast estates?
25. Society / E. State Functions / 2. Taxation
Everyone must contribute to the state's power and administration, in just proportion
                        Full Idea: For the maintenance of public force and the expenses of administration, a common contribution is indispensable. It must be equally apportioned among all citizens according to their abilities.
                        From: Mirabeau and committee (Declaration of the Rights of Man [1789], 13)
                        A reaction: Presumably this enshrines graduated income tax, an eighteenth century invention. Could you contribute just by your labour, or by fighting for the army? Those may be greater contributions than mere money.