The cahier of the Third Estate of Paris (1789)


As might be expected, the cahier of the Third Estate of Paris was more radical than those in rural and provincial areas. It called for fundamental political, legal and taxation reform:


“Public opinion appears to have recognised the necessity for deliberation by head to compensate for the disadvantages of distinction of orders, to allow public spirit to prevail, and to make the adoption of good laws easier…

Natural rights

In every political society, all men are equal in rights. All power emanates from the nation, and may only be exercised for its well being.

Law exists only to guarantee to each individual the ownership of his property and the safety of his person.

All property is inviolable. No citizen may be arrested or punished except by legal judgment.

No citizen, not even a soldier, may be dismissed without a hearing.

The natural, civil, and religious liberty of each man, his personal safety, his absolute independence of every other authority except that of the law, prohibits all enquiry into his opinions, speech, writings, and actions, provided that they do not disturb public order and do not encroach on the rights of others.

The declaration of these natural, civil and political rights, as made in the Estates General, shall become the national charter and the basis of French government.

Constitution

In the French monarchy, legislative power belongs to the nation conjointly with the King; executive power belongs to the King alone.

The Estates General shall meet at three-yearly intervals, without prejudice to extraordinary sessions.

Any person convicted of an act tending to impede the meeting of the Estates General shall be declared a traitor to the nation, guilty of the crime of high treason, and shall be punished accordingly by the tribunal that the present Estates General shall establish.

Pending the much desired union of citizens of all classes in a common and general representation and deliberation, the citizens of the Third Estate shall have at least half the representatives…

The monarch’s person is sacred and inviolable. The succession to the throne is hereditary in the reigning family, in the male line, by order of primogeniture, to the exclusion of women and their descendants, whether male or female, and can only fall on a prince born French, within lawful marriage, and resident in the country.

No citizen may be arrested, nor his home entered, in pursuance of lettres de cachet, or any other order emanating from the executive power.

The ministers, directors, and chief administrators of every department shall be responsible to the nation assembled in its Estates General for any malpractice, abuse of power, or misuse of funds.

The whole kingdom shall be divided into provincial assemblies, composed of inhabitants of the province, freely elected by each class, and in the proportions established.

In future there shall be no ennoblement… The Estates General shall establish a system of civic honours, purely personal and not hereditary, which shall be conferred by the King… without distinction, on citizens of any class who have merited them by the lustre of their patriotic virtues and the magnitude of their services.

Finances

Any special impost whatever, whether personal or on real estate, such as the taille, franc-fief, poll-tax, military service, forced labour, the billeting of troops, etc. shall be suppressed and replaced, if necessary, by general taxes born equally by citizens of all classes.

Customs shall only be levied at the point of admission to the Kingdom, and barriers shall be withdrawn thereto.”