I. An assembly of the nation which existed in France previous to the revolution, and consisted of the representatives of the clergy, the nobility, and the third estate (tiers Stat). Before the reign of Philip the Fair, the people or unprivileged class had no voice in the general administration of the kingdom; but that monarch, being involved in his great struggle with the papacy, and desirous to have the whole nation on his side, determined to convene an assembly in which, in addition to the clergy and nobility, the principal inhabitants of the towns, or bourgeoisie, forming a third estate, should be represented. The mass of the people, however, never had a voice in these assemblies. The three orders forming the states general met in Paris in 1302, and by their support induced the king to reassemble them in 1303 and again in 1308, when they voted for the condemnation of the knights templars. The example of Philip was imitated by his successors. During the wars with Edward III. of England the states general acted with such authority in the affairs of the revenueas to make the court dependent on their decisions. The disasters which befell the nobility at Crecy and Poitiers enabled the third estate to play an unusual part at this time.
The people of Paris acquired an undue influence, while the provinces were imperfectly represented. In 1357 an ordinance of the dauphin Charles left the raising and disposition of the revenues to the states general, and declared the members inviolable. During the next 80 years they met frequently; but in 1439, by voting a fixed sum for the support of a standing army, they removed one of the principal reasons for their convocation. Henceforward they met at long intervals. A resolution to meet biennially, passed on the accession of Charles VIII. and approved by the court, remained without effect; and finally the kings came to feel that they could rule without the nation. The last meeting before the revolution, that of 1614 - '15, was marked by disputes between the orders, in which the third estate was humiliated. In all, the body had assembled about 35 times in three centuries. In place of the states general the kings at times convened an assembly of the notables, or prominent men of all ranks, who, being nominated by the sovereign or the privy council, more readily complied with the royal demands.
The-notables assembled in 1626 for the last time previous to the reign of Louis XVI., when they were again convoked in 1787 and 1788. These assemblies having shown their inefficiency, the disorders of the kingdom induced Louis XVi to revive the states general; and on May 5, 1789, their sessions were opened at Versailles. Under the old kings the states general were the only assembly in France which may be said in a measure to have formed a national legislature. Their sessions, however, were very brief, occasionally lasting only a few days, and they were generally called together to vote subsidies or deliberate on the measures of the court, not to devise laws for the state, though they were expected to present their lists of grievances (cahiers de doleance) to the sovereign. The assembly voted by orders, which made it easy for the clergy and nobles to thwart the measures of the third estate. Against this division the third estate rose in 1789. They insisted on a vote by members, and carried through their demand by constituting themselves the national assembly. (See Constitutional Convention, and France, vol. vii., p. 385.) - Several of the provinces not originally included in the French crown, as Brittany, Burgundy, Navarre, Languedoc, and others, possessed special assemblies called etats provinciaux, to whose approval the demands of the sovereign were submitted.
The third estate early obtained a place in these bodies, and in the states of Languedoc they had a vote equal to that of the other orders combined. These assemblies gradually lost their importance, and disappeared with the revolution.
The National Assembly Of The Dutch Republic, consisting of the deputies of the provinces, who were chosen by the provincial assemblies or states. The deputies of each province had one collective vote. The term continues to be the official designation of the Dutch legislature.