The Tennis Court Oath was a pledge that was signed in the early days of the French Revolution and was an important revolutionary act that displayed the belief that political authority came from the nation’s people and not from the monarchy.
Tennis Court Oath – Why the Peculiar Name?
The pledge thanks its name to the place where it was signed. On June 20, 1789, the Third Estate, representing the commoners in the Estates General, found themselves locked out of their regular meeting place and saw it as a ploy from the King to disband them. The 576 members moved their meeting to a tennis court in Saint-Louis, Versailles and signed an oath that they would not stop meeting up until they have written a new constitution for France. As the Third Estate didn’t have the right to act as a National Assembly, this pledge is seen as a revolutionary act.
According to history.com:
The Third Estate, which had the most representatives, declared itself the National Assembly and took an oath to force a new constitution on the king. Initially seeming to yield, Louis legalized the National Assembly under the Third Estate but then surrounded Versailles with troops and dismissed Jacques Necker, a popular minister of state who had supported reforms. In response, Parisians mobilized and on July 14 stormed the Bastille—a state prison where they believed ammunition was stored—and the French Revolution began. This was the effect that the Tennis Court Oath had.
How Did The King Respond?
It was reported by alphahistory.com that:
On June 22nd, two days after the Tennis Court Oath, the deputies of the Third Estate met at a Versailles church, along with 150 clergymen and two nobles. The king appeared and instructed those present to rejoin their Estates to continue their deliberations separately – but the leaders of the Third Estate refused. When the séance royale opened the following day, Louis began by unveiling his reforms. The king promised a degree of representative government, with regular sessions of the Estates-General. The taxation system would be overhauled in consultation with the Estates-General, the legal system would be improved and lettres de cachet abolished.
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