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The Feuillants were the members of a political club of the French Revolution , named after their meeting place, the monastery of the Feuillants ( Reformed Cistercians ) in Paris. The club came into being on July 18, 1791 when the Jacobins split up after the exodus of the moderates who adhered to the constitutional monarchy .

The goal of the National Constituent Assembly, the Constituent Assembly , since 1789 drafted constitution ( constitution ) was not the democratic republic , but a constitutional monarchy. Parties were not provided for under the constitution, but from 1791 parliamentary and extra-parliamentary groups quickly formed. The political clubs gained increasing influence as opinion-forming institutions. The most important of them was the Jacobin Club , which emerged from a group of Breton MPs.



Antoine Barnave , Adrien Duport and Alexandre de Lameth - the triumvirs and future leaders of the Feuillants - had met in the National Assembly and discovered their complementary talents: “Duport thought what had to be done, Barnave said it, and A. de Lameth did it."

In the spring of 1791, many members of the National Assembly, the Constituante , considered the revolution to be largely over; in the constitutional monarchy they wanted to give it a firm hold. This was also the aim of Mirabeau's commitment . When he died on April 2, 1791, the triumvirs began his political inheritance. They sought proximity to the court, but wanted to preserve the spirit of the revolution of 1789, which they saw threatened by radicalization, popular agitation and the increasing weight of the extra-parliamentary organs. The program of the triumvirs: "Restore public authority, muzzle the Democrats, revise the constitution in terms of strengthening royal powers and increasing the electoral census ." The parliamentary majority seemed safe to them, but the rest of the patriotic party, the supporters of the Revolution, began to slip away from them.

In April 1791 the triumvirs advocated the exclusion of passive citizens from the National Guard ; in May they opposed the political emancipation of blacks, and remained silent in the debate about the right to petition and post posters; so in a few months they lost their popularity. Now they were harassed by the patriotic press, denounced by the popular societies and discredited by the Jacobins.

The revolution had destroyed absolutism and aristocratic society , but the question of popular sovereignty was not resolved: on the one hand there was the elected, sole legislative national assembly with its constitutional powers, on the other hand the revolutionary societies, which meanwhile also in the name of the people claimed to speak and competed with the constitutional organs for the role of true representatives of the will of the people. The debate on the question of the re-eligibility of members of the Constituent National Assembly for the next legislative period sealed the break in the patriotic party in May 1791. Maximilien de Robespierre , who refused to be re-elected, prevailed in the assembly and thus prevented the triumvirs from entering the legislative national assembly, the Législative .

Division of the Jacobins

On July 18, 1791, four weeks after the king's failed escape and the evening after the bloodbath on the Field of Mars , the moderate members left the Jacobin Club. The triumvirate, followed by almost all members of the National Assembly belonging to the club, moved from the Jacobins' seat in rue Saint-Honoré to the monastery church of the Feuillants. The members of the new club were called “Feuillants” after their meeting place. Among the deputies were Le Chapelier , the co-founder of the Breton Club , but also supporters of the Constituionelles , the group around La Fayette , who had joined the policy of the triumvirs after the king tried to escape.

Four fifths had left the Jacobin Club, the “Society of Friends of the Constitution” ( Société des amis de la Constitution ). As defenders of the constitution, they claimed legality for themselves and insisted on the name "Verfassungsfreunde". However, political power was no longer based on the constitutional text itself, but "on the practical ability to make oneself its spokesman through political cunning, rhetorical acumen, through elections or whatever." The Jacobin Robespierre, who remained at the old seat, decreed via such means; he had understood that in the summer of 1791 power "no longer depends on legality, but on revolutionary legitimacy." In a few weeks he led most of the dissidents back into the bosom of the parent company. The feuillants, who were concerned about legality, refrained from using suitable means and waited inactive for the Jacobin movement to subside.

Political activity

The Feuillants "wanted to end the revolution" and demanded compliance with the constitution. They wanted to get the moderate right, the monarchists , on their side in order to neutralize the uncompromising royalists; and they wanted to isolate the Democrats around MP Robespierre on the extreme left from the mass of patriotic MPs. They wanted to destroy the Jacobin influence on the revolutionary societies, which threatened the legitimacy and independence of the National Assembly. But their policy was to fail: the monarchists did not heed their call, and the remaining Jacobins quickly recovered from the shock of the mass exodus from their club.

The fears triggered by the king's flight in the National Assembly used the Feuillants for a new attempt. Despite calls for the king to abdicate, they managed to keep his person and privileges. In August 1791, Barnave proposed to the National Assembly that the electoral census be raised in order to guarantee the security of the constitution. In order not to jeopardize the constitution through political crises, it should also be perfected through a revision procedure. To carry out the procedure, the Jacobins campaigned for extraordinary conventions convened on the initiative of the people. The Feuillants, on the other hand, wanted to reserve this right to the legislative power alone. The Feuillants prevailed in parliament, but they lost all influence on the future course of the revolution; "They took their leave of the political stage ... to turn to a politics of secret machinations and intrigues behind the scenes ..." Paralyzed by the illusion that the constitution was a safe bulwark against the revolution, they knew the advantage of their numerical advantage not to use strong position in the legislature. In December 1791 their society was dissolved, in March 1792 the Republican Girondins came to power and on August 10th the monarchy was suspended. The feuillants viewed this as spectators, chilled, distracted and demoralized. They were the last moderates of the revolution.

Individual evidence

  1. To: Halevi S. 578th
  2. Halévi p. 577f.
  3. Gueniffey and Halévi p. 772.
  4. Halévi p. 574.
  5. Halévi p. 582.


  • Ran Halévi: The Feuillants . In: François Furet , Mona Ozouf (Ed.): Critical Dictionary of the French Revolution. Vol. 1, Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1996, pp. 573-584.
  • Patrice Gueniffey and Ran Halévi: Clubs and People's Societies . In: François Furet, Mona Ozouf (Ed.): Critical Dictionary of the French Revolution. Vol. 2, Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1996, pp. 769-792.
  • Albert Soboul : The great French Revolution. An outline of their history (1789–1799) . 5th edition, Athenäum-Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1988.
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