Q:

Why did Louis XVI call the States General in 1789?

A:

Louis the XVI called the Estates General meeting in 1789 to address issues of taxation. The meeting brought together representatives from France's three Estates, which were comprised of Catholic clergy, nobility and the general population. The Third Estate, the general population, was 97 percent of France's population, and its representatives wanted to address the Third Estate's comparative lack of representation at the Estates General meeting.

Prior to the meeting, only members of the Third Estate paid taxes. However, Louis the XVI thought that all of the people in France should pay taxes to get the country out of financial crisis. The clergy in the First Estate and the nobility in the Second Estate already took care of the country's land and schools, and they felt that their contributions were significant enough that they should not have to pay taxes.

The members of the Third Estate were tired of not having fair representation, so they attempted to set up a secret meeting with representatives from the other Estates. When the King heard about the plans for the secret meeting, he canceled the Estates General meeting. As a result, three representatives met in one of the castle's tennis courts, and they decided to write the French constitution.


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