In 1789 he was elected by the third estate of the senechaussee of Annonay as deputy to the states-general.
After studying law in Tuscany, he became an avocat at the upper council of Bastia, and was elected deputy of the Third Estate to the French states-general in 1789.
The noblesse were divided on the matter of toleration, but the cahiers (lists of grievances and suggestions for reform) submitted by the Third Estate demanded, besides regular meetings of the estates every five years, complete toleration and a reform of the Church.
Elected deputy from Paris to the states-general, he was chosen president of the Third Estate (May 5, 1789), led the famous proceedings in the Tennis Court (June 20), and acted as mayor of Paris (July 15, 1789, to November 16, 1791).
In 1788 he published Deputation aux Etats generaux, a pamphlet remarkable for its bold exposition of liberal principles, and partly on the strength of this he was elected deputy to the states-general by the Third Estate of the bailliage of Metz.