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National Constituent Assembly

National Constituent Assembly

Overview
The National Constituent Assembly was formed from the National Assembly
National Assembly (French Revolution)
During the French Revolution, the National Assembly , which existed from June 17 to July 9, 1789, was a transitional body between the Estates-General and the National Constituent Assembly.-Background:...

 on 9 July 1789, during the first stages of the French Revolution
French Revolution
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...

. It dissolved on 30 September 1791 and was succeeded by the Legislative Assembly.


The Estates-General of 1789
Estates-General of 1789
The Estates-General of 1789 was the first meeting since 1614 of the French Estates-General, a general assembly representing the French estates of the realm: the nobility, the Church, and the common people...

, which convened on 5 May, had reached a deadlock in its deliberations by 6 May. The representatives of the Third Estate therefore attempted to make the whole body more effective; they met separately from 11 May as the Communes.
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Encyclopedia
The National Constituent Assembly was formed from the National Assembly
National Assembly (French Revolution)
During the French Revolution, the National Assembly , which existed from June 17 to July 9, 1789, was a transitional body between the Estates-General and the National Constituent Assembly.-Background:...

 on 9 July 1789, during the first stages of the French Revolution
French Revolution
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...

. It dissolved on 30 September 1791 and was succeeded by the Legislative Assembly.

Background



The Estates-General of 1789
Estates-General of 1789
The Estates-General of 1789 was the first meeting since 1614 of the French Estates-General, a general assembly representing the French estates of the realm: the nobility, the Church, and the common people...

, which convened on 5 May, had reached a deadlock in its deliberations by 6 May. The representatives of the Third Estate therefore attempted to make the whole body more effective; they met separately from 11 May as the Communes. On 12 June, the Communes invited the other Estates to join them: some members of the First Estate did so the following day. On 17 June the Communes declared themselves the National Assembly
National Assembly (French Revolution)
During the French Revolution, the National Assembly , which existed from June 17 to July 9, 1789, was a transitional body between the Estates-General and the National Constituent Assembly.-Background:...

 by a vote of 490 to 90. Elements of the First Estate, primarily the parish priests who were closer in wealth to the Third Estate compared to the bishops who were closer in wealth to the Second Estate, joined the assembly from 13 June onwards and on 19 June, the whole of the clergy voted to join National Assembly. A legislative and political agenda unfolded.

Following attempts by King Louis XVI
Louis XVI of France
Louis XVI was a Bourbon monarch who ruled as King of France and Navarre until 1791, and then as King of the French from 1791 to 1792, before being executed in 1793....

 and the Second Estate to prevent the delegates from meeting and some misunderstandings on both sides about one another's intentions, the new assembly was forced to relocate to a tennis court on 20 June; there, it swore the Tennis Court Oath
Tennis Court Oath
The Tennis Court Oath was a pivotal event during the first days of the French Revolution. The Oath was a pledge signed by 576 of the 577 members from the Third Estate who were locked out of a meeting of the Estates-General on 20 June 1789...

, promising that it would not adjourn until it had drafted a new constitution for France. Failing to disperse the delegates, Louis started to recognize their validity on 27 June. The Assembly re-named itself the National Constituent Assembly on 9 July, and began to function as a governing body and a constitution-drafter. However, it is common to refer to the body even after this date as the "National Assembly" or alternatively, "Constituent Assembly."

Structure in the summer of 1789



Following the storming of the Bastille
Storming of the Bastille
The storming of the Bastille occurred in Paris on the morning of 14 July 1789. The medieval fortress and prison in Paris known as the Bastille represented royal authority in the centre of Paris. While the prison only contained seven inmates at the time of its storming, its fall was the flashpoint...

 on 14 July, the National Constituent Assembly became the effective government of France. In the words of historian François Mignet
François Mignet
François Auguste Marie Mignet was a French journalist and historian.-Biography:He was born in Aix-en-Provence , France. His father was a locksmith from the Vendée, who enthusiastically accepted the principles of the French Revolution and encouraged liberal ideas in his son...

:
The assembly had acquired the entire power; the corporations depended on it; the national guards obeyed it... The royal power, though existing of right, was in a measure suspended, since it was not obeyed, and the assembly had to supply its action by its own.


The number of the Estates-General increased significantly during the election period, but many deputies took their time arriving, some of them reaching Paris as late as 1791. According to Timothy Tackett's Becoming a Revolutionary, there were a total of 1177 deputies in the Assembly by mid-July 1789. Among them, 278 belonged to the Nobles, 295 the Clergy, and 604 were representatives of the Third Estate. For the entire duration of the Assembly a total of 1315 deputies were certified, with 330 for the Clergy, 322 nobles and 663 deputies of the Third Estate. According to his research, Mr. Tackett noted that the majority of the Second Estate had a military background, while the Third Estate was dominated by men of legal professions.

Some of the leading figures of the Assembly at this time included:
  • The conservative foes of the revolution, later known as the "Right
    Right-wing politics
    In politics, Right, right-wing and rightist generally refer to support for a hierarchical society justified on the basis of an appeal to natural law or tradition. To varying degrees, the Right rejects the egalitarian objectives of left-wing politics, claiming that the imposition of equality is...

    ":
    • Jacques Antoine Marie de Cazalès
      Jacques Antoine Marie de Cazalès
      Jacques Antoine Marie de Cazalès was a French orator and politician.-Biography:He was born at Grenade, Haute-Garonne, in a family of the lower nobility....

       — a forthright spokesman for aristocracy
      Aristocracy
      Aristocracy , is a form of government in which a few elite citizens rule. The term derives from the Greek aristokratia, meaning "rule of the best". In origin in Ancient Greece, it was conceived of as rule by the best qualified citizens, and contrasted with monarchy...

    • the abbé Jean-Sifrein Maury
      Jean-Sifrein Maury
      Jean-Sifrein Maury was a French cardinal and Archbishop of Paris.-Biography:The son of a poor cobbler, he was born on at Valréas in the Comtat-Venaissin, the enclave within France that belonged to the pope. His acuteness was observed by the priests of the seminary at Avignon, where he was educated...

       — a somewhat inflexible representative of the Church

  • The "Royalist democrats" (later known as "Constitutionals" or "Monarchicals") allied with Jacques Necker
    Jacques Necker
    Jacques Necker was a French statesman of Swiss birth and finance minister of Louis XVI, a post he held in the lead-up to the French Revolution in 1789.-Early life:...

    , inclined toward arranging France along lines similar to the British constitutional
    Constitution of the United Kingdom
    The constitution of the United Kingdom is the set of laws and principles under which the United Kingdom is governed.Unlike many other nations, the UK has no single core constitutional document. In this sense, it is said not to have a written constitution but an uncodified one...

     model with a House of Lords
    House of Lords
    The House of Lords is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Like the House of Commons, it meets in the Palace of Westminster....

     and a House of Commons:
    • Pierre Victor, baron Malouet
      Pierre Victor, baron Malouet
      Pierre Victor, baron Malouet , a French publicist and politician, was born at Riom .-Life:...

    • Trophime-Gérard, marquis de Lally-Tollendal
      Trophime-Gérard, marquis de Lally-Tollendal
      Trophime-Gérard, marquis de Lally-Tollendal was a French politician.-Biography:Born in Paris, he was the legitimized son of the Thomas Arthur de Lally, and only discovered the secret of his birth on the day of his father's execution, when he devoted himself to clearing his father's memory...

    • Stanislas Marie Adelaide, comte de Clermont-Tonnerre
      Stanislas Marie Adelaide, comte de Clermont-Tonnerre
      Stanislas Marie Adélaïde, comte de Clermont-Tonnerre was a French politician.-Early life and career:Born in Pont-a-Mousson, in what is today the Meurthe-et-Moselle department in north-eastern France...

    • Jean Joseph Mounier
      Jean Joseph Mounier
      Jean Joseph Mounier was a French politician and judge.He was born at Grenoble . He studied law, and in 1783 obtained a judgeship at Grenoble. He took part in the struggle between the parlements and the court in 1788, and promoted the meeting of the estates of Dauphiné at Vizille , on the eve of...


  • The "National Party," at this time still relatively united in support of revolution and democratization
    Democracy
    Democracy is generally defined as a form of government in which all adult citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. Ideally, this includes equal participation in the proposal, development and passage of legislation into law...

    , representing mainly the interests of the middle classes, but strongly sympathetic to the broader range of the common people. In this early period, its most notable leader
    Leadership
    Leadership has been described as the “process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task". Other in-depth definitions of leadership have also emerged.-Theories:...

    s included Mirabeau, the Marquis de Lafayette, and Jean-Sylvain Bailly (the first two coming from aristocratic backgrounds). Mignet also points to Adrien Duport
    Adrien Duport
    Adrien Duport was a French politician, and lawyer.-Life:He was born in Paris...

    , Antoine Pierre Joseph Marie Barnave, and Alexander Lameth as leaders among the "most extreme of this party" in this period, leaders in taking "a more advanced position than that which the revolution had [at this time] attained." Lameth's brother Charles also belonged to this group.


To this list one must add the Abbé Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès
Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès
Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès , commonly known as Abbé Sieyès, was a French Roman Catholic abbé and clergyman, one of the chief theorists of the French Revolution, French Consulate, and First French Empire...

, foremost in proposing legislation in this period, and the man who, for a time, managed to bridge the differences between those who wanted a constitutional monarchy and those who wished to move in more democratic (or even republican) directions.

Proceedings


For a detailed description of the proceedings in the National Constituent Assembly and related events, please see the following articles:

For a list of presidents of the National Constituent Assembly, see: List of Presidents of the French National Assembly.

For a partial list of members of the National Constituent Assembly, see: Alphabetical list of members of the National Constituent Assembly of 1789
Alphabetical list of members of the National Constituent Assembly of 1789
This list aims to display alphabetically the 1,145 titular deputies elected to the Estates-General of 1789, which became the National Assembly on 17 June 1789 and the National Constituent Assembly on 9 July 1789; as well as the alternate delegates who sat.-A:* Luc René Charles Achard de Bonvouloir...

.

Dissolution


After surviving the vicissitudes of a revolutionary two years, the National Constituent Assembly dissolved itself on 30 September 1791. The following day the Constitution of 1791
French Constitution of 1791
The short-lived French Constitution of 1791 was the first written constitution of France. One of the basic precepts of the revolution was adopting constitutionality and establishing popular sovereignty, following the steps of the United States of America...

 went into effect, granting power to the Legislative Assembly.