The Declaration of Independence and What is the Third Estate

The Declaration of Independence is a document that was published in 1776 by Thomas Jefferson as a reaction to a series of offenses by the English Government, specifically King George III.The document states that the colonists have a desire to dissolve their ties to the King and the government that surrounds him, an entirely novel idea during the time period. Jefferson writes that the colonists have the right to no longer be British subjects because “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” (Blaisdell 64). Once Jefferson establishes what these unalienable rights are, he goes on to list all of the ways that he, and the rest of the colonists, believe King George III has been withholding these rights from them (Blaisdell 65). Jefferson’s document, The Declaration of Independence, did exactly what its name would lead one to assume, it declared the independence of the people in the colonies and sparked a revolution.
Another man, Emmanual Joseph Sieyes, makes a remarkably similar push for independence and a revolution of the social system in his work What is the Third Estate. Much like Jefferson, Sieyes saw that men do have certain rights, that should not be taken from them. Written as a response to an inquiry about how the Estates-General should be organized What is the Third Estate asked for many of the same things as Jefferson’s The Declaration of Independence did but most importantly it requested equal representation for the Third Estate. Sieyes argues that the Third Estate “constitutes nineteen-twentieths” of all the production in the country (Blaisdell 72) and that in the event that there were no First and Second Estates leeching off of the work of the Third that the country would be far more efficient and better off in general, much like Jefferson says about the colonists being better off without King George III suppressing them. Just as The Declaration of Independence did, What is the Third Estate motivated the people to make a change, and to revolutionize the way of thinking about social order, mans’ rights and government power.

2 thoughts on “The Declaration of Independence and What is the Third Estate

  1. I believe that this post did a nice job linking both of the documents together. I liked how at the end a comparison was made between King George’s suppression of the American colonists, and the exploitation of the Third Estate by the First and Second. It is important to see the similarities in these texts because they are writings that contributed enormously to the revolutionary aspirations of the United States and France. This leads me to ask the question of to what degree do you believe Sieyes was influenced by The Declaration of Independence, and more broadly the revolutionary situation occurring in America, when he wrote “What is the Third Estate?”

  2. When reading your response, I think it is difficult to agree upon the idea of “life,liberty and happiness (Blaisdell 64),” when there is no equality in the world. In order to have these ideals, equality is needed because then we are only granting half of the population the rights that they deserve. There is the fact that as much as people fight for an opportunity to be granted these ideals, not everyone will be introduced to these rights. While the declaration of Independence helped many, there is no fix to the problem of inequality. In order for others to respect opinions of another, mankind has to be equal. Until this time is reached, opinions of those some consider unequal will be rejected. Where is the justice for the people who do not have a say in the world.

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