Royal Decree Convoking the Estates–General and the Parlementary Response (1788)
By the fall of 1788, parlementary opposition to royal reforms had brought about a stalemate, with the Parlements refusing all reforms to the tax system. To gain the Parlement of Paris’s acceptance of new loans to keep the monarchy from going bankrupt, the new finance minister (Louis XVI’s fifth), Étienne–Charles Loménie de Brienne, decided to convoke an Estates–General for the first time since 1614. In his memoirs, he claims that he sought to keep conservative nobles from dominating the Estates–General and obstructing reforms by giving the Third Estate twice as many deputies as the other orders and by allowing all deputies’ votes to count equally. In this way, he hoped to build a working majority in favor of reform in the Estates–General. This decision was announced by a royal decree of 25 September 1788. The Parlement of Paris accepted this decree. However, it committed what became a major tactical error by demanding that the Estates–General follow the "forms of 1614," meaning that each order should have the same number of representatives rather than allow a "doubling of the Third" and that each estate should vote independently. When this resolution was published, it set off an outpouring of pamphlets and newspapers opposing the Parlements and calling for the Estates–General to vote "by head" rather than "by order."
The court, maintaining the principles of the resolutions of last May 3 and 5, commands that the said decree [on the organization of the Estates General] be registered on the court rolls and implemented, according to its form and tenor, but with the following requirements: It may not be argued, based on the preamble or any articles of the said declaration, that the court must be restored to resume functions which violence alone has suspended. The court cannot be restricted by the silence imposed on the King’s procureur-général regarding issues connected to the execution of the Ordinances, Edicts, and Declarations of last May 8, and from giving consideration to matters which the court was obliged to take up. . . . Finally, the parlement, in conformity with its resolution of 3 May 1788, maintains its insistence that the Estates General, arranged for next January, be convoked regularly and composed according to the forms utilized in 1614.
J. Mavidal and E. Laurent, eds., Archives parlementaires, 1st ser., 82 vols. (Paris, 1862Ð96), 1:389.