In an archaic law passed in 1614, non-aristocratic members (known as the Third Estate) could be vetoed by other two bodies of the population. However, by the late 18th century, the Third Estate comprised of well over 98 percent of the country’s population and they no longer wanted the nobles to have a veto power. The Third Estate wanted to abolish voting by status and introduce voting by head. This is key because while the revolution initially saw a common goal from the aristocrats and commoners alike in introducing judicial and fiscal reforms, the former group did not want to give up privileges that they received under the traditional division of society.
The situation only grew grim over time and during a public debate on the voting process, the three orders entered into hostility. Soon after, the Third Estate renamed themselves to the National Assembly meeting on a tennis court nearby and taking an oath or sermon that is today famously called, “The Tennis Court Oath”. In another week, the liberal nobles and clerical deputies had all joined the National Assembly and then finally on June 27th, the King finally bowed to the pressures and inculcated all the three orders in a new assembly.
Revolution Out On the Streets
It was June 12th, during a National Assembly meeting, enthusiasm over the recent drop in royal power was slowly replaced with fear and panic over rumours of military coup becoming a reality. Then on July 14th, rioters managed to storm the Bastille trying to seize weapons and gunpowder – which is commemorated today as France’s Bastille Day – the start of the French Revolution.
This fervour of revolution soon began sweeping across the countryside and revolts became commonplace all over the country. Peasants who were for ages oppressed soon ransacked and burned homes of landlords, seigniorial elite and tax collectors. This in turn forced the nobles to hastily exit the country, which is now known as the Great Fear. Finally, on August 4th 1789, Feudalism was abolished, which also marked the end of the old order according to many historians.