The clergy and the nobles had dominated the Estates-General throughout the Middle Ages and expected to do so in the 1789 meeting. Under the assembly’s medieval rules, each estate’s delegates met in a separate hall to vote, and each estate had one vote. The two privileged estates could always outvote the Third Estate.
TheNationalAssembly TheThirdEstatedelegates,mostlymembersofthebour- geoisie whose views had been shaped by the Enlightenment, were eager to make changes in the government. They insisted that all three estates meet together and that each delegate have a vote. This would give the advantage to the Third Estate, which had as many delegates as the other two estates combined
Siding with the nobles, the king ordered the Estates-General to follow the medieval rules. The delegates of the Third Estate, however, became more and more determined to wield power. A leading spokesperson for their viewpoint was a clergyman sympa- thetic to their cause, Emmanuel-Joseph Sieyès (syay•YEHS). In a dramatic speech, Sieyès suggested that the Third Estate delegates name themselves the National Assembly and pass laws and reforms in the name of the French people.
After a long night of excited debate, the delegates of the Third Estate agreed to Sieyès’s idea by an overwhelming majority. On June 17, 1789, they voted to estab- lish the National Assembly, in effect proclaiming the end of absolute monarchy and the beginning of representative government. This vote was the first deliberate act of revolution.