Constituent Assembly

After destroying the old feudal order of France, the National Assembly undertook the task of framing new Constitution for France and declared itself as the Constituent Assembly on 9th July. The King was forced to accept the decision. The Constituent Assembly drafted the constitution for the first time in 1791.It was the first written constitution in the history of France. The supreme power of the state was vested in the public. The structure of the French government remained monarchic but the rights of the king were curbed. The king was vested with veto. The king lost his power of legislation but he could stop the implementation of any law passed by the legislature.

The document contained following declarations:

  • The assembly declared that man is invested with some natural rights that he acquires by birth such as the right of individual security.
  • Right to private property was declared as the fundamental right. Private property was declared inviolable and sacred right no one shall be deprived thereof except in case of public necessity.
  • Law is the expression of common will and originates from the combined efforts of the people.
  • Every individual has the right to participate in running the administration and making laws.
  • No person shall be accused, arrested or imprisoned except in the cases and according to the forms prescribed by law.
  • The security of public rights is the duty of the state.
  • Sovereignty was invested in the nation instead of state or Parliament.
  • All people have the right to acquire government ranks according to their merits.
  • Every citizen was given the right to practice and propagate any religion within the prescribed limits of the law.
  • Freedom lies in those activities that do not harm others.

The constitution of 1791 framed by the Constituent Assembly provided for the separation of powers and legislative authority was vested in Legislative Assembly elected indirectly by citizen who paid taxes. The constitution provided for a hereditary king who had a veto power. Religious tolerance was proclaimed. The clergy was brought under the state and they were asked to take oath of allegiance to the new constitution. The constitution reflected the ideas of Rousseau, Montesquieu and Voltaire. The Constituent Assembly caused destruction of the established norms of the society. After completing its work of drafting new constitution the Constituent Assembly decaled itself dissolved and election were held to elect new legislative assembly on the basis of constitution. The first session of the Legislative Assembly began in Oct 1791. With the formation of new government people expected that it would initiate a new epoch and open the doors of happiness and prosperity by strengthening the monarchy in the new set up. But the Assembly could not complete its tenure of two years. It witnessed the decline of monarchy and turn towards blood shed.