French First Republic

Coordinates: 48°51′55″N 02°19′38″E / 48.86528°N 2.32722°E / 48.86528; 2.32722
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

French Republic
République française (French)
Motto: Liberté, égalité, fraternité
(lit.'Liberty, Equality, Fraternity')[1]
Anthem: Chant de guerre pour l'Armée du Rhin
(transl. "War Song for the Army of the Rhine")
France's territorial control in 1799
  •   Directly administered
  •   Sister republics and occupied territories[2]
The French Republic in 1801, delineating departments
48°51′55″N 02°19′38″E / 48.86528°N 2.32722°E / 48.86528; 2.32722
Official languagesFrench
Recognised national languagesOccitan, German, Dutch, Breton, Basque
Deism,[3] State atheism,[4]
Roman Catholicism[a]
GovernmentUnitary oligarchic revolutionary republic[6][7]
LegislatureFrench Parliament
Council of Ancients[e]
Historical eraFrench Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars
21 September 1792
1793 – 1794[11]
27 July 1794[h]
6 September 1795
4 September 1797
18 June 1799
9 November 1799
24 December 1799
27 March 1802
• Napoleonic Wars begin
18 May 1803
2 December 1804
• 1789 estimate
Currencylivre,[i] franc, assignat
ISO 3166 codeFR
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Kingdom of France
Kingdom of Sardinia
Old Swiss Confederacy
Austrian Netherlands
Comtat Venaissin
Duchy of Savoy
First French Empire
Today part of France

In the history of France, the First Republic (French: Première République), sometimes referred to in historiography as Revolutionary France, and officially the French Republic (French: République française), was founded on 21 September 1792 during the French Revolution. The First Republic lasted until the declaration of the First Empire on 18 May 1804 under Napoléon Bonaparte, although the form of the government changed several times.

This period was characterised by the downfall and abolition of the French monarchy,[13] the establishment of the National Convention and the Reign of Terror, the Thermidorian Reaction and the founding of the Directory, and, finally, the creation of the Consulate and Napoleon's rise to power.

The French Revolution brought about an immense shift in society in which citizens desired to bring about a new age of critical rationality, egalitarianism, and patriotism amongst French men.[14] Revolutionary ideals were spread throughout France and a belief in democracy and civilian government was heralded as the new era of French civilization.[15] 1793 would bring a new republican constitution, drafted by the National Assembly.[16] The French Constitution of 1793 and its subsequent government would bring sweeping reforms to French politics and the French social order. Major reforms included comprehensive education, the recognition of rights for illegitimate children and improved rights for married women.[17]

The French Constitution of 1793 outlined the prevailing Enlightenment era ideology of the French government at this stage of the revolutionary period. The constitution outlines a right to the resistance of oppression as well as the right to personal liberty.[18] The equality of all French men is detailed as is the structure of the French Republic.[19] The new constitution and the shift into a republican government centered on the National Assembly created the atmosphere for a radicalized governing authority to take power.[20] Members of the French common classes such as the Sans-Culottes turned to radicalism and inspired militant activism among the French populace.[20]


Dispatch of the decree taken by the Convention during its first session.

End of the monarchy in France[edit]

Under the Legislative Assembly, which was in power before the proclamation of the First Republic, France was engaged in war with Prussia and Austria. In July 1792, the Duke of Brunswick, commanding general of the Austro–Prussian Army, issued his Brunswick Manifesto, threatening the destruction of Paris should any harm come to King Louis XVI of France.

This foreign threat exacerbated France's political turmoil amid the French Revolution and deepened the various factions' passion and sense of urgency. In the insurrection of 10 August 1792, citizens stormed the Tuileries Palace, killing six hundred of the King's Swiss guards and insisting on the removal of the king.[21]

A renewed fear of anti-revolutionary action prompted further violence, and in the first week of September 1792, mobs of Parisians broke into the city's prisons. They killed over half of the prisoners, including nobles, clergymen, and political prisoners, but also common criminals, such as prostitutes and petty thieves. Many victims were murdered in their cells: raped, stabbed, and/or slashed to death. This became known as the September Massacres.[22]


National Convention (1792–1795)[edit]

Initial armorial used by the Republic until 1794

As a result of the spike in public violence and the political instability of the constitutional monarchy, a party of six members of France's Legislative Assembly was assigned the task of overseeing elections. The resulting Convention was founded with the dual purpose of abolishing the monarchy and drafting a new constitution.

The convention's first act was to establish the French First Republic and officially strip the king of all political powers. Louis XVI, by then a private citizen bearing his family name of Capet, was subsequently put on trial for crimes of high treason starting in December 1792. On 16 January 1793, he was convicted, and on 21 January, he was executed.[23]

Throughout the winter of 1792 and spring of 1793, Paris was plagued by food riots and mass hunger. The new Convention did little to remedy the problem until late spring of 1793 when it was occupied instead with matters of war. Finally, on 6 April 1793, the Convention created the Committee of Public Safety and was given a monumental task: "To deal with the radical movements of the Enragés, food shortages and riots, the revolt in the Vendée and in Brittany, recent defeats of its armies, and the desertion of its commanding general."[24]

Most notably, the Committee of Public Safety instated a policy of terror, and the guillotine began to fall on perceived enemies of the republic at an ever-increasing rate, beginning the period known today as the Reign of Terror.[25]

Despite growing discontent with the National Convention as a ruling body, the Convention drafted the Constitution of 1793 in June, which was ratified by popular vote in early August. However, the Committee of Public Safety was seen as an "emergency" government, and the rights guaranteed by the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen and the new constitution were suspended under its control.

The constitution of the republic did not provide for a formal head of 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.

Directory (1795–1799)[edit]

After the arrest and execution of Robespierre on 28 July 1794, the Jacobin club was closed, and the surviving Girondins were reinstated. The National Convention adopted the Constitution of the Year III a year later. They reestablished freedom of worship, began releasing large numbers of prisoners, and, most importantly, initiated elections for a new legislative body.

On 3 November 1795, the Directory was established. Under this system, France was led by a bicameral Parliament, consisting of an upper chamber called the Council of Elders (with 250 members) and a lower chamber called the Council of Five Hundred (with, accordingly, 500 members), and a collective Executive of five members called the Directory (from which the historical period gets its name). Due to internal instability caused by hyperinflation of the paper monies called Assignats,[26] and French military disasters in 1798 and 1799, the Directory lasted only four years, until overthrown in 1799.[citation needed]

Consulate (1799–1804)[edit]

The French Consulate era began with the coup of 18 Brumaire on 9 November 1799. Members of the Directory itself planned the coup, indicating clearly the failing power of the Directory. Napoleon Bonaparte was a co-conspirator in the coup and became head of the government as the First Consul.

On 18 May 1804, Napoleon was proclaimed Emperor of the French by the Sénat conservateur. He would later proclaim himself Emperor of the French, ending the First French Republic and ushering in the French First Empire.[27]


Early Assignat of 29 Sept, 1790: 500 livres

The French Revolution abolished many of the constraints on the economy from the Ancien Régime. It "abolished the guild system as a worthless remnant of feudalism."[28] It also abolished the highly inefficient system of tax farming, whereby private individuals would collect taxes for a hefty fee. The government seized the foundations that had been set up (starting in the 13th century) to provide an annual stream of revenue for hospitals, poor relief, and education. The state sold the lands but typically local authorities did not replace the funding, and so most of the nation's charitable and school systems were massively disrupted.[29]

In the cities, entrepreneurship on a small scale flourished as restrictive monopolies, privileges, barriers, rules, taxes, and guilds gave way. However, the British blockade that began in 1793 severely damaged overseas trade. The wartime exigencies enacted that year by the National Convention worsened the situation by banning the export of essential goods and forbidding neutral shipping from entering French ports. Although these restrictions were lifted in 1794, the British managed to usurp transatlantic shipping lanes, further reducing markets for French goods. By 1796, foreign trade accounted for just 9% of the French economy, compared to 25% in 1789.[30]


The French Revolution initially began with attacks on Church corruption and the wealth of the higher clergy, an action with which even many Christians could identify since the Gallican Church held a dominant role in pre-revolutionary France. During a two-year period known as the Reign of Terror, the episodes of anti-clericalism grew more violent than any in modern European history. The new revolutionary authorities suppressed the Church, abolished the Catholic monarchy, nationalized Church property, exiled 30,000 priests, and killed hundreds more.[31] In October 1793, the Christian calendar was replaced with one reckoned from the date of the Revolution, and Festivals of Liberty, Reason, and the Supreme Being were scheduled. New forms of moral religion emerged, including the deistic Cult of the Supreme Being and the atheistic Cult of Reason,[4] with the revolutionary government briefly mandating observance of the former in April 1794.[32][33][34][35][36]: 1–17 

The Reign of Terror was characterized by a dramatic rejection of long-held religious authority, its hierarchical structure, and the corrupt and intolerant influence of the aristocracy and clergy. Religious elements that long stood as symbols of stability for the French people were replaced by views on reason and scientific thought.[37][4] The radical revolutionaries and their supporters desired a cultural revolution that would rid the French state of all Christian influence.[38] This process began with the fall of the monarchy, an event that effectively defrocked the State of its sanctification by the clergy via the doctrine of Divine Right and ushered in an era of reason.

List of the various religious institutions established during this period:

After Napoleon seized control of the government in late 1799, France entered into year-long negotiations with new Pope Pius VII, resulting in the Concordat of 1801. This formally ended the dechristianization period and established the rules for a relationship between the Catholic Church and the French state.

Prominent figures[edit]

Key:   Cordeliers   The Marsh   The Mountain   Thermidorians   Girondins   Bonapartist


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Liberty, Égalité, Fraternité". Embassy of France in the US. Archived from the original on 18 October 2014. Retrieved 18 September 2014.
  2. ^ Van Wie, Paul D. (1999). Image, History, and Politics: The Coinage of Modern Europe. pp. 116–7. ISBN 9780761812227. Retrieved 24 June 2015.
  3. ^ Devillere, Citizen (1987). Archives parlementaires de la révolution français. Éditions du Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique. pp. 361–362.
  4. ^ a b c Kennedy, Emmet (1989). A Cultural History of the French Revolution. Yale University Press. p. 343. ISBN 978-0-300-04426-3.
  5. ^ Knight, Charles. "Pius VII," Biography: Or, Third Division of "The English Encyclopedia", Vol. 4, Bradbury, Evans & Company, 1867
  6. ^ Tackett, Timothy (2015). The Coming of the Terror in the French Revolution. Cambridge, Mas: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. p. 121. ISBN 9780674425163.
  7. ^ Tackett, Timothy (2015). The Coming of the Terror in the French Revolution. Cambridge, Mass: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. pp. 121–122. ISBN 9780674425163.
  8. ^ "Committee of Public Safety". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 20 September 2017.
  9. ^ Directory (French history) at the Encyclopædia Britannica
  10. ^ Jones, Colin (1994). The Cambridge Illustrated History of France (1st ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 193–94. ISBN 0-521-43294-4.
  11. ^ The dates July 1789, September 1792 and March 1793 are given as alternatives in Martin, Jean-Clément (2010). La Terreur, part maudite de la Révolution [The Terror: Cursed Period of the Revolution]. Découvertes Gallimard (in French). Vol. 566. Paris: Gallimard. pp. 14–15.
  12. ^ Andrea Alice Rusnock, Vital Accounts: Quantifying Health and Population in Eighteenth-Century England and France (2009)
  13. ^ Everdell, William R. (2000). The End of Kings: A History of Republics and Republicans. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-22482-1.
  14. ^ Tackett, Timothy (2015). The Coming of the Terror in the French Revolution. Cambridge, Mas: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. p. 121. ISBN 9780674425163.
  15. ^ Tackett, Timothy (2015). The Coming of the Terror in the French Revolution. Cambridge, Mass: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. pp. 121–122. ISBN 9780674425163.
  16. ^ Tackett, Timothy (2015). The Coming of the Terror in the French Revolution. Cambridge, Mass: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. p. 245. ISBN 9780674425163.
  17. ^ Tackett, Timothy (2015). The Coming of the Terror in the French Revolution. Cambridge, Mass: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. p. 313. ISBN 9780674425163.
  18. ^ The Committee of Constitution (1793). The New Constitution of France. London: London: Printed for J. Ridgway. p. 3.
  19. ^ The Committee of Constitution (1793). The New Constitution of France. London: London: Printed for J. Ridgway. pp. 4–7.
  20. ^ a b Tackett, Timothy (2015). The Coming of the Terror in the French Revolution. Cambridge, Mass: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. p. 251. ISBN 9780674425163.
  21. ^ Censer, Jack R.; Hunt, Lynn (2004), Liberty, Equality, Fraternity: Exploring the French Revolution, University Park, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University Press
  22. ^ Doyle (1989), pp. 191–192.
  23. ^ Doyle (1989), p. 196.
  24. ^ The French Revolution [videorecording]: liberté, egalité, fraternité, a hitler Jr. is born in blood / produced & directed by Doug Shultz; written by Doug Shultz, Hilary Sio, Thomas Emil. [New York, N.Y.]: History Channel: Distributed in the U.S. by New Video, 2005.
  25. ^ "Robespierre and the Terror | History Today". Archived from the original on 30 September 2018. Retrieved 8 February 2018.
  26. ^ "J.E. Sandrock: "Bank notes of the French Revolution" and First Republic" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 8 December 2013. Retrieved 18 November 2013.
  27. ^ "Paris: Capital of the 19th Century". Archived from the original on 11 May 2020. Retrieved 1 February 2017.
  28. ^ Liana Vardi, "The abolition of the guilds during the French Revolution," French Historical Studies (1988) 15#4 pp. 704-717 in JSTOR
  29. ^ R.R. Palmer, "How Five Centuries of Educational Philanthropy Disappeared in the French Revolution," History of Education Quarterly (1986) 26#2 pp. 181-197 in JSTOR
  30. ^ William Doyle, The Oxford History of the French Revolution (1989) p 404
  31. ^ Collins, Michael (1999). The Story of Christianity. Mathew A Price. Dorling Kindersley. pp. 176–177. ISBN 978-0-7513-0467-1. At first the new revolutionary government attacked Church corruption and the wealth of the bishops and abbots who ruled the Church -- causes with which many Christians could identify. Clerical privileges were abolished ...
  32. ^ Helmstadter, Richard J. (1997). Freedom and religion in the nineteenth century. Stanford Univ. Press. p. 251. ISBN 978-0-8047-3087-7.
  33. ^ Heenan, David Kyle. Deism in France 1789-1799. N.p.: U of Wisconsin--Madison, 1953. Print.
  34. ^ Ross, David A. Being in Time to the Music. N.p.: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2007. Print. "This Cult of Reason or Deism reached its logical conclusion in the French Revolution..."
  35. ^ Fremont-Barnes, p. 119.
  36. ^ Tallett, Frank (1991). "Dechristianizing France: The Year II and the Revolutionary Experience". In Frank Tallett; Nicholas Atkin (eds.). Religion, Society and Politics in France Since 1789. A&C Black. pp. 1–28. ISBN 978-1-85285-057-9.
  37. ^ Pressense, Edmond; Lacroix, John (1869). Religion and the reign of terror, or, The church during the French revolution. World constitutions illustrated. New York : Cincinnati: Carlton & Lanahan; Hitchcock & Walden.[page needed]
  38. ^ Hunt, Lynn (2019). "The Imagery of Radicalism". Politics, Culture, and Class in the French Revolution. pp. 87–120. doi:10.1525/9780520931046-011. ISBN 978-0-5209-3104-6. S2CID 226772970.


  1. ^ (1801–1804)[5]
  2. ^ (1792–1795)[8]
  3. ^ (1795–1799)[9]
  4. ^ (1799–1804)[10]
  5. ^ (1795–1799)
  6. ^ (1792–1795)
  7. ^ (1795–1799)
  8. ^ The name Thermidorian refers to 9 Thermidor Year II (27 July 1794), the date according to the French Revolutionary Calendar when Robespierre and other radical revolutionaries came under concerted attack in the National Convention. Thermidorian Reaction also refers to the remaining period until the National Convention was superseded by the Directory; this is also sometimes called the era of the Thermidorian Convention. Prominent figures of Thermidor include Paul Barras, Jean-Lambert Tallien, and Joseph Fouché. Neely, pp. 225–227.</ref>
  9. ^ (to 1794)


48°51′55″N 02°19′38″E / 48.86528°N 2.32722°E / 48.86528; 2.32722