The Tennis Court Oath Essay, Research Paper
The Tennis Court Oath was the event in which the underprivileged class of France finally decided to stand up for their rights. There were many events leading up to the oath which certainly restricted the Third Estate. The Third Estate had been abused so much that they wanted to take action. They wanted their own constitution that would secure their rights and privileges. It was this oath combined with a few other events such as the Storming on the Bastille that started the French Revolution.
The turmoil was started when King Louis XVI had run the government nearly bankrupt. The harvest of 1788 was the worst in 90 years and the price of bread on the streets of Paris exploded upward. Finally, the banks began to refuse new loans for him. At this point Louis was in deep trouble. He had to find a new way to make money or France would be economically destroyed. Since the First and Second Estates did not pay taxes, Louis devised a plan to call the Estates General, which had not met in 175 years, to order. The King also said that he would let each member vote instead of one vote as a whole in response to the Third Estate s wishes. This would have given the Third Estate a much higher voice in the government. Secretly, Louis was just bluffing, and when the members of the Third Estate arrived at their assigned meeting hall, they found it locked against them. This greatly angered the Third Estate.
They were exhausted from the nonsense which had been going on for hundreds of years. They wanted more rights, fewer taxes, and no more monarchy. The Grande Bourgeoisie wanted their children to be able to hold high positions in the military and army. They also wanted the nobles and clergy to pay taxes. The Petite Bourgeoisie wanted the prices of food to stop inflating and wanted taxes to stop. Finally, the peasants desperately wanted to get rid of the tithe and the massively inflating prices for bread. They were paying nearly 65% of their income directly for bread alone. The bread and their tithe allocated 75% of their income, not to mention the cost to the nobles.
Due to a heavy rainfall, they were forced to move to a nearby tennis court in order to have their meeting. A man named Mounier proposed that the Third Estate adopt an oath of allegiance. The oath stated that they would remain assembled until a constitution had been written. The proposal was a success and the Tennis Court oath was written. A total of 577 men signed the oath, and one man named Martin Dauch refused because he could not do anything which his King had not sanctioned.
The Tennis Court Oath said that the power would lie in the people and their representatives. It would no longer exist in the monarchy. A man by the name of Emmanuel Joseph Sieyes voted to call itself the National Assembly. This National Assembly would go on to create a document named the Declaration of the Rights of Man on August 4, 1789. It stated that all people were equal before the law. It also gave freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, and the right to a fair trial. Some more major outcomes included the abolishment of feudal dues, the retraction of the church tithe, and the privilege for the Third Estate to hold major military or clergy positions.
The Tennis Court Oath was just a spark for the French Revolution. The French Revolution also included many more events such as new constitutions being written, the Storming of the Bastille, the Great Fear, and the Reign of Terror. If these desperate people had not finally taken action, France could still be under serfdom, and the monarchy may still have complete control over the people.