Once the King gave in to revolutionary demands after 14 July, the National Assembly began drafting a constitution. This process took until the summer of 1791. Throughout this period, the King remained generally and genuinely popular. He was regarded by many as the best hope for solving France's problems. A seasoned participant of the American Revolution, Gouverneur Morris from New York, witnessed the acclaim enjoyed by Louis XVI at the Estates-General. Even radicals like the journalist Jean-Paul Marat continued to see the need for a strong monarchy, although Marat suspected the motives of this particular king. Still, the general problems that the King and Queen faced became most evident on the night of 5–6 October 1789. Amid the ongoing political struggles between the King and the National Assembly, bread prices in the capital remained at the highest levels of the century. A crowd of women gathered in the Parisian marketplace to protest. As they set off to Versailles to register their complaints, they were joined by some members of the National Guard. Upon arriving at the royal palace in the middle of the night, the crowd effectively captured the royal family and forced them to return to Paris to ensure that the King would do something about the bread prices and that the Revolution would continue. Although the King returned to Paris amid popular acclaim, clearly the mass action was a highly equivocal vote of confidence.

By the summer of 1791, as the National Assembly was completing its new constitution, which would markedly limit the power of the King, Louis and his supporters turned decisively against the Revolution. One issue that pushed the King against the new regime was the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, which reorganized the Catholic Church in France. This measure, passed by the National Assembly in July 1790, made the clergy elective; moreover, those elected were required to swear an oath of allegiance to the new, revolutionary government of which they became de facto salaried employees. This measure nullified royal and papal powers of clerical appointment and struck a blow at the religious hierarchy. Moreover, the roughly 15 percent of French land that the church owned became "national property," which the assembly began to sell off to pay its debts. To many Catholics, including the King, these changes embodied in the Civil Constitution unnecessarily politicized their religion and demonstrated that the Revolution's changes were not necessarily all going to be for the better.

Since 1789, some of the King's entourage had been urging him to flee the country so that he would not have to compromise his theoretically absolute power. In particular, certain aristocrats who had already departed urged Louis to join them in the Austrian Netherlands, in the clerically run city-states along the Rhine or in Savoy, where they were organizing a military invasion to destroy the revolutionary government and restore the old regime. For two years, the King resisted their entreaties, claiming he should remain with his people and that some of the changes were for the good. Now, in June 1791, rather than approve the new constitution, he agreed to a plan whereby he would flee secretly, precipitating a military invasion led by antirevolutionary nobles with the support of the Habsburg Emperor Leopold II (Marie Antoinette's brother). Late on the night of 20 June, the royal family, disguised as servants, set out for the border.

Although the family got away safely, discovery of their departure enraged many Parisians, who demanded their return.

These citizens were not disappointed; as the royal party neared the border, the King was recognized and arrested at the small town of Varennes. Brought back to Paris, Louis apologized, claiming he never intended to flee but only to demonstrate to counterrevolutionaries that he had not become a de facto prisoner of the National Assembly. To the outrage of radical deputies in the National Assembly, a majority accepted this weak excuse, because they feared that punishing the King would further destabilize the country. In return, and having little other choice, Louis accepted the new constitution. New elections were held in September for a Legislative Assembly.













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