In January 1789, Louis XVI issued the following decree containing instructions for the convocation of the Estates General, including the compilation of cahiers [books of grievance]:
“The king, in sending letters of convocation to the Estates General to the different provinces within his obedience, desires that his subjects should all be called to take part in the election of the deputies who are to form this great and solemn assembly.
His Majesty wishes that everyone, from the extremities of his realm and from the most remote dwelling places, may be assured that his desires and claims will reach His Majesty.
His Majesty has further endeavoured to achieve this especial object of his care by summoning to the assemblies of the clergy all the good and useful pastors who are in close and daily contact with the poverty and relief of the people and are most intimately acquainted with their fears and their anxieties.
The king, in arranging the order of the convocations and the structure of the assemblies, wished as far as possible to follow the old traditions. Guided by this principle. His Majesty has preserved the time-honoured privilege for all bailliages who had sent a representative to the 1614 Estates General to do so again.
His Majesty expects above all that only the voice of conscience will be heard in the choice of deputies to the Estates General. Therefore His Majesty has commanded and commands the following:
Each order shall draw up a list of grievances (cahier de doleances) and choose its deputies separately, unless they prefer to do so jointly, in which case the consent of the three orders, obtained separately, will be needed.
Given and decreed at Versailles
January 24th 1789”