Having done some research on my own had yielded little to no results on pre-radical revolutionary France regarding foreign policy.

I am specifically looking for arguments during the constitutional convention during the National Assembly during 1791 of France's foreign policy ideals.

  • downvote: Please tell us why! Oct 13, 2011 at 14:57
  • @Sardathrion Why what? I've asked a pointed question with a discernible, non-subjective answer so there is no need for a downvote. Explain yourself, please. (Just realized you are trying to find out why there was a downvote! Still, confused about it myself!) Oct 13, 2011 at 15:58
  • There is a down vote on your question (not mine, I cast an up vote) so now it looks like a zero. I was just curious on why whoever voted down did so and how they would improve the question. Oct 13, 2011 at 16:00
  • 5
    A personal vendetta on the internet!!! NEVER It would not happen. Oct 13, 2011 at 16:04
  • 4
    Of course not, that'd be silly. The internet is a bastion of maturity! Oct 13, 2011 at 16:06

3 Answers 3


As far as I know, the main issues in French foreign policy of the period were:

  • Friendship with USA, with which France shared common ideological ground. In particular, the United States Declaration of Independence, United States Constitution and United States Bill of Rights much influenced the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen and the French Constituion of 1791
  • Response to the Declaration of Pillnitz by the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold II and King of Prussia Frederick William II. The declaration threatened revolutionary France with vague reprecussions if King Louis XVI was harmed. This caused strong anti-Austrian sentiment in France eventually leading to the War of the First Coaltion in 1792. The Legislative Assembly voted for war on April 20 (before the Jacobin coup of August 10).

As far as I remember, mostly it was to survive against the onslaught of the rest of Europe. Most of the initial stage of the revolution was seen as an internal matter to France but some of the propaganda of the revolution was spread abroad. All the crowned heads of Europe were (rightly) worried about the events in France. So, spreading the revolution was seen as a way to make them worry about their own countries instead of attacking France. There was always a risk of Austria intervention (because of the Queen) which eventually lead to war.

George Lefebvre's The French Revolution, chapter 11 The Constituent Assembly and Europe has a full analysis of foreign relations at the time. This reference section contains may good sources.

Lafayette: Hero of the American Revolution by Gonzague Saint Bris has a large section on his role during that time and contains more about the relationship between France and the USA.

  • 1791 was far prior to Napoleon's rise and rampage across Europe. 1791 was the year of the National Assembly where Louis is still alive, as is Robespierre and Danton. The question is focused on the era prior to the "Reign of Terror." No downvote, but just FYI! Oct 13, 2011 at 16:04

The foreign policy of France in 1791-2 was best exemplified by their new National Anthem, the Marseillaise. Specifically, 1) Repel invaders, particularly the Austrians of house arrested and soon-to-be-deposed Queen Marie Antoinette, and 2) safeguard the "revolution" by spreading it to other countries.

  • 2
    Marie Antoinette wasn't deposed yet. The questions is about the period before the National Convention
    – Vanessa
    Oct 13, 2011 at 18:21
  • @Squark: By 1791, Marie Antoinette was under house arrest, the National Assembly had started generating into factions such as the Jacobins, and also passed laws against emigration. The events of 1792 were actually "incubated" in 1791, so 1792 is actually a fair proxy for 1791.
    – Tom Au
    Oct 13, 2011 at 19:15
  • "La Marseillaise" was written in 1792 and didn't become the national anthem until 1795.
    – JTM
    Jun 9, 2018 at 2:59

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