Ancient history

First French Constitution

  • In 1789, France was in the midst of a social, economic and political crisis. Following the convocation of the States-General by the King, the deputies of the Third Estates met with the clergy and the nobility at Versailles, in the Jeu de Paume room.
  • Inspired by the parliamentary monarchy across the Channel, the ideals of the Enlightenment (Montesquieu, Rousseau), the notebooks of grievances of the Third Estate, the latter swore not to separate before having established a Constitution:it is the oath of the Tennis court (June 20, 1789). Indeed, if the France of the Old Regime was structured by edicts and laws, it had no constitution since it was based on a monarchy of divine right.
  • Enthusiastically, the now-titled National Constituent Assembly drafts the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, August 26, 1789, shortly after feudal rights and privileges were abolished (August 4) .

September 1791


Jean Sylvain Bailly

Antoine Barnave

Stanislas de Clermont-Tonnerre

Adrien Duport

Emmanuel Fréteau de Saint-Just

Alexandre de Lameth

Louis XIV

Honoré Gabriel Riqueti

Jean-Joseph Mounier

Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours

Emmanuel-Joseph Sieyès


The Constitution, completed on September 3, 1791, was then submitted to King Louis XVI – temporarily suspended from his powers because of his attempt to flee to Varennes (June 20-21, 1791) then absolved – who validated it on September 13. However, he insists on going in person to the Assembly to ratify it.

Thus, on September 14, 1791, the French Constitution was officially promulgated. This brand new constitution imposes the separation of powers between the executive, headed by the king, the legislature, headed by the Assembly, and the judiciary, of which the court of cassation and the High Court are the guarantors. /P>

King Louis XVI loses his sovereignty for the benefit of the Nation to which he swears fidelity and obedience to the laws. The Constitution abolishes the institutions and principles of the Old Regime opposing the national motto "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity", nobility, birthright, inheritance of offices, corporations of professions, etc. Sovereignty belongs to the Nation and is decreed one, indivisible, inalienable and imprescriptible. The preamble to the French Constitution is none other than the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.

On September 30, the Constituent Assembly becomes the Legislative Assembly.


  • The Absolute Monarchy, by divine right, therefore becomes constitutional; but the latter does not keep its promises of stability. The King and the Assembly constantly oppose each other.
  • The troubles led to a large-scale insurrectionary movement on August 10, 1792:the sans-culottes marched on the Tuileries and imprisoned the king in the Temple with his entire family. Hastily assembled, the Executive Council then signed the end of the constitutional monarchy, dismissing Louis XVI from office. The Constitution is dead.
  • Furthermore, France was invaded by Austria and Prussia, fervent defenders of the monarchy. The victory at Valmy of the revolutionary troops on September 20, 1792 confirms the creation of the I re Republic but cannot contain the already raging Terror.

Next Post