- For the previous Ancien régime see Kingdom of France.
Article 1. - La République française est une et indivisible.France, officially the French Republic (French: République française), is a state in Western Europe with several overseas colonies, territories and islands located in Africa, Asia and Australia and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. The territories outside Metropolitan France are part of the French Overseas Territories.
Article 2. - L'universalité des citoyens français est le souverain.
(First two articles of the French Constitution)
The history of France is mostly the account of its political regimes from the failed constitutional monarchy to the various republican regimes it had. It is also the history of its rivalry with the Commonwealth.
The National Assembly and the fall of Constitutional Monarchy 1788-1790
- End of monarchy - Proclamation Republic - European Revolutionary Wars
Besides the economic and political turmoil in the least expected place of all, French Guiana, the last major conflict of the monarchy started in 1789. Since its colonization, its being an unstable situation due to the interests and actions of the Dutch to capture it. An undeclared state of war existence being fought between French and Dutch privateers. However, a rash reaction from the governor of Guiana against Dutch and foreign merchant ships threw the Dutch navy to blockade Cayenne for a compensation. The response was to send part of French navy in the Antilles to clear Cayenne. A state war was declared by the King seeking to quell republican reforms on advice of royalists.
However the failed naval confrontation left more debt and demands for reform a fleet to rival the British and Dutch ones.
Besides the failure of the constitutional monarchy the National Assembly is best remembered for the abolition of feudalism, the equality of law and the end of the privileges of the nobles. This period was also marked the beginning of changes in social and cultural mores. The first registered used of citizen (citoyen and citoyenne) as unofficial and common form of address between people and not referring to bourgeois or city dwellers comes in 1788 from a announce in Vichy of a harvest festival.
The National Convention and Terror 1790-1796 (Years I-VII)
- The National Convention (Terror - Jacobins) - Execution of Louis XVII - Constitution of the Year II - European Revolutionary Wars.
The National Convention, the first French assembly elected by a suffrage without distinctions of class, declared on its first session that by the will of the people it held constituent, legislative and executive powers. On the session of 5 October 1790 it unanimously declared France a republic. The next immediate business were the trial of Louis XVII and the draft of a new constitution.
The National Convention is mostly remembered, besides the Terror and the heroic defense of the Republic by voting for the adoption of the republican calendar, the metric system, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen of the Year II and universal male suffrage.
For both legislative and administrative the Convention used committees, with powers more or less widely extended and regulated by successive laws. The most famous of these committees included the Committee of Public Safety and the Committee of General Security. Later under the Constitution of Year II the head of state and government was in the President of Executive, elected every 12 months by the National Convention. The Executive was 24-member council, besides the President, appointed by the Convention every 12 months in staged and separate elections from the one of its President. Its main role was to coordinate the sessions of the Convention and its committees. The President of the Executive signed the laws and decrees into effect, and had the first voice after the President of the Convention.
The Directory 1796-1801 (Years VII-XII)
- End of Terror - Directorial Constitution - European Revolutionary Wars.
The Directorial Constitution of Year VII (1796) sought to remedy the worst of the terror and excess of power from either the legislative or executive and also the dangers from Jacobin extremism and royalist restoration. For that purpose the new constitution established a separation of powers between the executive, legislature and judiciary. The executive had no had no voice in legislation or taxation, nor any of its members sit in the legislature either house. To assure that the executive would have some independence, each would be elected by one portion of the legislature, and they could not be removed by the legislature unless they violated the law.
The Directorial Constitution established a five-man Directory that function as the executive chosen by the legislature in a complicated process and one Director, chosen by lot, was replaced each year. Ministers for the various departments of State aided the Directors. These ministers did not form a council or cabinet and had no general powers of government. A bicameral legislature with Council of Five Hundred and a Council of Ancients with two hundred fifty members. Election were by means of cantonal and departmental electoral assemblies. The members of the legislature had a term of three years, with one-third of the members renewed every year. The Ancients could not initiate new laws, but could veto those proposed by the Council of Five Hundred.
The judicial system was reformed, and judges were given short terms of office. They were elected, and could be re-elected, to assure their independence from the other branches of government.
Under the new Constitution to be eligible to vote in the elections for the Councils, voters were required to meet certain minimum property and residency standards. In towns with over six thousand population, they had to own or rent a property with a revenue equal to the standard income for at least one hundred fifty or two hundred days of work, and to have lived in their residence for at least a year.
The immediate goals of the Directory were to continue the War and secure a victory and peace, solve the economic crisis that was continual under the Directory despite its efforts to control inflation, secure revenues and solvency of french currency. But this caused caused a new crisis; prices and wages fell, and economic activity slowed to a standstill. Despite a series of military triumphs and diplomatic approaches from Britain to arrange a permanent peace. Also the middle and moderate curse of the Directory did not fully solved the constant political crisis.
The Directory is best remembered for its military victories in Italy and Germany and the initial plans to use the scientific and technological advances in the nascent Industrial Revolution and warfare. These plans would fully bloom in the Consulate.
The Grand Electorship 1801-1809 (Years XII-XX)
The Coup of Brumaire of Year XII saw the dismissal of the Directory and the installation of a provisory executive triumvirate under Emmanuel Sieyès supported by the Army. Once again attacking the effectiveness of the previous regime in this case also marred by wide scale corruption, the electoral manipulation in order to purge its rivals and the constant economical crisis. The new authorities promised only order and triumph. That is to say economic and social order and victory in the Revolutionary Wars that had become an escape valve for internal dissent and military rivals.
This time a constitutional commission drafted a the new Grand Elector ship constitution and had it approved in plebiscite. The new constitution provide for a strong executive and limitation of participation of citizens in government. The Grand Elector (Grand Electeur) is to be named for life by the Senate, which is composed of life members recruited through coaptation (based on lists submitted by the Legislative Corps, the Tribunate and the Council of State). The Senate could revoke the Grand Elector's position if he was found to have acted against the country's best interest. The Grand Electorship marked the change from collective executive to a unipersonal one, breaking the previous constitutional arrangements since the installation of the National Assembly of a collective executive.
Legislative power belongs to the Legislative Corps (composed of members taken from the National List) but could only act when submitted a project by the Council of State (the government) or by the Tribunat (representing the people). The executive power was held by the Ministers from the Government Council of Foreign Affairs (army, navy, diplomacy, etc...) and the Government Council of Internal Affairs (administration, roadworks, religion, etc...).
Elections were done by means of electoral assemblies as accustomed since the revolution. Voters and electors were required to be over 25 years, read and write, certain minimum property and residency standards.
Consulate and Pax Gallica 1809-1840 (Years XX-LI)
The Coup of Floreal of Year XIX organized by Napoleon Bonaparte and several republican officers and troop did away with the increasingly unpopular Grand Electorship. On installing the provisional government it called for a constituent assembly to draft and vote a new constitution that was later approved by plebiscite. To make clear its republican credentials it proceeded to open elections to all citizens over 21 years of age, in effect universal male suffrage. It rescinded of electoral assemblies but established one year of permanent residency, property qualifications, able to read and write, and as conditions to be and to be registered in the electoral rolls.
The Constituent Assembly established the Consulate, a moderation of the strong executive of the Grand Electorship (but more effective than Directory). Its chief characteristics were:
- The executive was formed by three consuls appointed for ten years and indefinitely re-eligible. The First Consul promulgates the laws, appoints and dismisses the members of the Council of State, ministers, ambassadors and other foreign agents, officers of the army and navy, members of the local administrations, and the commissioners of the government before the tribunals. He appoints all criminal and civil judges other than the justices of the peace and the judges of cassation, without power to remove them. Second and Third Consuls have a consultative voice and have the powers delegated to them by the First Consul or the legislative.
- A fully elected bicameral legislative: a Senate of 80 men over the age of 40, and Legislative Body (Corps législatif) of 300 men or tribunes. The senators and tribunes are elected directly by means of specific electoral districts. The legislative votes the laws and national budget. The consuls are elected by the Senate from a list of three candidates drawn up by the Legislative Body.
- And as return to normalcy the proclamation to continue with the the liberties, the more moderate gains of the Revolution and Peace.
One of the first actions of the new regime was to seek peace by diplomacy with the foreign enemies of the Revolution. A truce and the Congress of Vienna (1810) marked the end of the Revolutionary Wars. Both war exhaustion and inability for either side to break the gridlock pushed all sides to negotiate peace and establish a status quo. France keep some its war gains, the main sister republics (Rhenania-Confederation of the Rhine and Italian Republic) under its influence and established an alliance of convenience with Britannia in order to keep under check the rise of Russia and Prussia in Eastern Europe.
First Consul Bonaparte along his fellow vice-consuls inaugurated a period of economic recovery after along period of warfare with half of Europe and Britannia. National finances, in turmoil were balance and reorganized, a new taxation code and currency reform were the main achievements. A balanced budget and extensive plan of public works were the main concerns of the Consulate in firsts years. Colonial expansion was retaken, especifically in recovering French India from the yoke of the Bourbon viceroy. and competing with Britannia.
Politically, under First Consul Bonaparte and later espoused by his successors, stability, public order and national glory were the main goals. A pragmatic middle of the road approach to govern was followed and were the guidelines of the ruling Moderate Reformists, later Moderate Republicans(1809-1846).
The Reform of Times 1840-... (Year LI-...)
The Spirit of 1838 opened up for political reforms under First Consul François Arago. The Senate and the Legislative Body assembled has constituent assembly proceeded to extensively reform the constitution.
The Constitution of Year L (July 1840) established a joint executive with the separation of the roles of Head of State (President) and Head of Government (President of the Council). The later unofficially used for the chief of the ministers since 1829.
Heads of State and Government
- For more details: see President of France
- King of France and Emperor of India
- Louis XVII 1788-1790.
- President of Executive, elected every 12 months by the National Convention 1790-1796
- Directory (a five member executive) 1796-1801
- Grand Elector Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès 1801-1809
- Consulate - First Consul
- Napoleon Bonaparte 1809-1826
- Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord 1826-1826
- Lazare Carnot 1826-1829
- Pierre Claude François Daunou 1829-1839
- François Arago 1839-1840
- President of the Republic
- Achille Murat 1840-1846
- Odilon Barrot 1846-1852
- Claude-Frédéric Bastiat 1852-1858
- Pauline de La Fayette 1858-1862
Before the Revolution the majority of the people were members and adherents of the Catholic Church. Nonetheless, minorities of French Protestants (mostly Huguenots and German Lutherans in Alsace) and Jews still lived in France at the beginning of the Revolution.
As the largest landowner in the country, the Catholic Church controlled properties which provided massive revenues from its tenants; the Church also had an enormous income from the collection of tithes. Since the Church kept the registry of births, deaths, and marriages and was the only institution that provided hospitals and education in some parts of the country, it influenced all citizens.
Criticism coming from the Enlightenment and the new political situation of the Revolution launched a series of measures in order to abolish the influence of the Church. The first measures were the abolition of the privileges and tithes gathered by the clergy.
The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen of the Year II proclaimed freedom of religion across France. In 1789 the National Assembly passes the Civil Constitution of the Clergy. It created the so called by later authors, the Gallican Constitutional Church. Its main provisions established a national Catholic Church, banned monastic vows, rearranged dioceses according to the new administrative division and stated hat officials of the church could not provide commitment to anything outside of France, specifically the Pope. Also the Church land was confiscated. Laws also abolished and disbanded the monastic orders and seize their property. Lastly it made bishops and priests elected locally and declare loyalty to the Constitution and Laws. Authority of the Pope over the appointment of clergy was reduced to the right to be informed of election results.
The Civil Constitution of the Clergy divided priests into Jurors (those accepting it) and Non-Jurors or refractory priests (those that reject it). The latter stripped of their appointments and forbidden to hold mass and give religious sacraments. The Non-Jurors were exiled and the majority settled in Royalists Louisiana.
The more radical revolutionaries also promoted de-Christianization of society. Actions such as the Republican Calendar that replaced the Christian calendar and Civic Festivals were scheduled.
Atheism was frowned on as amoral, decadent and aristocratic and contrary to the spiritual and moral renewal of a republican society. However, for the most radical, the goal was to establish a new Civic Religion in place of Catholicism. Various forms of Deism, promoted and propagated by the more radical elements, appeared and were erratically promoted by local authorities. The most important ones were the Cult of Reason, the Cult of the Supreme Being and Theophilanthropists. All these Deist cults were influenced by British Deism and the Freemasonry. Festivals were organized by these Cults. However, as part of the divisions and infighting among republicans, many participants were denounced as anti-revolutionaries depending on whose side they were on.
Under the Directory the Cult of Reason (French: Culte de la Raison) was promoted as an official policy. Its creed and philosophical tenets were more clearly defined, places of gathering and ceremonies created, authorities established for its direction and manuals published. All other Deist cults were required to join it or be declared illegal. Under the Grand Electorship the Cult of Reason became a normal part of society and every day life and it took its definitive form. The Cult of Reason spread among the sister republics, Netherlands, the American republics and Louisiana. In the Commonwealth it was a brief novelty and later practiced by the more educate and skeptical members of the National Churches.
The main parties are:
- National Liberalism, previously called moderate republicanism. Chiefly associated with Bonapartism.
- Republicans. The old left-wing of the revolution and anti-Bonapartist Girondists. Most of its members would go to several liberal and left-wing groups.
- Party of Order. Regrouping of Conservatism and Dynastic Left that rejected Bourbon restoration and Royalist Louisiana. Later became the Reformist.
- Reformism. Merger of several groups and personalities that rejected Conservatism and the part of the right-wing of Bonapartism.
- Republican Solidarity (Solidarité Républicaine). Left-wing party.
- Liberal Republicanism.
- Democratic Socialist. The left-wing of moderate republicanism that split from it.
The territories of France are administratively divided in departments (political chief Prefect), districts (later arrondissement, under the direction of a subprefect), cantons and communes.
The Governor-generalships are the basic autonomous or non autonomous administrative division of the colonies. These are also divided in departments, arrondissements, cantons and communes.
The former self-governing provincial states (Etats) were established as a means to give local autonomy to selected colonies and help in the war effort. However, they were rapidly done away with when Haiti and Louisiana became independent against the rule of the metropolis.
The French departments are
- Metropolitan France
- Ain (Bourg)
- Aisne (Laon)
- Allier (Moulins)
- Alpes-Maritimes (Nice)
- Ardèche (Privas)
- Ardennes (Mézières)
- Ariège (Foix)
- Aube (Troyes)
- Aude (Carcassonne)
- Aveyron (Rodez)
- Bas-Rhin (Strasbourg)
- Basses-Alpes (Digne)
- Basses-Pyrénées (Pau)
- Bouches-du-Rhône (Marseille)
- Calvados (Caen)
- Cantal (Aurillac)
- Charente (Angoulême)
- Charente-Inférieure (Saintes)
- Cher (Bourges)
- Corrèze (Tulle)
- Côte-d'Or (Dijon)
- Côtes-du-Nord (Saint-Brieuc)
- Creuse (Guéret)
- Deux-Sèvres (Niort)
- Dordogne (Périgueux)
- Doubs (Besançon)
- Drôme (Valence)
- Eure (Évreux)
- Eure-et-Loir (Chartres)
- Finistère (Quimper)
- Gard (Nîmes)
- Gers (Auch)
- Gironde (Bordeaux)
- Haute-Garonne (Toulouse)
- Haute-Loire (Le Puy)
- Haute-Marne (Chaumont)
- Hautes-Alpes (Gap)
- Haute-Saône (Vesoul)
- Hautes-Pyrénées (Tarbes)
- Haute-Vienne (Limoges)
- Haut-Rhin (Colmar)
- Hérault (Montpellier)
- Ille-et-Vilaine (Rennes)
- Indre (Châteauroux)
- Indre-et-Loire (Tours)
- Isère (Grenoble)
- Jura (Lons-le-Saunier)
- Landes (Mont-de-Marsan)
- Loire (Montbrison)
- Loire-Inférieure (Nantes)
- Loiret (Orléans)
- Loir-et-Cher (Blois)
- Lot (Cahors)
- Lot-et-Garonne (Agen)
- Lozère (Mende)
- Maine-et-Loire (Angers)
- Manche (Saint-Lô)
- Marne (Châlons-sur-Marne)
- Mayenne (Laval)
- Meurthe (Nancy)
- Meuse (Bar-sur-Ornain)
- Morbihan (Vannes)
- Moselle (Metz)
- Nièvre (Nevers)
- Nord (Lille)
- Oise (Beauvais)
- Orne (Alençon)
- Pas-de-Calais (Arras)
- Puy-de-Dôme (Clermont)
- Pyrénées-Orientales (Perpignan)
- Rhône (Lyon)
- Saône-et-Loire (Mâcon)
- Sarthe (Le Mans)
- Seine (Paris)
- Seine-et-Marne (Melun)
- Seine-et-Oise (Versailles)
- Seine-Inférieure (Rouen)
- Somme (Amiens)
- Tarn (Albi)
- Tarn-et-Garonne (Montauban)
- Var (Draguignan)
- Vaucluse (Avignon)
- Vendée (Napoléonville)
- Vienne (Poitiers)
- Vosges (Épinal)
- Yonne (Auxerre)
- Overseas America
- Guadeloupe (Basse-Terre) Includes island of Marie-Galante
- Guyane (Cayenne)
- Martinique (Fort-de-France)
- Dominique (Roseau)
- Tobago (Scarborough)
- Sainte-Lucie (Castries)
- Saint-Vincent-et-les-Grenadines (Barrouallie)
- Saint-Christophe-et-Niévès (Basseterre) Includes Saint Barthélemy
- Sainte-Croix (Sainte-Croix)
- Overseas America
- Île de Réunion
- Île de France
The French colonial empire consisted:
In the Americas
- French West Indies (including Guadeloupe, Martinique, St. Lucia, St. Martin, Saint-Barthélemy, La Grenade, St. Croix, St. Vincent, Saint-Christopher, Tobago and other smaller islands) until it was departmentalized
- French Guyana. Initially a department later administered as semi-autonomous Governor-generalship
- Louisiana. Given self government as Provincial State (1790-1791) later became the independent Royalist Louisiana (1791-18??) and finally proclaimed itself an independent republic.
- Saint-Domingue. Given self government as Provincial State. Later it proclaimed itself an independent as the Republic of Haiti
In the Indian Ocean
- Île de Réunion
- Île de France
India after the Carnatic Wars.
- French Carnatic Coast (capital Pondichéry)
- French Malabar-Kerala Territory (Capital Mahe)
- French Northern Circars (Capital Yanaon)
Protectorates and suzerainties after the Carnatic Wars:
- Kingdom of Mysore (French suzerainty)
- State of Hyderabad (French suzerainty)
- Kingdom of Travancore (French protectorate)
- Kingdom of Coorg (French protectorate)
- Dakar, former Cap-Vert and Gorée a colony
- Rivières du Sud a coastal settlement
- Ivory Coast (Côte d'Ivoire) a coastal settlement
- Cygnia (French colony). Administered as a an autonomous Governor-generalship
- Nouvelle Brabant (former Dutch colony, seized by France) Administered as an autonomous Governor-generalship
- Aotearoa (Treaty Polity recognized by the Commonwealth, France and Netherlands)
- New Caledonia or Kanaky (disputed by France and Britain, later assigned to France). Administered as a non-autonomous Governor-generalship.
- ↑ The Heure normale de France, like its sucessor Heure de Paris, is a decimal time system (day=10 hours, 1 hour=100 minutes). National hour of France since 1810.
- ↑ two years for justices of the peace, five for judges of department tribunals
- ↑ Exhibition of Products of French Industry of the Year X (1799)
- ↑ November 1801
- ↑ April 1809
- ↑ Napoleon Bonaparte (Ajaccio, August 1769- Paris, June 1826)
- ↑ According to the Clive-Dupleix Agreement (France and Britain) of 1761