The National Convention met in September 1792 and voted to abolish the monarchy immediately and establish a republic. It proceeded to try Louis for treason, convicted him, and executed him on January 21, 1793. During this time, counterrevolutionary revolts broke out in rural areas such as the Vendée, and the military situation continued to deteriorate.
The convention was dominated by conflict between two factions—the more moderate Girondins (the former Brissotins) and the more radical Jacobins—although many deputies were unaffiliated. The Jacobins formed an alliance with the Paris mob, which for a time exercised considerable power, and purged the convention of the Girondin leadership. In the late summer and fall of 1793, the Jacobins, under the leadership of Maximilien Robespierre, established the machinery of the Reign of Terror. The Terror was intended to coerce citizens into contributing to the war effort and to help save the republic. The Jacobins won notable successes on the battlefield and crushed the Vendée revolt. They thereby saved the revolution, but they also arrested a quarter-million French people. Of these, they executed about 30,000, often on questionable grounds, for working against the republic. They terrorized other deputies and eventually alienated the Paris crowd. By July 1794 they had so narrowed their political base that Robespierre and his closest associates were arrested and guillotined. The Terror was over, and the French Revolution drifted toward the right for the first time since 1789.
As the instruments of the Reign of Terror were dismantled, the convention worked on a new constitution.
The goals of this new constitution were to preserve the achievements of the French Revolution while ending the process of revolution itself. To prevent a renewal of the Terror by a single branch of government, the constitution that was enacted in 1795 distributed power between a two-chambered legislature and a five-man executive, known as the Directory. Although it lasted longer than the other revolutionary regimes before it, this government also failed to stabilize the political system. Its leaders fundamentally distrusted democratic procedures and went so far as to cancel elections that brought undesired results. The government refused to abide by its own constitution.
It shifted back and forth between alliances with the left and the right, turning increasingly to a policy of repression imposed by the military.
Meanwhile, the armies of the republic extended the French sphere of influence into Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Italy. Military victory contributed to the growing power of a Corsican-born general with great political ambitions, Napoleon Bonaparte. In 1799 serious military setbacks weakened the Directory’s political grip, and fears grew that the radical left was about to take over. Politician and theorist Emmanuel Sieyès then joined forces with Bonaparte to scuttle the government. On November 9, 1799, Bonaparte’s troops forced members of the legislature to vest state power in a new provisional government, soon to be called the Consulate. It was composed of Sieyès, Bonaparte, and French statesman Pierre Roger Ducos. The Directory was finished and so was the revolutionary process that had brought it into existence. "France" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.
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