The practical application of the doctrine of a representative assembly to frame the constitution found its first expression in the Philadelphia Convention, when the delegates of the original Thirteen States met to frame a constitution for the United States of America.
The concept of the Constituent Assembly is complementary to that of a written constitution, and both of them were a part of the technique designed to secure the liberty of the individual against the arbitrary exercise of power by government and to establish a mechanism of government based on the consent of the people.
The French Revolution demonstrated the most complete development of the theory of the Constituent Assembly, and the people placed such an abiding faith in its political utility that since then all the democratic countries of Europe, with the exception of pre-Mussolini Italy, were the creation of constituent assemblies.
The theory of the Constituent Assembly emphasises two important political lessons. These are the ideals of self-government and free government. Self government means a government by consent of the governed through their chosen representatives.
Free government means limited government, a government which respects individual rights and guarantees certain fundamental liberties. Both self-government and free government can best be secured through the technique of a written constitution. But a written constitution should be one made by a specially convened representative body of the people.
As the constitution is an instrument for the realisation of individual rights and public interests, it is of supreme importance that the task of constitution making should not be entrusted to any small group of self-selected men, however eminent they may be in public life.
If it is true that what concerns all must be consented to by all in the ordinary matters of government, it logically follows that in the matter as important as to the future of their government the people should be consulted. This is possible only through the medium of a representative Constituent Assembly or Constitutional Convention, by whichever name we may call it.