How Did France Become a Constitutional Monarchy? French Revolution

How did France become a constitutional monarchy? The National Assembly completed the draft of the constitution in 1791. Its main object was to limit the powers of the monarch. These powers instead of being concentrated in the hands of one person were now separated and assigned to different institutions, the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary. This made France a constitutional monarchy.

Learn more about the french revolution and how did France become a constitutional monarchy.

The Constitution of 1791 vested the power to make laws in the National Assembly, which was indirectly elected. That is, citizens voted for a group of electors, who in turn chose the Assembly. Not all citizens, however, had the right to vote.

Only men above 25 years of age who paid taxes equal to at least 3 days of a laborer’s wage were given the status of active citizens, that is, they were entitled to vote. The remaining men and all women were classed as passive citizens.

To qualify as an elector and then as a member of the Assembly, a man had to belong to the highest bracket of taxpayers. The Constitution began with a Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen. Rights such as the right to life, freedom of speech, freedom of opinion, equality before the law, were established as ënatural and inalienableí rights, that is, they belonged to each human being by birth and could not be taken away.

It was the duty of the state to protect each citizenís natural rights. France Abolishes Monarchy and Becomes a Republic. The situation in France continued to be tense during the following years. Although Louis XVI had signed the Constitution, he entered into secret negotiations with the King of Prussia.

Rulers of other neighboring countries too were worried by the developments in France and made plans to send troops to put down the events that had been taking place there since the summer of 1789.

Before this could happen, the National Assembly voted in April 1792 to declare war against Prussia and Austria. Thousands of volunteers thronged from the provinces to join the army. They saw this as a war of the people against kings and aristocracies all over Europe.

Among the patriotic songs they sang was the Marseillaise, composed by the poet Roget de LíIsle. It was sung for the first time by volunteers from Marseilles as they marched into Paris and so got its name. The Marseillaise is now the national anthem of France.

The revolutionary wars brought losses and economic difficulties to the people. While the men were away fighting at the front, women were left to cope with the tasks of earning a living and looking after their families.

Large sections of the population were convinced that the revolution had to be carried further, as the Constitution of 1791 gave political rights only to the richer sections of society. Political clubs became an important rallying point for people who wished to discuss government policies and plan their own forms of action. The most successful of these clubs was that of the Jacobins, which got its name from the former convent of St Jacob in Paris.

Women too, who had been active throughout this period, formed their own clubs. The members of the Jacobin club belonged mainly to the less prosperous sections of society. They included small shopkeepers, artisans such as shoemakers, pastry cooks, watch-makers, printers, as well as servants, and daily-wage workers.

Their leader was Maximilian Robespierre. A large group among the Jacobins decided to start wearing long striped trousers similar to those worn by dockworkers. This was to set themselves apart from the fashionable sections of society, especially nobles, who wore knee-breeches. It was a way of proclaiming the end of the power wielded by the wearers of knee-breeches.

These Jacobins came to be known as the sans-culottes, literally meaning ëthose without knee breechesí. Sansculottes men wore, in addition, the red cap that symbolized liberty. Women however were not allowed to do so. In the summer of 1792, the Jacobins planned an insurrection of a large number of Parisians who were angered by the short supplies and high prices of food.

On the morning of August 10, they stormed the Palace of the Tuileries, massacred the kingís guards, and held the king himself hostage for several hours. Later the Assembly voted to imprison the royal family. Elections were held. From now on all men of 21 years and above, regardless of wealth, got the right to vote. The newly elected assembly was called the Convention.

On 21 September 1792, it abolished the monarchy and declared France a republic. As you know, a republic is a form of government where the people elect the government including the head of the government. There is no hereditary monarchy. Louis XVI was sentenced to death by a court on the charge of treason. On 21 January 1793, he was executed publicly at the Place de la Concorde. Queen Marie Antoinette met with the same fate shortly after.

Read More: French Society During the Late Eighteenth Century: French Revolution

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