The Civil Constitution of the Clergy divided the French people. Good Catholics were strongly opposed to it. Some nobles were so worried about the way things were going that they left France. They urged the royal family to join them.The French Revolution was a period in the history of France covering the years 1789 to 1799, in which republicans overthrew the Bourbon monarchy and the Roman Catholic Church perforce underwent radical restructuring. This article covers a period of time slightly longer than a year, from July 14, 1790, the first anniversary of the storming of the Bastille, to the establishment of the Legislative Assembly on October 1, 1791.
This article is a continuation of French Revolution from the abolition of feudalism to the Civil Constitution of the Clergy. Please see that article for background and historical context.
On the 14th, Talleyrand performed a mass; participants swore an oath of "fidelity to the nation, the law, and the king"; the king and the royal family actively participated in the celebrations, which went on for several days.
By this time, the royal family were living in the Tuileries, under the generally benevolent guardianship of Lafayette and his National Guards. These guards protected them from occasional popular outbursts, but also fended off several efforts by royalists to spirit them out of Paris.
Under the new military code promotion depended on seniority and proven competence, rather than on nobility. In one detrimental consequence of this generally sound policy, large portions of the existing officer corps, seeing that they would no longer stand to gain promotion, left the army, and even the country, and attempted to stir up international diplomatic and even military opposition to the new, more democratic order. Others (such as Bouillé) stayed inside the military, but remained insincere in their oaths to the new regime, and became a counter-revolutionary threat from within.
This same period saw an increase of the importance of political "clubs" in French politics. Foremost among these was the Jacobin Club. While the Assembly met in Versailles, it was an unnamed group of Breton deputies to propose legislation. With the move to Paris, the group acquired a name and expanded its membership, first to other like-minded members of the Assembly, then to members of the general populace in Paris, and later throughout France. According to the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, by August 10, 1790 there were already one hundred and fifty-two affiliated clubs. Despite the Jacobins' later prominence during the Reign of Terror, in the summer and fall of 1790 they were still well within the mainstream of the popular or national party.
As the Jacobins became a broad popular organization, some of its founders abandoned it to form the Club of '89. Key members of this club included abbé Sieyès, Chapelier, Lafayette, and La Rochefoucauld. Mirabeau was active in both the Jacobins and the Club of '89.
Royalists established first the short-lived Club des Impartiaux and later the Club Monarchique. They attempted unsuccessfully to curry public favor by distributing bread; nonetheless, they were the frequent target of protests and even riots, and were finally closed down by the Paris municipal authorities in January 1791.
On October 31, 1790 the Assembly abolished all internal trade barriers. Prior to that date, goods being shipped around France had to pass through various customs posts, often corresponding to the way territories had accreted to the French crown. After that date, all of France formed a single unit from the point of view of customs barriers.
The d’Allarde Law of March 2, 1791 suppressed guilds and masterships and freed any individual to practice a trade through the purchase of a license. The Le Chapelier Law of June 14, 1791 proscribed workers' organizations and banned strikes: the rising professionals, merchants and owners of industry had overthrown the power of the aristocracy on their own behalf, not that of their workers.
Shortly before Mirabeau's death the Assembly considered, for the first time, legislation against the émigrés. Because nobles were leaving France and intriguing against the State, some deputies wished to declare "civil death" for all who left France. The debate pitted the safety of the state against the liberty of individuals to leave. Mirabeau carried the day against the measure, which he referred to as "worthy of being placed in the code of Draco." However, before the end of the year, the new French Legislative Assembly would adopt this "draconian" measure.
For some time, the revolutionaries had feared that the royal family would attempt to escape Paris. When Louis tried to leave the Tuileries for Saint-Cloud at Easter 1791, in order to enjoy the ministrations of a nonjuring priest, they would not let him budge.
Encouraged by the émigrés to believe that revolutionary France was without effective military means of defense, representatives of Austria, Switzerland, Sardinia, and Spain, met at Mantua and on May 20, 1791 reached a secret agreement to go to war against France, supposedly on behalf of King Louis. However, when the plan was conveyed to the king, he rejected this potentially treacherous source of aid, casting his lot instead with General Bouillé, who condemned both the emigration and the Assembly, and promised him refuge and support in his camp at Montmedy.
In the morning, their disappearance was discovered. Despite an angry crowd, the Assembly soon established their control of the situation, seizing executive power and obtaining oaths from the troops to the Assembly (rather than to the king).
The overconfident king had the imprudence to show himself, and was recognised and arrested at Varennes late on the 21st, and brought back to Paris under guard.
When they reached Paris, the crowd was silent. The Assembly provisionally suspended the king and kept him and Queen Marie Antoinette under guard.
Jacques Pierre Brissot drafted a petition, denying the competency of the Assembly, appealing to the sovereignty of the nation, insisting that in the eyes of the nation Louis XVI was deposed since his flight, and demanding that if the monarchy were to continue it should be under a different monarch. On July 17 an immense crowd gathered at the altar of the country in the Champ de Mars to sign the petition. The Assembly called for the municipal authorities to "preserve the public tranquility." Under Lafayette's command, the National Guard at first dispersed the crowd without bloodshed, but the crowd re-formed, with Georges Danton and Camille Desmoulins giving fiery speeches. This time, when Lafayette and mayor Jean-Sylvain Bailly ordered the crowd to disperse, they were answered with a barrage of stones. Lafayette ordered his men to fire in the air; the crowd did not back down; Lafayette ordered his men to fire into the crowd. Reports on the number killed vary, but it may have been as many as fifty people.
In the wake of the massacre, the authorities closed many of the patriotic clubs, as well as radical newspapers such as Jean-Paul Marat's L'Ami du Peuple. Danton fled to England; Desmoulins and Marat went into hiding.
Leopold II, Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick William II of Prussia, and the king's brother Charles-Phillipe, comte d'Artois met at Pilnitz Castle in Dresden, where on August 27, 1791 they issued a declaration which considered the cause of Louis XVI as their own, demanded his total liberty and the dissolution of the Assembly, and promised an invasion of France on his behalf if its conditions were refused.
If anything, the Declaration of Pilnitz further imperilled Louis. The French people were in no temper to be dictated to by foreign monarchs, and the threat of force merely resulted in the militarization of the frontiers. King Louis was saved for the present by the fact that those in the Assembly who favored a constitutional monarchy over a republic desperately needed him to continue in his role.
Even before the Flight to Varennes, the Assembly had determined that they themselves would be excluded from the legislature that was to succeed them, the Legislative Assembly. Mirabeau had opposed this limitation, and Adrien Duport memorably asked, "While every one is pestering us with new principles of all sorts, how is it overlooked that stability is also a principle of government?" but their views did not carry the day.
The Assembly now gathered the various constitutional laws they had passed into a single constitution, the Constitution of 1791. Showing remarkable fortitude in not using this occasion as an opportunity for major revisions, the Assembly submitted the constitution to the recently restored Louis XVI, who accepted it, writing "I engage to maintain it at home, to defend it from all attacks from abroad; and to cause its execution by all the means it places at my disposal."
Once again, the king and the Assembly seemed to have reconciled. The king's letter excited general approbation. Lafayette demanded and procured an amnesty in favor of those who were under prosecution for favouring the king's flight, or for proceedings against the revolution. The king addressed the Assembly and was enthusiastically applauded by them and by the spectators.
Mignet has written, "The constitution of 1791... was the work of the middle class, then the strongest; for, as is well known, the predominant force ever takes possession of institutions... In this constitution the people was the source of all powers, but it exercised none; it was entrusted only with election in the first instance, and its magistrates were selected by men chosen from among the enlightened portions of the community."