Estates-General

Title

Estates-General

Relation

https://chnm.gmu.edu/revolution/d/1087/

Identifier

1087

Text

An old regime representative body that last met in 1614, which grouped together the three orders or estates of the kingdom: clergy, nobility, and everybody else. This “Third Estate” made up 95 percent of the population. Each order had one vote. The powers of the body were vague, but contemporaries believed they had the right to deny new tax appropriations. When the monarchy’s fiscal problems left it with almost no other choices, Louis XVI called for the convening of the Estates-General in May 1789. He also asked that each order meet at the parish level and draw up cahiers [notebooks] that would express their grievances. This request to consult public opinion and the protracted electoral process were crucial to politicization. At the same time, as the parlements inveighed for the “forms of 1614,” the Third Estate would always be outvoted by the two privileged orders that paid few taxes. Reformers called for both the “doubling of the third,” meaning that this group would comprise half the assembly and for “voting by head.” The King granted the former but not the latter, which deadlocked the Estates-General in May and June until a group of deputies declared themselves the “National Assembly” on 17 June 1789, in the belief that this was where sovereignty truly lay.

Tags

Citation

“Estates-General,” LIBERTY, EQUALITY, FRATERNITY: EXPLORING THE FRENCH REVOUTION, accessed July 14, 2024, https://revolution.chnm.org/d/1087.