Louis XVI., 1774-1789
Domestic Policy
France 1792-1795
Domestic Policy
The Netherlands
the Patriots, 1787
France 1789-1792
the Economy

Revolution and Constitutional Monarchy, 1789-1792 : Domestic Policy

B.) The National Assembly

In 1788, the financial situation caused King Louis XVI. to call, for the first time since 1614, for an assembly of the ESTATES GENERAL (Fr.: Etats Generaux) to approve an extraordinary tax. An election for the representatives of the THIRD ESTATE was held in 1788 ; they convened in 1789.
In the pamphlet What is the Third Estate (Jan. 1789), ABBOT EMANUEL SIEYES demanded the participation of the NATION's representatives in government. The General Estates were called to assemble on May 5th 1789 at Versailles. The 3rd Estate, having a larger body of representatives than the other two estates, demanded not to vote by estate (i.e. 1 vote for the clergy, one for the nobility, one for the 3rd estate), but by individual representative. The demand rejected, the 3rd Estate declared itself the SOLE REPRESENTATIVE OF THE NATION, renamed itself the NATIONAL ASSEMBLY (June 16th) and swore not to separate until a constitution had been formulated and passed (the TENNIS COURT OATH). The king agreed, but dismissed reform-oriented prime minister JACQUES NECKER; troops were concentrated near Paris.

C.) The Storming of the Bastille

The fear that troops would be used to disband the National Assembly caused the people of Paris to STORM THE BASTILLE (July 14th 1789). The army was officially dissolved, a NATIONAL GUARD established under LA FAYETTE. The event was rather symbolic, as the Bastille, a much-feared prison and symbol of oppression, held only 7 prisoners and was poorly defended. Those who participated in the event were honoured by the National Assembly. The storming of the Bastille is regarded the day on which the success of the French Revolution was accomplished, and France celebrates it's national holiday on July 14th.
In many other cities and regions, similarly, patriotic regimes were established; the old administration collapsed and there was a general chaos.

D.) Reforms

The National Assembly now quickly introduced laws reforming state and society. On August 5th, the LIBERATION OF THE SERFS and the ABOLISHMENT OF NOBILITY were proclaimed. From now on, people were no longer subjects, they were CITIZENS (citoyen) with equal rights. On August 26th, the DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS was passed, with the key ideas of LIBERTE, EGALITE, FRATERNITE (liberty, equality, brotherhood). In 1789, CORSICA, NAVARRA, LORRAINE and other areas were annexed into France.

E.) The King

The king, whose loyalty to the NATION, which in revolutionary terminology had replaced the state, was doubted, dwelled in Versailles. On October 10th, a procession of market women formed, went to Versailles and forced the Royal family to move to the TUILERIES, the royal residence within the city of Paris (where they were under control of the National Assembly).

F.) Formation of Parties

As long as the Republic had to be achieved, the establishment of the National Assembly had to be defended, the revolutionaries were united. With the army (officially) dissolved, the king under control, it was time to begin the ordinary business of government. Soon, in the National Assembly, a number of factions emerged, which organized themselves in form of political clubs. They were the FEUILLANTS (moderates, La Fayette and others), the CORDELIERS (radicals, DANTON, Marat and others) and the JACOBINS ('defenders of liberty', ROBESPIERRE and others).
The Feuillants would dissolve themselves in 1792, the Cordeliers merge with the Jacobins. A new faction, the GIRONDE, would appear in 1792, moderate federalists. Soon, the two main factions were renamed, the Gironde into the PLAIN (moderates who were proponents of equality, protection of property, local autonomy), the Jacobins and Cordeliers into the MOUNTAIN (who were proponents of centralism, of the state's right to confiscate property).

G.) Further Reforms

In July 1790 the Catholic Church was given the character of a civil organization. Priests were to be elected, monasteries dissolved, the vast estates of the church confiscated and auctioned off.
In September 1791, a new CONSTITUTION was proclaimed, defining France as a constitutional monarchy, a weak government (appointed by the king) and a strong assembly. The king was given the veto right (Monsieur Veto).

In 1792, coalition troops (Austrians and Prussians), commanded by the Duke of Brunswick (Braunschweig) invaded France; the in the MANIFESTO OF THE DUKE OF BRUNSWICK he called on the citizens of Paris not to resist; the king had the manifesto published. He then was accused of being a traitor to the French nation; he was arrested, now under the simple name of Louis Capet. The REPUBLIC was proclaimed.

Timetable : France during the French Revolution and under Napoleon Bonaparte. An annotated Chronology of Civil and Military Events, by Richard Orsinger, 1997; A Brief and Incomplete Chronology of the French Revolution, by R. Spang and R. Kingston
The French Revolution - the People enter Politics
The Storming of the Bastille, from about.com
The French Revolution, from Woodberry Forest School (WFS), illustrated, many subfiles : Oath of the Tennis Court, The Storming of the Bastille, March to Versailles, The French Revolution, from Woodberry Forest School (WFS), illustrated, many subfiles : Flight to Varennes, Storming of the Tuileries
DOCUMENTS Image Resources of the French Revolution from : The French Revolution - the People enter Politics
Map France in 1789, from Migeon, Geographie Universelle, 1882 (pre-revolutionary administrative borders; vignette of the Bastille)
Abbe Sieyes : What is the Third Estate ?, from Modern History Sourcebook
Declaration of Rights of Man, from Avalon Project at Yale Law School, in English
The Decree Abolishing the Feudal System, 1789, from Hanover College
Civil Constitution of the Clergy, 1790, from Hanover College
French Revolutionary Pamphlets, from Univ. of Chicago
Travelogue Arthur Young, 1792, from WFS; from Hanover Historical Texts Project
The Tennis Court Oath, June 20th 1789, from WFS
J.B. Humbert, Eyewitness Account of the Storming of the Bastille, from WFS
Report of the British Ambassador on the Events of July 14th 1789, from WFS
A Royalist Journalist comments on the King's Acceptance of the July 14 Revolution, from WFS
Decree establishing the National Guard, Aug. 10th 1789, from WFS
Bailly's Diary account, Aug. 26th 1789, on food shortage in Paris, from WFS
Cahier of 1789, The Clergy of Blois and Romorantin, from Hanover Historical Texts Project
Cahier of 1789, The Nobility of Blois, from Hanover Historical Texts Project
Cahier of 1789, The Third Estate of Versailles. from Hanover Historical Texts Project
Cahiers of 1789, The Third Estate of Carcassonne. from Hanover Historical Texts Project
Lists of Presidents of the National Constituent Assembly (June-Sept. 1791), the National Assembly (Aug.-Sept. 1792), from World Statesmen : France by Ben Cahoon, scroll down
Proclamation of the Duke of Brunswick, 1792, from Hanover Historical Texts Project
Order for the Arrest of the Royal Family, June 21st 1791, from WFS
The King's Declaration, June 20th 1791, from WFS
Placard advocating Republicanism, July 1st 1791, from WFS
Marie Antoinette's Instruction to von Fersen, July 8th 1791, from WFS
Camille Desmoulins, The Influence of the Jacobin Club, from WFS
Decree concerning the election of a National Convention, August 11th 1792, from WFS
Le Testament de Louis XVI, from loire-france.com, in French
La Revolution Française, posted by Martine Lopez, click "les textes", numerous documents, in French
VIDEOS La Marseillaise, 1937, b/w, in French with English subtitles.
REFERENCE William Doyle, The Oxford History of the French Revolution, 1989, 466 pp.

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on November 9th 2004

Click here to go Home
Click here to go to Information about KMLA, WHKMLA, the author and webmaster
Click here to go to Statistics

Impressum · Datenschutz