The meeting of the estates general began as a meeting for French society (the nobility, the clergy, and peasantry) to solve issues concerning the nation. The government was in extreme debt due to involvement with numerous amounts of wars, and several years of crop failure. The third estate (peasants) were angered by the rise in taxes which increased tensions between the nobility and laborers. Conflict arose when the three estates could not decide how to vote, and if the estates were to vote independently of one another it will give the first and second estate an advantage. The votes of the third estate were overpowered resulting in forming the National Assembly with the intent of solving France’s problems with people’s interests. Later that year, the estates would pass the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen which put an end to the feudal system.
The Tennis Court Oath
June 20 1789 - 1791
The Tennis Court Oath was a dramatic act of defiance by the representatives of the third estate during the meeting of the Estates General at the beginning of the French Revolution. The third estate realizing that any attempt at reform they would be outvoted by the other two estates, had formed, on June 17, the National Assembly. Finding themselves locked out of their usual meeting hall at Versailles on June 20, thinking the King was forcing them to disband moved to a nearby indoor tennis court where they took an oath never to separate until a written constitution had been established for France. Jean-Sylvain Bailly was chosen as president for the third estate and led his famous proceedings in the Tennis Court on June 20.
The Storming of the Bastille
July 14 1789
The first major act of violence in the French Revolution against King Louis XVI and the French Monarchy. Many of the third estate focused their anger toward the government on the Bastille, a prison fortress in Paris which symbolized the King’s absolute authority. On July 14, 1789, a group of Paris mobs gathered around and stormed the Bastille, in search of large quantities of arms and ammunition that was believed to be stored in the fortress. The Bastille was defended by 82 soldiers and their commander, Bernard-Rene de Launay, who offered to surrender the Bastille if him and soldiers were left unharmed. But the crowd refused and stormed the fortress. De Launay was beaten and beheaded placing his head onto a pike being carried around the streets of Paris. The fall of the Bastille signaled the beginning of the French Revolution.
The Reign of Terror
September 5 1793 - July 27 1794
France was being attacked by foreign countries on all sides and civil war was breaking out in many regions. Radicals led by Maximilien Robespierre took over the government and started the Reign of Terror. Robespierre was the leader of the Committee of Public Safety and the Jacobins. The Jacobins felt it was their duty to preserve the revolution, even if it meant violence and terror. The Committee of Public Safety wanted to introduce the “Law of Suspects”, which this law said that anyone who was even suspected as an enemy of the revolution was to be arrested. Throughout the year, everyone was cautious about everything they do and who to talk to, and around 17,000 people were executed. Enemies of Robespierre organized to overthrow him, then on July 27, 1794, he was removed from power and executed ending all the terror in France.
The Rise of Napoleon and Creation of an Empire
August 22 1795 - December 2 1804
Napoleon Bonaparte rapidly rose through the ranks of the military during the French Revolution. After seizing political power in France through a 1799 coup d’état, he crowned himself emperor in 1804 through many battles and wars.
Napoleon’s Empire Collapses
9 November 1799 - 18 June 1815
Napoleon had a great desired to defeat Britain. Even though he conquered most of the region of Europe he committed three mistakes. A blockade, the Peninsula War, the Russian Campaign, and the direct role of Britain. He also divorced his loving wife, Joséphine.
The Congress of Vienna
1814 - 1815
The Congress of Vienna was a meeting of ambassadors of European states chaired by Austrian statesman Klemens von Metternich. Held in Vienna through the delegates had arrived and were negotiating about the nation of France