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The Estates-General

  • By late 1788 the financial and political problems facing the crown had forced Louis XVI to call the Estates-General. who hadnt been summoned since 1614.

The method of voting

  • The recently restored Paris Parlement declared the voting should be done by estate or order, this would favour the two privileged orders, who both wished to protect their privileges and tended to act together.
  • Up to this point the bourgeoisie had tended to follow the lead given by the privileged orders in Parlement or the Assembly of Notables.
  • In 1789 the bourgeois leaders of the third estate began to suspect that the privileged orders who wanted to vote by order had opposed to the government because they wanted to keep their power for themselves and not because they wanted justice for the nation as a whole.
  • The third estate now demanded twice the amount of deputies. - This is so they would have the same amount of deputies as the other two estates combined and voting by head, not order.
  • In December 1788 the King's councilallowed the number of Third Estate deputies to be doubled, however nothing was said about voting by head.

Electing the deputies

  •  The government made no attempt to influence the elections to the Estates-General and had no candidates fo its own.
  • For the first estate, the clergy elected Parish Priests to represent them.
  • In the second estate. the majority of noble deputies were from old noble families in the provinces, many of them poor and coonservative.
  • The 580 deputies elected to represent the third estate were educated,articulate and well off.


  • Before the meeting of the Estates-General, the lectors of each of the three orders drew up cahiers - Lists of grievances and suggestions for reforms.
  • The cahiers of the 1st Estate reflected the interests of the parish clergy. They called for an end to bishops holding more than one diocese - a district under the pastoral care of a bishop in the Christian Church. In return, they were prepared to give up financial privileges of the church.
  • They werent willing to give up the dominant position of the church, they believed Catholicism was the main religion and they didn't intend to tolerate Protestantism.
  • The nobles cahiers were liberal- 89% were prepared to give up their financial privileges and nearly 39% supported voting by head. Instead of trying to preserve their own privileges, they showed a desire for change and were prepared to admit that merit rather than birth should be key to high ofice.
  • They attacked the government for its depsotism, its inefficiency and its injustice.
  • The cahiers of all three orders had a lot in common. All were against absolute royal


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