The revolution
author Stoica Gilda, May 2016
Reforms of the Constituent Assembly, the declaration of the rights of man and of the citizen, conflict between the king and the National Assembly, secularization of church wealth, the Jacobin and the Cordeliers Club, the 1791 Constitution, Champ de Mars.
With the passing of the August Decrees, the French feudal system was swept away. A new, egalitarian society was inaugurated. These changes opened the way for the adoption of the much longed-for Constitution.

Before adopting the Constitution, the deputies adopted the Declaration of the rights of man and of the citizen. This document guaranteed rights and freedom for all French citizens without discrimination. These principles would underpin the new fundamental law.

The king did not share the general enthusiasm for the changes which were happening. He wrote to the archbishop of Arles that he would never agree to the spoiling of the clergy and noblemen, and that he would not ratify the decrees through which they were robbed of their privileges. He could not use force against the Assembly, because he could no longer depend on the army. So, he adopted a policy of non-cooperation, refusing to approve the August Decrees and the Declaration of the rights of man.

The deputies decided the following: legislative power would belong to the National Assembly; no taxes or loans could be collected without the approval of the National Assembly; and supreme executive power lay exclusively in the king’s hands, as an inviolable and sacred right.

The king’s new attitude of opposition to the National Assembly’s decisions forced them to address the issue of the king’s rights. The deputies decided that the king should have the right to a suspensive vote, and that laws voted by the Assembly could be delayed for up to four years.

The declaration of the rights of man and of the citizen condemned the practices of the Old Regime. At the same time, it expressed agreement with the requests of all the social classes, noted in the books of grievances.

The Declaration consisted of a preambul and 17 articles, which included dispositions concerning the rights of three categories of people: “rights of man” - French citizens, foreigners or enemies - articles 1-4, 7, 9 and 10; “rights of citizens” - French citizens - articles 6 and 14, which accentuate civil liberties, “rights of society” - of the French nation - articles 13, 15 and 16, which are constitutional components.

The Declaration also stipulated the following: Article 10 - no one should be sanctioned for his opinions or religious convictions, if by expressing these he does not disturb the public peace, so long as his beliefs conform to law; Article 11 - the free expression of ideas and opinions; Article 13 - general taxation necessary for maintaining armed forces and administrative costs must be shared equally by all citizens, in proportion to their income; Article 14 - citizens have the right, personally or through a representative, to ascertain the necessity of a public tax and to consent to it freely; Article 17 - the right to property is inviolable and sacred.

The Declaration would last longer than the Constitution it would be annexed to. This Declaration would also become a source of inspiration for liberals all over Europe.

The Declaration guaranteed the natural, inalienable and sacred rights of man. Article 1 maintained: men are born free and with equal rights. Article 2 stipulated the protection of the natural and inalienable rights of man: the right to freedom, to property, safety and resistance to oppression. Article 3 contained the principle of sovereignty. Article 4 stated that liberty is comprised of doing whatever does not harm others. Article 7 stipulated that no man can be accused, arrested or detained except in cases allowed by law.

Shortly after the beginning of the revolution, King Louis the 16th changed his mind concerning his support for the National Assembly and its decisions, since he had lost a large part of his power. The king’s change of heart was due to the cessation of divine right. Because of this, the king became answerable first to the people, in conformity with the principle of national sovereignty, then to the Assembly, and only after that, to God.

The king did not share the general enthusiasm for the changes happening. He refused to approve the decrees of the Assembly and the Declaration of the rights of man and of the citizen. He was eventually forced to approve them because of new revolutionary activity, alimented by the dissatisfaction of the women after the food shortage.

The request for the king’s return to the capital coincided with a food shortage in Paris. Due to this crisis, a crowd of women marched on the Hôtel de Ville, the Commune’s headquarters, asking for bread. They were persuaded to go to Versailles, to complain to the king and the Assembly.

The king was forced into a corner again after a banquet at which the royal guard celebrated the arrival in Versailles of the regiment from Flanders. During the banquet, anti-revolutionary demonstrations were carried out. Officers trampled underfoot the red, white and blue ribbon and replaced it with the white rosette of the Bourbons. News of this reached Paris, and spirits were inflamed. The king was requested to return to the capital.

Approximately 7,000 dissatisfied and furious women set off on the 5-hour trip to Versailles. 20,000 soldiers from the National Guard, led by General La Fayette, followed them. Arriving at the palace, they entered the hall in which the Assembly meeting was taking place. Thus they were able to send a delegation to the king, to negotiate with him for the solution to their dissatisfaction. Forced by circumstances, the king agreed to supply the capital with grain and to approve the August decrees and the Declaration of the rights of man.

At the request of the crowds, the king and queen appeared on a balcony and were met by shouts of “To Paris!” In the same afternoon, the royal family left Versailles for Tuileries.

When the deputies followed the king to Paris, some of them felt like prisoners, like the king. Most of them wanted to arrive at a compromise with the king. It was however difficult, since they were surrounded by a population which could impose its own will on the Assembly, causing a riot. The moderate deputies, who formed a majority, no longer trusted the Parisian population or the king.

After arriving in Paris, the king considered himself a prisoner of the Parisian crowds, and thus absolved from all he had been forced to agree to. When the Parisians rebelled, they counted the Assembly as an ally. Later, the Assembly was ignored and humiliated.

A myth claims that Marie-Antoinette, when she saw the crowds of Parisians in revolt under the windows of the Versailles palace, declared: “If they don’t have bread, let them eat cake!”

After October 1789, many French citizens thought that the revolution was over. During the next year, there was widespread consense between the different groups of the Assembly, who began completely reorganizing France.

Financial administration, laws, finance and the economy were reorganized by applying the principles of the Declaration of the rights of man. They tried to offer France a uniform, decentralized, representative and humanistic system.

The deputies considered themselves to be the descendents of the Enlightenment. As such, they intended to put an end to hostility, cruelty, superstition and poverty. There were very few who regretted the end of the old Regime - the deputies believed in a limited monarchy.

In this period, France underwent a fundamental change. New institutions and attitudes were born, which survive to this day.

By restructuring regional administration, the deputies wanted to ensure that power would be decentralized. Power was passed from the central government in Paris to the regional authorities. This reduced the possibility of the king regaining the power he had previously held.

The newly elected administrative councils had a huge volume of work, even more than the books of grievances had predicted. They set and collected direct taxes, maintained law and order, organized public maintenance works, supervised the upkeep of churches, checked the National Guard, supervised the swearing of the clergy’s oath of loyalty, recorded births, marriages and deaths, requisitioned grain and kept an eye on those suspected to be opposed to the revolution.

The southern councils were dominated by the bourgeoisie. In the northern councils, the urban bourgeoisie predominated, holding positions in towns. The rural communes were under the control of the rich peasants, the small traders or craftsmen. Many social groups, which had not held positions until then, could now obtain them. It is estimated that during one decade, one million people were voted into councils and gained administrative experience.

Through regional administrative reform, it was ensured that all civil servants would be elected and would give account to those who voted for them. Through the decrees passed, France was divided into 83 departments, subdivided into 547 districts and 43,360 communes, grouped into cantons. These functioned as zones where primary electoral gatherings were formed, where the justices of the peace had their courts. All the administrative subdivisions, except for the cantons, were led by elected councils.

Difficulties were also present in the work of these councils. In some Catholic areas, the authorities did not agree with the sanctioning of priests who refused to take the oath of loyalty. The rural communes did not fulfil all their tasks, while many of their members were illiterate.

Most citizens participated in elections. However, voters were split into different categories according to their income. Suffrage was not universal but conditional, based upon relatively small contributions. Many more were able to vote in this system than previously.

Active citizens were those who paid a tax equal to three days’ salary. These citizens could vote for town officials. Citizens who did not pay tax did not have the right to vote and were known as passive citizens.

Active citizens voted in the primary electoral assemblies, when there were general elections. However, they couldn’t become civil servants unless they paid a tax equal to 10 days’ salary. The second layer of active citizens elected the members of the district councils and departments, and could gain positions on these levels. The third layer of active citizens, who paid a direct tax equal to 50 days’ salary, could become deputies in the National Assembly.

Only 61% of French citizens had the right to participate in some kind of election. At the town level, most peasants had the right to vote and fulfilled the conditions necessary to run for election. This was an administrative revolution. Before this, provincial governance was provided by government officials, without an elected council. After the reforms, there were no longer any government officials at local level, since the elected councils replaced them all.

Few taxes were collected after the collapse of the royal administration. The assembly needed money, especially after it decided that those who had obtained their jobs by paying a bribe should be recompensed for the loss of those jobs. A new system of taxation was not immediately established. It was decided that the existing system of direct and indirect taxation should continue. However, people demanded that the books of grievances be addressed. As a consequence, new violent outbreaks appeared in Picardia, and the government felt forced to give in.

The la gabelle tax was abolished. Together with it, all indirect taxes, except for external customs taxes, were done away with. The main tax was land tax, which replaced la taille and la vingtieme. It was estimated that this would make up 75% of all income. Another 20% was to be obtained from a tax on wealth. People complained that this tax was the old poll tax in a new form, and that the rest were customs taxes. The taxes were collected by the municipal councils.

The new financial system was hindered by the fact that there was no systematic evaluation of land. This would have required a large number of civil servants. For the National Assembly this was almost impossible, due to the very high costs.

The new fiscal registers were based on those from the Old Regime. The wide regional variations were thus maintained, with huge differences between different regions. For example, people in Seine et Marne paid 5 times higher taxes than those in Arriege. Still, the poor benefited from the removal of the indirect taxes. The tax burden fell more on producers than consumers.

In order to obtain the money needed for the new financial system to work, the Assembly voted to place the Church properties at the nation’s disposal. The church’s lands would be sold, with money going to the state, which would take over the payment of the clergy. Thus, the Church lost the majority of its income, including the tithe.

In the end, the Assembly sold 25% of the land as national goods, of which peasants bought 52% and the bourgeoisie 48%. The bourgeoisie then sold part of their land to peasants by splitting it into smaller portions. This created an increase in the number of peasants who were small landowners. One-third of these owned land for the first time. The total number of peasant landowners grew by approximately one million.

The government emitted treasury bills called assignats, which members of the public could purchase and use to buy church lands. In time, the Assembly transformed these bills into paper money, which could be used in financial transactions.

The bourgeoisie was the social category which best took advantage of the sale of church lands, since it had the necessary money. The church’s possessions were sold in large lots. In consequence, the bourgeoisie purchased most of the land around towns. However, peasants could still purchase land situated at a distance from town.

The Constituent Assembly wanted to create a Church free from Papal influence and from abuse. They wanted a democratic Church connected to the new system of local administration. The deputies were not against religion or Catholicism, but wanted to apply to religion the principles they were applying in other areas. They wanted to connect the French Catholic Church to the state, closer than it was during the Old Regime, strengthening the revolution even more.

The Assembly abolished the tithes, les annates, which was money paid by the Catholics to the Pope, and pluralism, that is, the custom for bishops to hold several positions in the church. The old corporative privileges of the Church were done away with, together with the right to decide how much tax to pay. Most of the clergy supported these new measures. They accepted the sale of church lands, because they were now paid more than they had been paid under the Old Regime.

Decrees were emitted which gave civil rights to protestants and increased the rights of Jewish people.

Church organization was covered in the new administrative framework of local political leadership. The dioceses corresponded with departments. The number of bishops fell from 135 to 83. The clergy were no longer named, but elected. As such, bishops would be elected by departmental electors, and priests by the district electors. The Pope could no longer confirm new bishops. All clergy were required to live in their diocese or parish.

One of the decrees differentiated between monastic orders which were not active in their communities and those which took care of education and charity. The first were suppressed, since they did not contribute directly to the common good. The others were allowed to continue to exist, although monkhood was forbidden.

Most clerics opposed the principle of election. Most bishops however wanted to find a way of ratifying the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, the newly adopted document which brought these changes. However, they requested that the reforms be submitted to a national synod of the French Church. The Constituent Assembly did not accept this, since they considered that the Church would again become a privileged corporation and a separate order in the state, a state of affairs which had just been done away with.

The schism in the French Catholic Church led, for the first time in history, to mass support for the counter-revolution. The movement was later supported only by royalists and emigrants. In predominantly Catholic areas, few priests took the oath. Many villagers complained that the Assembly was trying to change their religion, especially when the refractory priests were made destitute. Hostility towards the revolution would later transform into a civil war.

The church assembly was not allowed to debate the situation, and the clergy waited for the Pope’s verdict. He put off making a decision, since he was in the middle of negotiating with the French, concerning the state of Avignon, papal territory in France. The Assembly didn’t wait, and decreed that priests must swear an oath on the Constitution - a decision that split the clergy. In the Assembly, only 2 of the 44 bishops and a third of the other clergy made the oath. Outside the Assembly, 7 bishops and 55% of the clergy made the oath. The Pope condemned the Civil Constitution, and many clerics who had taken the oath later retracted.

The Civil Constitution of the Clergy had immediate consequences. The deputies from the Assembly were shocked when it was rejected by many clerics and by the Pope. In France at that time, there were two Catholic Churches. One was the Constitutional Church, which accepted the revolution and was rejected by Rome. The other, which refused to take the oath, whose clergy were called “unsworn” or “refractories” was approved by the Pope and was against the revolution.

Commerce and industry needed to be free from all government interference. Free commerce in grain was instituted. Price control was suppressed. These measures spread to other products too. Prices and the distribution of all basic foodstuffs were controlled, in order to prevent food shortages, high prices and starvation.

The Assembly considered that helping the poor was the state’s job. The church had offered certain assistance to the poor before this, but it no longer had sources of income. A national organisation, financed by taxes, was necessary to take over this mission. The Assembly created a committee which surveyed the problem. Their conclusion showed that 2 million French citizens were forced to beg in order to survive. The Committee realized that it was helpless to assist the poor, since it lacked the necessary funds.

An alliance of 80,000 Parisian laborers threatened to strike in order to obtain higher salaries. The Assembly voted the Le Chapelier law, named for the deputy who forwarded it, through which syndicates and patrons’ organizations were forbidden. Collective negotiation, picketing and strikes were declared illegal. It was considered to be class-based legislation, since it was voted in on the request of the manufacturers and it prejudiced the interests of the laborers. No one in the Assembly objected, and strikes remained illegal. The first syndicates would appear 20 long years later.

Internal taxes were removed and a national market was created for the first time. The system was favored by the creation of a unitary system of weights and measures - the decimal system, which was applied in the whole of France. The deputies removed all corporations with special privileges. Guilds were done away with because they limited access to certain jobs.

The Constituent Assembly applied the same principle of uniformization to the justice system as it did to local governance. The different laws in the north and south and the different types of courts were replaced by uniform laws and courts applied in the whole of France. Les lettres de cachet were considered illegal according to the Declaration of the rights of man.

The more important civil cases came to the district court. There was a penal court in each department, with public hearings. A jury formed of 12 citizens, chosen by lots, decided verdicts of guilt or innocence. The system of having a jury and justices of peace was borrowed from British law. At the head of the justice system was a Court of Appeal, whose judges were chosen by departmental assemblies. All judges were elected by active citizens. Only those who had practised law for 5 years were eligible to be chosen. This guaranteed that all judges were qualified and responsible.

All the old parliamentary courts, elders’ courts and ecclesiastical courts were replaced by a new, uniform system. This system was based on administrative subdivisions and on the reorganized local government. In each canton there was a justice of the peace, who dealt with cases. Before this, these cases were judged by the elders’ courts. The main mission of the judge was to convince the parties to come to an agreement. He could also judge minor civil cases, without appeal.

The penal system became more humane. Torture and mutilation were abolished. A person who was arrested must be brought before a court within 24 hours. The number of crimes for which the death penalty was applied was reduced. The quickest method of execution for those condemned to death was used: the guillotine. The new justice system was durable: justice became fair, accessible, uncostly and popular. Although before this the French judicial system had been considered the most backward, barbaric and corrupt of Europe, in two years it became one of the most enlightened.

After the convocation of the Estates-General, a series of revolutionary political clubs were formed. The most important of these were the Jacobin Club and the Cordeliers Club.

The clubs played an important role in the revolution, since there were no political parties at that time. They informed the public about the main problems being discussed. The supported certain candidates in elections and acted as lobbyists. Their goal was to influence deputies in the Assembly and to promote certain political actions.

The revolutionary clubs were not political parties at that time. They were not defined by political ideologies. However, they had similar objectives, such as supporting candidates in elections or imposing laws through the Assembly.

The French revolutionary clubs had a short lifespan. They disappeared at the end of the revolution with the Concordat of Napoleon. It would take another half-century and a new revolution, that of 1848, to finally remove the monarchy and for the clubs to reappear and evolve into political parties.

The Jacobin club was formed by like-minded acquaintances of the radical Breton deputies. After the events of October, the Assembly moved to Paris. The Club re-formed under the name ‘The Society of the Friends of the Constitution’, a name which made it famous. Its meeting place was a building rented from Dominicans, also called Jacobites.

The goal of the club was to prepare for Assembly meetings, discussing in advance the texts which would be debated there. Another goal was to create and consolidate a Constitution. Success came rapidly: it had 200 members at its outset and reached over 1,000 members in December 1789. Membership was no longer limited to deputies. However, the membership fee of 24 livres and the necessity of recommendation from at least 5 members made it an elite body.

Very quickly, the club was surrounded by regional clubs, which it accepted as branches. There were 150 branches, making up a vast national network, which benefitted from the Journal des Sociétés des amis de la constitution, a publication created by Choderlos de Laclos. A committee of correspondence, the most important of the club’s committees, controlled by Barnave and his friends, ensured ties between the mother-society and its branches.

A social analysis of its members, in Paris and in the country, shows the same makeup as the elite of the Third Estate: traders, magistrates, officers, doctors and landowners, most of which were followers of the patriotic movement. In Paris, Mirabeau, through his eloquence, had the greatest influence in the Jacobin Club.

Lameth later destroyed Mirabeau’s influence, accusing him of being an accomplice of the aristocrats. From that point on, the Jacobins were dominated by the triumvirate formed of Dupont, Barnave and Lameth. Other important members of the party were La Fayette, Pétion, and probably the best-known, Maximilien Robespierre.

The king’s flight and return changed the issues at hand. Decrees declaring the inviolability of the king’s reign and his return to his position created a split. Just before the exchange of fire at Champ-de-Mars, Barnave left the group, together with the moderate majority, almost all the deputies, and settled at the Club des Feuillants. The most important deputies remained with the Jacobins: Robespierre, Pétion, Roederer, Buzot and Grégoire. But the split caused by Barnave would prove to be a political failure, both in Paris and in the country. There were 442 Jacobin societies and only 60 feuillants, with 110 undecided.

The Jacobins however obtained only a relative success in the elections for the Legislative Assembly. Their candidates were defeated in Paris, although in Provence they were more successful. In the new Assembly, 136 deputies signed up to the Jacobins and 260 with the Feuillants. The others, numbering more than 300, refused to choose between the two factions. But the club’s role changed. Grégoire and Roederer rewrote the doctrine and principles of organization. From a discussion club, it became a political machine in the service of a second revolution.

The Cordeliers Club was more radical than the Jacobin Club, but membership was open. The members of the club did not agree with the distinction between active and passive citizens. They supported the measures upheld by the sans-culottes: direct democracy, recalling the deputies to give account of their actions, and the right to insurrection.

The members of the popular societies came from the ranks of minor civil servants, craftsmen and small traders. However, laborers rarely joined, since they didn’t have time for politics.

The club had members from the working class, although its leaders were bourgeoisie. Danton and Desmoulins were jurists. Hebert was an unsuccessful writer-turned-journalist after freedom of the press was granted. Brissot was also a journalist. The best known was Jean Paul Marat, a failed doctor, who hated all the privileged under the Old Regime and violently attacked them in his newspaper L’Ami du Peuple. Marat became the main spokesperson of the popular movement.

Popular or fraternal societies were also created, which could be found in all districts of Paris and in countless provincial towns. The Cordeliers club and the popular societies formed a federation and elected a central committee.

The peasants and sans-culottes were not satisfied with what they obtained from the revolution. They were still the poorest social class. This remained so even after the changes in French society brought about by the activity of the National Assembly.

When the peasants realized that taxes had not been completely abolished, but that certain rights must be redeemed, they were disillusioned. A rural revolt broke out in Brittany, in central and south-eastern France, which lasted approx. 2 years. During this period, the peasants fixed the price of grains, demanded the sale of land considered to be national property and attacked castles belonging to nobles. The Midi uprising led to a growth in the revolt and to more extensive destructions.

The sans-culottes wore long trousers instead of the wide knee-length trousers worn by members of the superior classes. They were town laborers. They were not a separate social class. Amongst them were craftsmen with their own workshops, together with salaried workers. The attack on the Bastille and the return of the royal family to Paris were their doing. They were scarcely rewarded, and many of them were passive citizens without the right to vote. They suffered because of inflation, since, in order to cover its costs, the government printed more assignates, decreasing their value.

Strikes took place, in which laborers protested against the decrease in wages. The price of grains grew by 50% after the poor harvest, sparking revolts. The crowds forced the traders to reduce prices. The dissatisfactions of the laborers were used by the popular societies. These societies linked the economic protests with the political necessity for a democratic republic, and claimed the protests were connected with the groups in the Assembly which wanted to rise to government.

The conflict between the king and the Assembly was not over, since most deputies suspected him of treason. The king was also suspected of trying to reinstate royal despotism with the aid of his supporters, especially deputy Mirabeau.

Mirabeau, born of noble origins, was a good orator in the Assembly, part of the moderate stream. Even so, he represented the Third Estate in the Assembly of the Estates-General. Although a monarchist in his convictions, he understood that the monarchy must accept change in order to survive. Thus he wanted a limited monarchy, with a government which would be held accountable to the law. He kept strong ties with those from the royal court, who owed money to the court, and he also received a handsome pension from the same source. Mirabeau took upon himself the role of advisor to the king, and he protected the king’s interests in the National Assembly until his death.

After Mirabeau’s death, the moderates gained influence in the Assembly. They were afraid of the revolutionary clubs and the possibility of an organized laborers’ revolt. They wanted to end the revolution, which is why they agreed to a compromise with the king. However the king’s flight from Paris foiled all their plans.

Louis the 16th was a pious man. He greatly regretted accepting the Civil Constitution of the clergy, which preyed on his conscience. Thus, he decided to flee to Montmedy, in Lorena, on the border with Luxembourg, seeking shelter under the protection of the military commander of that region. Louis intended to negotiate the yet unfinalized parts of the Constitution with the Constituent Assembly from a position of force.

The king lost his popularity, and streets bearing his name were rapidly renamed, while businesses boasting royal ensigns took them down all over town. His flight convinced many of his supporters that he could no longer be trusted, and talk began to circulate about creating a republic. However the Assembly feared an outbreak of civil war in France, which could lead to wars with other European monarchs.

The king was aware that his flight could cause a civil war, yet still he left Paris with his family. However, when he arrived at Varennes, 48km from his intended destination, he was recognised and stopped. He was brought back to Paris. His younger brother, the Count of Provence, who fled at the same time together with his wife, managed to arrive safely in Brussels.

The Assembly voted to suspend the king until the finalization of the Constitution. The king would be reinstated only if he would swear to respect the Constitution. This measure was met with different reactions among the deputies. Some thought that the vote of suspension was not enough, whereas others, in protest, refused to participate in Assembly elections.

The radicals were concerned that the king had not been deposed and sent for judgement. Their anger turned against the Assembly, with claims that it no longer represented the people. The Cordeliers, a nickname given to Franciscan monks, convinced the Jacobins to join them in supporting a petition for the removal of the king.

The Parisian dissidents formed the Feuillant Club, the common name for the political group called The Friends of the Constitution or Amis de la Constitution, which dominated the Assembly. 50,000 people gathered on the Champ de Mars, a huge field where, three days earlier, the Celebration of the Federation and the Fall of the Bastille had been commemorated. They wanted to sign a republican petition on the altar of the motherland. It was a political demonstration of the poorer layers of the Parisian population. The Commune, pressured by the Assembly, declared martial law and sent La Fayette together with the National Guard to Champ de Mars. The Guard opened fire on the unarmed crowd, killing 50 people.

The actions of the Cordeliers led to a split in the Jacobins club. Those who did not want the king to be deposed left the club. Amongst these were almost all the Jacobin deputies from the Assembly. Robespierre remained to preside over the radicals who had not left the assembly. As a consequence, 72 of the Jacobins clubs were dissolved. Most of the remaining clubs continued meeting in the following months.

Martial law remained in force for a month, and the leaders of the populist movement were arrested. Some of them, such as Hebert, Marat and Danton, fled or went into hiding. The moderates came out on top and reestablished the popular movement. They were willing to negotiate with the king. The Feuillants were also involved in creating a convention with the king, although they no longer trusted him and they had lost public support. At that moment the Feuillants controlled Paris and the Assembly. But their long-term victory depended on their cooperation with Louis, which was far from certain.

The Constituent Assembly drew up a Constitution replacing the absolute monarchy with a limited monarchy. The real power would be transferred to an elected assembly. A large part of the Constitution treated the limited attributes of the king and his right to suspensive veto. The Constitution was approved in its entirety two years later.

The Constitution had as its preamble The declaration of the rights of man and of the citizen. The Constitution contained modern principles such as the separation of power in the state. This gave executive power to the King and his ministers, legislative power to the National Legislative Assembly, which had the right to control the government, and judicial power to the courts. Another modern principle presented in this fundamental law was that of national sovereignty, although the distinction between active and passive citizens remained.

The king, whose position was hereditary, was in subordination to the Assembly. This body ratified laws which the king must respect. The king was forced to accept the Constitution. Marie Antoinette did not accept it and was determined to remove it at the first opportunity.

According to the Constitution, the King had the right to appoint his ministers. These could not be members of the the Assembly or military commanders. The king’s right to suspensive veto could not be applied to financial or constitutional problems. He relied on the Assembly for external politics, since he could not declare war without its agreement.

Once the king accepted the Constitution, the Constituent Assembly’s mandate was over and it was dissolved. Its place was taken by the National Legislative Assembly. Due to Robespierre’s proposal, not a single deputy of the Constituent Assembly could be part of the new Assembly. This decision was made in fear of the counter-revolutionaries.

Less than one in four active citizens participated in the elections for the new Assembly. The Assembly was composed almost entirely of members of the bourgeoisie. There were a few nobles and only 23 clergy. There were no peasants or craftsmen, and very few businessmen.

The deputies were concerned because of the clergy, who refused to take the civic oath, and about the emigrants, whose numbers were swelling. All the bishops of the Old Regime and many families from the royal court and parliaments had emigrated. Officers had deserted the army en masse. At the beginning of 1791, 1,200 noble officers joined the emigrants. In September 1791, 6,000 officers emigrated.

The Assembly passed two laws. One of them declared all priests who had not taken the oath to be suspects. The other maintained that all emigrants who did not return by January 1792 would lose their properties and be considered traitors. When the king used his right of veto against these laws, he appeared to be undermining the revolution, and his popularity fell drastically.

The Legislative Assembly had two separate groups present in it: the feuillants, supporters of the monarchy who considered the revolution to be over, holding 264 seats; and the Jacobins and Girondists, who supported the creation of a republic and felt the revolution was not yet over, holding 136 seats. The remaining 350 deputies did not belong to either of the two groups.

Prussia and Austria formed an alliance in the hope of intimidating the French. Prussia had occupied the United Provinces with a small army, and Austria occupied Belgium in less than two weeks. Both considered France, now bankrupt, a weak country due to the civil war and the rebellion in the army.

The war went badly for France right from the start. The badly-organized army, lacking leaders due to desertion, lost battle after battle. Disaster could only be avoided though the weakness of the opposing side.

The royal family’s conspiracy became more and more obvious, and Prussia’s entry into the war complicated things further. As a consequence, the Assembly decided, as a last-ditch measure, to bring 20,000 “federates” to Paris, members of the National Guard. Thus, the homeland was declared to be in danger, and in a wave of irrepressible patriotism, volunteers were enrolled to aid the resistance of the absolutist armies.

The threats of the Austrians and the attacks of the Girondists on the Austrian committee to the court forced the king to dismiss the feuillant ministers and appoint a radical government which included a few Girondist ministers. This change was decisive, since the Assembly, the government and the new foreign affairs minister, Dumouriez, all wanted war.

The Prussian army arrived close to Paris. Its commander, Duke Brunswick, delivered a manifest to the population, which definitively compromised Louis the 16th.

Emperor Leopold of Austria died and was succeeded by the impetuous Francis II. The new emperor decided to start the war when rumors appeared that Marie Antoinette would be sent to trial. The French declared war on Austria, hoping to fight only against this country. One month later, Prussia declared war on France, with Duke Braunschweig taking command of the armed forces.

500 volunteers from Marseilles entered Paris. They reached the capital by marching for a month, influenced by a war song for the Rhine army, composed in the Strasbourg garrison by Rouget de Lisle, called La Marseillaise.