Thoughts on the Declaration of Independence and the Third Estate

The document originally drafted by Thomas Jefferson and signed by fifty-six men on July 4th, 1776 that was coined the “unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America” (Blaisdell 63) and later became known as the Declaration of Independence, remains to this day the most famous and important document in American history. Throughout this document, the framers specifically highlight and outline wrongdoings committed by the King of England and ultimately their desire to form a new sovereign nation separate from England. With the abuses committed by the English monarchy, it became their right “to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security” (Blaisdell 64). The Declaration of Independence creates the United States of America, a free and independent nation that has the “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” (Blaisdell 66).

Similar to the power that was desired in accordance to the Declaration of Independence, in Emmanuel Joseph Sieyes’ What is the Third Estate? he believes that the Third Estate of France was entitled to more power and respect than they have been given. According to Sieyes, out of all public and private services, “it needs no detailed analysis to show that the Third Estate everywhere constitutes nineteen-twentieths of them” (Blaisdell 72). Clearly, the message that Sieyes wants to relay is that a monarchy is not necessary for the people of France to function. They would be fine and most likely better off if they were to overthrow or rebel against the Crown. The French Revolution ensued and lead to The Declaration of Rights of Man and of the Citizen. This was created with very similar rights in mind as the Declaration of Independence.

2 thoughts on “Thoughts on the Declaration of Independence and the Third Estate

  1. While both of these documents evoked similar emotional response, they approached their criticisms from different angles. “What is the Third Estate” pointed out the hierarchy of power and an unequal distribution of rights in France, while “The Declaration of Independence” pointed out numerous, and specific grievances. Both documents were highly critical of the current political power, although the “Declaration of Independence” actually proposed a solution, which was to absolve ties with the British Crown.

  2. In reading both the Declaration of Independence and Emmanuel Joseph Sieyes’, What is the Third Estate?, I cannot help but wonder if Jefferson and Sieyes had the same types of people in mind when their works were written (even though, as David said, they had similar messages). The reason I bring this into question, is because in all of my American History classes, I have been taught that Jefferson and the other elites who created the Declaration of Independence, wanted white, rich men to experience “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” (Blaisdell 64). While they said “all men are created equal,” (Blaisdell 63) they meant all rich, white men are created equal and deserve to experience freedom.

    However, when Emmanuel Sieyes talks about the Third Estate, he claims that “If the privileged were removed, the nation would not be something less but something more,” (73). Here, it seems that he is not only speaking to white men, but rather all people, including women and minorities. Furthermore, because the Third Estate “constitutes nineteen-twentieths of them” (Blaisdell 72), Sieyes cannot be speaking to simply all white males (one would assume). So while the rights may have been similar in each document that we read, their meanings were different; for it seems as the Declaration of Independence was directed towards white men, while The Third Estate seemed to be directed at multiple types of people (including women and minorities)

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