Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Tennis Court Oath

‘…The hall of the Commons was fixed upon for the purposes of the Royal Sitting, as the largest of the three which were occupied by the three estates, and workmen were employed in making the necessary arrangements and alterations. These alterations were imprudently commenced [June 20] before holding any communication on the subject with the National Assembly; and it was simply notified to their president, Bailli, by the master of the royal ceremonies, that the King had suspended the meeting of the Assembly until the Royal Silting should have taken place. Bailli, the president, well known afterwards by his tragical fate, refused to attend to an order so intimated, and the members of Assembly, upon resorting to their ordinary place of meeting, found it full of workmen, and guarded by soldiers. This led to one of the most extraordinary scenes of the revolution.

The representatives of the nation, thus expelled by armed guards from their proper place of assemblage, found refuge in a common Tennis-court, while a thunder-storm, emblem of the moral tempest which raged upon the earth, poured down its terrors from the heavens. It was thus that, exposed to the inclemency of the weather, and with the wretched  accommodations which such a place afforded, the members of Assembly took, and attested by their respective signatures, a solemn oath, " to continue their sittings until the constitution of the kingdom, and the regeneration of the public order, should be established on a solid basis."* The scene was of a kind to make the deepest impression both on the actors and the spectators; although, looking back at the distance of so many years, we are tempted to ask, at what period the National Assembly would have been dissolved, had they adhered literally to their celebrated oath…’

The Tennis Court Oath was signed by 576 of the French Third Estate on June 20, 1789.  Coverage above comes from Sir Walter Scott’s “The Life of Napoleon”.

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