August 4, 1789: Night Session of the National Assembly
The evening session of the National Assembly on August 4, 1789, which lasted until two o’clock in the morning of August 5, was one of the most famous events of the revolution, and became known for the renunciation, in an atmosphere of excitement and enthusiasm, of privileges of the aristocracy, Church, provinces, and municipalities. What was done was in part the product of planning by a minority of liberal leaders who were aware of the peasant revolts sweeping the country, of the dangers to the Assembly if repression were to be carried out by regular armies under the command of the king, and of the need not only to appease the peasantry but to do so without losing support of the liberals among the nobles and clergy who had thus far supported the revolution. Although the session of August 4 was the product of a calculated maneuver, neither the maneuver nor the response it elicited could have occurred without a backlog of problems that needed clearing up if there was to be national unity and equal citizenship; there was awareness of both the peasant crisis and the need to take a stand on matters of principle before the revolution could go forward to the making of a declaration of rights and a constitution. It is often pointed out that the detailed implementation between August 5 and 11 was less generous than the resolutions of the famous evening session, and this is of course true, but August 4 remains the crucial breakthrough toward a major reorganization of society, the Church,and political subdivisions, as well as citizenship and constitutional government.
KeywordsPublic Welfare Evening Session Equal Citizenship Constitutional Government Major Reorganization
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