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French Revolution

Third Estate

The Old Regime was the French political and social system before 1789.  Society in the Old Regime was divided into three classes called Estates.  The First Estate was made up of all of the clergy members.  The Second Estate was made up of nobility.  The Third Estate, which was the largest, was made up of peasants, city workers, and the middle class.  On May 5, 1789, Louis called a meeting of the Estates-General in Versailles.  Once in session, the Estates-General assumed the powers of the government .  On June 20th of the same year the Third Estate declared themselves the National Assembly and made the Tennis Court Oath, a pledge to themselves not to seperate until they gave France a constitution. On July 14, 1789, a mob stormed the Bastille in Paris, and a short time later imprisoned the king and royal family in the palace of the Tuileries.   In 1791, the royal family attempted to escape to Austria but were captured and brought back to Paris.  Louis then accepted the new French Constitution but continued secretly to work against the revolution.

The Constitution

In 1792 the National Convention declared France a republic and had the king tried as a traitor and condemned to death. Louis XVI was sentenced to the guillotined on January 21, 1793, in Paris.  In 1779, the National Assembly announced the end of feudalism and serfdom, and then, in 1789, issued the Declaration of Rights of Man.   One year later, in 1790, the Civil Constitution of the Clergy was passed.  The next year, in 1791, the Constitution of 1791 was adopted. A few years later, a new constitution was sanctioned.  This was successful until 1799, when the Directory fell and ended the French Revolution.  The French had finally achieved their goal in reforming their country and destroying the monarchy.


The French Revolution affected the world in several ways.  Due to the people's revolt against the monarchy, the Russians succeeded in overthrowing the Czar and transferring from an Absolute Monarchy to Communism.  England also benefited from this.  The people rebelled against the monarchy and caused the English monarchs to lose all power and control over the people. "The French Revolution was a step towards replacing traditional aristocratic forms of government with more open, elective systems.  Along with the American Revolution, it inspired reformers throughout the western world."