National Constituent Assembly

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The National Constituent Assembly (French: Assemblée nationale constituante) was formed from the National Assembly on July 9, 1789, during the first stages of the French Revolution. It dissolved September 30, 1791, succeeded by the Legislative Assembly.



The Estates-General of 1789, which convened on May 5, had reached a deadlock in its deliberations by May 6. The representatives of the Third Estate therefore attempted to make the whole body more effective; they met separately from May 11 as the Communes. On June 12, the Communes invited the other Estates to join them: some members of the First Estate did so the following day. On June 17 the Communes declared themselves the National Assembly by a vote of 490 to 90. The First Estate joined the assembly on June 19. A legislative and political agenda unfolded.

Following attempts by King Louis XVI and the Second Estate to prevent the delegates from meeting, the new assembly was forced to relocate to a tennis court on June 20; there, it swore the Tennis Court Oath, promising to draft a new constitution for France. Failing to disperse the delegates, Louis started to recognise their validity on June 27. The Assembly re-named itself the National Constituent Assembly on July 9, and began to function as a governing body and a constitution-drafter. However, it is common to refer to the body even after this date as the "National Assembly" or alternatively, "Constituent Assembly."

Structure in the summer of 1789

Following the storming of the Bastille on July 14, the National Constituent Assembly became the effective government of France. In the words of historian François Mignet, "The assembly had acquired the entire power; the corporations depended on it; the national guards obeyed it... The royal power, though existing of right, was in a measure suspended, since it was not obeyed, and the assembly had to supply its action by its own." [1] (

The number of the Estates-General increased significantly during the election period, but many deputies took their time arriving, some of them reaching Paris as late as 1791. According to Timothy Tackett's Becoming a Revolutionary, there were a total of 1177 deputies in the Assembly by mid-July, 1789. Among them, 278 belonged to the Nobles, 295 the Clergy, and 604 were representatives of the Third Estate. For the entire duration of the Assembly a total of 1315 deputies were certified, with 330 for the Clergy, 322 nobles and 663 deputies of the Third Estate. According to his research, Mr. Tackett noted that the majority of the Second Estate had military background, while the Third Estate was dominated by men of legal professions.

Some of the leading figures of the Assembly at this time included:

To this list one must add the Abbé Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès, foremost in proposing legislation in this period, and the man who, for a time, managed to bridge the differences between those who wanted a constitutional monarchy and those who wished to move in more democratic (or even republican) directions.


For a detailed description of the proceedings in the National Constituent Assembly and related events, please see the following articles:

For a list of presidents of the National Constituent Assembly, see: List of Presidents of the French National Assembly.


After surviving the vicissitudes of a revolutionary two years, the National Constituent Assembly dissolved itself on September 30, 1791. The following day the Constitution of 1791 went into effect, granting power to the Legislative Assembly.


Template:Mignetde:Konstituante fr:Assemblée constituante he:האספה המכוננת הלאומית


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