Jean-François Varlet 1793

Declaration of the Rights of Man in the Social State

Source: Declarations des droits de l’homme dans l’état social. N.P. [Paris?]1793;
Translated: for by Mitchell Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) 2004.


On July 14, when Liberty shone brightly amidst the debris of the infamous Bastille;

On August 10, when the phalanx of departmental forces was deployed before the final lightning bolts of the tyrant; when the Republic was born in the hecatomb of the most valorous Citizens we were the sovereign, our common enemies bowed before national omnipotence. During those days in one hand we should have held the exterminating sword and in the other the expression of our will in the form of a complete code of popular laws. Our sovereignty would not have been illusory, we would have been free without restrictions. But could the newly freed slaves have expected that in mutilating the old idols that tyranny was going to be reproduced and (something that could only astonish them) created with their own hands? Children of Liberty, yet too weak to impose their rights, they sought support among those of their fellow citizens whose reputation for civisme and enlightenment attracted their suffrage. What happened? What did these depositories of the powers of a great nation do? What did they say? A few steps towards liberty in 1789. But since then, we are forced to admit, little for the comfort, to improve the conditions of the people. The historian of good faith will place good and evil in the balance: he will be able to judge better than us. Three times our deputies were not sufficiently penetrated by their great mission; carelessness, pretensions to wit, the taste for domination and, above all, the thirst for gold obsessed them. They began by being patriotic, enragés, and ended by showing themselves traitors and deserters to the cause of the people. A tiny handful of FREE MEN among the mass were immune to the contagion. THE SANS CULOTTE PEOPLE, THE PEOPLE OF NATURE, knows its consistent defenders. It counts them with no difficulty for their SANS CULOTTE grandchildren. It shows them and commands both their esteem and attachment towards them. Their memory will be passed down to our last descendants. What am I saying? These friends of humanity will exist among all nations, in the memory of sensible beings when their ashes shall be deposed in the temple of GREAT MEN.

A truth has been shown us: man is prideful by nature, and in high positions is necessarily inclined towards despotism. We now feel that we must hold back, bridle created authorities; failing this they all become oppressive powers. Don’t seek to set up counter-balances among them: any counter weight that isn’t THE PEOPLE themselves is false. The SOVEREIGN must always preside over the SOCIAL BODY; it doesn’t want to be represented. In the past, under a monarchy, it was possible to recognize representatives invested with unlimited powers, ceaselessly substituting their systems and individual wishes for the INFALLIBLE GENERAL WILL. There’s nothing surprising in this: under a king the PEOPLE are subjects. In a Republic the regime changes. Deputies are nothing but subordinated delegates whose powers are an expression of wishes and intentions. When a territory is too vast, the population immense, the SOVEREIGN, reduced to the impossibility of explaining itself, communicates its ideas to its representatives. Gathered together, those with this proxy power, charged with developing the intentions of their electors, poll their wishes, and from this poll is born the general will.

FRENCHMEN OF THE 85 DEPARTMENTS, our SOVEREIGNTY, remains half-hidden beneath a thick veil, a corner of which very day of his life the divine ROUSSEAU lifted. Let this troublesome veil be removed and torn apart. What our representatives neither can nor will do, let us do ourselves. Let us give these gentlemen lessons in republicanism. The SOVEREIGN knows its rights: who better than he is capable of consecrating them by a clear, meaningful declaration, destructive of all prejudices and such that the UNIVERSALITY OF MEN, struck by these great truths, render them homage by hastening to adopt them?

FRENCHMEN OF THE 85 DEPARTMENTS, SOVEREIGN PEOPLE, come in a solemn festival and recognize your RIGHTS, those of SOVEREIGN NATIONS. The Parisians are awaiting you in their homes. They have been so hideously depicted to you, they have been so slandered that they have to talk to you, to unburden themselves with you. Come! You will find them as they have always been, still worthy thanks to their ardent civisme and hatred of tyrants. The treason of the infamous Dumourier gave you the key to the faction of statesmen, since this wretch was their creature. Come! We’ll eat together the manes of the martyrs OF LIBERTY, the purest blood, which reddens the plains of Belgium in order to satisfy their odious projects.

FRENCHMEN OF THE 85 DEPARTMENTS, our fellow citizens, our brothers, our friends; worn out by a conspiracy a thousand times smashed, a thousand times re-assembled, our courage will be reanimated on the ALTAR OF THE FATHERLAND. Come! Our vows will not be sullied this time by the presence of a perjuring king. Come! Come! The tearful FATHERLAND, calls on you! Come judge the conspirators! Come! Come quickly and extinguish the counter revolutionary center that is devouring us!

In the department of the Vendée the fanaticism of priests and kings is thrashing about in its final convulsions. In Paris, cradle of Liberty, their vile henchmen are working and seek to form a rallying point. Their auspices are the defenders in the Convention of the last of our tyrants. The traitors have gone too far: the day of SOVEREIGN vengeance has arrived. The too-long repressed indignation is taking a rapid leap forward. The genius of FREE PEOPLES has returned movement and life to all the French. The passion for independence is moving souls, penetrating them, giving them life. The electric movement is universal. Souls made larger by the certainty of a deliverance of NATIONS that is near at hand is heating up, taking flame, and conceiving. A moral insurrection, predicted by great men and long in preparation, is working on all spirits. FREEDOM, daughter of persuasion, is moving the indifferent, brings heat to chilled hearts, and is even softening those aristocrats who have still kept something of the human. The explosion has occurred; the revolutionary volcano, in its eruptions, covers and consumes with its burning lava the unholy league of intriguing dominators. Perfidy and lies have been crushed under the weight of principle. The rights of SOVEREIGN NATIONS are recognized, the sun of truth shines. The owls of the aristocracy are returning to their shadowy repair. The FRENCH PEOPLE is appearing in all its SOVEREIGNTY, and 10,000 voices of FREE men, married in the air, bring to the ETERNAL this sublime hymn:


Declaration of the rights of man in the social state


The sovereign people of the French territory, determined to constitute itself as a republican government, one and indivisible, the only one proper for the maintenance of the Rights of man in the social state,; considering before all that ignorance , error, and superstition are the primary causes for the enslavement of nations; considering that the principles founded in nature, forever one and invariable, form the Universal Code that must some day govern men; finally, considering that the differences, the strangeness of usages, the insufficiencies, the incompetence of the laws and revolutions of states come from the fact that man, in the Social State, has not yet adopted an immutable basis upon which his institutions rest, has resolved to put forth, in a solemn declaration, the rights of Man in the Social State; rights as ancient as the earth, sacred rights, inalienable, so that this Declaration, offered to all Peoples created to be Free, assist them in shaking off the yoke of tyrants. So that men, gathered together in society have ever-present to their sprit their obligations, inseparable from their rights; so that the acts of the authorities created by sovereign nations, henceforth based in all regards on simple and uncontestable principles, be all the more respected; so that a portion of men no longer be oppressed by the other, but that all are given their original dignity. Educated, proud, jealous of their rights, they maintain equilibrium among them through gentle, just, durable laws, the guarantor of the rights of each individual and, in this way, of public happiness.

Consequently, French citizens, exercising their sovereignty in all its plenitude declare and proclaim to all sovereign nations, in the presence and under the auspices of the Supreme Being who they recognize as the author of all creations,

The following rights of man in the social state.

First Article

Liberty is a moral being which presides over order and social harmony. It is the principle of all virtues, of all talents, of all prosperity among men. Liberty alone upon thrones should govern, alone in temples should represent to men to wise and thinking men the Divinity (a) from which they draw ideas of justice, perfection, and beneficence.

Article Two

Nations form but one sole family: They have the same cause to defend against the oppression of tyrants; their commercial communications, the reciprocity of charitable assistance they owe each other makes it necessary that they live united.

Article Three

War between nations is a crime of lese-humanité committed by kings, despots, the ambitious, and dominating intriguers. These oppressors of humans are outlaws and those who have purged the earth of them have deserved the gratitude of the entire world.

Article Four

Men of all climates are born and must remain free and equal in rights. Despotism and anarchy reign wherever this first principle is misunderstood or poorly interpreted. (b)

Article Five

Education and instruction, the preaching of public morality (c) – scared debts of states towards all citizens – are alone capable of rendering practicable the enjoyment of their rights.

Article Six

Equality is the immediate consequence of liberty. It is derived from this precious principle that 1- Citizens are admissible to all public functions, without distinction of birth, fortune or estate, each one in keeping with his capacity and the esteem and confidence he inspires. 2- That the sharing of charges demanded by the needs of society is only equal insofar as it is progressive and based on the faculties of the taxpayers. 3- That those individuals whose existence depends on mediocre salaries cannot be taxed on the product of labor necessary to feed oneself. 4- That all distinctive signs posted on public places are only borne in the exercise of functions. 5- That social rewards are graduated based on the value of services rendered and always exclusively accorded to virtues, personal merit and always directed towards common utility.

Article Seven

The organization of society has as its sole goal the maintenance of the rights of man in the state of society. By these rights we mean: The exercise of sovereignty, freedom of thought, freedom to act, the liberty, the security, the preservation of individuals, the enjoyment of property, and the resistance to oppression.

Article eight

The exercise of sovereignty belongs to all nations. In them alone resides omnipotence. It is one and indivisible, inalienable, can be delegated by vote and never ever be represented.

One power alone resides in all states: that of sovereign nations. Created authorities are their emanation which remain forever subordinate to them.

Article Nine

Those who exercise public functions without the formal delegation of their electors are usurpers who transgress the sovereignty of peoples.

Article ten

The exercise of sovereignty by nations is divided in eight parts equally distinct from the others: this is the right possessed by men in the social state:

To elect without intermediaries to all public functions. 2- To discuss society’s interests. 3 – To partially express wishes and intentions and collectively the will to representatives who are enjoined to propose laws and thus personally assist in their formation (d). 4- To recall and punish delegates who betray the interests of their electors. 5- To confirm the need for public contributions, to freely consent to them, to oversee their use, to determine their share, their assessment recovery and duration. 6- To demand an accounting from every public functionary, administrator, agent, and recipient of national funds. 7- To examine, refuse, or sanction the decrees proposed by representatives in order to give them the force of laws and to render them capable of execution. 8- The right of citizens, taken as a mass in the state, to review, re-found, modify, or change the social contract when it pleases them.

Article Eleven

Freedom of thought in the first place means that each man should be free in the homage he renders THE SUPREME BEING (e): this great principle does not suffer any kind of exception. Consequently, the state cannot and should not become in any way involved in questions surrounding cults, unless their manifestation upsets the order established by the social contract.

Freedom of thought also establishes the free communication of ideas and tolerance of all opinions. Thinking is the most precious right of man. He must then write, speak and publish freely, without this faculty being in any way forbidden, suspended, or limited.

Article twelve

The freedom to act is that which each individual has to come and go, to freely assemble, to censure and oversee the conduct and acts of created authorities and, finally, to do all that doesn’t cause harm to society and his kind. The exercise of the rights of each man in society thus has limits determined by the social contract, which assures to other co-associates the enjoyment of these same rights.

Article Thirteen

The liberty of individuals is the uncontestable right that they all have to vote, elect, discuss and exercise in assemblies the portion of sovereignty that is the part of each. The social contract should foresee those cases where citizens can have the exercise of this right suspended or forbidden.

The liberty of individuals also consists in the fact that all men are free to commit their labor and their time, but he cannot sell themselves or be sold: their person is inalienable.

Article Fourteen

The security of individuals demands that no man can be arrested, accused or detained, except in cases determined by the social contract and in the forms it prescribes. 2- that any citizen interfered with by virtue of an arbitrary or unjust order has the right not tosubmit to it. 3- That every individual, in case of personal attack and by right of self-defense, can answer force with force. 4- That no one can be brought before a tribunal and judged except by virtue of a law promulgated prior to the crime and justly applied. 5- If it is judged indispensable that an accused, being presumed innocent until proven guilty, be arrested, any excess force not necessary to assure his person shall be severely repressed by the social contract.

Article 15

The preservation of individuals means that an intentional murderer be removed from within society (f) and any evildoer punished. Punishment shall be proportional to the crime.

Article 16

The enjoyment of property is the right of possession. Properties are under the protection of citizens, who all have an interest in their preservation.

Article 17

The right to territorial possession has limits within society. Its latitude should be such that industrial or agricultural industry is not affected. In all states the indigent form the majority. And since their individual liberty, security, and preservation are goods that exist prior to all, their most natural wish, their most steadfast right, is to protect themselves from the oppression of the rich by limiting acquisitive ambitions (g) and breaking by all just means the enormous disproportion in fortunes.

Article 18

Man in the social state recognizes four kinds of property. The first, the most sacred that all men have to appeal for, to demand, is that which assures him the primary means of existence. The second property, no less essential, consists both in the exercise of charity due the indigent, administered to them if they are suffering, elderly, ill or unable to render themselves useful, and in the assistance accorded through labor to the healthy. The third property is the product of commercial or agricultural industry, or the salary for a position, a public or private function. The fourth property is made up of patrimonies, inheritances, or donations.

Article 19

Property, being an inviolable right, every owner is master to dispose as he wishes of his goods and revenue of whatever sort, as long as his use of them doesn’t tend towards the destruction of society.

Article 20

Goods amassed at the expense of the public fortune by theft, speculation, monopoly, or hoarding become national properties at the instant society becomes certain through facts of the fraud.

Article 21

No one can be deprived of his property unless urgent, authentically verified public necessity demands it, and always on condition of a fair and determined indemnification.

Article 22

Resistance to oppression is the precious right to insurrection. The only law it knows is that of necessity.

There is oppression when the sovereignty of a nation is usurped, invaded by kings, despots, dictators, the ambitious, intriguing dominators, tyrants, in whatever form.

There is oppression when the military or force are preponderant in a state

There is oppression when created authorities go beyond the limits assigned to them by the social contract.

There is oppression when national funds are wasted; when the annihilation of credit raises public poverty to its maximum. In this state of things a universal insurrection becomes the safeguard of independence, the most legitimate of rights, the most sacred of duties. (g)

Article 23

When a sovereign nation constitutes itself as a social state its various sections sends deputies garbed with mandates. Gathered together, these delegates develop the intentions of their electors, propose laws. If the majority accepts them, these fundamental conventions form a whole, called the social contract.

Article 24

Laws are the expression of the general will. This will can only be known by bringing together, comparing, adding up the partial wishes of the sections of citizens gathered in sovereign assemblies.

Article 25

The first authority created by states is called the national delegation. The second created authority is called Executive Law Commission.

Article 26

The social contract must formally oppose the permanence of public functions.

Article 27

The social contract must never allow the accumulation of public functions, and in doing so establishes a distinct separation between all created authorities.

Article 28

The social contract is especially applied to defending the weak from the powerful. (h)

Article 29

Above all, the social contract must put a brake on the ambitions of public functionaries. Consequently, whoever they might be, if they depart from their duties they will suffer penalties proportional to the importance of their mission.

Article 30

The maintenance of the rights in the social state universally necessitates the independence of sovereign nations. So be it!


I have perhaps conceived some useful ideas. If I can flatter myself by saying so, I thank for this the sans-culotte people. For the past four years, in the public squares, in groups of the people, among the sans-culotterie, in the rags I love, I learned that with naiveté and without constraint the poor devils of the attics reasoned with more certainty and daring than the fine gentlemen, the beautiful speechifiers, the stumbling scholars: if they want to learn the true science let them, like me, visit the groups.

Sans-culotte people, my preceptor, my teacher, I told you all that I had in my soul. I could have erred, but I assure you that if I did so it was in good faith. What is more, that which I offer you is in the form of a fraternal communication; you will take from it what you will. You will think, meditate, believe if your reason tells you to believe. For my part, I will attach importance to those ideas which you have sanctioned.

Sans-culotte people, who only speaks is not yet worthy of your confidence. I am voluntarily leaving for the Vendée. I will go, surrounded by my sans-culotte friends, to fight against the sacred and crowned monsters.

The Apostle of liberty would be naught but a braggart if the threatened Fatherland didn’t find in him a rampart. Before leaving, I will gather some ideas capable of bringing about your happiness, sans-culotte people.

I will go, you will go, he will go, we’ll all go to make out sacred liberty respected among the hordes of rebels. Better the glorious end of an insurgent than a long and tortured existence dragged out under vengeful despots. The chance of combat can strike me down; I am resigned, and my eyes will close without regrets if, priests and kings haven’t returned to dust, as a sign of victory I were to glimpse, floating in the air, on an altar raised to the Fatherland, the tricolor flag, sacred emblem of universal independence.

Sans-culotte people, if you then think you find in me a Citizen who sincerely wants the good of his country, give me the fraternal accolade and don’t refuse me the only one I crave; it is in your esteem.

Sans-culotte people, I go among you to tell you of my pain, the only one I feel. Only child of a widowed mother, a patriot, though I was her sole consolation I wanted to be a consistent Citizen before being a son, The ardent zeal I put into serving the public thing caused her to fear for my days, and especially sine the two periods when I was led out by four fusiliers for having spoken out – before the others – against Lafayette and his clique. Since then sorrow consumes her, pale and suffering... Can I finish...No, I can’t.

Sans-culotte Citizens, return to me my mother, my friend who I sacrificed to you. I predict that your esteem, your attachment will do more for her than the doubtful science of the men of the university.

By Citizen VARLET, native of Paris, Apostle of Liberty, Jacobin, Sans-culotte elector of the Rights of Man Section

  1. The statue of Liberty, daughter of heaven, friend of Nature, companion of our good morals, when placed in public buildings will better speak to the soul and senses of Citizens than the piece of wood in form of a cross of the Christians. The sacred gospel of the Rights of Man will cause more proselytizers than those of Saints John and Luke. Civic sermons, explicatory conferences will be better followed than the catechisms of ignorant priests or lay nuns. The public spirit will gain much by totally leaving behind the emphatic, the miraculous, the incomprehensible for the natural and the simple. FAITH, but good FAITH. All the founders of religions were profound political geniuses, swindling moralists how knew how to manipulate the hearts of men. They knew of the love of truth innate in him. They enveloped their fraud in maxims striking for their purity, their justice. They shamelessly said they were sent by heaven, and with the assistance of religious mummeries managed to alienate weak spirits. Men killed themselves with hunger, condemned themselves, mortified themselves, committed suicide in order to honor a beneficent being, and from that point on stopped thinking, were a credulous machine that accepted erroneous dogmas and, what is more, made a foolish virtue of the good natured faith of their ancestors. Until the moment when the reign of the crackpots ended and the answer to the puzzle was given to all nations. The only intermediary that has ever existed between the author, the regulator of the world and man is thought. It is thought that feels, that divines, that traverses space; that has, in order to adore thought created various systems which confounds the atheists, overturns his doubts, and forces him to recognize the author of all things.
  2. Frenchmen, frivolous people, flighty people, give yourself over a bit more to thought; mix in with your gayety of character a hint of Anglo-mania. Be as proud of your rights as flexible in fulfilling the duties they impose and you will no longer turn your liberty into license.
  3. Spectacles are of this genre. O Brutus! O Fenelon! In order to excite souls to virtue you have charms more powerful than the paid-off monkish foolery of Lent and Advent.
  4. A Revolutionary Story: A sensitive and generous nation vegetated on a soil full of nature’s gifts. A long succession of crowned brigands had both agitated it and put it to sleep. One day the tyranny was so violent that the pain abruptly awoke it. It wanted to be free but didn’t know how to set about this. In the first years the exercise of sovereignty was nothing but a continual usurpation. Deputies named as representatives were sent out invested with unlimited powers to carry out the sublime mission of doing good. These latter wanted to make assumptions about the general will, but their passions prevented them from correctly divining it. Nevertheless, directorates of departments, which were not in the least sections of the sovereign people, signed on to various decrees. The most sacred duties were fulfilled nonchalantly. The deputies didn’t realize this, for every day new addresses had them breathe the subtle poison of praise. The various sections of the sovereign people humbly petitioned at the bar. These partial wishes piled up in their thousands, buried beneath the dust of committees. The sovereign will was debased, misunderstood. There was the famous article of statutory laws which alone fed despotism for four years, and when the people twice rose up the counter-revolution was carried out legislatively, conventionally. And there was ... etc, etc.
  5. Bigots full of bile, women credulous or weak by nature, a few of the good believers from the tribe of Israel still go to temples to make signs, grimaces, gestures, and mumble “our fathers” they don’t understand. Free men will soon go there to learn, moralize, exercise beneficence. The first group prostrate themselves, humiliate themselves, kiss the earth. Free men, their faces raised towards heaven’s vault in the attitude given them by the sovereign of sovereign people will admire its masterworks, ever amazed. No more genuflections, salutations. The first man to put his knee on the soil was full of pride and surely believed himself to be something in order to humiliate himself before his creator.
  6. The names of chevaliers, barons, counts and marquis that our ci-devant bore; their blazons, their livery only made them smug and insolent. They became oppressive tyrants through the possession of a few thousand acres of land. The richness of land; this is what constitutes feudal power.
  7. Forgive me a comparison that is perhaps shocking for the august object I’m dealing with. I draw it from the very nature of things. Sovereign nations, omnipotent and oppressed by a tiny handful of men, make me think of the animal who opens for us the nourishing earth. Large and vigorous, he doesn’t sense his strength; he allows himself to be led along by a child under a murderous axe. Americans, peoples of Asia, Africans, Europeans, nations, sovereign nations be proud: know your rights and soon there will no longer be anywhere in the world a single inch of the earth that doesn’t belong to liberty.
  8. Oh what a beautiful mission! Mortal, do good and you will live a thousand years in one day. I have several times felt this.