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The Constitution of 1791

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Proclamation of the Constitution of 1791

On the day of the Tennis Court Oath, the National Assembly had declared that it would not disband until a new constitution had been created for France. They completed their task in 1791. The new constitution created by these moderate revolutionaries declared France to be a constitutional monarchy. Within this new government, all legislative powers went to a single Legislative Assembly, which alone had the power to declare war and raise taxes.

The Legislative Assembly was an indirectly elected body. It was made up of representatives selected by Electors, who themselves were elected by "active" citizens. An active citizen was a male citizen who paid annual taxes equal to the local wages paid for three days of labor. About two thirds of the male citizens were able to vote. Only a small number qualified to serve as either electors or members of the Legislative Assembly.

The monarch had only limited powers. He could temporarily stop legislation with a suspensive veto, but he could not veto anything permanently. He had no control of the army, or any authority over local government. He had no voice in the new Legislative Assembly.

The constitution lasted only one year. Even as the constitution was created, the revolution was turning in a more radical direction.


The Constitution of 1791 Text

Part of Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité: The French Revolution Exhibit

The French Revolution

The French Revolution Primary Sources

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