Tennis Court Oath

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Drawing by Jacques-Louis David of the Tennis Court Oath. David later became a deputy in the National Convention in 1793. Le Serment du Jeu de paume.jpg
Drawing by Jacques-Louis David of the Tennis Court Oath. David later became a deputy in the National Convention in 1793.

On 20 June 1789, the members of the French Third Estate, who had begun to call themselves the National Assembly, took the Tennis Court Oath (French : Serment du Jeu de Paume ), vowing "not to separate, and to reassemble wherever circumstances require, until the constitution of the kingdom is established". It was a pivotal event in the French Revolution.

Estates General (France) unelected tricameral parliament in the Kingdom of France from 1302 to 1789

In France under the Old Regime, the Estates General or States-General was a legislative and consultative assembly of the different classes of French subjects. It had a separate assembly for each of the three estates, which were called and dismissed by the king. It had no true power in its own right—unlike the English parliament it was not required to approve royal taxation or legislation—instead it functioned as an advisory body to the king, primarily by presenting petitions from the various estates and consulting on fiscal policy. The Estates General met intermittently until 1614 and only once afterwards, in 1789, but was not definitively dissolved until after the French Revolution.

National Assembly (French Revolution) assembly during the French Revolution

During the French Revolution, the National Assembly, which existed from 14 June 1789 to 9 July 1789, was a revolutionary assembly formed by the representatives of the Third Estate of the Estates-General; thereafter it was known as the National Constituent Assembly, though popularly the shorter form persisted.

French language Romance language

French is a Romance language of the Indo-European family. It descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire, as did all Romance languages. French evolved from Gallo-Romance, the spoken Latin in Gaul, and more specifically in Northern Gaul. Its closest relatives are the other langues d'oïl—languages historically spoken in northern France and in southern Belgium, which French (Francien) has largely supplanted. French was also influenced by native Celtic languages of Northern Roman Gaul like Gallia Belgica and by the (Germanic) Frankish language of the post-Roman Frankish invaders. Today, owing to France's past overseas expansion, there are numerous French-based creole languages, most notably Haitian Creole. A French-speaking person or nation may be referred to as Francophone in both English and French.

Contents

The Estates-General had been called to address the country's fiscal and agricultural crisis, but immediately after convening in May 1789, they had become bogged down in issues of representation—particularly, whether they would vote by head (which would increase the power of the Third Estate, as they outnumbered the other two estates hugely) or by order.

The causes of the French Revolution can be attributed to several intertwining factors:

On 17 June, the Third Estate, led by the Honoré Gabriel Riqueti, Comte de Mirabeau, began to call themselves the National Assembly. [1] On the morning of 20 June, the deputies were shocked to discover that the chamber door was locked and guarded by soldiers. Immediately fearing the worst and anxious that a royal attack by King Louis XVI was imminent, the deputies congregated in a nearby indoor jeu de paume court  [ fr ] in the Saint-Louis district  [ fr ] of the city of Versailles, near the Palace of Versailles.

Palace of Versailles French palace on the outskirts of Paris

The Palace of Versailles was the principal royal residence of France from 1682, under Louis XIV, until the start of the French Revolution in 1789, under Louis XVI. It is located in the department of Yvelines, in the region of Île-de-France, about 20 kilometres southwest of the centre of Paris.

There, 576 of the 577 members from the Third Estate took a collective oath "not to separate, and to reassemble wherever circumstances require, until the constitution of the kingdom is established". [2] The only person who did not join was Joseph Martin-Dauch from Castelnaudary, who would only execute decisions that were made by the king. [3]

Oath personal affirmation of a statement

Traditionally an oath is either a statement of fact or a promise with wording relating to something considered sacred as a sign of verity. A common legal substitute for those who conscientiously object to making sacred oaths is to give an affirmation instead. Nowadays, even when there is no notion of sanctity involved, certain promises said out loud in ceremonial or juridical purpose are referred to as oaths. "To swear" is a verb used to describe the taking of an oath, to making a solemn vow.

Joseph Martin-Dauch French politician

Joseph Martin-Dauch, was a French politician who represented Castelnaudary as a member of the Third Estate in the Estates-General of 1789. He is remembered as the only member not to vote in favor of the Tennis Court Oath on the grounds that he could not faithfully execute any decisions that were not sanctioned by the king.

Castelnaudary Commune in Occitanie, France

Castelnaudary is a commune in the Aude department in the Occitanie region in south France. It is in the former province of the Lauragais and famous for cassoulet of which it claims to be the world capital, and of which it is a major producer.

Background

Before the Revolution, French society—aside from royalty—was divided into three estates. The First Estate comprised the clergy; the Second Estate was the nobility. The entire rest of France—some 98% of the population—was the Third Estate, which ranged from very wealthy city merchants to impoverished rural farmers. The three estates met from time to time in the Estates General, a legislative assembly. [4]

French nobility privileged social class in France during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period to the revolution in 1790

The French nobility was a privileged social class in France during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period to the revolution in 1790. The nobility was revived in 1805 with limited rights as a titled elite class from the First Empire to the fall of the July Monarchy in 1848, when all privileges were abolished for good. Hereditary titles, without privileges, continued to be granted until the Second Empire fell in 1870. They survive among their descendants as a social convention and as part of the legal name of the corresponding individuals.

Although the Third Estate was the overwhelming majority of the French population, the makeup of the Estates General was such that the Third Estate comprised a bare majority of the delegates.[ citation needed ] A simple majority was sufficient—as long as the delegates' votes were cast altogether. The First and Second Estates preferred to divide the vote in some way. A proposal might need to receive approval from each Estate, or there might be two "houses" of the Estates General (one for the first two Estates, and one for the Third), and a bill would need to be passed by both houses. Either way, the First and Second Estates could exercise veto power over proposals enjoying widespread support among the Third Estate, such as reforms that threatened the privileges of the nobility and clergy.

In France at that time, the deputies' fears, even if wrong, were reasonable and the importance of the oath goes above and beyond its context. [5]

The oath was both a revolutionary act and an assertion that political authority derived from the people and their representatives rather than from the monarch himself. Their solidarity forced Louis XVI to order the clergy and the nobility to join with the Third Estate in the National Assembly in order to give the illusion that he controlled the National Assembly. [1] This oath would prove vital to the Third Estate as a step of protest that would eventually lead to more power in the Estates General, and every governing body thereafter. [6]

The Oath signified for the first time that French citizens formally stood in opposition to Louis XVI, and the National Assembly's refusal to back down forced the king to make concessions. It was foreshadowed by and drew considerably from, the 1776 United States Declaration of Independence, especially the preamble. The Oath also inspired a wide variety of revolutionary activity in the months afterward, ranging from rioting across the French countryside to renewed calls for a written French constitution. Likewise, it reinforced the Assembly's strength and forced the King to formally request that voting occur based on head, not power.[ citation needed ] The Tennis Court Oath (June 1789) preceded the abolition of feudalism (4 August 1789) and the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen (26 August 1789).

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References

  1. 1 2 Doyle, William (1990). The Oxford History of the French Revolution. Oxford University Press. p. 105. ISBN   978-0192852212.
  2. Thompson, Marshall Putnam (1914). "The Fifth Musketeer: The Marquis de la Fayette". Proceedings of the Bunker Hill Monument Association at the annual meeting. p. 50. Retrieved 10 February 2011.
  3. Hanson, Paul R. (2004). Historical Dictionary of the French Revolution. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press. ISBN   9780810850521.
  4. Estates-General in Encyclopædia Britannica
  5. Osen, James L. (1995). Royalist Political Thought during the French Revolution. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN   9780313294419.
  6. John D Ruddy (12 January 2015), French Revolution in 9 Minutes , retrieved 29 February 2016

Coordinates: 48°48′04″N2°07′26″E / 48.8010°N 2.1239°E / 48.8010; 2.1239