V. The Modern Period, 1789–1914 > B. The French Revolution and Europe, 1789–1914 > 1. Overview > b. The National Assembly
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
b. The National Assembly
1789, May 5
Estates General met at Versailles with double representation of the third estate (representing the middle class): nobles 300, clergy 300, commons 600. Necker, the king's financial adviser, announced that voting would be by order, not by head, thus eliminating the third estate's advantage. Acting on a motion by Abbé Sieyès (author of What Is the Third Estate?), the third estate assumed the title of the National Assembly (June 17) and invited other orders to join them.  1
June 20
Tennis Court Oath. The king suspended meetings of the Estates General for three days and closed the hall. Members met at a neighboring tennis court and took an oath not to separate until they had given the realm a constitution.  2
June 23
The king ordered each estate to meet separately, but deputies refused. Most of the clergy and many of the nobles joined the assembly—prompting the king to order the rumps of the first and second estates to join the assembly (June 27). He dismissed Necker (July 11) and concentrated troops near Paris, which led to the attack on the Bastille.  3
July 14
STORMING OF THE BASTILLE. A mob in Paris attacked the prison although most prisoners had already been removed. Aided by deserters from the French Royal Guard (incorporated into the Parisian National Guard in Aug.), they captured and killed the governor, Jordan de Launay. Louis ordered troops out of Paris, and the Parisian electors formed a commune, with Lafayette commanding the National Guard and Bailly elected mayor. Adoption of tricolor: blue and red for Paris, and white for France. Necker was recalled (July 17). Beginning of emigration of nobles (émigrés).  4
Rising of the peasants against the manorial lords in Dauphiné, Provence, Burgundy, and throughout France. This grande peur (great fear) was not systematically spread from Paris but occurred sporadically as a series of mass movements with numerous centers. Riots, provisional governments, guards in the provincial cities.  5
Aug. 4
Surrender of feudal rights by representatives of the nobility. The radical nature of this act was undermined by provisions for the gradual elimination of these rights and compensation for the owners (in most cases it was never paid): abolition of titles, prohibition of the sale of offices, dissolution of the guilds, and so on.  6
Aug. 27
DECLARATION OF THE RIGHTS OF MAN AND CITIZEN, based on English and American precedents, guaranteed to citizens the rights of liberty, equality, security, and property. This provision limited explicit protection to males in every phase of the Revolution and resulted in Marie-Olympe de Gouges's publishing of her Declaration of the Rights of Women (1791). These declarations stated that the aim of society was public happiness.  7
Oct. 5–6
MARCH TO VERSAILLES. Popular riots in Paris, caused by hunger and rumors of an intended reaction against the Revolution, resulted in a march of a band, consisting mostly of women, to Versailles. Lafayette rescued the royal family, but the band forced the king's return to Paris.  8
The political clubs had existed since early 1789 but were growing in power. The Jacobins, enjoying a wide democratic base and led by Maximilien Robespierre, became a growing power in the state. The Cordeliers, more radical than the Jacobins, were led by Georges Jacques Danton, Jean Paul Marat, Camille Desmoulins, and Jacques Hébert. The Feuillants, moderate monarchists including Lafayette and Bailly, had separated from the Jacobins.  9
As the assembly debated a new constitution for a liberal monarchy (adopted in 1791), it tried to address the fiscal crisis by declaring church lands public property and issuing assignats (government notes) on their value. Because assignats were frequently overissued, recurrent inflation resulted. On July 12, 1790, Civil Constitution of the Clergy placed bishops and priests as well as church income under government control. Fewer than half of all priests declared loyalty to the government, and in 1791 the pope denounced it, setting up a long battle between revolutionaries and much of the Catholic Church.  10
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.