Tennis Court Oath France, Versailles

Tennis Court Oath

On June 20th, 1789, the members of the French Estates-General for the Third Estate, who had begun to call themselves the National Assembly, took the Tennis Court Oath, vowing "not to separate, and to reassemble wherever circumstances require, until the constitution of the kingdom is established." It was a pivotal event in the early days of the French Revolution.

The Estates-General had been called to address the country's fiscal and agricultural crisis, but immediately after convening in May 1789, they had become bogged down in issues of representation—particularly, whether they would vote by head (which would increase the power of the Third Estate) or by order.

On 17 June, the Third Estate, led by the comte de Mirabeau, began to call themselves the National Assembly. On the morning of 20 June, the deputies were shocked to discover that the chamber door was locked and guarded by soldiers. Immediately fearing the worst and anxious that a royal attack by King Louis XVI was imminent, the deputies congregated in a nearby indoor Jeu de paume court in the Saint-Louis district of the city of Versailles, near the Palace of Versailles.

There, 576 of the 577 members from the Third Estate took a collective oath "not to separate, and to reassemble wherever circumstances require, until the constitution of the kingdom is established". The only person who did not join was Joseph Martin-Dauch from Castelnaudary, who would only execute decisions made by the king.

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