The French Revolution and Napoleon: A Sourcebook

By Philip G. Dwyer; Peter McPhee | Go to book overview

2

REVOLUTIONARY ACTION

The Tennis Court Oath, 20 June 1789

The immediate issue at Versailles was that of voting procedures: should the Estates-General meet in three separate chambers or in a common assembly? The Third Estate deputies refused to vote separately, but the nobility were clearly in favour of this, as, very narrowly, were the clergy. The resolve of the bourgeois deputies was strengthened by defections from the privileged orders, particularly by parish priests. On 17 May the deputies of the Third Estate declared that 'the interpretation and presentation of the general will belong to it…. The name National Assembly is the only one which is suitable'. Three days later, finding themselves locked out of their meeting hall (apparently by accident), the deputies moved to a nearby indoor royal tennis court and, under the presidency of the astronomer Jean-Sylvain Bailly, insisted by oath on their 'unshakeable resolution' to continue to act as the national representation. Only one deputy voted against the motion.

M. Mounier presents an opinion that is supported by MM. Target, Chapelier and Barnave; he points out how strange it is that the hall of the Estates-General is occupied by armed men; that other premises have not been offered to the National Assembly; that its president was only informed by letters from the Marquis de Brezé, and the national representatives by notices; that they have finally been obliged to meet at the Jeu de Paume, rue de Vieux-Versailles, so as not to interrupt their work; that, their rights and their dignity wounded, aware of the great intensity of the intrigue and of the relentlessness of the efforts to push the king to take disastrous measures, the representatives of the nation must bind themselves to the public good and the interests of the nation though a solemn oath.

This proposition is approved through universal applause.

The Assembly immediately decides the following:

-16-

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The French Revolution and Napoleon: A Sourcebook
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations xi
  • Preface xiii
  • A Note on the Revolutionary Calendar xv
  • Chronology xvi
  • 1 - The Ancien RÉgime Challenged 1
  • 2 - Revolutionary Action 16
  • 3 - Creating a Regenerated France 24
  • 4 - Exclusions and Inclusions 35
  • 5 - The Church and the Revolutionary State 43
  • 6 - Monarchy and Revolution 51
  • 7 - The Revolution at War 60
  • 8 - The End of the Monarchy 68
  • 9 - The Peasantry and the Rural Environment 80
  • 10 - A New Civic Culture 84
  • 11 - The Republic at War 90
  • 12 - Revolt in the VendÉe 97
  • 13 - The Terror at Work 103
  • 14 - The Thermidorian Reaction 115
  • 15 - The Directory 121
  • 16 - Bonaparte 128
  • 17 - Law and Order 140
  • 18 - Rule by Plebiscite 149
  • 19 - Governing the Empire 155
  • 20 - Resistance and Repression 169
  • 21 - The Russian Catastrophe 175
  • 22 - Collapse 187
  • 23 - The Hundred Days 193
  • 24 - French Men and Women Reflect 202
  • Index 209
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