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The Estates General May 1789 To Septemember 1791

1776 words - 8 pages

I have chosen to discuss the Estates General as I feel it features centrally in the debates surrounding the French Revolution.I intend to give a brief but accurate summary of the theme, The Estates General, followed by an attempt to explain just how relevant The Estates General is to this infamous and continually ongoing debate. Finally I will demonstrate some of the contrasting and/or comparative analysis offered by various renowned historians.King Louis XVI of France was heir to a country deep in debt and close to becoming bankrupt. It had been common practise for the King to sell off venal offices to the bourgeoisie in order to raise revenue and to ease the burden of poverty that was ...view middle of the document...

However, although there was opposition from the aristocracy about giving the Third Estate equal voting powers, the selection process decided upon was for each deputy to have a free vote, thus giving the most votes to the Third Estate. The Third Estate took advantage of their position to bring a list of grievances (cahiers de doléances) before the assembly, thus showing just how dissatisfied the 'masses' were with the way their country was being run. The Third Estate distanced itself from the other two Estates and began to meet alone eventually calling themselves the National Assembly. On June 20, 1789, the Third Estate found the hall of Menus Plaisirs, the place which the Estate General held, was closed by the workmen; the deputies went to a neighbouring indoor tennis court. In the tennis court, they had the following resolution:"Whereas the National Assembly has been called upon to draft a constitution for the kingdom, effect the regeneration of public order and maintain the true principles of the monarchy. Five hundred and seventy seven members took the oath and signed the resolution. Five clergies joined them. The oath announced a determination to defend it even against the King ".King Louis XVI refused to recognise the National Assembly as a constitutional body. He was denied the right to exercise many of his powers. For example to issue an order he required the countersignature of a minister, who could be indicted by the Assembly. His hold on the Assembly invariably weakened the King marshalled his troops to enforce his will, leading to a peasant revolt and the eventual storming of the armoury and subsequently the storming of The Bastille when the citizens of France rose up in support of the National Assembly.It is not hard to argue the relevance of the Estates General (The National Assembly) to the French Revolution. They were instrumental in making the voice of the 'people' heard thus gathering momentum and driving the revolution forward. They were also fundamental in uniting the Third Estate against the aristocracy. The one thing they had in common was their hatred of the hold that the aristocracy with all of their feudal rights and privileges had over them. As Saboul so concisely states "The peasant revolution of the summer of 1789 and the uprisings of the Parisian masses in 1789, in 1792, and again in 1793-94, tipped the balance of forces against the government and the aristocracy, and marked turning points in the course of the Revolution" The Third Estate raised hope amongst the masses and gave them a glimmer of hope for a brighter future, even though many of the members of the Third Estate did not share the same goals. Even though 'the people' appeared as a united front in some aspects, they were in many circumstances much divided and not as unified as one may first think. Francois Furet stated that this whole chain of events "created a general power vacuum" he goes on to say "They touched on a war among the classes who wanted...

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