Document 1 The People should have power, 1775 Man is born free. No man has any natural authority over others; force does not give anyone that right. The power to make laws belongs to the people and only to the people

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French Revolution Primary Sources

Document 1

The People should have power, 1775

Man is born free. No man has any natural authority over others; force does not give anyone that right. The power to make laws belongs to the people and only to the people.
(a pamphlet by Jean Jacques Rousseau, banned by French government, 1775)

Document 2

Nantes is as enflame in the cause of liberty, as any town in France can be; the conversations I witnessed here, prove how great a chance is effected in the minds of the French, nor do I believe it will be possible for the present government to last half a century longer, unless he clearest and most decided talents are at the helm. The American Revolution has laid the foundation of another in France, if government does not take care of itself.

Arthur Young, British farmer and diarist

Nantes, France

September 22, 1788

Document 3

Cartoon of 1789

The caption reads, “One hopes this will end soon.”

Document 4

  1. Among these rights the following should be especially noted: the nation should hereafter be subject only to such laws and taxes as it shall itself freely ratify.

  2. The meetings of the Estates General of the kingdom should be fixed for definite periods, and the subsidies judged necessary for the support of the state and the public service would be noted for no longer a period than to the close of the year in which the next meeting of the Estates General is to occur.

  3. In order to assure to the Third Estate the influence to which it is entitled in view of the number of its members, the amount of its contributions to the public treasury, and the manifold interests which it has to defend or promote in the national assemblies, its votes in the assembly should be taken and counted by hear.

  4. Nor order, corporation, or individual citizen may lay claim to any pecuniary exemptions…All taxes should be assessed the same system throughout the nation.

  5. The due exacted from commoners holding fiefs should be abolished, and also the general or particular regulations which exclude members of the Third Estate from certain positions, offices, and ranks which have hitherto been bestowed on nobles either for life or hereditarily. A law should be passed declaring members of the Third Estate qualified to fill all such offices for which they judged to be personally fitted.

Excerpt from Cahier

Third Estate in Carcassonne

January, 1789



 Effective Daily Wage in Sous**

Expenditure on Bread as percentage of income with bread priced at:

 gs (Aug 1788)

 14s (Feb-July 1789)

 Laborer in Reveillon wallpaper works




 Builders Laborer




 Journeyman mason




 Journeyman, locksmith, carpenter, etc.




 Sculptor, goldsmith





*The price of the 4 pound loaf consumed daily by workingman and his family as the main element in their diet

**Effective wage represents the daily wage adjusted for 121 days of nonwork per calendar year for religious observation, etc.

Document 5

French Ministry of Finance, 1789

Document 6

Average Price of a Hectoliter (100 liters) of wheat in France


9.5 francs


 14.5 francs


 19.8 francs


21.0 francs

Price of 100 kilograms of Wheat in Paris, 1770-1790


25 francs


20 francs


17 francs


19 francs


29 francs

French Ministry of Finance, 1790

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