First French Republic

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République française
French Republic
Flag of France.svg Coat of arms of the French First Republic, svg
flag coat of arms
Motto : Liberté, égalité, fraternité, ou la mort!
( French for "freedom, equality, brotherhood or death!")
Constitution Constitution of the French people (1793–1795)
Constitution of the French Republic (1795–1799)
Consulate constitution (1799–1804)
Official language French
capital city Paris
Form of government republic
Form of government Parliamentary democracy
Parliamentary democracy ( emergency dictatorship by the Welfare Committee )
Parliamentary democracy
Directorate system
Supreme body 1792–1793: Executive Council
1793–1795: Welfare Committee
1795–1799: Board of Directors
1799–1804: Consulate
area 616,700 km² (1800)
population 29,361,000 (1801)
Population density 47.6 inhabitants per km²
currency French Franc
Beginning 1792
end 1804
National anthem Marseillaise
The First French Republic 1800

The First French Republic ( French Première République française ) was proclaimed during the French Revolution on September 22, 1792, the day after the cannonade at Valmy in the First Coalition War . During the period of its existence, three forms of state structure and the political system can be distinguished: At the beginning there was the rule of the National Convention until 1795, it was followed by the Directory Constitution and from 1799 the Consulate Constitution came into force . The republic ended de facto with the coup d'état on 18th Brumaire VIII (November 9th, 1799), the subsequent enactment of the new constitution and the appointment of Napoleon Bonaparte as First Consul; formally it came to an end in 1804 with Bonaparte's coronation as Emperor Napoléon and the establishment of the First Empire .

Transition to the republic

The de facto end of kingship was August 10, 1792, when Louis XVI. placed himself and his family under the protection of the National Legislative Assembly . The royal family was then held captive in the Temple . Instead of the legislature based on the constitutional monarchy , Maximilien de Robespierre in particular had pushed through the election of a national convention on the basis of broad suffrage to advise a republican assembly. The legislature continued to exist until the election of the convention, but political power shifted to the General Council of the Paris Commune with 288 members. Its provisional executive committee was headed by Georges Danton as minister of justice and de facto as head of government. During this time, with the September murders in the Paris prisons, the struggle against the presumed internal enemies coincided .

National Convention

Anonymous portrait by M. de Robespierre, around 1793, Musée Carnavalet

The National Convention was elected according to universal male suffrage. It met for the first time on September 20, 1792 and abolished kingship a day later. The convention had 754 members, plus 28 representatives from the colonies. The moderates were the Girondists , the radicals were the left wing of the Jacobins ("The Mountain") around Danton and Robespierre. In between there was a group of independents (" The Swamp "). At the center of the deliberations was a new republican constitution , which was finished but never came into force. This act had been postponed until the end of the First Coalition War . That is why the Convention remained in office.

The government was provisional. There was a provisional executive council made up of ministers, who were, however, only executive organs of the Convention, which set up committees for the individual policy areas. Legislative and executive powers were largely merged. In April 1793, the Executive Council was effectively replaced by the Welfare Committee . Leading there was Danton until July 1793 and then Robespierre. The following period is known as the reign of terror and was domestically shaped by the persecution and killing of real or supposed enemies of the republic. This phase ended at the latest with the execution of Robespierre on July 27, 1794. Robespierre and his followers were overthrown by the so-called Thermidorians . Initially, nothing changed in the state structures and the National Convention also remained in place. Inside, the time was marked by counter-movements against the Jacobins ( White Terror ) and civil war-like clashes with supporters of the monarchy ( uprising of the Vendée ), among others . Against the worsening economic situation, there were uprisings in Paris in the spring of 1795, which were suppressed by the military.


Lazare Carnot

In response to the uncertain political situation and to state dictatorship and radical democracy addressed, the Convention adopted the Board Constitution . In many ways, this meant a return to the constitution of 1791 . The right to vote was restricted again and, as in the election for the Constituent Assembly, was tied to a certain tax payment, the only exception was for soldiers. However, 5 million out of 7 million male adults were allowed to vote. This meant that the rural and urban lower classes in particular were excluded from the elections. However, only a fifth of the potential voters made use of the right to vote in the votes. The eligibility, on the other hand, was tied to such a high tax revenue that it was limited to a narrow layer of the wealthy.

The legislature consisted of two chambers. The first was the “Council of the Elderly” with 250 members. They had to be at least forty years old and married or widowed. The second was the Council of 500 (Conseil de Cinq Cents). Its members had to be at least 30 years old. A third of the chambers were renewed annually.

The executive branch consisted of the five directors. This was elected by the Council of the Elderly on the proposal of the Council of 500. The directors remained in office for five years. One of the directors should be elected every year. The chairmanship of the board of directors changed every three months.

The constitution came into force at the end of 1795. The most important politicians were Carnot and later Paul de Barras . From 1797 in particular, the executive's influence over the legislative branch increased significantly. Last but not least, election manipulation served to safeguard the status quo.


The three consuls: Jean-Jacques Régis de Cambacérès, Napoléon Bonaparte and Charles-François Lebrun

The system fell into crisis through the formation of the Second Coalition . Subsequently, there was considerable political pressure from neo-Jacobin members of the two chambers, which led to the resignation of four of the five directors in May and June. It was replaced by Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès and three neo-Jacobin directors. For Sieyès, however, this was only a temporary solution; he needed the support of the military for a real reform of the constitution. After various negotiations with other military officers, he decided to go with Napoleon Bonaparte after the Egyptian expedition , after receiving an enthusiastic reception . On November 9th and 10th, 1799 came the coup d'état of 18th Brumaire VIII , which was justified with an impending uprising of the Jacobins.

According to the new constitution of December 25, 1799, the first consul was elected for ten years and had far-reaching powers. In addition to Bonaparte as the first consul, Jean-Jacques Régis de Cambacérès and Charles-François Lebrun only had advisory functions. The first consul had the right to initiate legislation; he appointed the ministers and other high-ranking state officials. The Senate, which exercised constitutional jurisdiction and held numerous offices, also played a strong role. The legislature consisted of the tribunate with 100 members and the corps legislatif (legislative body) with 300 members. While the tribunate did not have the right to vote on legal advice, the legislative body was not empowered to debate, but could only vote. Incidentally, the members of both chambers were not elected, but appointed by the Senate. A referendum resulted in the citizens' approval of the new constitution. In the beginning there were still numerous critics of Bonaparte in the tribunate, later these were replaced by compliant members. The rights of the tribunate itself were also increasingly limited. The domestic and foreign political successes made it possible for Bonaparte, based on a referendum, to be declared consul for life on August 2, 1802. With the coronation of Bonaparte as Emperor of the French Napoléon I on December 2, 1804, the First Republic came to an end.

Leading minds of the republic

The constitution of the republic did not provide for a formal head of the state or a head of government. It could be discussed whether the head of state would have been the president of the National Assembly under international law. However, this changed every two weeks and was therefore not formative. The following list is based on the actual positions of power within the executive:

Surname Reign function Political Direction Reason for termination
First French Republic
Georges Danton August 10, 1792 - October 9, 1792 Justice Minister Cordeliers Resignation due to election to the Convention
Jean-Marie Roland de la Platière October 9, 1792 - January 23, 1793 Interior minister Gironde Safe affair
Étienne Clavière January 23, 1793 - June 2, 1793 Finance minister Gironde Revolt of the Parisian sans-culottes
Georges Danton June 2, 1793 - July 10, 1793 Chairman of the Welfare Committee Cordeliers , then to the indulgents Not re-elected
Maximilien de Robespierre July 27, 1793 - July 27, 1794 Chairman of the Welfare Committee Jacobin Thermidor
Lazare Nicolas Marguerite Carnot July 27, 1794 - October 6, 1794 Member of the welfare committee Initially Thermidorian , later Maraisard Selected out
Jean-Jacques Regis de Cambacérès October 7, 1794 - November 7, 1794 Member of the welfare committee Initially Thermidorian , later Maraisard Selected out
Lazare Nicolas Marguerite Carnot November 8, 1794 - March 3, 1795 Member of the welfare committee Maraisard Selected out
Jean-Jacques Regis de Cambacérès March 4, 1795 - November 1, 1795 Member of the welfare committee Maraisard Dissolution of the committee, new constitution
Lazare Nicolas Marguerite Carnot November 2, 1795 - September 4, 1797 Director of the Board of Directors Maraisard Coup of the 18th Fructidor V
Paul de Barras September 4, 1797 - June 18, 1799 Director of the Board of Directors Thermidorians Coup of the 30th Prairial VII
Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès June 18, 1799 - November 9, 1799 Director of the Board of Directors Coup of 18th Brumaire VIII
Napoleon Bonaparte November 9, 1799 - December 2, 1804 First Consul Bonapartist Coronation as emperor

See also


Individual evidence

  1. represented by the National Convention
  2. represented by the National Convention
  3. ↑ A reign of terror legitimized by the majority of the democratically elected representatives in the National Convention .
  4. represented by the National Convention