National Assembly, France operated as a de facto(Latin: in fact) constitutional monarchy—despite the fact that it did not yet have a constitution! It was dominated by middle class reformers (businessmen, lawyers, bureaucrats, etc.) who wanted to preserve the rights of those who owned private property but also wanted to increase their own influence in government affairs. Most of the positive achievements of the Revolution were begun by the National Assembly. For example, it extended the right to vote to all property-owning males. It re-organized the highly fragmented administrative system that had governed France since the Middle Ages and which perpetuated the privileges of the nobility and clergy. In its place, it created a structure of cities-counties-states similar to that still used today. Instead of a government service system based on privilege where the rich paid to obtain an office, a much more democratically-oriented system was created where titles were assigned according to election and merit. And, to end the injustice of France’s enduring feudal legacy, it outlawed all feudal fees and customs, subject to compensation of the dispossessed. To address the country’s financial problems (and to diminish the role of the church in the state), the National Assembly confiscated(took over) the lands of the Catholic Church and offered them for sale to the country’s people. It also issued a paper currency based on the value of these lands. However, so many of these assignats(as they were called) were issued they soon became worthless. These accomplishments, because of their import, their scope and the fact that they were achieved through a democratic process while the country was at peace, represented the legislative high point of the Revolution. Declaration of the Rights of Man and CitizenOne of the first acts of the National Assembly was to publish the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen declaring the philosophical basis for the Revolution. The document was written by the Marquis de Lafayette who had been an aide to George Washington during the American Revolutionary War. He was assisted by Thomas Jefferson. The ideas expressed in the Declaration are straight out of the Enlightenment. They include such “simple and incontestable principles” as these: people have natural rights; government derives its legitimacy from the consent of the governed; law is the expression of the “general will” of the people; people are innocent until proven guilty; people are entitled to religious freedom; no taxation without representation; and the people should have freedom of the press. The Declaration is one of the great documents in mankind’s march toward democracy. Much of its content was adopted by the United Nations in its founding charter of 1946.