Legislative Assembly (France)
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|Kingdom of France|
Medal of the Legislative Assembly
|Established||1 October 1791|
|Disbanded||20 September 1792|
|Preceded by||National Constituent Assembly|
|Succeeded by||National Convention|
|Salle du Manège, Paris|
The Legislative Assembly (French: Assemblée législative) was the legislature of France from 1 October 1791 to 20 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 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 20 September 1792, when the National Convention was established after the insurrection of 10 August just the month before.
The elections of 1791, held by census franchise, brought in a legislature that desired to carry the Revolution further. Prominent in the 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 rightists 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 leftists were 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. King Louis XVI favored war hoping to exploit a military defeat to restore his absolute power; the Assembly was leaning toward war and 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 such as these:
- Legislation declaring the émigrés guilty of conspiracy and prosecuted as such was 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 who did not take the civic oath within eight days would lose his pension and, if any troubles broke out, he would be deported. Louis vetoed the 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 because of 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.
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.
The Legislative Assembly was driven by two opposing groups. The members of the first group were conservative members of the bourgeoisie (Wealthy middle class in the Third Estate) that favored a constitutional monarchy, represented by the Feuillants, who felt that the revolution had already achieved its goal.
The other group was the democratic faction, for whom the king could no longer be trusted, represented by the new members of the Jacobin club that claimed that more revolutionary measures were necessary.[note 1]
- Political parties
|Term of office||Political Party||Department||Legislature
|1||Claude-Emmanuel de Pastoret
|3 October 1791||30 October 1791||Feuillants Club||Seine||I
|2||Pierre Victurnien Vergniaud
|30 October 1791||15 November 1791||Jacobin Club||Gironde|
|15 November 1791||28 November 1791||Feuillants Club||Seine-et-Marne|
|4||Bernard Germain de Lacépède
|28 November 1791||10 December 1791||Feuillants Club||Seine|
|10 December 1791||26 December 1791||Feuillants Club||Rhône|
|6||François de Neufchâteau
|26 December 1791||22 January 1792||Jacobin Club||Vosges|
|22 January 1792||7 February 1792||Jacobin Club||Gironde|
|8||Nicolas de Condorcet
|7 February 1792||19 February 1792||Jacobin Club||Seine|
|19 February 1792||4 March 1792||Feuillants Club||Seine-et-Oise|
|10||Louis-Bernard Guyton de Morveau
|4 March 1792||19 March 1792||Jacobin Club||Côte-d'Or|
|19 March 1792||15 April 1792||Jacobin Club||Gironde|
|12||Félix-Julien-Jean Bigot de Préameneu
|15 April 1792||29 April 1792||Feuillants Club||Ille-et-Vilaine|
|29 April 1792||13 May 1792||Feuillants Club||Lot-et-Garonne|
|13 May 1792||27 May 1792||Feuillants Club||Var|
|27 May 1792||10 June 1792||Feuillants Club||Ille-et-Vilaine|
|10 June 1792||24 June 1792||Independent||Loire-Atlantique|
|17||Louis Stanislas de Girardin
|24 June 1792||8 July 1792||Jacobin Club||Oise|
|18||Jean-Baptiste Annibal Aubert du Bayet
|8 July 1792||22 July 1792||Feuillants Club||Isère|
|19||André-Daniel Laffon de Ladebat
|22 July 1792||7 August 1792||Feuillants Club||Gironde|
|20||Jean-François Honoré Merlet
|7 August 1792||20 August 1792||Jacobin Club||Maine-et-Loire|
|20 August 1792||2 September 1792||Jacobin Club||Eure-et-Loir|
|22||Marie-Jean Hérault de Séchelles
|2 September 1792||16 September 1792||Jacobin Club||Seine|
|16 September 1792||16 September 1792||Jacobin Club||Hérault|
- Thomas Lalevée, « National Pride and Republican grandezza: Brissot’s New Language for International Politics in the French Revolution », French History and Civilisation (Vol. 6), 2015, pp. 66-82
- Albert Mathiez, La Révolution française, Librairie Armand Colin 1922, p. 170
- Bernardine Melchior-Bonnet, Les Girondins, Tallandier 1989, p. 52
- Jean-Paul Bertaud, La Révolution française, Perrin 1989 « rééd. coll. Tempus », 2004, p. 81-133
- Jean-Paul Bertaud, La Révolutions française, p. 81