Robespierre, "Speech Denouncing the New Conditions of Eligibility," 22 October 1789

Few deputies opposed the property requirements for voting and holding office. One of the few who did, Maximilien Robespierre (1758–94), a lawyer from Arras in northern France, made a reputation for himself as a determined and devoted defender of "the people," that is, for the most democratic possible interpretation [still, however, excluding women] of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen and of the constitution under deliberation. In the debate about the status of Jews, for instance, Robespierre insisted on their right to citizenship. In the debate about property requirements, Robespierre invoked the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen as justification for his position.

All citizens, whoever they are, have the right to aspire to all levels of office-holding. Nothing is more in line with your declaration of rights, according to which all privileges, all distinctions, all exceptions must disappear. The Constitution establishes that sovereignty resides in the people, in all the individuals of the people. Each individual therefore has the right to participate in making the law which governs him and in the administration of the public good which is his own. If not, it is not true that all men are equal in rights, that every man is a citizen. If he who only pays a tax equivalent to a day of work has fewer rights than he who pays the equivalent to three days of work, and he who pays at the level of ten days has more rights than he whose tax only equals the value of three; then he who enjoys 100,000 livres of revenue has 100 times as many rights as he who only has 1,000 livres of revenue. It follows from all your decrees that every citizen has the right to participate in making the law and consequently that of being an elector or eligible for office without distinction of wealth.

Source: The materials listed below appeared originally in The French Revolution and Human Rights: A Brief Documentary History, translated, edited, and with an introduction by Lynn Hunt (Boston/New York: Bedford/St. Martin's, 1996), 83.