At its inception in 1789, the National Assembly consisted of representatives of the Third Estate, the common people of France, though it eventually incorporated representatives from all three estates. The Third Estate included 98 percent of French citizens, from rich capitalists to poor farmers.Continue Reading
In 1789, the king of France convened a meeting of the Estates-General to deal with France's debt crisis. This meeting included members of the representatives of the First Estate, which consisted of the clergy; the Second Estate, which included the nobility; and the Third Estate. Each estate got one vote. Because the Third Estate represented the vast majority of the population, its representatives asked for a larger say in the government of the country.
When the king and the other two estates spurned these requests, the representatives of the Third Estate separated from the Estates-General, forming the National Assembly on June 17, 1789. This new legislative body began to deal with the debt crisis on its own, consolidating debts and declaring the current tax regime illegal yet extending those taxes as long as the National Assembly stayed in session. They also dealt with the desires of the common people by setting up a system of food distribution to deal with shortages.
Within a week, a majority of the First Estate had joined the National Assembly along with 47 liberal members of the Second Estate. On June 27, King Louis XVI incorporated all members of the Estates-General into the National Assembly.Learn more about French Revolution