The French revolution began in 1789 and came to an end in the late 1790s with the ascent of Napoleon Bonaparte. This was a watershed event in the modern European history. The French citizens razed and redesigned their country’s political landscape. They uprooted the old-institutions used during the previous centuries. These institutions included absolute monarchy and the feudal system. Similar to the American Revolution before it, the French Revolution was under the influence of enlightenment ideals. They were particularly from the popular concepts of self-government and unchallengeable rights. Even though it failed to achieve its intended purpose and sometimes degenerated into a chaotic state where a lot of people died in the process, the movement played a critical role in the way the modern nation looked. It proved to the people that the power of the entire world is in their will. They were at a position of changing anything that came into their way.
PRELUDE TO THE FRENCH REVOLUTION: MONARCHY IN CRISIS
Not only were the royal coffers depleted in the 18th century but also two decades down the line they had poor cereal harvests, drought and cattle diseases. Other misfortunes that fell them were high prices of bread brought a lot of problems amongst the peasant and those living in the poverty stricken urban parts of the country. This was as a result of the French involvement in the American Revolution and extravagant spending by King Louis XVI. His predecessor had left the country on the brink of debt and no money. Many of the French citizens expressed their worry and rage toward a regime that imposed heavy taxes but did not provide relief by rioting, plundering and striking.
Luis XVI”s controller general, Charles Alexandre de Calonne (1734-1802), proposed a financial reform package in the fall of 1786. This included a universal land tax from which the privileged classes would no longer be spared. To harness support for these measures and forestall a growing aristocratic revolt, the king summoned the Estate-General (“états généraux”)- an assembly representing French clergy, nobility and middle class. This happened for the first time since 1614. The meeting was planned to take place on May 5, 1789. Meanwhile, delegates of the three estates from each and every locality would compile list of grievances to present to the king.
THE FRENCH REVOLUTION AT VERSAILLES: RISE OF THE THIRD ESTATE
Since the 1614, the population of the French had considerably changed. Those who were not aristocrats of the third Estate now represented 98% of the people. Although they could still be outvoted by the other two bodies. In the lead-up to the May 5 meeting, the Third Estate began to rally supporters to equally represent and abolish the noble veto. In the other words they wanted the voting by head and not by status. On the other hand, all of the orders shared a common desire for fiscal and judicial reforms as well as a more representative form of government. The nobles in particular were forced to give up the privileges they enjoyed under the traditional system. By the time the Estate-General covened at, the highly public argument over its voting process had erupted into hostility between the three orders. This eclipsed the original purpose of the meeting and the authority of the man who had convened it.
The Third Estate met alone and formally adopted the title of National Assembly, on June 17, with talks over procedure that stopped. Later after three days, they met in a nearby indoor tennis court and took the so-called Tennis Court Oath( serment du jeu de paume”), vowing not to break away until constitutional reform had been achieved. Most of the clerical deputies and 47 liberal nobles had joined them within a week. By June 27 King Louis XVI grudgingly absorbed all three orders into the new assembly.