Constitutional monarchy: reforming France/ Chapter 3


1. Reform programmes of the National Assembly

  • Local government. They wanted to decentralise the power, passing it from Paris to the local authorities. (This would make it more difficult for the King to recover the power he had before) The Assembly also wanted to ensure that the principle of democracy was introduced to all levels. As a result: A) France was divided into 83 depts. B) Depts were subdivided into 547 districts and 43,360 communes C) Paris was reformed into 48 Sections. Also, the concept of "active citizens" was introduced which divided society into three tiers: 1) men over 25 who paid three days' labour in local taxes could choose electors, citizens who did not pay - "passive citizens"  2)Electors - active citizens who paid 10 days' labour in local taxes. They elected members of the canton and department assemblies and could become officials there, they also elected the deputies to the National Assembly 3) to be eligible to become a deputy to the N.A. an "active citizen had to pay 54 days' labour in direct taxation. 
  • Taxation and Finance. Firstly, Church land was nationalised and this allowed: a) to provide money for the State b) to guarantee the success of the Revolution c) clergy may support the new regime as they were dependent on it for their salaries. Assignants (bonds backed by Church land) were issued and they also helped to improve the situation. Also, reforms introduced: A) abolishment of indirect taxes such as gabelle B) abolishment of the State monopoly on growing and selling tobacco C) abolishment of the old taxes D) abolishment of the tax farming. The new system introduced new taxes: A) the contribution fonciere(land tax), B)the contribution mobiliere(movable goods tax), C)the patente (commercial profits tax). It was planned that new taxes would be collected by the municipal councils. This system might have worked well if there had been a systematic valuation of the land. The new system did benefit the poor as it abolished many indirect taxes, the burden of taxation fell on producers rather than consumers. 
  • Economy. Free trade was introduced in August 1789 and price controls were removed. In October 1790 internal tariffs were abolished, so a national market was created. Also, guilds were abolished in 1791 as they had restricted the entry of people into certain trades. In June 1791 a coalition of 80,000 Parisian workers was threatening a general strike to obtain higher wages, so the Assembly passed the Le Chapelier law. It forbade trade unions and employers' organisations. Picketing and strikes were declared illegal. Stikes remained illegal until 1864
  • Legal System. Removed: a) the different systems of law in N and S b) the different types of law court c) the lettres de cachet. However, introduced: a) in each canton there should be a justice of peace b) the justice's main task was to persuade the different parties to come to an agreement c) a criminal court would be located in each department…


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