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Third Estate in Dourdan

Cahiers de doleances



Before the Estates General met in 1789, the delegates representing each of the three estates gathered to a list of grievances to bring to the meeting. The following is excerpts from the list of grievances (cahier de doleances) of the town of Dourdan, in the generalite (administrative district) of Orleans. 
29 March, 1789

The order of the third estate of the City, Bailliage [judicial district], and County of Dourdan, imbued with gratitude prompted by the paternal kindness of the King, who deigns to restore its former rights and its former constitution, forgets at this moment its misfortunes and impotence, to harken only to its foremost sentiment and its foremost duty, that of sacrificing everything to the glory of the Patrie [nation] and the service of His Majesty. It supplicates him to accept the grievances, complaints, and remonstrance's which it is permitted to bring to the foot of the throne, and to see therein only the expression of its zeal and the homage of its obedience.

It wishes:

1. That his subjects of the third estate, equal by such status to all other citizens, present themselves before the common father without other distinction which might degrade them.

2. That all the orders [the three estates], already united by duty and a common desire to contribute equally to the needs of the State, also deliberate in common concerning its needs.

3. That no citizen lose his liberty except according to law; that, consequently, no one be arrested by virtue of special orders, or, if imperative circumstances necessitate such orders, that the prisoner be handed over to the regular courts of justice within forty-eight hours at the latest.

4. That no letters or writings intercepted in the post [mails] be the cause of the detention of any citizen, or be produced in court against him, except in case of conspiracy or undertaking against the State.

5. That the property of all citizens be inviolable, and that no one be required to make sacrifice thereof for the public welfare, except upon assurance of indemnification based upon the statement of freely selected appraisers . . .

15. That every personal tax be abolished; that thus the capitation and the taille and its accessories be merged with the vingtiemes in a tax on land and real or nominal property. [1]

16. That such tax be borne equally, without distinction, by all classes of citizens and by all kinds of property, even feudal and contingent rights.

17. That the tax substituted for the corvee [taxes paid in labor] be borne by all classes of citizens equally and without distinction. That said tax, at present beyond the capacity of those who pay it and the needs to which it is destined, be reduced by at least one-half . . .


1. That the administration of justice be reformed, either by restoring strict execution of ordinances, or by reforming the sections thereof that are contrary to the dispatch and welfare of justice . . .

7. That venality [sale] of offices be suppressed . . .

8. That the excessive number of offices in the necessary courts be reduced in just measure, and that no one be given an office of magistracy if he is not at least twenty-five years of age, and until after a substantial public examination has verified his morality, integrity, and ability . . .

10. That the study of law be reformed; that it be directed in a manner analogous to our legislation, and that candidates for degrees be subjected to rigorous tests which may not be evaded; that no dispensation of age or time be granted.

11. That a body of general customary law be drafted of all articles common to all the customs of the several provinces and bailliages . . .

12. That deliberations of courts . . . which tend to prevent entry of the third estate thereto be rescinded and annulled as injurious to the citizens of that order, in contempt of the authority of the King, whose choice they limit, and contrary to the welfare of justice, the administration of which would become the patrimony of those of noble birth instead of being entrusted to merit, enlightenment, and virtue.

13. That military ordinances which restrict entrance to the service to those possessing nobility be reformed.

That naval ordinances establishing a degrading distinction between officers born into the order of nobility and those born into that of the third estate be revoked, as thoroughly injurious to an order of citizens and destructive of the competition so necessary to the glory and prosperity of the State.


1. That if the Estates General considers it necessary to preserve the fees of aides [tax on commodities], such fees be made uniform throughout the entire kingdom and reduced to a single denomination . . .

2. That the tax of the gabelle [tax on salt] be eliminated if possible, or that it be regulated among the several provinces of the kingdom. . . 3. That the taxes on hides, which have totally destroyed that branch of commerce and caused it to go abroad, be suppressed forever. 4. That . . . all useless offices, either in police or in the administration of justice, be abolished and suppressed.


4. That the right to hunt may never affect the property of the citizen; that, accordingly, he may at all times travel over his lands, have injurious herbs uprooted, and cut luzernes [alfalfa], sainfoins [fodder), and other produce whenever it suits him; and that stubble may be freely raked immediately after the harvest. . .

11. . . . That individuals as well as communities be permitted to free themselves from the rights of banalite [peasants were required to use the lord's mill, winepress, and oven], and corvee, by payments in money or in kind, at a rate likewise established by His Majesty on the basis of the deliberations of the Estates General . . .

15. That the militia, which devastates the country, takes workers away from husbandry, produces premature and ill-matched marriages, and imposes secret and arbitrary taxes upon those who are subject thereto, be suppressed and replaced by voluntary enlistment at the expense of the provinces.

[1] The taille was a tax on the value of a person's land or wealth. The nobility was exempt from this tax. A capitation is a head tax, tax on each individual. The vingtieme was an income tax.

From: John Hall Stewart, ed., A Documentary Survey of the French Revolution, (New York; Macmillan, 1951) pp. 76-82. Reprinted in Marvin Perry, ed., Sources of the Western Tradition, Volume II (Boston; Houghton Mifflin), 1995 pp. 86-88.

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