September 24, 2013
- The problem (trigger of Revolution) is that the king has no idea what to do with
- Louis XVI doesn‟t know what to do, but he must find a way to raise more revenue
- He calls together a body of nobles
They‟re going to convene an assembly and talk about it
- There are structural problems with the king raising finances
He needs to implement far-reaching changes in the tax structure
He needs to pass a series of new laws, etc.
He can‟t figure out how to do this and it leads to a series of problems
- Jacques Necker (finance minister) also has no idea what to do
He was “cooking the books”
They don‟t have a good way of writing down how much money the king is
Writing down more than is actually coming in
When the king figures out that there isn‟t as much money as he thinks, the
monarchy loses credibility
- The people (nobles/clergy) start to see the French Monarchy as being corrupt
Necker is fired from his job because of this (as are other high level
Charles Alexandre Calonne is rehired and he sucks too
- The king begins to realize the only way to enact meaningful reforms is through
- Parliament will not pass any of the king‟s edicts
They saw him as corrupting the system and refused to cede to his wishes
- The crux of the king‟s major problem is that he needs to reduce the
nobles/clergy‟s (they need to pay taxes)
At the same time, he needs them to agree
- Calonne says: we need to side-step the government, if we call together an
assembly of nobles, middle-class people and clerics (“Assembly of Notables”)
However, the king handpicks who he wants there
The king is obviously going to pick the people who will agree.
Even with all the people the king handpicks, they still say “NO”
They also tell him the way he‟s going through reform has elements of
despotism and tyranny
They tell him it‟s the way to do it.
The assembly lasts for a couple of days
The notables tell him if he really wants to change taxing system and fix
France‟s legal code, then he must call an estates general (an assembly of
Any revision of the legal code needs to be done through the states general.
This Estates General, 1789 states to represent the nation, the people September 24, 2013
The last time the Estates General met was in 1614 when France
was at war
Only in the most desperate situations is the Estates General called
When they have an assembly of all classes, it‟s a rival to the king‟s
It‟s „undermining‟ the king‟s authority (“God‟s” authority)
The king doesn‟t think this is a good idea but it makes him look bad.
The situation is getting worse as there isn‟t much bread left (grain famine)
The people need to eat!
The king decides to talk to the courts and do his own thing, but Parliament
tells him no.
As a last resort, he calls an estates general.
At this point, the king starts to look like a tyrant, as someone who doesn‟t
look or obey the law and who will do whatever they want to.
August 17, 1788-May, 1789
Three estates: nobility, clergy, everybody else
The question is: what will everybody vote?
A problem was that the clergy and the nobility was always going to be the
majority vote so they wondered whether they should vote per group or per
The vast majority of people think the third estate represents the nation.
“What is the third estate? By Emmanuelle
States that the third estate obviously represents the nation
The king decides that they will vote by block, which is not the answer that
people want as they want to vote by person.
The third estate decides that the estates general is not valid.
They‟ve come to realize that they represent the people and leave
They form the National Assembly
A lot of nobles and clergy defect to the third estate
They round everyone up and decide that they‟re the voice of the
It‟s a political act and kind of a moderate revolution
- Tennis Court Oath June 20, 1789
They all go to the tennis court to take an oath that they will keep
convening until France has a written constitution
Why all of this is happening:
There are bread riots happening
People are also starving to death in the countryside
- During 1780-1795 there was a famine and the price of bread rises
People are not able to afford them and start starving
The government starts to subsidize bread
They‟re placating the masses
In 1787, the price of bread started to double the price
In 1789 the harvest fails (some, but not a lot) September 24, 2013
Usually, there are reserves of grain (farmers usually hoard grain) but there
Now people aren‟t able to afford the pricey bread
If people aren‟t able to buy bread then they don‟t have enough money to
buy other necessary items.
Buying the pricey bread makes them poor
Industry starts to fail
1 in 8 people in Paris were living on the streets
Estimated 150,000 people are out of work and on the streets.
Unemployment of young men: if they don‟t have anything to do then they
start to fight, riot and cause trouble.
Therefore, people begin to riot
The king decides to call in the troops (the National Guard) to stop this, but
the National Guard could identify with the people as they‟re starving too
What the members of the National Assembly believe is that the king isn‟t
calling in troops to stop bread crisis, but rather to dissolve their assembly.
The public thinks the king‟s fist is coming down hard on the National
The king not only calls the troops, but he also fires a finance minister that
the people respect.
So they think he‟s trying to dissolve the voice of the nation
July 14, 1789: The people begin seizing weapons in anticipation of the
king‟s troops breaking up the National Assembly.
They seize numbers from a number of forts and then they go to the
Bastille (the biggest fort) and storm through
They think the Bastille is an armory (it‟s also a prison)
There were also rumors that the king had arrested a few members
of the Nat