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August decrees

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DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405189224.2011.x


Far-reaching legislation passed in August 1789 by the constituent assembly during the french revolution of 1789 which swept away privilege of all kinds and marked the end of the ancien regime . On the “Night of August 4,” a number of liberal deputies from the Breton Club – the forerunner of the jacobins – had planned to renounce certain rights in order to appease the serious unrest occurring in the countryside, as generated by the great fear , hunger, and the peasant belief that the seigneurial system was about to be ended. In the event, the original plan went awry, and deputies from all three orders – nobility, clergy and third estate – were carried away on a wave of enthusiasm. They vied with each other to surrender an extraordinary array of rights, prerogatives, and privileges in the ending of what was termed “feudalism.” Seigneurial rights, seigneurial courts, church tithes, hunting rights, venal offices (i.e. positions purchased by the holder), and the fiscal privileges adhering to towns, provinces, nobles, and clerics, were all abolished. However, when it came to turning the result of the votes into formal decrees, the Assembly shrank back from the full implications of what it had done. It sought to draw a distinction between those aspects of the feudal regime which could be ended outright, such as the corvée (an unpaid labor service on the roads), and those rights ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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