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Describe your thoughts on the Social Contract theory as represented within The Declaration of Rights of Man and of the Citizen of 1789-91. How does the social contract theory interact with the Natural Law and Divine Command theories in the authorship as well as the implementation of this Constitution? In comparison to U.S. Declaration of Independence of 1776 which is a ?more sound? formation of the social contract theory for the individual, citizen, clergy, civil servants, etc.? Explain.FRENCH REVOLUTION-


1.To understand the problems faced by the National Assembly (1789-91) and the Legislative Assembly (1791-92).
2.To study the various achievements of the National and Legislative Assemblies.


When Louis XVI could not solve the problem of financial crisis he abolished all the parlements in a general restructuring of the judiciary. Public response to the actions of the king was strong and even violent. People began to ignore royal edicts and assault royal officials. Pamphlets denouncing despotism began to flood the country. At the same time, people began to demand for an immediate meeting of the Estates-General to deal with the crisis. The Estates-General was a consultative assembly composed of representatives from the three French estates, or legally defined social classes: clergy, nobility, and commoners. It had last been convened in 1614. Under increasing political pressure and faced with the total collapse of its finances Louis XVI reluctantly agreed to convene the Estates General. The king hoped that the Estates General might pull the state out of the deplorable situation and that it might help in replenishing the empty treasury. Within a short period the Estates General was converted into the National Assembly, which also came to be known as the Constituent Assembly.

1.2.Cahiers: During the early months of 1789, the three estates prepared for the coming meeting by selecting deputies and drawing up cahiers des dol?ances (lists of grievances). These lists reflected overwhelming agreement in favor of limiting the power of the king and his administrators through a constitution and establishing a permanent legislative assembly. The cahiers also suggested improvements in prison and hospital conditions and for reforms in economic, religious and political matters.

1.3.Composition of the Estates General: The Estates General met at Versailles on 5th May 1789. It consisted of 285 nobles, 308, clergy and 621 representatives of the third estate elected by all men of 25 years and above whose names appeared in the tax registry. Previously, each of the three estates had an equal number of delegates and each estate used to meet separately. It was a three chambered body with two of the chambers consisting entirely of the privileged classes. Each estate had one vote for deciding any issue. In this way the privileged classes used to combine to outvote the third estate, which constituted more than 90 percent of the population.

1.4.Setting up of the National (Constituent) Assembly: Being aware of its strength, the third Estate demanded that each deputy should cast one vote in a single chamber composed of all three estates. This method would give each estate a number of votes that more accurately represented its population and would make it more difficult for the first two estates to routinely outvote the third estate. However, the clergy and nobility were opposed to this demand of the third Estate. The deadlock continued. Five wasted weeks later, the third estate finally took the initiative by inviting the clergy and nobility to join them in a single-chambered legislature where the voting would be by head. Some individual members of the other estates joined the third Estate and on 17th June 1789, they together proclaimed themselves to be the National Assembly (also later called the Constituent Assembly).

1.5.The Tennis Court Oath: When the members of the newly formed National Assembly went to their usual meeting place on 20th June 1789, they found the entrance of the hall was blocked by soldiers. As the members of the National Assembly felt that their initiative was about to be crushed they regrouped at a nearby indoor tennis court on 20th June 1789 and swore not to disband until France had a constitution. This pledge became known as the Tennis Court Oath?.

1.6.Recognition of the National Assembly by the King: On 23rd June 1789, Louis XVI proposed major changes in the financial system. He also agreed to seek the consent of the deputies for all new loans and taxes, and proposed other important reforms. However, he still refused to recognize the transformation of the Estates-General into the National Assembly and insisted upon voting by estate. Moreover, he tried to intimidate the deputies by surrounding the meeting hall with a large number of soldiers. Faced with strong resistance by the third Estate and increasing willingness of deputies from the clergy and nobility to join the third estate in the National Assembly, the king had no other option but to agree to a vote by head on 27th June 1789.

1.7.Attempt to Suppress the National Assembly: A second attempt was made by the king to suppress the National Assembly. Additional troops were brought into Paris and Versailles. On 11th July 1789, Necker, who had been brought back as the finance minister and who was in favour of reforms was not only dismissed but also was ordered to leave the country. These actions of Louis XVI were considered by the people as the clear signs that the king sought to undo the events of the previous weeks.

1.8.Storming of the Bastille: Dismissal of Necker, the most popular minister roused the people of Paris. The people in general feared that the king was determined to use force to suppress the National Assembly. Under these circumstances crowds began to roam Paris looking for arms to fight off a royal attack. On 14th July 1789 these crowds attacked the Bastille, a large fortress on the eastern edge of the city. They believed that it contained munitions and many prisoners of despotism, but in fact, the fortress had only seven prisoners at that time. The storming of the Bastille, the symbol of royal autocracy marked the beginning of the French Revolution of 1789. Faced with this insurrection, the monarchy backed down. The troops were withdrawn, and Necker was recalled.

1.9.Municipal Government in Paris: Following the fall of Bastille, the people of Paris spontaneously formed a Municipal Government superseding the old royal form of government. They also organized a new military force called the National Guard. In the country side the peasants revolted, plundered the

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