Chapter 6 Section 1
pp. 166-170
Life in France in 1789
• On April 28, 1789, unrest exploded at a Paris wallpaper
factory. A rumor had spread that the factory owner was
planning to cut wages even though bread prices were soaring.
Enraged workers vandalized the owner’s home. Later, they
stopped some nobles returning from an afternoon at the
racetrack. They forced the noble to should: “Long live the
third estate [the common people]”.
• Riots like these did not worry most nobles. They knew that
France faced a severe economic crisis but thought that
financial reforms would ease the problem. Then, rioters
would be hanged, as they deserved.
• The nobles were wrong. The crisis went deeper than
government finances. Reform would not be enough. By July,
the hungry, unemployed, and poorly paid people of Paris had
taken up arms. Their actions would push events further and
faster than anyone could have foreseen.
The Old Regime
• Old Order *Ancien Regime*
– Everyone in France Belonged to 3 estates [classes]
First Estate
Second Estate
Third Estate
The Clergy
• The First Estate “the Church” once exerted
great influence all over Europe
• In France in the late 1800s the Church still
had great wealth and privilege.
• Owned about 10% of land
• Collected tithes
• And paid no direct taxes
• Most Bishops and Cardinals lived a very
high class life, although most parish priests
were poor
• Some services provided by the First Estate
• Ran schools
• Set up and ran Hospitals
• Ran Orphanages
• Some Clergy rejected enlightenment ideas.
The Nobles
• Second Estate “The Nobility”
• They had top jobs in government,
the army, the courts, and the
• Although they had lost much
power during the rule of Louis
XIV they were still the highest
class of people in France
– Although many lived far from the
“splendor” of Versailles
• Most disliked absolutism and the
threats it brought to their
traditional privileges.
– Most worried about their freedom
from paying taxes
The Third Estate
• “The People” in 1789 the Third Estate numbered
around 27 million which was 98% of the population.
• The top of the group were the Bourgeoisie- middle
class. It included bankers, merchants, lawyers,
doctors, journalists, professors, skilled artisans, and
• 9 out of 10 people in France were peasants. Some
owned land and hired laborers but MOST were
tenant farmers and day laborers
• The poorest were city workers. Journeymen,
apprentices, and industrial workers made little
money. Some became servants, or street vendors but
many were unemployed and became beggars or
Discontent [within the
• All of the Third Estate disliked the system in France
• Even the wealthiest of this Estate could not “buy” the
best jobs, because they were reserved for the
• Urban workers felt the rise in any costs, especially
food, which brought about the threat of starvation
• The Third Estate was the only Estate to pay taxes
• Although they were “free” they still had duties.. The
Corvee was unpaid labor to repair roads and bridges
• In the late 1800s the Estate was angered when old
manor dues were re-imposed, as well as the
continuing right of only the Second Estate to hunt
• Throughout France the Third Estate called for the
Economic Troubles
• Money troubles in France added to the
turmoil between Estates
• Years of Deficit Spending- or spending
more than you take in, led to a great
financial hardships in the French
The Burden of Debt
• King Louis XIV spent lavishly
• The Seven Years War and the
American Revolution cost
• The government borrowed lots
of money, by 1789 half of its tax
collections went towards the
interest of this debt.
• To solve the problem taxes must
go up, spending must come
• The First and Second Estates
resisted any attempts to collect
taxes on them
Poor Harvests
• In the 1780s bad harvests made prices rise and
caused many peasants to fear starvation
• This caused great anger among the Third Estate
– People rioted demanding bread
– Peasants attacked manor houses in the country
– All were looking for food
Failure of Reform
• After the lavish spending of Louis XIV, Louis
XV [ruled 1715-1774 great grandson] pursued
pleasure before serious business
• “After us the DELUGE”
• Louis XVI meant well but was a
weak monarch
• Did appoint Jacques Necker as his
financial advisor, Necker proposed
cutting spending, reforming
government, lowering tariffs, and
taxes on the Nobles and Clergy
• Nobles forced Louis XVI to dismiss
• Nobles forced the King to call the
Estates General, hadn’t been used in
175 years
Louis XVI Calls the Estates General
• As 1788 came to a close,
France tottered on the
verge of bankruptcy
• Bread riots spread, and
Nobles were denouncing
royal tyranny
• A confused Louis XVI
finally summoned the
Estates General to meet at
Versailles in 1789
The Cahiers
• Before the meeting of the Estates General King
Louis XVI had all three estates create Cahiers- or
notebooks listing their grievances.
Many called for fairer taxes
Freedom of the Press
Regular meetings of the Estates General
Some called for lower prices and the right to kill pests [rabbits and
• Servant girls in one town demanded the right to leave service when
they wanted “after a girl has served her master for many years, she
should receive some reward for her service”
• The cahiers showed how much despair there was
between classes.
• One wrote “nobles are vampires pumping the last drop of blood from
the people”
• Another “20 million must live on half the wealth of France while the
clergy… devour the other half”
The Tennis Court Oath
• The delegates from the Third Estate were
• Only property owners could vote though so most
were lawyers, middle class officials, and writers
– They were thus familiar with philosophes
– They went to the meeting to demand reform
• Traditionally when the Estates General had
met they each had 1 vote and met in
different places, to ensure the First and
Second Estates could outvote the Third.
• At this meeting the Third Estate demanded
that the vote be counted by head.
National Assembly
• After weeks of stalemate the Third Estate took a
daring step.
• The third estate declared themselves the National
Assembly, saying they represented the people of
France, and then invited the other two estates to
help them write a constitution for France
Tennis Court Oath
•They swore “Never to separate and to meet
wherever the circumstances might require until we
have established a sound and just constitution!”
• National
made up of
all three
estates were
locked out of
their meeting
hall by the
crown so they
moved to an
indoor tennis
court in May
of 1789.
• As a result of the National Assembly and
the Tennis Court Oath, and the joining of
the reform minded First and Second Estate
Louis XVI accepted it
• Suspicion and rumor continued to poison
the atmosphere though, as Royal troops
started arriving in Paris and the King
brought back Necker to deal with the
financial crisis, but once again dismissed
Storming the Bastille
• On July, 14 1789 more than 800 Parisians
assembled outside the Bastille, a medieval
fortress used as a prison, demanding
weapons and gunpowder
• The commander refused to open the gates,
opened fire on the crowd, many were killed
including the commander and five guards.
There were no weapons inside, but the mob
did set free some prisoners.
• Louis XVI asked when hearing the news “Is
it a revolt?” the answer was no “It is a
Storming the Bastille
• July 14, 1789–first major event in the French
Today: July
14th is Bastille
Day in France,
similar to our
Day celebrated
on July 4th.

6-1 Powerpoint - McCook Public Schools