Basic Facts of the Constitution
- It was a liberal document (tolerant and free thinking).
- It was written by and in the interests of the bourgeiosie (middle class).
- It established a Constitutional Monarchy which replaced the Absolute Monarchy of the Ancien Regime.
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The Role of the King
- Louis was now subject to the law of France, like everyone else.
- Louis was now the 'King of the French' as opposed to his former status 'King of France'.
- Louis was given a 'civil list' which gave him access to a financial allowance, replacing his unlimited access to money before the Constitution.
- Louis could still choose his ministers, but they had to be chosen from men who were not part of the National Assembly.
- Louis could no longer start or end a war without the permission of the National Assembly.
- Louis had a 'Suspensive Veto' - meaning he could reject a new law passed by the National Assembly, but only for a finite period of time. The veto excluded financial and constitutional laws.
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Local Government Reforms
- The old system of generalities and intendents was abolished.
- France was divided into 83 departments of equal size.
- Each department was governed by a local elected council.
- Paris was divided into 48 sections and had its own Municipal Council to make decisions concerning the city.
- Power had been decentralised and essentially passed into the hands of the local bourgeoisie.
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Reform of the Legal System
- Specialised courts such as ecclesiastical courts, seigneural courts and Parlements were abolished.
- A Tribunal System replaced the specialised courts, which could be used by anyone.
- At the head of the legal system were the Court of Appeal and the High Court.
- Juries were elected and Judges were elected from lawyers.
- Every citizen was given the right to a court trial within 24 hours of their arrest, the right to a lawyer and the right to a public judgement.
- Venality was abolished (the selling of jobs and titles).
- The Guillotine replaced all other forms of execution.
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Abolition of Nobility
- The National Assembly declared that the nobility was to be abolished in 1790.
- As a result of this, the nobility lost all their titles, privileges and tax exemptions.
- The aristocracy ceased to exist and all men were now equal as active or passive citizens.
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Religious Reforms - Civil Constitution of the Cler
- The religious reforms caused more problems than any other reforms made by the National Assembly.
- The Civil Constitution of the Clergy (CCC) is said to have started the 'Counter Revolutionary Movement'.
- On the Night of the 4th of August (1789) all Tithes were abolished, church land was nationalised and clergymen were to receive fixed salaries.
- The CCC was released by the Assembly in 1790.
- The CCC meant that there was to be one bishop in each Department.
- The CCC stated that members of the clergy would be elected by their superiors in the clerical hierarchy.
- Whereas before, the Pope had the power to choose bishops and priests, now he had no control over positions within the clergy, and as a result, he condemned the revolution.
- In November of 1790, the National Assembly declared that all members of the clergy must take an oath of loyalty to the CCC - agreeing to the reforms it made.
- Those who took the oath were seen to agree with the revolution.
- Those who refused to take the oath were known as refractory priests and were associated with the 'Counter Revolutionary Movement'.
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- The financial system of the Ancien Regime was abolished in 1789. This included indirect taxes (Gabelle, Taille, Aides), customs barriers and tax exemptions.
- The 3 new taxes of the Constitution were property tax, trade/commerce tax and land tax.
- Collection of taxes was to be carried out by local councils.
- The National Treasury was set up to store and handle money.
- The 'assignat' was introduced to save the National Assembly from financial difficulties. The 'assignat' was a form of paper money or bond.
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