Legislative Assembly (France)

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Legislative Assembly
Assemblée législative
Kingdom of France
Established 1 October 1791
Disbanded 20 September 1792
Preceded by National Constituent Assembly
Succeeded by National Convention
Seats 745
Meeting place

The Legislative Assembly was the legislature of France from 1 October 1791 to September 1792 during the years of the French Revolution. It provided the focus of political debate and revolutionary law-making between the periods of the National Constituent Assembly and of the National Convention.

The Legislative Assembly was driven by two opposing groups. The members of the first group were primarily moderate members of the bourgeoisie (Wealthy middle class in 3rd Estate) that favored a constitutional monarchy, represented by the Feuillants, who felt that the revolution had already achieved its goal.[1] The second group was the democratic faction, for whom the king could no longer be trusted, represented by the new members of the Jacobin club.[2] This group claimed that more revolutionary measures were necessary.[3][note 1]


The National Constituent Assembly dissolved itself on 30 September 1791. Upon Robespierre's motion it had decreed that none of its members would be eligible to the next legislature. Its successor body, the Legislative Assembly, operating under the liberal French Constitution of 1791, lasted until 10 August 1792, when a new National Convention was elected.

The Legislative Assembly entrenched the perceived left-right political spectrum that is still commonly used today. There were 746 members.

Election of the Legislative Assembly[edit]

The elections of 1791, held by census franchise, brought in a legislature which desired to carry the Revolution further. Prominent among this legislature were the Jacobin Club and its affiliated societies throughout France.

The Legislative Assembly first met on 1 October 1791. It consisted of 745 members, mostly from the middle class. The members were generally young, and, since none had sat in the previous Assembly, they largely lacked national political experience. They tended to be people who had made their name through successful political careers in local politics.

The Right within the assembly consisted of about 260 "Feuillants", whose chief leaders, Gilbert du Motier de La Fayette and Antoine Barnave, remained outside the House, because of their ineligibility for re-election. They were staunch constitutional monarchists, firm in their defence of the King against the popular agitation.

The Left consisted of 136 "Jacobins" (still including the party later known as the Girondins or Girondists) and Cordeliers. Its most famous leaders were Jacques Pierre Brissot, the philosopher Condorcet, and Pierre Victurnien Vergniaud. The Left drew its inspiration from the more radical tendency of the Enlightenment, regarded the émigré nobles as traitors, and espoused anticlericalism. They were suspicious of Louis XVI, some of them favoring a general European war both to spread the new ideals of liberty and equality, and to put the king's loyalty to the test.

The remainder of the House, 345 deputies, generally belonged to no definite party. They were called "the Marsh" (Le Marais) or "the Plain" (La Plaine). They were committed to the ideals of the Revolution, hence generally inclined to side with the Left, but would also occasionally back proposals from the Right.

The king's ministers, named by him and excluded from the Assembly, are described by the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica as "mostly persons of little mark."


For a detailed description of the proceedings of the Legislative Assembly and related events, see The Legislative Assembly and the fall of the French monarchy.

The 27 August 1791 Declaration of Pillnitz already threatened France with attack by its neighbors. The King Louis XVI favored war hoping to exploit a military defeat to restore his absolute power; the Assembly was leaning toward war as well in order to spread the ideals of the Revolution. This led in April 1792 to the first of the French Revolutionary Wars.

The king vetoed many of the Assembly's bills throughout its existence. For instance:

  • Legislation declaring the émigrés guilty of conspiracy and prosecuted as such, passed on 8 November 1791, but vetoed by Louis.
  • Enforcement of the Civil Constitution of the Clergy: on 29 November 1791 the Assembly decreed that every non-juring clergyman must take the civic oath within eight days, on pain of losing his pension and, if any troubles broke out, of being deported. Louis vetoed this decree as a matter of conscience.

Louis XVI formed a series of cabinets, veering at times as far left as the Girondists. However, by the summer of 1792, amid war and insurrection, it had become clear that the monarchy and the now-dominant Jacobins could not reach any accommodation. On 11 July 1792, the Assembly formally declared the Nation in danger, due to the dire military situation.

On 9 August 1792, a new revolutionary Commune took possession of Hôtel de Ville, and early on the morning of 10 August the insurgents assailed the Tuileries, where the royal family resided. Louis and his family sought asylum with the Legislative Assembly.

The Assembly stripped Louis, suspected of intelligence with the enemy, of all his royal functions and prerogatives. The king and his family were subsequently imprisoned in the Temple. A resolution is adopted, on 10 August 1792, to summon a new National Convention, to be elected by universal suffrage. Many who had sat in the National Constituent Assembly and many more who had sat in the Legislative Assembly were re-elected. The Convention met on 20 September 1792 and became the new government of France.

Marriage Reform[edit]

On 15 February 1792 Honoré Muraire, reporting for the Legislative Committee, presented a series of recommendations on marriage reform, including the implementation of registers of civil status (replacing registers maintained by the clergy), and allowing younger people to get married


  1. ^ Immediately there was a great deal of dissension between the Feuillants and the democratic faction due to changes made to the Constitution and the Flight to Varennes. The democrats felt that the influence of the majority of the populace was minimized due to census suffrage.[4]
  1. ^ Albert Mathiez, La Révolution française, Librairie Armand Colin 1922, p. 170
  2. ^ Bernardine Melchior-Bonnet, Les Girondins, Tallandier 1989, p. 52
  3. ^ Jean-Paul Bertaud, La Révolution française, Perrin 1989 « rééd. coll. Tempus », 2004, p. 81-133
  4. ^ Jean-Paul Bertaud, La Révolutions française, p. 81

Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.