Impact of the American War of Independence
The independence of the thirteen American colonies from England provided a boost to the French people. The French captain Lafayette with his soldiers returned from America after helping the colonies to secure their independence. His experience in America along with the fighting spirit for the cause of democracy reached the ears of the French and inspired them. Therefore, they decided to put an end to the despotic rule of the Bourbons.
The bankruptcy of French treasury was the starting point of the French Revolution. Louis XVI was faced with a serious financial situation. There was also no alternative but to propose new taxes.
So, Louis XVI summoned the States General on 5th May 1789. The main purpose for summoning the States General was to get its consent for the fresh taxes to be levied upon the people. The king also recalled Necker to head the finance ministry.
The States General consisted of three Estates Chambers. The first Estate was represented by the nobles, the second the clergy and the third by the common people. When the king called for its meeting, each Estate sat separately. However, the members of the third estate demanded a joint sitting and one vote for each member. As the first and second Estates did not concede to this TENNIS COURT OATH demand, there was a deadlock. On 17th June 1789, the third Estate declared itself as the National Assembly. The king got alarmed and prevented them from entering the hall. But, the members of the National Assembly went to a nearby Tennis Court and took an oath to frame a new constitution. This is known as Tennis Court Oath.
On 23rd June 1789, a special session of States General was held. The king declared the acts of the Third Estate as illegal. He also ordered that the three Estates should meet separately. But the third Estate refused to accept the king's orders. Hence, Louis XVI submitted to the will of the third Estate, which represented the common people. He ordered the three Estates to sit together. Thus the formation of National Assembly was completed.
Although the king recognised the National Assembly, he decided to suppress it. A large number of soldiers were brought to Versailles and Paris. Necker, the popular minister was also dismissed. On hearing this, the mob of Paris became violent. They attacked the State prison called the Bastille, murdered the guards and freed the prisoners. The fall of the Bastille was regarded in France as a triumph of liberty. After the fall of the Bastill the peasants rose against the nobles. Riots began against the aristocrats all over France. Nobles were attacked and their castles stormed. They also destroyed the records of their feudal services. The nobles voluntarily surrendered their feudal rights and the privileges on 4th August 1789. Feudalism and serfdom were abolished. The principle of equality was established. Class distinctions were abolished. There was a shortage for bread in Paris. On 5th October, a large number of women went to the King's palace at Versailles to make a petition. They were not satisfied with the reply of the queen and hence they brought with them the king, the queen and their son to Paris.