A Declaration of the Rights of Man.

Thomas Paine

A charter prepared in 1940, under the Chairmanship of Lord Sankey, and originally drafted for discussion by H. G. Wells.


Within the space of little more than a hundred years there has been a complete revolution in the material conditions of human life. Invention and discovery have so changed the pace and nature of communications round and about the earth that the distances which formerly kept the states and nations of mankind apart have now been practically abolished. At the same time there has been so gigantic an increase of mechanical power, and such a release of human energy, that men's ability either to co-operate with, or to injure and oppress one another, and to consume, develop or waste the bounty of nature, has been exaggerated beyond all comparison with former times. This process of change has mounted swiftly and steadily in the past third of a century, and is now approaching a climax.

It becomes imperative to adjust man's life and institutions to the increasing dangers and opportunities of these new circumstances. He is being forced to organise co-operation among the medley of separate sovereign states which has hitherto served his political ends. At the same time he finds it necessary to rescue his economic life from devastation by the immensely enhanced growth of profit-seeking business and finance. Political, economic and social collectivisation is being forced upon him. He responds to these conditions blindly and with a great wastage of happiness and well-being.

Governments are either becoming state collectivisms or passing under the sway of monopolistic productive and financial organisations. Religious organisations, education and the press are subordinated to the will of dictatorial groups and individuals, while scientific and literary work and a multitude of social activities, which have hitherto been independent and spontaneous, fall under the influence of these modern concentrations of power. Neither governments nor great economic and financial combinations were devised to exercise such powers; they grew up in response to the requirements of an earlier age.

Under the stress of the new conditions, insecurity, abuses and tyrannies increase; and liberty, particularly liberty of thought and speech, decays. Phase by phase these ill-adapted governments and controls are restricting that free play of the individual mind which is the preservative of human efficiency and happiness. The temporary advantage of swift and secret action which these monopolisations of power display is gained at the price of profound and progressive social demoralisation. Bereft of liberty and sense of responsibility, the peoples are manifestly doomed to lapse, after a phase of servile discipline, into disorder and violence. Confidence and deliberation give place to hysteria, apathy and inefficiency. Everywhere war and monstrous exploitation are intensified, so that those very same increments of power which have brought mankind within sight of an age of limitless plenty, seem likely to be lost again, and, it may be, lost for ever, in a chaotic and irremediable social collapse.

It becomes clear that a unified political, economic and social order can alone put an end to these national and private appropriations that now waste the mighty possibilities of our time.

The history of the western peoples has a lesson for all mankind. It has been the practice of what are called the democratic or parliamentary countries to meet every enhancement and centralisation of power in the past by a definite and vigorous reassertion of the individual rights of man. Never before has the demand to revive that precedent been so urgent as it is now. We of the parliamentary democracies recognise the inevitability of world reconstruction upon collectivist lines, but, after our tradition, we couple with that recognition a DECLARATION OF RIGHTS, so that the profound changes now in progress shall produce not an attempted reconstruction of human affairs in the dark, but a rational reconstruction conceived and arrived at in the full light of day. To that time-honoured instrument of a DECLARATION OF RIGHTS we therefore return, but now upon a world scale.


Every man is a joint inheritor of all the natural resources and of the powers, inventions and possibilities accumulated by our forerunners. He is entitled, within the measure of these resources and without distinction of race, colour or professed beliefs or opinions, to the nourishment, covering and medical care needed to realise his full possibilities of physical and mental development from birth to death. Notwithstanding the various and unequal qualities of individuals, all men shall be deemed absolutely equal in the eyes of the law, equally important in social life and equally entitled to the respect of their fellow-men.


The natural and rightful guardians of those who are not of an age to protect themselves are their parents. In default of such parental protection in whole or in part, the community, having due regard to the family traditions of the child, shall accept or provide alternative guardians.


It is the duty of every man not only to respect but to uphold and to advance the rights of all other men throughout the world. Furthermore, it is his duty to contribute such service to the community as will ensure the performance of those necessary tasks for which the incentives which will operate in a free society do not provide. It is only by doing his quota of service that a man can justify his partnership in the community. No man shall be conscripted for military or other service to which he has a conscientious objection, but to perform no social duty whatsoever is to remain unenfranchised and under guardianship.


It is the duty of the community to equip every man with sufficient education to enable him to be as useful and interested a citizen as his capacity allows. Furthermore, it is the duty of the community to render all knowledge available to him and such special education as will give him equality of opportunity for the development of his distinctive gifts in the service of mankind. He shall have easy and prompt access to all information necessary for him to form a judgement upon current events and issues.


Every man has a right to the utmost freedom of expression, discussion, association and worship.


A man may engage freely in any lawful occupation, earning such pay as the contribution that his work makes to the welfare of the community may justify or that the desire of any private individual or individuals for his products, his performances or the continuation of his activities may produce for him. He is entitled to paid employment by the community and to make suggestions as to the kind of employment which he considers himself able to perform. He is entitled to profit fully by the desirableness of his products and activities. And he is entitled to payment for calling attention to a product or conveying it to consumers to whom it would otherwise be unattainable. By doing so, he does a service for which he may legitimately profit. He is a useful agent. But buying and holding and selling again simply in order to make a profit is not lawful. It is speculation; it does no service; it makes profit out of want. It tempts men directly to the interception of legitimate profits, to forestalling, appropriation, hoarding and a complex of anti-social activities, and it is equally unlawful for private individuals and public administrative bodies.


In the enjoyment of his personal property, lawfully possessed, a man is entitled to protection from public or private violence, deprivation, compulsion and intimidation.


A man may move freely about the world at his own expense. His private dwelling, however, and any reasonably limited enclosure of which he is the occupant, may be entered only with his consent or by a legally qualified person empowered with a warrant as the law may direct. So long as by his movement he does not intrude upon the private domain of any other citizen, harm, or disfigure or encumber what is not his, interfere with or endanger its proper use, or seriously impair the happiness of others, he shall have the right to come and go wherever he chooses, by land, air, or water, over any kind of country, mountain, moorland, river, lake, sea or ocean, and all the ample spaces of this his world.


Unless a man is declared by a competent authority to be a danger to himself or others through mental abnormality, a declaration which must be confirmed within seven days and thereafter reviewed at least annually, he shall not be restrained for more than twenty-four hours without being charged with a definite offence, nor shall he be remanded for a longer period than eight days without his consent, nor imprisoned for more than three months without a trial. At a reasonable time before his trial, he shall be furnished with a copy of the evidence which it is proposed to use against him. At the end of the three months period, if he has not been tried and sentenced by due process of the law, he shall be acquitted and released. No man shall be charged more than once for the same offence. Although he is open to the free criticism of his fellows, a man shall have adequate protection from any misrepresentation that may distress or injure him. Secret evidence is not permissible. Statements recorded in administrative dossiers shall not be used to justify the slightest infringement of personal liberty. A dossier is merely a memorandum for administrative use; it shall not be used as evidence without proper confirmation in open court.


No man shall be subject to any sort of mutilation except with his own deliberate consent, freely given, nor to forcible handling, except in restraint of his own violence, nor to torture, beating or any other physical ill-treatment. He shall not be subjected to mental distress, or to imprisonment in infected, verminous or otherwise insanitary quarters, or be put into the company of verminous or infected people. But if he is himself infectious or a danger to the health of others, he may be cleansed, disinfected, put in quarantine or otherwise restrained so far as may be necessary to prevent harm to his fellows. No-one shall be punished vicariously by the selection, arrest or ill-treatment of hostages.


The rights embodied in this Declaraton are fundamental and inalienable. In conventional and in administrative matters, but in no others, it is an obvious practical necessity for men to limit the free play of certain of these fundamental rights. ( In, for example, such conventional matters as the rule of the road or the protection of money from forgery, and in such administrative matters as town and country planning, or public hygiene ). No law, conventional or administrative, shall be binding on any man or any section of the community unless it has been made openly with the active or tacit acquiescence of every adult citizen concerned, given either by direct majority vote of the community affected or by a majority vote of his representatives publicly elected. These representatives shall be ultimately responsible for all by-laws and for detailed interpretations made in the execution of the law. In matters of convention and collective action, man must abide by the majority decisions ascertained by electoral methods which give effective expression to individual choice. All legislation must be subject to public discussion, revision or appeal. No treaties or contracts shall be made secretly in the name of the community.

The fount of legislation in a free world is the whole people, and since life flows on constantly to new citizens, no generation can, in whole or in part, surrender or delegate this legislative power, inalienably inherent in mankind.

A Charter of Scientific Fellowship

initiated in 1942 also by H G Wells

  1. Man depends for his maintenance and growth upon knowledge of the properties of things in the world around him and the liberty to increase and use it.
  2. People of all races and classes of society have contributed to the development of natural forces and resources and the understanding of the universe and mankind's relationships to it.
  3. Every generation inherits the world's store of ascertained knowledge, and men of science are the trustees of this heritage with the duty of increasing it by faithful guardianship and devoted service.
  4. The obligation to pursue scientific inquiry entails the right of intellectual freedom and international exchange of learning by unrestricted association in the common cause of the advancement of natural knowledge.
  5. All natural or national groups of scientific workers are autonomous in their own domains but united in the fellowship of the Commonwealth of Science, with the whole world as its outlook and service to mankind its highest aim.
  6. As freedom to teach, opportunity to learn, and desire to understand, are essential for the extension of knowledge, the democracy of science accepts these principles of progressive civilization and resolutely maintains them as basic elements in its constitution, which cannot be abrogated without detriment to human development.

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