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.

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.

Independence and the Third Estate

After years of British tyranny over the colonies, a call for revolution was drafted to grant freedom and equality to all. A government was established that gave power to the people. As a result of restrictive British control, the writers of the declaration declared, “that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive, it is the Right of the people to alter or to abolish it” (Blaisdell 64). Jefferson and his counterparts believed that all men were equal and attacked British tyranny over the colonies, listing a number of facts of their tyranny to be read by the rest of the world. As representative of the United States, they conclude “these United Colonies… are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown… and that all political connection between them… is ought to be totally dissolved… as Free and Independent States… they have full power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce” (Blaisdell 66). Breaking away from British control would allow an entire new nation to take form built on its own beliefs and policies, different from those seen previously in Europe (absolute monarchs).


According to Emmanuel Joseph Sieyes, in order for a nation to survive “it needs private and public services” (Blaisdell 71). These activities are needed to support a society, without them a nation would crumble. In his work, What is the Third Estate?, Sieyes claims that the Third Estate is the group that performs “nineteen-twentieths” (Blaisdell 72) of these activities. Without this group, society would not exist. The very importance of the Third Estate constitutes its power it should have within a given society. They should have more rights than others, including nobility, because they are the glue that keeps society together.