Constitution of 1791.
September 3, 1791
This constitution represents a large part of the labors of the Constituent Assembly. Many of its provisions had already been put into operation by separate decrees. (For example, the Declaration of the Rights of Man, in the drafting of which Lafayette played an important role, had been produced in 1789 and was later added as a preamble to the constitution.) It was given its final shape during the ten weeks following the return of the King to Paris and shows many traces of the conservative reaction of that period. Of the Constitution proper, I have excerpted (from more than forty pages total) only the first two Titles and a portion of the third, to give you the flavor of the document as a whole
DECLARATION OF THE RIGHTS OF MAN AND CITIZEN.
The representatives of the French people, organized in National Assembly, considering that ignorance, forgetfulness or contempt of the rights of man are the sole causes of the public miseries and of the corruption of governments, have resolved to set forth in a solemn declaration the natural, inalienable, and sacred rights of man, in order that this declaration, being ever present to all the members of the social body, may unceasingly remind them of their rights and their duties in order that the acts of the legislative power and those of the executive power may be each moment compared with the aim of every political institution and thereby may be more respected; and in order that the demands of the citizens, grounded henceforth upon simple and incontestable principles, may always take the direction of maintaining the constitution and the welfare of all.
In consequence, the National Assembly recognizes and declares, in the presence and under the auspices of the Supreme Being, the following rights of man and citizen.
1. Men are born and remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions can be based only upon public utility.
2. The aim of every political association is the preservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of man. These rights are liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression.
3. The source of all sovereignty is essentially in the nation; no body, no individual can exercise authority that does not proceed from it in plain terms.
4. Liberty consists in the power to do anything that does not injure others; accordingly, the exercise of the natural rights of each man has for its only limits those that secure to the other members of society the enjoyment of these same rights. These limits can be determined only by law.
5. The law has the right to forbid only such actions as are injurious to society. Nothing can be forbidden that is not interdicted by the law and no one can be constrained to do that which it does not order.
6. Law is the expression of the general will. All citizens have the right to take part personally or by their representatives in its formation. It must be the same for all, whether it protects or punishes. All citizens being equal in its eyes, are equally eligible to all public dignities, places, and employments, according to their capacities, and without other distinction than that of their virtues and their talents.
7. No man can be accused, arrested, or detained except in the cases determined by the law and according to the forms that it has prescribed. Those who procure, expedite, execute, or cause to be executed arbitrary orders ought to be punished: but every citizen summoned or seized in virtue of the law ought to render instant obedience; he makes himself guilty by resistance.
8. The law ought to establish only penalties that are strictly and obviously necessary and no one can be punished except in virtue of a law established and promulgated prior to the offence and legally applied.
9. 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 suppressed by law.
10. No one ought to be disturbed on account of his opinions, even religious, provided their manifestation does not derange the public order established by law.
11. The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man; every citizen then can freely speak, write, and print, subject to responsibility for the abuse of this freedom in the cases determined by law.
12. The guarantee of the rights of man and citizen requires a public force; this force then is instituted for the advantage of all and not for the personal benefit of those to whom it is entrusted.
13. For the maintenance of the public force and for the expenses of administration a general tax is indispensable; it ought to be equally apportioned among all the citizens according to their means.
14. All the citizens have the right to ascertain, by themselves or by their representatives, the necessity of the public tax, to consent to it freely, to follow the employment of it, and to determine the quota, the assessment, the collection, and the duration of it.
15. Society has the right to call for an account from every public agent of its administration.
16. Any society in which the guarantee of the rights is not secured or the separation of powers not determined has no constitution at all.
17. Property being a sacred and inviolable right, no one can be deprived of it unless a legally established public necessity evidently demands it, under the condition of a just and prior indemnity.
The National Assembly, wishing to establish the French Constitution upon the principles that it has just recognized and declared, abolishes irrevocably the institutions that have injured liberty and the equality of rights.
There is no longer nobility, nor peerage, nor hereditary distinctions, nor distinction of orders, nor feudal régime, nor patrimonial jurisdictions, nor any titles, denominations or prerogatives derived therefrom, nor any order of chivalry, nor any corporations or decorations which demanded proofs of nobility or that were grounded upon distinctions of birth, nor any superiority other than that of public officials in the exercise of their functions.
There is no longer either sale or inheritance of any public office.
There is no longer for any part of the nation nor for any individual any privilege or exception to the law that is common to all Frenchmen.
There are no longer jurandes, nor corporations of professions, arts, and crafts.
The law no longer recognizes religious vows nor any other obligation which may be contrary to natural rights or the constitution.
TITLE I. FUNDAMENTAL PROVISIONS GUARANTEED
BY THE CONSTITUTION.
The constitution guarantees as natural and civil rights:
1. That all the citizens are eligible to offices and employments without any other distinction than that of virtue and talent;
2. That all the taxes shall be equally apportioned among all the citizens in proportion to their means.
3. That like offences shall be punished by like penalties, without any distinction of persons.
The constitution likewise guarantees as natural and civil rights:
Liberty to every man to move about, to remain, and to depart without liability to arrest or detention, except according to the forms determined by the constitution;
Liberty to every man to speak, to write, to print and publish his ideas without having his writings subjected to any censorship or inspection before their publication, and to follow the religious worship to which he is attached;
Liberty to the citizens to meet peaceably and without arms, in obedience to the police laws;
Liberty to address individually signed petitions to the constituted authorities.
The legislative power cannot make any law that attacks and impedes the exercise of the natural and civil rights contained in the present title and guaranteed by the constitution; but as liberty consists only in the power to do anything that made is not injurious to the rights of others or to the public security, the law can establish penalties against acts which, in attacking the public security or the rights of others, may be injurious to society.
The constitution guarantees the inviolability of property or a just and prior indemnity for that of which a legally established public necessity may demand the sacrifice.
Property intended for the expenses of worship and for all services of public utility belongs to the nation and is at all times at its disposal.
The constitution guarantees the alienations that have been or that shall be made under the forms established by law.
The citizens have the right to elect or choose the ministers of their religious sects.
There shall be created and organized a general establishment of public relief to bring up abandoned children, to relieve infirm paupers, and to provide work for the able-bodied poor who may not have been able to obtain it for themselves.
There shall be created and organized a system of public instruction, common to all citizens, gratuitous as regards the parts of education indispensable for all men, and whose establishments shall be gradually distributed in accordance with the division of the kingdom.
There shall be established national fêtes to preserve the memory of the French Revolution, to maintain fraternity among the citizens, and to attach them to the constitution, the fatherland, and the laws.
A code of civil laws common to all the kingdom shall be made.
TITLE II. OF THE DIVISION OF THE KINGDOM AND OF THE
CONDITION OF THE CITIZENS.
1. The kingdom is one and indivisible; its territory is divided into eighty-three departments, each department into districts, each district into cantons.
2. French citizens are:
Those who are born in France of a French father;
Those who, born in France of a foreign father, have fixed their residence in the kingdom;
Those who, born in a foreign country of a French father, have become established in France and have taken the civic oath;
Lastly, those who, born in a foreign country and descended in any degree whatsoever from a French man or a French woman expatriated on account of religion, may come to live in France and take the civic oath.
3. Those residing in France, who were born outside of the kingdom from foreign parents, become French citizens after five years of continued domicile in the kingdom, if they have in addition acquired real estate or married a French woman, or formed an agricultural or commercial establishment, and have taken the civic oath.
4. The legislative power shall be able, for important considerations, to give to a foreigner a certificate of naturalization without other conditions than the fixing of his domicile in France and the taking of the civic oath.
5. The civic oath is: I swear to be faithful to the nation, the law, and the King, and to maintain with all my power the constitution of the kingdom decreed by the National Constituent Assembly in the years 1789, 1790, and 1791.
6. The title to French citizenship is lost:
1st. By naturalization in a foreign country;
2d. By condemnation to the penalties which involve civic degradation, as long as the condemned is not rehabilitated;
3d. By a judgment of contempt of court, as long as the judgment is not annulled;
4th. By affiliation with any foreign order of knighthood, or with any foreign organization which may imply proofs of nobility or distinctions of birth, or which may demand religious vows.
7. The law considers marriage as only a civil contract.
The legislative power shall establish for all inhabitants, without distinction, the manner in which births, marriages, and deaths shall be recorded and it shall designate the public officers who shall receive and preserve the records thereof.
8. The French citizens, considered in their local relations arising from their union into cities and into certain districts of rural territory, form communes.
The legislative power shall fix the extent of the district of each commune.
9. The citizens who composed each commune have the right to elect at stated times and according to the forms fixed by law those among themselves, who, under the title of municipal officers, are charged to carry on the particular affairs of the commune.
Some functions related to the interests of the State can be delegated to the municipal officers.
10. The regulations which the municipal officers shall be required to follow in the exercise of their municipal functions, as well as those which have been delegated to them for the general interest, shall be fixed by the laws.
TITLE III. OF THE PUBLIC POWERS.
1. Sovereignty is one, indivisible, inalienable, and imprescriptible: it belongs to the nation: no section of the people nor any individual can attribute to himself the exercise thereof.
2. The nation, from which alone emanates all the powers, can exercise them only by delegation.
The French constitution is representative; the representatives are the Legislative Body and the King.
3. The legislative power is delegated to one National Assembly, composed of temporary representatives freely elected by the people, in order to be exercised by it with the sanction of the King in the manner which shall be determined hereinafter.
4. The government is monarchical: the executive power is delegated to the King, in order to be exercised under his authority by ministers and other responsible agents, in the manner which shall be determined hereinafter.
5. The judicial power is delegated to judges elected at stated times by the people.
Chapter I. Of the National Legislative Assembly.
1. The National Assembly, forming the Legislative Body, is permanent and is composed of only one chamber.
2. It shall be formed every two years by new elections.
Each period of two years shall constitute a legislature.
3. The provisions of the preceding article shall not operate with respect to the next Legislative Body, whose powers shall cease the last day of April, 1793.
4. The renewal of the Legislative Body takes place with perfect right.
5. The Legislative Body shall not be dissolved by the King.
Section I. Number of the representatives.Basis of representation.
1. The number of representatives in the Legislative Body is seven hundred and forty-five, by reason of the eighty-three departments of which the realm is composed, and independently of those who may be granted to the colonies.
2. The representatives shall be distributed among the eighty-three departments according to the three proportions of territory, population, and direct tax.
3. Of the seven hundred and forty-five representatives, two hundred and forty-seven are accredited for territory.
Each department shall select three of these, with the exception of the department of Paris which shall select but one.
4. Two hundred and forty-nine are accredited for population.
The total mass of the population of the kingdom is divided into two hundred and forty-nine parts, and each department selects as many deputies as it has parts of population.
5. Two hundred and forty-nine representatives are accredited for the direct tax.
The sum total of the direct tax of the kingdom is likewise divided into two hundred and forty-nine parts, and each department selects as many deputies as it pays parts of the tax.
Section II. Primary assemblies.Selection of the electors.
1. In order to form the National Legislative Assembly the active citizens shall meet every two years in primary assemblies in the cities and cantons.
The primary assemblies shall constitute themselves with perfect right on the second Sunday of March, if they have not been convoked earlier by the public functionaries determined by the law.
2. In order to be an active citizen it is necessary to be born or to become a Frenchman; to be fully twenty-five years of age; to be domiciled in the city or in the canton for the time fixed by the law;
To pay in some place of the kingdom a direct tax at the least equal to the value of three days of labor, and to present the receipt therefor;
Not to be in a state of domestic service, that is to say, not to be a servant for wages;
To be registered upon the roll of the national guards in the municipality of his domicile;
To have taken the civic oath.
3. Every six years the Legislative Body shall fix the minimum and the maximum of the value of a day's labor, and the department administrators shall make the local determination thereof for each department.
4. No one shall be able to exercise the rights of an active citizen in more than one place or to cause himself to be represented by another.
5. The following are excluded from the exercise of the rights of active citizenship:
Those who are under indictment;
Those who, after having been declared to be in a state of bankruptcy or insolvency, proven by authentic documents, do not procure a general discharge from their creditors.
6. The primary assemblies shall select electors in proportion to the number of active citizens domiciled in the city or canton.
There shall be one elector selected by virtue of one hundred active citizens, whether present at the assembly or not.
There shall be two selected for one hundred and fifty-one up to two hundred, and so on.
7. No one can be chosen an elector if he does not unite with the conditions necessary to be an active citizen, the following:
In the cities over six thousand souls, that of being proprietor or usufructuary of an estate valued upon the tax rolls at a at a revenue equal to the local value of two hundred days of labor, or of being the occupant of a habitation valued upon the same rolls at a revenue equal to the value of a hundred and fifty days of labor;
In cities under six thousand souls that of being proprietor or usufructuary of an estate valued upon the tax rolls at a revenue equal to the local value of a hundred and fifty days of labor, or of being the occupant of a habitation valued upon the same rolls at a revenue equal to the value of a hundred days of labor.
And in the country, that of being the proprietor or usufructuary of an estate valued upon the tax rolls at a revenue equal to the local value of one hundred and fifty days of labor, or that of being the farmer or metayer of estates valued upon the same rolls at the value of four hundred days of labor.
With respect to those who shall at the same time be proprietors or usufructuaries for one part and occupants, farmers or metayers for another, their means by these different titles shall be cumulated up to the amount necessary to establish their eligibility