4.2: Reforming the Estates and the Monarchy

Frustrated by the system, the Third Estate representatives did revolt, and in June 1789 proclaimed themselves the National Assembly, the new “official” congress of France capable of passing and reforming laws. (Some members of the Second and First Estates supported their Third Estate colleagues, among the most vocal being Church official Abbé Emmanuel-Joseph Sieyés, who actually coined the name “National Assembly.”)

The king responded by locking the Third Estate out of the meeting-hall in the palace of Versailles. The reps gathered next-door in the indoor handball court and swore that they would not stop meeting, even if the king prevented them. This “Tennis Court Oath” was the warning sign to the king that the people would no longer obey his authority, yet Louis remained stubborn in enforcing the old system.

The common people in Paris, just a few miles away from Versailles, knew that violence from the First and Second Estates was on the horizon. However, as in the case of the American Revolution, the supply of gunpowder was protected by the king in a prison-fortress in the middle of the city called the Bastille. On July 14, the Revolution turned violent as angry mobs stormed the prison, killed the warden and several guards, and paraded around the streets with the decapitated heads on sticks. The king vowed to crush the rebellion, and the National Assembly applauded the use of violence to send a message. (Unfortunately, this would just be the beginning of such violence.)

As Fall 1789 approached, the mobs grew in their boldness and their control, and some of the nobility started to flee the country. The National Assembly drafted a document that laid out the principles of the Revolution (the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen). Shortly after, the mobs stormed Versailles, demanding that the king move to Paris to rule instead of staying isolated in his palace away from his people. The National Assembly created a government-controlled Church to solve the country’s debt problems by confiscating Church lands and property. Many devout Catholics, though they disliked the monarchy, rejected this attack on the Church, and civil war spread around the country.

In 1791, the king and his family were caught trying to escape and were all made prisoners, as the National Assembly became the “Legislative Assembly,” now ruling the country “in cooperation” with the king. The Assembly soon developed three factions, the names of which we still use today to describe political views: on the left side of the assembly hall were radicals who wanted to change the government in order to solve the country’s problems. In the center of the hall were people who wanted some change but not drastic change, in order to keep the country stable. On the right wing were people who did not want to change the government and were more conservative (traditional) in their views.


10 thoughts on “4.2”

  1. I thought is was really interesting how quickly the people took over the government/ throne, and how the government did not have a steady hold against people who had no real military weapons.

  2. It’s so amazing how they went from dark ages type laws and structure to a whole legislative branch like our own nowadays.

  3. Like I said in 4.1, when the people are not happy there is usually going to be a revolt of some sort. This happens in our modern world a lot too. When people are not happy they are going to fight for what they want.

  4. I think it is kind of crazy how people at the lowest spectrum of society were able to surpass the two most powerful authorities. That kind of just shows how these people only had titles and didn’t have much control.

  5. It is fascinating that the government has been defeated by the citizens this fast. It is also interesting that the type of government they formed during that time is similar to today’s government.

  6. Even though the people hated King Louis, it’s very impressive that he was able to stick through these revolts and revolutions. But this isn’t a very valid argument seeming as though King Louis caused these things and he had to face his consequences.

  7. I feel as if today in this world if we people started to not obey the authority a lot would be taken away from us. However the people were able to revolt against the King.

  8. I like how the common people really used their voices to show how unorganized the government was. They were able to impact the government and start the necessary changes that were needed. People today still do this when the government is not doing what they should because they want everyone’s voices to be heard just like the common people in France did.

  9. I think it is weird how every time the citizens become unhappy with the government and revolt, that the ones in power are not able to predict this. You would think that after all the complaints and disagreement you should try to change something or stop the revolt, but the government just sits there not doing anything.

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