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French Revolution
French Revolution

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3 From 1789 to the flight to Varennes

3.1 The moderate reformers

1789–92 was a period of relatively moderate reform in the spirit of the Enlightenment – moderate, that is, compared with what followed. It was certainly revolutionary in relation to what went before. The Constituent Assembly (August 1789–September 1791) and its successor, the Legislative Assembly (October 1791–August 1792), comprising educated members of the Third Estate joined by liberal-minded nobles and clergy, were satisfied with the transformation of absolute monarchy into a parliamentary system, a constitutional monarchy under a constitution introduced in 1791. Political power lay with the Assembly, which was run by wealthy property-holders. Their object ‘was not to effect a social revolution but to create a more open society in which opportunities previously restricted to birth, should now be open to talent’ (Hampson, 1975, p. 95).