Documents

 

1. – Bill of Rights (1689)

 An Act Declaring the Rights and Liberties of the Subject and Settling the Succession of the Crown

Whereas the Lords Spiritual and Temporal and Commons assembled at Westminster, lawfully, fully and freely representing all the estates of the people of this realm, did upon the thirteenth day of February in the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred eighty-eight [old style date] present unto their Majesties, then called and known by the names and style of William and Mary, prince and princess of Orange, being present in their proper persons, a certain declaration in writing made by the said Lords and Commons in the words following, viz.:

Whereas the late King James the Second, by the assistance of divers evil counsellors, judges and ministers employed by him, did endeavour to subvert and extirpate the Protestant religion and the laws and liberties of this kingdom;

By assuming and exercising a power of dispensing with and suspending of laws and the execution of laws without consent of Parliament;

By committing and prosecuting divers worthy prelates for humbly petitioning to be excused from concurring to the said assumed power;

By issuing and causing to be executed a commission under the great seal for erecting a court called the Court of Commissioners for Ecclesiastical Causes;

By levying money for and to the use of the Crown by pretence of prerogative for other time and in other manner than the same was granted by Parliament;

By raising and keeping a standing army within this kingdom in time of peace without consent of Parliament, and quartering soldiers contrary to law;

By causing several good subjects being Protestants to be disarmed at the same time when papists were both armed and employed contrary to law;

By violating the freedom of election of members to serve in Parliament;

By prosecutions in the Court of King’s Bench for matters and causes cognizable only in Parliament, and by divers other arbitrary and illegal courses;

And whereas of late years partial corrupt and unqualified persons have been returned and served on juries in trials, and particularly divers jurors in trials for high treason which were not freeholders;

And excessive bail hath been required of persons committed in criminal cases to elude the benefit of the laws made for the liberty of the subjects;

And excessive fines have been imposed;

And illegal and cruel punishments inflicted;

And several grants and promises made of fines and forfeitures before any conviction or judgment against the persons upon whom the same were to be levied;

All which are utterly and directly contrary to the known laws and statutes and freedom of this realm;

And whereas the said late King James the Second having abdicated the government and the throne being thereby vacant, his Highness the prince of Orange (whom it hath pleased Almighty God to make the glorious instrument of delivering this kingdom from popery and arbitrary power) did (by the advice of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal and divers principal persons of the Commons) cause letters to be written to the Lords Spiritual and Temporal being Protestants, and other letters to the several counties, cities, universities, boroughs and cinque ports, for the choosing of such persons to represent them as were of right to be sent to Parliament, to meet and sit at Westminster upon the two and twentieth day of January in this year one thousand six hundred eighty and eight [old style date], in order to such an establishment as that their religion, laws and liberties might not again be in danger of being subverted, upon which letters elections having been accordingly made;

And thereupon the said Lords Spiritual and Temporal and Commons, pursuant to their respective letters and elections, being now assembled in a full and free representative of this nation, taking into their most serious consideration the best means for attaining the ends aforesaid, do in the first place (as their ancestors in like case have usually done) for the vindicating and asserting their ancient rights and liberties declare

That the pretended power of suspending the laws or the execution of laws by regal authority without consent of Parliament is illegal;

That the pretended power of dispensing with laws or the execution of laws by regal authority, as it hath been assumed and exercised of late, is illegal;

That the commission for erecting the late Court of Commissioners for Ecclesiastical Causes, and all other commissions and courts of like nature, are illegal and pernicious;

That levying money for or to the use of the Crown by pretence of prerogative, without grant of Parliament, for longer time, or in other manner than the same is or shall be granted, is illegal;

That it is the right of the subjects to petition the king, and all commitments and prosecutions for such petitioning are illegal;

That the raising or keeping a standing army within the kingdom in time of peace, unless it be with consent of Parliament, is against law;

That the subjects which are Protestants may have arms for their defence suitable to their conditions and as allowed by law;

That election of members of Parliament ought to be free;

That the freedom of speech and debates or proceedings in Parliament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Parliament;

That excessive bail ought not to be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted;

That jurors ought to be duly impanelled and returned, and jurors which pass upon men in trials for high treason ought to be freeholders;

That all grants and promises of fines and forfeitures of particular persons before conviction are illegal and void;

And that for redress of all grievances, and for the amending, strengthening and preserving of the laws, Parliaments ought to be held frequently.

And they do claim, demand and insist upon all and singular the premises as their undoubted rights and liberties, and that no declarations, judgments, doings or proceedings to the prejudice of the people in any of the said premises ought in any wise to be drawn hereafter into consequence or example; to which demand of their rights they are particularly encouraged by the declaration of his Highness the prince of Orange as being the only means for obtaining a full redress and remedy therein. Having therefore an entire confidence that his said Highness the prince of Orange will perfect the deliverance so far advanced by him, and will still preserve them from the violation of their rights which they have here asserted, and from all other attempts upon their religion, rights and liberties, the said Lords Spiritual and Temporal and Commons assembled at Westminster do resolve that William and Mary, prince and princess of Orange, be and be declared king and queen of England, France and Ireland and the dominions thereunto belonging, to hold the crown and royal dignity of the said kingdoms and dominions to them, the said prince and princess, during their lives and the life of the survivor to them, and that the sole and full exercise of the regal power be only in and executed by the said prince of Orange in the names of the said prince and princess during their joint lives, and after their deceases the said crown and royal dignity of the same kingdoms and dominions to be to the heirs of the body of the said princess, and for default of such issue to the Princess Anne of Denmark and the heirs of her body, and for default of such issue to the heirs of the body of the said prince of Orange. And the Lords Spiritual and Temporal and Commons do pray the said prince and princess to accept the same accordingly.

And that the oaths hereafter mentioned be taken by all persons of whom the oaths have allegiance and supremacy might be required by law, instead of them; and that the said oaths of allegiance and supremacy be abrogated.

I, A.B., do sincerely promise and swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to their Majesties King William and Queen Mary. So help me God.

I, A.B., do swear that I do from my heart abhor, detest and abjure as impious and heretical this damnable doctrine and position, that princes excommunicated or deprived by the Pope or any authority of the see of Rome may be deposed or murdered by their subjects or any other whatsoever. And I do declare that no foreign prince, person, prelate, state or potentate hath or ought to have any jurisdiction, power, superiority, pre-eminence or authority, ecclesiastical or spiritual, within this realm. So help me God.

Upon which their said Majesties did accept the crown and royal dignity of the kingdoms ofEngland,FranceandIreland, and the dominions thereunto belonging, according to the resolution and desire of the said Lords and Commons contained in the said declaration. And thereupon their Majesties were pleased that the said Lords Spiritual and Temporal and Commons, being the two Houses of Parliament, should continue to sit, and with their Majesties’ royal concurrence make effectual provision for the settlement of the religion, laws and liberties of this kingdom, so that the same for the future might not be in danger again of being subverted, to which the said Lords Spiritual and Temporal and Commons did agree, and proceed to act accordingly. Now in pursuance of the premises the said Lords Spiritual and Temporal and Commons in Parliament assembled, for the ratifying, confirming and establishing the said declaration and the articles, clauses, matters and things therein contained by the force of law made in due form by authority of Parliament, do pray that it may be declared and enacted that all and singular the rights and liberties asserted and claimed in the said declaration are the true, ancient and indubitable rights and liberties of the people of this kingdom, and so shall be esteemed, allowed, adjudged, deemed and taken to be; and that all and every the particulars aforesaid shall be firmly and strictly holden and observed as they are expressed in the said declaration, and all officers and ministers whatsoever shall serve their Majesties and their successors according to the same in all time to come. And the said Lords Spiritual and Temporal and Commons, seriously considering how it hath pleased Almighty God in his marvellous providence and merciful goodness to this nation to provide and preserve their said Majesties’ royal persons most happily to reign over us upon the throne of their ancestors, for which they render unto him from the bottom of their hearts their humblest thanks and praises, do truly, firmly, assuredly and in the sincerity of their hearts think, and do hereby recognize, acknowledge and declare, that King James the Second having abdicated the government, and their Majesties having accepted the crown and royal dignity as aforesaid, their said Majesties did become, were, are and of right ought to be by the laws of this realm our sovereign liege lord and lady, king and queen of England, France and Ireland and the dominions thereunto belonging, in and to whose princely persons the royal state, crown and dignity of the said realms with all honours, styles, titles, regalities, prerogatives, powers, jurisdictions and authorities to the same belonging and appertaining are most fully, rightfully and entirely invested and incorporated, united and annexed. And for preventing all questions and divisions in this realm by reason of any pretended titles to the crown, and for preserving a certainty in the succession thereof, in and upon which the unity, peace, tranquillity and safety of this nation doth under God wholly consist and depend, the said Lords Spiritual and Temporal and Commons do beseech their Majesties that it may be enacted, established and declared, that the crown and regal government of the said kingdoms and dominions, with all and singular the premises thereunto belonging and appertaining, shall be and continue to their said Majesties and the survivor of them during their lives and the life of the survivor of them, and that the entire, perfect and full exercise of the regal power and government be only in and executed by his Majesty in the names of both their Majesties during their joint lives; and after their deceases the said crown and premises shall be and remain to the heirs of the body of her Majesty, and for default of such issue to her Royal Highness the Princess Anne of Denmark and the heirs of the body of his said Majesty; and thereunto the said Lords Spiritual and Temporal and Commons do in the name of all the people aforesaid most humbly and faithfully submit themselves, their heirs and posterities for ever, and do faithfully promise that they will stand to, maintain and defend their said Majesties, and also the limitation and succession of the crown herein specified and contained, to the utmost of their powers with their lives and estates against all persons whatsoever that shall attempt anything to the contrary. And whereas it hath been found by experience that it is inconsistent with the safety and welfare of this Protestant kingdom to be governed by a popish prince, or by any king or queen marrying a papist, the said Lords Spiritual and Temporal and Commons do further pray that it may be enacted, that all and every person and persons that is, are or shall be reconciled to or shall hold communion with the see or Church of Rome, or shall profess the popish religion, or shall marry a papist, shall be excluded and be for ever incapable to inherit, possess or enjoy the crown and government of this realm and Ireland and the dominions thereunto belonging or any part of the same, or to have, use or exercise any regal power, authority or jurisdiction within the same; and in all and every such case or cases the people of these realms shall be and are hereby absolved of their allegiance; and the said crown and government shall from time to time descend to and be enjoyed by such person or persons being Protestants as should have inherited and enjoyed the same in case the said person or persons so reconciled, holding communion or professing or marrying as aforesaid were naturally dead; and that every king and queen of this realm who at any time hereafter shall come to and succeed in the imperial crown of this kingdom shall on the first day of the meeting of the first Parliament next after his or her coming to the crown, sitting in his or her throne in the House of Peers in the presence of the Lords and Commons therein assembled, or at his or her coronation before such person or persons who shall administer the coronation oath to him or her at the time of his or her taking the said oath (which shall first happen), make, subscribe and audibly repeat the declaration mentioned in the statute made in the thirtieth year of the reign of King Charles the Second entitled, _An Act for the more effectual preserving the king’s person and government by disabling papists from sitting in either House of Parliament._ But if it shall happen that such king or queen upon his or her succession to the crown of this realm shall be under the age of twelve years, then every such king or queen shall make, subscribe and audibly repeat the same declaration at his or her coronation or the first day of the meeting of the first Parliament as aforesaid which shall first happen after such king or queen shall have attained the said age of twelve years. All which their Majesties are contented and pleased shall be declared, enacted and established by authority of this present Parliament, and shall stand, remain and be the law of this realm for ever; and the same are by their said Majesties, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal and Commons in Parliament assembled and by the authority of the same, declared, enacted and established accordingly.

II. And be it further declared and enacted by the authority aforesaid, that from and after this present session of Parliament no dispensation by non obstante of or to any statute or any part thereof shall be allowed, but that the same shall be held void and of no effect, except a dispensation be allowed of in such statute, and except in such cases as shall be specially provided for by one or more bill or bills to be passed during this present session of Parliament.

III. Provided that no charter or grant or pardon granted before the three and twentieth day of October in the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred eighty-nine shall be any ways impeached or invalidated by this Act, but that the same shall be and remain of the same force and effect in law and no other than as if this Act had never been made.

 


2. – Virginia Declaration of Rights (June 12, 1776)

A Declaration of Rights made by the Representatives of the good people of Virginia, assembled in full and free Convention; which rights do pertain to them and their posterity, as the basis and foundation of Government.

I. That all men are by nature equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.

II. That all power is vested in, and consequently derived from, the people; that magistrates are their trustees and servants, and at all times amenable to them.

III. That government is, or ought to be, instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security of the people, nation or community; of all the various modes and forms of government that is best, which is capable of producing the greatest degree of happiness and safety and is most effectually secured against the danger of maladministration; and that, whenever any government shall be found inadequate or contrary to these purposes, a majority of the community hath an indubitable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to reform, alter or abolish it, in such manner as shall be judged most conducive to the public weal.

IV. That no man, or set of men, are entitled to exclusive or separate emoluments or privileges from the community, but in consideration of public services; which, not being descendible, neither ought the offices of magistrate, legislator, or judge be hereditary.

V. That the legislative and executive powers of the state should be separate and distinct from the judicative; and, that the members of the two first may be restrained from oppression by feeling and participating the burdens of the people, they should, at fixed periods, be reduced to a private station, return into that body from which they were originally taken, and the vacancies be supplied by frequent, certain, and regular elections in which all, or any part of the former members, to be again eligible, or ineligible, as the laws shall direct.

VI. That elections of members to serve as representatives of the people in assembly ought to be free; and that all men, having sufficient evidence of permanent common interest with, and attachment to, the community have the right of suffrage and cannot be taxed or deprived of their property for public uses without their own consent or that of their representatives so elected, nor bound by any law to which they have not, in like manner, assented, for the public good.

VII. That all power of suspending laws, or the execution of laws, by any authority without consent of the representatives of the people is injurious to their rights and ought not to be exercised.

VIII. That in all capital or criminal prosecutions a man hath a right to demand the cause and nature of his accusation to be confronted with the accusers and witnesses, to call for evidence in his favor, and to a speedy trial by an impartial jury of his vicinage, without whose unanimous consent he cannot be found guilty, nor can he be compelled to give evidence against himself; that no man be deprived of his liberty except by the law of the land or the judgment of his peers.

IX. That excessive bail ought not to be required, nor excessive fines imposed; nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

X. That general warrants, whereby any officer or messenger may be commanded to search suspected places without evidence of a fact committed, or to seize any person or persons not named, or whose offense is not particularly described and supported by evidence, are grievous and oppressive and ought not to be granted.

XI. That in controversies respecting property and in suits between man and man, the ancient trial by jury is preferable to any other and ought to be held sacred.

XII. That the freedom of the press is one of the greatest bulwarks of liberty and can never be restrained but by despotic governments.

XIII. That a well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defense of a free state; that standing armies, in time of peace, should be avoided as dangerous to liberty; and that, in all cases, the military should be under strict subordination to, and be governed by, the civil power.

XIV. That the people have a right to uniform government; and therefore, that no government separate from, or independent of, the government ofVirginia, ought to be erected or established within the limits thereof.

XV. That no free government, or the blessings of liberty, can be preserved to any people but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality, and virtue and by frequent recurrence to fundamental principles.

XVI. That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator and the manner of discharging it, can be directed by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and therefore, all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity towards each other.

 

 

3. – Declaration of Independence (July 4, 1776)

In Congress, July 4, 1776. The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America.

When in the course of human Events, it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the Separation.

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness—-That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient Causes; and accordingly all Experience hath shewn, that Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the Forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a Design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security. Such has been the patient Sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the Necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The History of the Present King of Great-Britain is a History of repeated Injuries and Usurpations, all having in direct Object the Establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid World.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public Good.

He has refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his assent should be obtained; and, when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of representation in the legislature, a right inestimable to them, and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly, for opposing, with manly firmness, his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the legislative powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned to the people at large for their exercise; the state remaining, in the mean time, exposed to all the dangers of invasions from without and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these states; for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands.

He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers.

He has made judges dependent on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies, without the consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the military independent of, and superior to, the civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our Constitution and unacknowledged by our laws, giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us;

For protecting them, by a mock trial, from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states;

For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world;

For imposing taxes on us without our consent;

For depriving us, in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury;

For transporting us beyond seas, to be tried for pretended offences;

For abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighbouring province, establishing therein an arbitrary government, and enlarging its boundaries, so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these colonies;

For taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our governments;

For suspending our own legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated government here, by declaring us out of his protection and waging war against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burned our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation, and tyranny already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow-citizens, taken captive on the high seas, to bear arms against their country, to become the executioners of their friends and brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands.

He has excited domestic insurrection among us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes, and conditions.

In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms; our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have we been wanting in our attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them, from time to time, of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity; and we have conjured them, by the ties of our common kindred, to disavow these usurpations which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too, have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity which denounces our separation, and hold them as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends.

 

We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World for the Rectitude of our Intentions, do, in the Name, and by the Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly Publish and Declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be, Free and Independent States; that they are absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political Connection between them and the State of Great-Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm Reliance on the Protection of the divineProvidence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

Version française:

Déclaration unanime des treize États unis d’Amérique réunis en Congrès le 4 juillet 1776

Lorsque dans le cours des événements humains, il devient nécessaire pour un peuple de dissoudre les liens politiques qui l’ont attaché à un autre et de prendre, parmi les puissances dela Terre, la place séparée et égale à laquelle les lois de la nature et du Dieu de la nature lui donnent droit, le respect dû à l’opinion de l’humanité oblige à déclarer les causes qui le déterminent à la séparation.

Nous tenons pour évidentes pour elles-mêmes les vérités suivantes: tous les hommes sont créés égaux; ils sont doués par le Créateur de certains droits inaliénables; parmi ces droits se trouvent la vie, la liberté et la recherche du bonheur. Les gouvernements sont établis parmi les hommes pour garantir ces droits, et leur juste pouvoir émane du consentement des gouvernés. Toutes les fois qu’une forme de gouvernement devient destructive de ce but, le peuple a le droit de la changer ou de l’abolir et d’établir un nouveau gouvernement, en le fondant sur les principes et en l’organisant en la forme qui lui paraîtront les plus propres à lui donner la sûreté et le bonheur. La prudence enseigne, à la vérité, que les gouvernements établis depuis longtemps ne doivent pas être changés pour des causes légères et passagères, et l’expérience de tous les temps a montré, en effet, que les hommes sont plus disposés à tolérer des maux supportables qu’à se faire justice à eux-mêmes en abolissant les formes auxquelles ils sont accoutumés. Mais lorsqu’une longue suite d’abus et d’usurpations, tendant invariablement au même but, marque le dessein de les soumettre au despotisme absolu, il est de leur droit, il est de leur devoir de rejeter un tel gouvernement et de pourvoir, par de nouvelles sauvegardes, à leur sécurité futur e. Telle a été la patience de ces Colonies, et telle est aujourd’hui la nécessité qui les force à changer leurs anciens systèmes de gouvernement. L’histoire du roi actuel de Grande-Bretagne est l’histoire d’une série d’injustices et d’usurpations répétées, qui toutes avaient pour but direct l’établissement d’une tyrannie absolue sur ces États. Pour le prouver, soumettons les faits au monde impartial:

Il a refusé sa sanction aux lois les plus salutaires et les plus nécessaires au bien public. Il a défendu à ses gouverneurs de consentir à des lois d’une importance immédiate et urgente, à moins que leur mise en vigueur ne fût suspendue jusqu’à I’obtention de sa sanction, et des lois ainsi suspendues, il a absolument négligé d’y donner attention.

Il a refusé de sanctionner d’autres lois pour l’organisation de grands districts, à moins que le peuple de ces districts n’abandonnât le droit d’être représenté dans la législature, droit inestimable pour un peuple, qui n’est redoutable qu’aux tyrans.

Il a convoqué des Assemblées législatives dans des lieux inusités, incommodes et éloignés des dépôts de leurs registres publics, dans la seule vue d’obtenir d’elles, par la fatigue, leur adhésion à ses mesures. A diverses reprises, il a dissous des Chambres de représentants parce qu’elles s’opposaient avec une mâle fermeté à ses empiétements sur les droits du peuple. Après ces dissolutions, il a refusé pendant longtemps de faire élire d’autres Chambres de représentants, et le pouvoir législatif, qui n’est pas susceptible d’anéantissement, est ainsi retourné au peuple tout entier pour être exercé par lui, l’État restant, dans l’intervalle, exposé à tous les dangers d’invasions du dehors et de convulsions au-dedans.

Il a cherché à mettre obstacle à l’accroissement de la population de ces États. Dans ce but, il a mis empêchement à l’exécution des lois pour la naturalisation des étrangers; il a refusé d’en rendre d’autres pour encourager leur émigration dans ces contrées, et il a élevé les conditions pour les nouvelles acquisitions de terres. Il a entravé l’administration de la justice en refusant sa sanction à des lois pour l’établisse ment de pouvoirs judiciaires.

Il a rendu les juges dépendants de sa seule volonté, pour la durée de leurs offices et pour le taux et le paiement de leurs appointements.

Il a créé une multitude d’emplois et envoyé dans ce pays des essaims de nouveaux employés pour vexer notre peuple et dévorer sa substance. Il a entretenu parmi nous, en temps de paix, des armées permanentes sans le consentement de nos législatures. Il a affecté de rendre le pouvoir militaire indépendant de l’autorité civile et même supérieur à elle. Il s’est coalisé avec d’autres pour nous soumettre à une juridiction étrangère à nos Constitutions et non reconnue par nos lois, en donnant sa sanction à des actes de prétendue législation ayant pour objet: de mettre en quartier parmi nous de gros corps de troupes armées; de les protéger par une procédure illusoire contre le châtiment des meurtres qu’ils auraient commis sur la personne des habitants de ces États; de détruire notre commerce avec toutes les parties du monde; de nous imposer des taxes sans notre consentement; de nous priver dans plusieurs cas du bénéfice de la procédure par jurés; de nous transporter au-delà des mers pour être jugés à raison de prétendus délits; d’abolir dans une province voisine le système libéral des lois anglaises, d’y établir un gouvernement arbitraire et de reculer ses limites, afin de faire à la fois de cette province un exemple et un instrument propre à introduire le même gouvernement absolu dans ces Colonies; de retirer nos chartes, d’abolir nos lois les plus précieuses et d’altérer dans leur essence les formes de nos gouvernements; de suspendre nos propres législatures et de se déclarer lui-même investi du pouvoir de faire des lois obligatoires pour nous dans tous les cas quelconques.

Il a abdiqué le gouvernement de notre pays, en nous déclarant hors de sa protection et en nous faisant la guerre. Il a pillé nos mers, ravagé nos côtes, brûlé nos villes et massacré nos concitoyens. En ce moment même, il transporte de grandes armées de mercenaires étrangers pour accomplir l’œuvre de mort, de désolation et de tyrannie qui a été commencée avec des circonstances de cruauté et de perfidie dont on aurait peine à trouver des exemples dans les siècles les plus barbares, et qui sont tout à fait indignes du chef d’une nation civilisée. Il a excité parmi nous l’insurrection domestique, et il a cherché à attirer sur les habitants de nos frontières les Indiens, ces sauvages sans pitié, dont la manière bien connue de faire la guerre est de tout massacrer, sans distinction d’âge, de sexe ni de condition.

Dans tout le cours de ces oppressions, nous avons demandé justice dans les termes les plus humbles; nos pétitions répétées n’ont reçu pour réponse que des injustices répétées. Un prince dont le caractère est ainsi marqué par les actions qui peuvent signaler un tyran est impropre à gouverner un peuple libre.

Nous n’avons pas non plus manqué d’égards envers nos frères dela Grande-Bretagne. Nousles avons de temps en temps avertis des tentatives faites par leur législature pour étendre sur nous une injuste juridiction. Nous leur avons rappelé les circonstances de notre émigration et de notre établissement dans ces contrées. Nous avons fait appel à leur justice et à leur magnanimité naturelle, et nous les avons conjurés, au nom des liens d’une commune origine, de désavouer ces usurpations qui devaient inévitablement interrompre notre liaison et nos bons rapports. Eux aussi ont été sourds à la voix de la raison et de la consanguinité. Nous devons donc nous rendre à la nécessité qui commande notre séparation et les regarder, de même que le reste de l’humanité, comme des ennemis dans la guerre et des amis dans la paix.

En conséquence, nous, les représentants des États-Unis d’Amérique, assemblés en Congrès général, prenant à témoin le Juge suprême de l’univers de la droiture de nos intentions, publions et déclarons solennellement au nom et par l’autorité du bon peuple de ces Colonies, que ces Colonies unies sont et ont le droit d’être des États libres et indépendants; qu’elles sont dégagées de toute obéissance enversla Couronnedela Grande-Bretagne; que tout lien politique entre elles et l’État dela Grande-Bretagneest et doit être entièrement dissous; que, comme les États libres et indépendants, elles ont pleine autorité de faire la guerre, de conclure la paix, de contracter des alliances, de réglementer le commerce et de faire tous autres actes ou choses que les États indépendants ont droit de faire; et pleins d’une ferme confiance dans la protection de la divine Providence, nous engageons mutuellement au soutien de cette Déclaration, nos vies, nos fortunes et notre bien le plus sacré, l’honneur.

 

4. – Déclaration des droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen (20-26 août 1789)

 Les représentants du Peuple Français, constitués en Assemblée Nationale, considérant que l’ignorance, l’oubli ou le mépris des droits de l’Homme sont les seules causes des malheurs publics et de la corruption des Gouvernements, ont résolu d’exposer, dans une Déclaration solennelle, les droits naturels, inaliénables et sacrés de l’Homme, afin que cette Déclaration, constamment présente à tous les Membres du corps social, leur rappelle sans cesse leurs droits et leurs devoirs ; afin que les actes du pouvoir législatif, et ceux du pouvoir exécutif pouvant à chaque instant être comparés avec le but de toute institution politique, en soient plus respectés ; afin que les réclamations des Citoyens, fondées désormais sur des principes simples et incontestables, tournent toujours au maintien dela Constitution, et au bonheur de tous.

En conséquence, l’Assemblée Nationale reconnaît et déclare, en présence et sous les auspices de l’Être Suprême, les droits suivants de l’Homme et du Citoyen.

 

Article premier. – Les hommes naissent et demeurent libres et égaux en droits. Les distinctions sociales ne peuvent être fondées que sur l’utilité commune.

II. – Le but de toute association politique est la conservation des droits naturels et imprescriptibles de l’Homme. Ces droits sont la liberté, la propriété, la sûreté et la résistance à l’oppression.

III. – Le principe de toute Souveraineté réside essentiellement dansla Nation. Nulcorps, nul individu ne peut exercer d’autorité qui n’en émane expressément.

IV. – La liberté consiste à pouvoir faire tout ce qui ne nuit pas à autrui : ainsi l’exercice des droits naturels de chaque homme n’a de bornes que celles qui assurent aux autres Membres dela Société, la jouissance de ces mêmes droits. Ces bornes ne peuvent être déterminées que parla Loi.

V. –La Loin’a le droit de défendre que les actions nuisibles àla Société. Toutce qui n’est pas défendu parla Loine peut être empêché, et nul ne peut être contraint à faire ce qu’elle n’ordonne pas.

VI. -La Loiest l’expression de la volonté générale. Tous les Citoyens ont droit de concourir personnellement, ou par leurs Représentants, à sa formation. Elle doit être la même pour tous, soit qu’elle protège, soit qu’elle punisse. Tous les Citoyens étant égaux à ses yeux, sont également admissibles à toutes dignités, places et emplois publics, selon leur capacité, et sans autre distinction que celle de leurs vertus et de leurs talents.

VII. – Nul homme ne peut être accusé, arrêté ni détenu que dans les cas déterminés parla Loi, et selon les formes qu’elle a prescrites. Ceux qui sollicitent, expédient, exécutent ou font exécuter des ordres arbitraires, doivent être punis ; mais tout Citoyen appelé ou saisi en vertu dela Loi, doit obéir à l’instant : il se rend coupable par la résistance.

VIII. –La Loine doit établir que des peines strictement et évidemment nécessaires, et nul ne peut être puni qu’en vertu d’une Loi établie et promulguée antérieurement au délit, et légalement appliquée.

IX. – Tout homme étant présumé innocent jusqu’à ce qu’il ait été déclaré coupable, s’il est jugé indispensable de l’arrêter, toute rigueur qui ne serait pas nécessaire pour s’assurer de sa personne, doit être sévèrement réprimée parla Loi.

X. – Nul ne doit être inquiété pour ses opinions, même religieuses, pourvu que leur manifestation ne trouble pas l’ordre public établi parla Loi.

XI. – La libre communication des pensées et des opinions est un des droits les plus précieux de l’Homme : tout Citoyen peut donc parler, écrire, imprimer librement, sauf à répondre de l’abus de cette liberté, dans les cas déterminés parla Loi.

XII. – La garantie des droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen nécessite une force publique : cette force est donc instituée pour l’avantage de tous, et non pour l’utilité particulière de ceux auxquels elle est confiée.

XIII. – Pour l’entretien de la force publique, et pour les dépenses d’administration, une contribution commune est indispensable. Elle doit être également répartie entre tous les Citoyens, en raison de leurs facultés.

XIV. – Tous les Citoyens ont le droit de constater, par eux-mêmes ou par leurs Représentants, la nécessité de la contribution publique, de la consentir librement, d’en suivre l’emploi et d’en déterminer la quotité, l’assiette, le recouvrement et la durée.

XV. –La Sociétéa le droit de demander compte à tout Agent public de son administration.

XVI. – Toute Société dans laquelle la garantie des Droits n’est pas assurée, ni la séparation des Pouvoirs déterminée, n’a point de Constitution.

XVII. – Les propriétés étant un droit inviolable et sacré, nul ne peut en être privé, si ce n’est lorsque la nécessité publique, légalement constatée, l’exige évidemment, et sous la condition d’une juste et préalable indemnité.

 

English version:

Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen (August 20-26, 1789)

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, have determined to 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; in order that the acts of the legislative power, as well as those of the executive power, may be compared at any moment with the objects and purposes of all political institutions and may thus be more respected, 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. 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:

I.– Men are born and remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions may be founded only upon the general good.

II. – The aim of all political association is the preservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of man. These rights are liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression.

III. – The principle of all sovereignty resides essentially in the nation. No body nor individual may exercise any authority which does not proceed directly from the nation.

IV. –Libertyconsists 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. These limits can only be determined by law.

V. – Law can only prohibit such actions as are hurtful to society. Nothing may be prevented which is not forbidden by law, and no one may be forced to do anything not provided for by law.

VI. – Law is the expression of the general will. Every citizen has a right to participate personally, or through his representative, in its foundation. It must be the same for all, whether it protects or punishes. 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.

VII. – No person shall be accused, arrested, or imprisoned except in the cases and according to the forms prescribed by law. Any one soliciting, transmitting, executing, or causing to be executed, any arbitrary order, shall be punished. But any citizen summoned or arrested in virtue of the law shall submit without delay, as resistance constitutes an offence.

VIII. – 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 offence.

IX. – 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.

X. – 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.

XI. – The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man. 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.

XII. – The security of the rights of man and of the citizen requires public military forces. These forces are, therefore, established for the good of all and not for the personal advantage of those to whom they shall be intrusted.

XIII. – A common contribution is essential for the maintenance of the public forces and for the cost of administration. This should be equitably distributed among all the citizens in proportion to their means.

XIV. – 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; to know to what uses it is put; and to fix the proportion, the mode of assessment and of collection and the duration of the taxes.

XV. – Society has the right to require of every public agent an account of his administration.

XVI. – A society in which the observance of the law is not assured, nor the separation of powers defined, has no constitution at all.

XVII. – Since properties are an inviolable and sacred right, no one shall be deprived thereof except where public necessity, legally determined, shall clearly demand it, and then only on condition that the owner shall have been previously and equitably indemnified.

2. – Déclaration des droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen (24 juin 1793)

Le peuple français, convaincu que l’oubli et le mépris des droits naturels de l’homme, sont les seules causes des malheurs du monde, a résolu d’exposer dans une déclaration solennelle, ces droits sacrés et inaliénables, afin que tous les citoyens pouvant comparer sans cesse les actes du gouvernement avec le but de toute institution sociale, ne se laissent jamais opprimer, avilir par la tyrannie ; afin que le peuple ait toujours devant les yeux les bases de sa liberté et de son bonheur ; le magistrat la règle de ses devoirs ; le législateur l’objet de sa mission. – En conséquence, il proclame, en présence de l’Etre suprême, la déclaration suivante des droits de l’homme et du citoyen.

Article 1. – Le but de la société est le bonheur commun. – Le gouvernement est institué pour garantir à l’homme la puissance de ses droits naturels et imprescriptibles.

Article 2. – Ces droits sont l’égalité, la liberté, la sûreté, la propriété.

Article 3. – Tous les hommes sont égaux par la nature et devant la loi.

Article 4. – La loi est l’expression libre et solennelle de la volonté générale ; elle est la même pour tous, soit qu’elle protège, soit qu’elle punisse ; elle ne peut ordonner que ce qui est juste et utile à la société ; elle ne peut défendre que ce qui lui est nuisible.

Article 5. – Tous les citoyens sont également admissibles aux emplois publics. Les peuples libres ne connaissent d’autres motifs de préférence, dans leurs élections, que les vertus et les talents.

Article 6. – La liberté est le pouvoir qui appartient à l’homme de faire tout ce qui ne nuit pas aux droits d’autrui : elle a pour principe la nature ; pour règle la justice ; pour sauvegarde la loi ; sa limite morale est dans cette maxime : Ne fais pas à un autre ce que tu ne veux pas qu’il te soit fait.

Article 7. – Le droit de manifester sa pensée et ses opinions, soit par la vole de la presse, soit de toute autre manière, le droit de s’assembler paisiblement, le libre exercice des cultes, ne peuvent être interdits. – La nécessité d’énoncer ces droits suppose ou la présence ou le souvenir récent du despotisme.

Article 8. – La sûreté consiste dans la protection accordée par la société à chacun de ses membres pour la conservation de sa personne, de ses droits et de ses propriétés.

Article 9. – La loi doit protéger la liberté publique et individuelle contre l’oppression de ceux qui gouvernent.

Article 10. – Nul ne doit être accusé, arrêté ni détenu, que dans les cas déterminés par la loi et selon les formes qu’elle a prescrites. Tout citoyen, appelé ou saisi par l’autorité de la loi, doit obéir à l’instant ; il se rend coupable par la résistance.

Article 11. – Tout acte exercé contre un homme hors des cas et sans les formes que la loi détermine, est arbitraire et tyrannique ; celui contre lequel on voudrait l’exécuter par la violence a le droit de le repousser par la force.

Article 12. – Ceux qui solliciteraient, expédieraient, signeraient, exécuteraient ou feraient exécuter des actes arbitraires, seraient coupables, et doivent être punis.

Article 13. – Tout homme étant présumé innocent jusqu’à ce qu’il ait été déclaré coupable, s’il est jugé indispensable de l’arrêter, toute rigueur qui ne serait pas nécessaire pour s’assurer de sa personne doit être sévèrement réprimée par la loi.

Article 14. – Nul ne doit être jugé et puni qu’après avoir été entendu ou légalement appelé, et qu’en vertu d’une loi promulguée antérieurement au délit. La loi qui punirait les délits commis avant qu’elle existât serait une tyrannie ; l’effet rétroactif donné à la loi serait un crime.

Article 15. – La loi ne doit décerner que des peines strictement et évidemment nécessaires : les peines doivent être proportionnées au délit et utiles à la société.

Article 16. – Le droit de propriété est celui qui appartient à tout citoyen de jouir et de disposer à son gré de ses biens, de ses revenus, du fruit de son travail et de son industrie.

Article 17. – Nul genre de travail, de culture, de commerce, ne peut être interdit à l’industrie des citoyens.

Article 18. – Tout homme peut engager ses services, son temps ; mais il ne peut se vendre, ni être vendu ; sa personne n’est pas une propriété aliénable. La loi ne reconnaît point de domesticité ; il ne peut exister qu’un engagement de soins et de reconnaissance, entre l’homme qui travaille et celui qui l’emploie.

Article 19. – Nul ne peut être privé de la moindre portion de sa propriété sans son consentement, si ce n’est lorsque la nécessité publique légalement constatée l’exige, et sous la condition d’une juste et préalable indemnité.

Article 20. – Nulle contribution ne peut être établie que pour l’utilité générale. Tous les citoyens ont le droit de concourir à l’établissement des contributions, d’en surveiller l’emploi, et de s’en faire rendre compte.

Article 21. – Les secours publics sont une dette sacrée. La société doit la subsistance aux citoyens malheureux, soit en leur procurant du travail, soit en assurant les moyens d’exister à ceux qui sont hors d’état de travailler.

Article 22. – L’instruction est le besoin de tous. La société doit favoriser de tout son pouvoir les progrès de la raison publique, et mettre l’instruction à la portée de tous les citoyens.

Article 23. – La garantie sociale consiste dans l’action de tous, pour assurer à chacun la jouissance et la conservation de ses droits ; cette garantie repose sur la souveraineté nationale.

Article 24. – Elle ne peut exister, si les limites des fonctions publiques ne sont pas clairement déterminées par la loi, et si la responsabilité de tous les fonctionnaires n’est pas assurée.

Article 25. – La souveraineté réside dans le peuple ; elle est une et indivisible, imprescriptible et inaliénable.

Article 26. – Aucune portion du peuple ne peut exercer la puissance du peuple entier ; mais chaque section du souverain assemblée doit jouir du droit d’exprimer sa volonté avec une entière liberté.

Article 27. – Que tout individu qui usurperait la souveraineté soit à l’instant mis à mort par les hommes libres.

Article 28. – Un peuple a toujours le droit de revoir, de réformer et de changer sa Constitution. Une génération ne peut assujettir à ses lois les générations futures.

Article 29. – Chaque citoyen a un droit égal de concourir à la formation de la loi et à la nomination de ses mandataires ou de ses agents.

Article 30. – Les fonctions publiques sont essentiellement temporaires ; elles ne peuvent être considérées comme des distinctions ni comme des récompenses, mais comme des devoirs.

Article 3 1. – Les délits des mandataires du peuple et de ses agents ne doivent jamais être impunis. Nul n’a le droit de se prétendre plus inviolable que les autres citoyens.

Article 32. – Le droit de présenter des pétitions aux dépositaires de l’autorité publique ne peut, en aucun cas, être interdit, suspendu ni limité.

Article 33. – La résistance à l’oppression est la conséquence des autres Droits de l’homme.

Article 34. – Il y a oppression contre le corps social lorsqu’un seul de ses membres est opprimé. Il y a oppression contre chaque membre lorsque le corps social est opprimé.

Article 35. – Quand le gouvernement viole les droits du peuple, l’insurrection est, pour le peuple et pour chaque portion du peuple, le plus sacré des droits et le plus indispensable des devoirs.

 

 

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