Why did the meeting of the Estates-General in 1789 fail to solve the situation in France?  

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rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The simplest answer to this question is that by the summer of 1789, when Louis XVI summoned the Estates-General, the fiscal crisis that beset France in the late eighteenth century was probably too far gone to be salvaged. Indeed, in this climate, the meeting of this body (which was almost never convened) really made things worse and proved to be the seminal event in the outbreak of the Revolution. This was because the representatives of the First and Second Estates (the clergy and the nobility, respectively) insisted on sitting separately from the Third Estate (the bourgeoisie and commoners). In this way they could block any reforms to the privileges, especially exemption from taxation, that the Third Estate might try to implement. In fact, the King had hoped that the Estates-General would agree to some reforms--this is why he called for the assembly in the first place. When the Third Estate called for the Estate-General to sit as one body, which would have given them more voting power, they were locked out of the proceedings. At this point, they moved to an indoor tennis court at Versailles, renamed themselves the National Assembly, and pledged to develop a new constitution for the country. At this point, Parisian crowds rioted, seizing the Bastille, and riots flared up across the French countryside. These events forced the first two estates (as well as the king) to accept the legitimacy of the National Assembly. From there, the Revolution spiraled beyond the King's ability to control it. So the Estates-General not only failed to solve the problem, it actually exacerbated it from the King's standpoint.

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