Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Main decisions and debates of the National Constituent Assembly

Fichier:Salle du Manège 1.jpg

Salle du Manège, building where the National Constituent Assembly met since October 1789

Yesterday we studied some of the decisions made by the National Constituent Assembly and how they ended with the Ancien Régime. The deputies of the National Assembly made many other important decisions and they also discussed a lot of topics. They wanted to change France´s society and many of them were influenced by the ideas of Enlightenment. Discussions continued outside the Assembly, in political clubs, where different opinions were expressed and defined the positions in the debates. Most of the deputies were monarchists, but Louis XVI´s attitude made them change their mind and become republicans in 1791. 

Here you have some other decisions made by the National Constituent Assembly: 

- Equality of rights for Jews and Protestants. 

- Freedom of press 

- Issue of the assignat, a sort of paper money supported by the nationalized properties of the clergy.

- New administrative division of France: departments (provinces), districts, cantons and communes (municipalities). 

- All the civil servants had to be elected, including judges. The king could only appoint the heads of the Army. 

- Freedom of trade and industry: elimination of guilds, interior customs and tolls

- Prohibition of workers´associations (Le Chapelier Law, which was in force in France until 1884). 

- Suppression of contemplative religious orders: only the ones dedicated to education and charity could continue to exist

- Abolition of the titles of nobility. 

- Civil marriage and divorce

- Abolition of birthright in heritage

- Equality of rights for the sons of the slaves in the colonies. But they didn´t abolish slavery. 

- Equality of punishments for all the citizens, including death penalty for the most serious crimes. The guillotine, invented by Doctor Louis Guillotin, was established as a more "humanitarian" way of executing criminals. There were deputies who opposed death penalty, but they were a minority.

But there were other discusions in the Assembly, such as the right to hunt or allowing the members of the clergy to get married (not approved), censorship and control of the post... Some of the most intense debates were the following: 

- Who had to have the right to vote? This was a very important debate, because it gave the definition of citizen: only those men who were more than 25 years old and paid taxes equal to three days of work were considered active citizens. Around two thirds of the adult men in France got the right to vote. This decision deceived the poorest 

- Should the people who protested for their hard living conditions be punished? Some deputies defended that the right to surivive was above other rights and, as long as people couldn´t afford surviving with dignity, they shouldn´t be punished for trying to get a better life. 

- What to do with the king when he was caught trying to flee from France and join the counter-revolutionaries?

These discusions made the differences of opinion among the revolutionaries evident and led to the appearance of the first political groups in France. 

There is not good information about the National Constituent Assembly in English on the Internet. If you want to learn more about this topic, here you have some links in French: 





I´ve also extracted information to write this post from the following book:

McPHEE, Peter, Robespierre. Una vida revolucionaria, Ed. Península, Barcelona, 2012

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