French Revolution

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On the morning of 14 July 1789, the city of Paris was in a state of alarm. The king had commanded troops to move into the city. Rumours spread that he would soon order the army to open fire upon the citizens. Some 7,000 men and women gathered in front of the town hall and decided to form a peoples’ militia. They broke into a number of government buildings in search of arms. Finally, a group of several hundred people marched towards the eastern part of the city and stormed the fortress-prison, the Bastille, where they hoped to find hoarded ammunition. In the armed fight that followed, the commander of the Bastille was killed and the prisoners released. The fortress was demolished and its stone fragments were sold in the markets. Various social, political and economic conditions led to the French revolution. These conditions included dissatisfaction among the lower and middle classes, interest in new ideas about government, and financial problems caused by the costs of wars. Legal divisions among social groups that had existed for hundreds of years created much discontent. According to law, French society consisted of three groups called estates. Members of the clergy made the first estate, nobles the second, and the rest of the people, i.e. the peasants, the third. The Estates-General opened on May 5, 1789, at Versailles, near Paris. Most members of the first two estates wanted each of the three estates to take up matters and vote on them separately by estate. The third estate had as many representatives as the other two estates combined. It insisted that all the states be emerged into one national assembly and that each representative have one vote. The third estate also wanted the Estates-General to write a constitution. The King and the first two estates refused the demands of the third estate. In June 1789, the representatives of the third estate declared themselves the National Assembly of France. They gathered at a tennis court...
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