Completing the Constitution

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Although the king had tried to escape, most members of the Assembly still wanted to include the king in their government rather than to have a Republic with no king at all. They agreed to make the king a figurehead, with very little power. The king would have to take an oath to the state. If he did not, or if he created an army to attack France, he would no longer be king.

Some people, including Jacques Pierre Brissot, did not like this. They thought the king should be completely removed from the throne and the constitution. Brissot made a petition and a huge crowd came to the Champs de Mars to sign it. Republican leaders Georges Danton and Camille Desmoulins came and gave speeches.

The National Guard, led by Lafayette, was called in to control the crowd. The mob threw stones at the soldiers who first fired their guns over the heads of the crowd. When the crowd kept throwing stones, Lafayette ordered them to fire at the people. Up to 50 people were killed. After this, the government closed many of the political clubs and newspapers. Many radical left-wing leaders, including Danton and Desmoulins, ran away to England or hid in France.

Finally the constitution was completed. Louis XVI was put back on the throne and came to take his oath to it.  The National Assembly decided that it would stop governing France on 29 September 1791. After that date, the Legislative Assembly would take over.

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⇐ Royal family tries to leave Paris

⇒ French Revolution Part II

Royal family tries to leave Paris

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Louis XVI did not like the revolution, but he did not want to get help from other countries or run away from France like the émigrés. General Bouille held the same views and wanted to help the king leave Paris. He said that he would give the King and his family help and support in his camp at Montmédy. The escape was planned for June 20, 1791. Dressed as servants, the royal family left Paris. However, their escape was not well-planned, and they were arrested at Varennes on the evening of June 21. The royal family was brought back to Paris. The Assembly imprisoned Louis and his wife Marie Antoinette, and suspended the king from his duty.

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⇐ Working on the Constitution

⇒ Completing the Constitution

Working on the Constitution

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On 14 July 1790, a year after the storming of the Bastille, thousands of people gathered in the Champs de Mars to celebrate. The crowd, including the King and the royal family, took an oath of loyalty to “the nation, the law, and the king.” However, many nobles were unhappy with the revolution and were leaving the country. They were called émigrés (emigrants).

Although the members of the Estates-General had been elected only for a year, the members of the Assembly had all taken the Tennis Court Oath. They had promised to keep working until they had a constitution. But no constitution had been made yet. It was decided that the members would keep working until they had a constitution.

The Assembly continued to work on a constitution and make changes. Nobles could no longer pass their titles to their children. Only the king was allowed to do this. For the first time, trials with juries were held. All trade barriers inside France were ended along with unions, guilds, and workers’ groups. Strikes were banned. In 1791, a law to prevent noble émigrés from leaving the country was passed.

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⇐ The Church

⇒ Royal family tries to leave Paris

The Church

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Under the new government, the Roman Catholic Church would have much less power than they had before. In 1790, all special taxes and powers of the Church were cancelled. All the Church’s property was taken over by the state. On 12 July 1790, the Civil Constitution of the Clergy made all clergy employees of the state and made them take an oath to the new constitution. Many clergy, as well as the Pope, Pius VI, did not like these changes. Revolutionaries killed hundreds for refusing the oath.

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⇐ The National Assembly

⇒ Working on the Constitution

The National Assembly

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The National Assembly began to make lots of changes. On 4 August, the National Assembly ended the special taxes (which) the Church was collecting, and the rights of the Nobility over their people, ending feudalism. On 26 August, the National Assembly published the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, which was written by the nobleman Marquis de Lafayette.

The National Assembly began to decide how it would be under the new constitution. Many members, especially the nobles, wanted a senate or a second upper house. However, more people voted to keep having just one assembly. The King was given a suspensive veto over laws, which meant he would only have the power to delay laws being made, not stop them. In October 1789, after being attacked at the Palace of Versailles by a mob of 7,000 women, the King was convinced by Lafayette to move from Paris to the palace in Tuileries.

The Assembly began to divide into different political parties. One was made up of those against the revolution, led by the nobleman Jacques Antoine Marie de Cazales and the churchman Jean-Sifrien Maury.  A second party was the Royalist democrats (monarchists) who wanted to create a system like the constitutional monarchy of Britain, where the king would still be a part of the government. Jacques Necker was in this party. The third party was the National Party. This included Honoré Mirabeau and Lafayette.

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⇐ Forming the National Assembly

⇒ The Church

Forming the National Assembly

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Since the First and Second Groups would not listen, the Third Group decided to break away and start their own assembly where every member would get a vote. On 10 June 1789, they started the National Assembly. The king tried to stop them by closing the meeting room, but they met in an indoor tennis court instead. On June 20, they took the Tennis Court Oath, where they promised to work until they had created a new constitution for France.

The storming of the Bastille
In July 1789, after the National Assembly was formed, the nobility and the king were angry with Jacques Necker, the Director-General of Finances, and they fired him. Many Parisians thought that the King was going to shut down the National Assembly. Soon, Paris was filled with riots and looting.

On 14 July 1789, the people decided to attack the Bastille prison. The Bastille contained weapons. It was also a symbol of the power of the nobility and the rule of the king. By the afternoon, the people had broken into the Bastille and released the seven prisoners (who were) being held there.

The Members of the Third Group took over Paris. The president of the National Assembly, Jean-Sylvain Bailly, became the mayor of the city. Jacques Necker was given back his job as Director-General of Finances. Soon, the King visited Paris and wore the red cap of liberty that the revolutionaries were wearing. By the end of July, the revolution had spread all over France.

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⇐ Estates General

⇒ The National Assembly

French Revolution Part II

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↜French Revolution Part I

Legislative Assembly - Yasama Meclisi
Legislative Assembly – Yasama Meclisi

The Legislative Assembly (1791-1792)

The new Legislative Assembly met for the first time in October 1791. Under the Constitution of 1791, France was a Constitutional Monarchy. The King shared his rule with the Legislative Assembly, but had the power to stop (veto) laws that he did not like. He also had the power to choose ministers.  

The Legislative Assembly had about 745 members. 260 of them were  Constitutional Monarchists. 136 were Girondins and Jacobins (left-wing liberal republicans who did not want a king). The other 345 members were independent, but they voted most often with the left wing.

The Legislative Assembly did not agree very well. The King used his veto to stop laws that would sentence émigrés to death. Because so many of the members of the Assembly were left-wing, they did not like this.

Crisis of Constitution
The people were turning against King Louis XVI. On 10 August 1792, the members of a revolutionary group called the Paris Commune attacked the Tuileries, where the King and Queen were living. The King and Queen were taken prisoner. The Legislative Assembly held an emergency meeting. Even though only a third of the members were there and most of them were Jacobins, they suspended the King from duty.

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War ⇒

National Convention (1792-1795) ⇒

The Reign of Terror ⇒

The Directory (1795-1799) ⇒

French Revolution Part I

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The French Revolution was a revolution in France from 1789 to 1799. It led to the end of the monarchy, and to many wars. King Louis XVI was executed in 1793. The revolution ended when Napoleon Bonaparte took power in November 1799. He became Emperor in 1804.

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Before 1789, France was ruled by the nobles and the Catholic Church. The ideas of the Enlightenment were beginning to make the ordinary people want more power. They could see that the American Revolution had created a country in which the people had power, instead of a king.

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⇒ Causes of the Revolution

⇒ Estates General

⇒ Forming the National Assembly

⇒ The National Assembly

⇒ The Church

⇒ Working on the Constitution

⇒ Royal family tries to leave Paris

⇒ Completing the Constitution

⇒ French Revolution Part II

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