Meeting of the Estates General | French Revolution Review
Before the Revolution, France was governed by an absolute monarch and the Estates General, which had been formed to represent the common people. It was composed of the clergy (First Estate), the nobles (Second Estate), and everyone else (Third Estate). A series of powerful monarchs ended up marginalizing the Estates General, which diminished the voice of the common people. Meanwhile, tensions grew within the Estates General, as the Third Estate’s population did not match its voting representation. The middle class and peasants were angered by the tax structure; the First and Second Estates were not forced to pay taxes, leaving the depressed French economy to fall upon the Third Estate.
Before the revolution, France was governed by an absolute monarch, and, for matters of taxation, the Estates General. An absolute monarch had most of the power. This was a monarch, or ruler, that people believed had a divine right to rule. He/she was chosen by God to rule. That ruler believed that and the people (for the most part) believed that and supported them. The absolute monarch had most of the power, but for matters of taxation, anything with regard to taxation, the Estates General was supposed to be in charge of that.
Technically, France was governed by an absolute monarch and the Estates General. The Estates General had been formed in order to represent the common people. This is supposed to be a group that would represent the common people, people that weren’t the ruler. The ruler wanted to make sure, the monarch wanted to make sure that the common people were heard whenever the Estates General was formed. The Estates General was composed of three estates: The clergy (your church officials).
At this time the church was very powerful in regard to its role in politics. The noblemen (The nobles). They form the second estate. Everyone else (who formed the third estate). Your church officials, high-ranking church staff, those were going to be your first estate. Nobles, land holders, they’re going to be your second estate. Then, everyone else. Your middle class, some of the merchant class, your peasants, those were all the third estate. Those were the people kind of at the bottom of the totem pole.
They were all three supposed to have an equal voice in the Estates General, whom the ruler the monarch was supposed to listen to. Unfortunately, the estates general had been marginalized by a series of powerful monarchs. There were a series of powerful monarchs. They made the Estates General less powerful, less important. Their voice wasn’t heard as much, which meant that the common people’s voice wasn’t heard as much.
There was also some tension within the Estates General, among those three estates. It was also still arranged such that the largest group by far, which was the third estate, your group of everyone else, middle class citizens, peasants, some of your merchant class, this large group, the biggest by far, only had one third of the vote. Even though it is making more much more than one third of the people in the Estates General, it was only being counted as one third of the vote.
This group usually found its desires opposed by the other states. If the nobles and the clergy both said, “We don’t think so. We disagree,” then the third estate of the middle class of peasants were going to be overruled. Two thirds beats one third. Things weren’t working out very well for the third estate. There was some tension within the Estates General. Besides the fact that the whole Estates General as the body had been marginalized, it was no longer in a position of very much power at all.
Another source of anger for the middle class and peasants, those of the third estate was the tax structure. If it wasn’t enough that in this marginalized group (the third estate was the marginalized estate), the middle class and the peasants were also unhappy with the tax structure. The clergy and the nobles, those who formed the first and second estates, were not forced to pay taxes, only everyone in that third estate was required to pay taxes.
The burden of France’s depressed economy fell upon the third estate. In this time preceding the French Revolution, you have the Estates General at odds with the ruler with the monarch of France. The Estates General doesn’t have very much power at all. Within the Estates General, you’ve got three groups that are at odds with each other.
Primarily, the third estate being against the first and second, both because they aren’t having as much of a voice within the Estates General, and they are having to pay taxes that the nobles and clergy aren’t required to pay. There was a lot of unrest within the groups in France. This can give you an idea of where the Estates General was at at the dawn of the French Revolution.