The Constitution

On August 4th, the National Assembly, declared Rights of Man and of Citizen, a statement on democratic ideas formed from philosophical and political concepts of enlightenment. It was heavily based on the ideology of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. In this document, the Assembly promised abolition of the ancient regime and replacement with a representative government that worked towards freedom of speech, equal opportunity and sovereignty.

However, the actual drafting of a constitution that would encapsulate all the ideologies and rights plus duties of an individual and citizen proved a challenge. Not only had the National Constituent Assembly have to draft an actual constitution for the now sovereign country but also perform the duties of a legislature in times of harsh economic downturn. Members bickered within the Assembly on fundamental questions such as how delegates would be elected, who would be responsible? Will the king have any authority at all (the King’s attempts at fleeing in June 1791 only further weakened his image) if Monarchy is retained and what about the clergy – would they answer to the government or the Roman Catholic Church? These were some of the key questions that the Assembly debated for months on.

Then on September 3rd 1791, France published its first constitution in written text that supported a constitutional monarchy where the king was still head of state with veto power and had the power to appoint his ministers. Unfortunately, this was seen as a compromise by many influential radicals such as Georges Danton, Camille Desmoulins and Maximilien de Robespierre who then started their own propaganda to create a republican type of government, which ultimately led to a trial of King Louis XVI.