Reforms of the Constitutional Monarchy (Local government (The…
Reforms of the Constitutional Monarchy
Declaration on the Rights of Man and the Citizen
26th August 1789
Condemned the previous regime by asserting that every man had the right to liberty, property, security and resistance to oppression; there existed 'foundational equality' (i.e. all men are born equal) and power lies with the people.
served as the death knell for the previous regime, ushering in and preparing the public for the constructive legislation that was to follow
Nationalization of church property in return for the state paying the salaries of priests and funding the poor relief
2nd November 1789
Financial crisis and the lack of revenue from taxation prompted the radical action of bringing church property under state control in order to raise funds. Bonds called assignats were issued and sold (backed up by the sale of church land) to settle debts and purchase goods.
400 million livres went a long way to ending the financial woes of the government
The administrative chaos of the ancien regime had crippled Louis' ability to deal with some of the problems France experienced - a new, more coherent structure needed to be established
Between December 1789 and February 1790 the following decentralising reforms took effect: France would be divided into 83 departments (still around in the present day); these 83 departments were subdivided into 547 districts and 43,360 communes; these 43,360 communes were grouped into cantons, where primary assemblies were held and there were law courts. All these administrative divisions (except the cantons) were run by elected councils.
In Paris, the local city government was divided into 48 Sections (May 1790)
HOWEVER - it soon became clear that the Assembly had no intention of introducing suffrage to those who had taken part in the popular protests, preventing them also from taking a direct role in government. In
the concept of 'active citizens' was introduced (subordinating 'passive citizens' - men over 25 who did not pay the equivalent of
three days labour
in local taxes) but their only real power was to choose electors. Electors were active citizens who paid more than
10 days labour
in taxes - they elected members of the canton and department assemblies, and also elected deputies to the National Assembly. Eligibility for the National Assembly was restricted to those men who paid the equivalent of
54 days labour
in direct taxation - alienating most Frenchmen from the position.
How successful were the reforms? Councils in the south were dominated by
in the North, by the largely
Rural communes were left in the hands of
- upper tier economically of the peasantry who owned a plough and hired labour themselves - or artisans and merchants. These councils had an enormous amount of work to do, including organising the National Guard, collecting taxes and maintaining law and order.
Rural communes often carried out these duties badly because they were filled with largely illiterate people.
Taxation and Finance
Gabelle was abolished in 1790 and within a year nearly all other unpopular indirect taxes were abolished. The state monopoly on tobacco was brought to an end, old direct taxes - the taille, capitation and vingtiemes - were also abolished.
LAND TAX - no exemptions or special privileges; TAX ON MOVABLE GOODS e.g. grain, paid only by active citizens; TAX ON COMMERCIAL PROFITS. Citizens would pay in accordance with their ability to do so. This was relatively unsuccessful because tax rolls were based on those of the ancien regime, so there were great regional variations, and it was too easy to avoid paying direct taxes (concealing income vs. concealing goods). However, this new system of taxation did actually benefit the poor because it targeted producers rather than consumers.
Sale of Church land (see pink branch) because the State needed money desperately in the period before a new taxation system was established; perhaps more insidiously, those that bought Church land would have a vested interest in maintaining the revolutionary changes - thus preventing the potential restoration of the ancien regime. This included the clergy who were suddenly dependent on the state for their salaries.
Main beneficiaries of the selling of Church land were the bourgeoisie as they had cash available. However, much of this was resold in smaller quantities to the peasants.
Based on the principles of laissez faire, which all deputies in the Constituent Assembly supported. Expressed as the removal of price controls and the introduction of free trade in grain. However, most ordinary people actually wanted the prices of goods to be controlled to avoid scarcity and possible starvation - they supported government intervention. Internal tariffs were abolished, creating a national market for the first time - goods could move freely from one part of France to another without paying internal customs duties.
Aim to open up a diverse range of occupations and crafts to more people, instigated through the abolishment of guilds (which restricted entry of people into certain trades). Deputies were also determined to lift special privileges or restrictions awarded to certain professions, and made trade unions illegal until 1884.
Did attempt to set up an efficacious committee with the purpose of providing structural relief for the poor, but when the scope of the problem was investigated, the committee found itself impotent - there were simply too many people to help and not enough funding to help them.
Principle of uniformity as applied to the local government
Abolished the numerous different law courts including the parlements, the different systems of law in the north and south of the country and also the lettres de cachet (an annoying weird thing that was essentially a letter from the King allowing detention without trial of a named individual)
Replaced by a justice of peace in each canton, tasked to persuade different parties to come to an agreement (like a neutral arbiter) and also judge minor civil cases. New jury would be established for criminal courts (nicked off the English system). Head of the judicial system was the Court of Appeals, elected by department assemblies. Only active citizens who had been lawyers for at least five years were eligible to vote on who would be given the role of judge.
Torture and mutilation outlawed, the number of crimes warranting capital punishment was greatly reduced (and this could only be done by guillotine past March 1792) and anyone arrested had to be brought to a court within 24 hours.
The Church and the religious system
Desire to create a system free from abuses (plurality and absenteeism), independent of external control from Rome, linked to the new system of local government and linked more closely to the State
Abolished the tithe (1/10th part of income or produce paid to the Church), pluralism and also the obligation for a payment to be made by the French Church to the Pope in the Vatican. Ended the privileges of the Church.
In December 1789 civil rights were given to Protestants (this was unpopular); extended to Jews in September 1791
Civil Constitution of the Clergy,
12th July 1790. This adapted the new administrative framework of local government to the newly organised Church system. Dioceses were to coincide with departments; all clerical posts other than bishops and priests ceased to exist; an end to absenteeism - no bishop was to be absent from his diocese for more than 15 days consecutively in any year - and all bishops and priests had to be elected to their posts.
There was some backlash against the Civil Constitution of the Clergy - most opposed the introduction of elections in selecting bishops and priests, and demanded that all the reforms be submitted to a national synod of the French church for approval. The Constituent Assembly refused - this would give the Church a privileged position again.
The Pope condemned the Civil Constitution in March and April 1791 which split the clergy, forcing many who had taken an oath of loyalty to the Constitution to retract their oath.
Unfortunately a split emerged anyway between the constitutional Church that accepted the Revolution (and was rejected by Rome) and the non-juring Church composed of refractory priests, approved by the Pope but regarded as rejecting the Revolution. Counter revolutionary movement gained support.
Power eventually passed from the Constituent Assembly to the new Legislative Assembly, comprised of 745 members who would be elected every two years and hold significant power. The King held only a suspensive veto, could appoint ministers and military commanders but was wholly dependent on the Assembly regarding foreign policy - needed its consent before war could be declared (more on that later).
'In France there is no authority superior to the law...it is only by means of the law that the King reigns'. The King was officially and legally subordinate to the law.