Second Assembly of Notables

Created: 5 October 1789

A Second Assembly of Notables was called to advise the king on procedure for the composition and election of deputies to the Estates General announced for 1789. It concluded in early December 1788 with the recommendation that this body should honour the precedent set when it last met back in 1614. This advice did not chime with a public mood that was increasingly in favour of increasing the voice of the Third Estate and removing the controls previously given to the first two Estates (i.e. to the clergy and the nobility). First, Louis XVI was forced to agree to the idea of 'doubling the Third', which meant that the number of Third Estate deputies would equal those of the other two Estates combined. There was also a second, related campaign to remove 'voting by Order' (where deputies would only vote for a group position within their particular Estate) during the proceedings of the Estates General: otherwise the two separate decisions of the first two Estates would again automatically outvote any decision voted through by the Third Estate. In the event, the Third Estate deputies at the Estates-General immediately initiated a stand-off over this question. The king was eventually forced to agree to the idea of a single, National Assembly in which there could be no procedural separation between deputies of different Estates.

Appears in these Letters:


13 December: Pre-Revolutionary Political Tensions

This extract covers the first two paragraphs of the first surviving Letter from the duchess's notebook series. We are in the period known as the...