national assembly, name of a number of past and present constituent or legislative bodies. In France, under the constitutions of the Fourth and Fifth republics, the lower house of parliament has been called the national assembly. Usually, however, the name national assembly has been applied to provisional bodies. Often in times of crisis, when the old order dissolves through decay, war, or revolution, representatives of the people meet to work out a new order. Such was the case in the French Revolution, when members of the States-General proclaimed themselves (1789) a national assembly. The Federal Constitutional Convention of 1787 and the Frankfurt Parliament of 1848–49 were national assemblies. At the end of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71, after the downfall of Napoleon III, France again elected a national assembly, which drew up the basic constitutional laws for the Third Republic. Under the Third Republic the name national assembly applied to joint sessions of the senate and the chamber of deputies. National assemblies framed the republican Weimar constitution of Germany in 1919 and the Bonn constitution for West Germany in 1948–49. For a list of some of the chief legislative bodies of the world, see legislature.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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