The First Assembly of Notables is called by Charles Alexandre de Calonne, Controller General of Finances, with the purpose of overhauling France's tax code. Aristocratic resistance to the Calonne's attempt to impose taxes and limit privileges made reform impossible. On May 25, this Assembly is dissolved.
Etienne Charles de Lomenie de Brienne replaces Calonne as Controller General of Finances.
1788 August 8
No solution to the financial crisis is found without calling the Estates-General (representing the three orders of Nobles, Clergy, and Commoners), which had not been assembled since 1614. By calling the Estates-General into session, Louis XVI is confirming that the monarchy has limits to its power.
Jacques Necker, a Swiss citizen and a Protestant, replaces Lomenie de Brienne with the title of Director General of Finances; he attempts once again to solve the financial crisis and to devise a plan for a successful meeting of the Estates -General.
July through September
Throughout France a poor harvest augurs more hunger and financial difficulties.
At the end of 1788, France is the most populous country in Europe (about 27 million). Most of the population belongs to the Third Estate. Louis XVI decrees that the Third Estate will have twice the number of representatives as the Orders of the Nobles
and the Clergy. But each Order will be entitled to only one vote, thus giving Nobles and Clergy a combined majority vote.
Publication of What is the Third Estate? by the Abbe Sieyes. He claims that the Third Estate is essentially the Nation (as opposed to the monarch ---- remember Louis XIV's "I am the state" mantra)
Election of representatives to the Estates-General. One of the traditions of the Estates-General was to request cahiers de doleances or books of complaint from the realm. In accordance with this tradition, the drawing up of the cahiers had been officially decreed on January 24. The cahiers number in the thousands.
Deliberations of the Estates-General begin at Versailles. Debate begins almost immediately over how voting will be conducted.
Accepting the proposition of the delegate Abbe Sieyes, the Third Estate proclaims itself The National Assembly. It invites the other two Orders to join in this new body of the nation in creating a constitution.
A few liberal nobles and many of the lesser clergy join the movement of the Third Estate.
The Tennis Court Oath. The king orders the meeting hall of the Third Estate closed. The Third Estate, still calling itself the National Assembly, removes to the Tennis Court of Versailles (Jeu de Paume). They swear an oath not to disband until a constitution is approved.
Louis XVI makes various proposals for reform but continues to demand that the Estates-General vote by Orders-one Order, one vote. This is rejected by the Third Estate. Louis XVI threatens to dissolve the Estates-General.
The king concedes to public demand and orders the Nobles and the Clergy to join the National Assembly.
Concerned by the boldness of the Third Estate, the government increases the garrisons of mercenary troops just outside Paris.
Demonstrations and speeches at the Palais-Royal (a fashionable public gathering place) against the menacing increase of government soldiers.
The National Assembly appoints a committee of thirty members to draft a constitution.
The National Assembly proclaims itself the Constituent National Assembly, with full authority and power to decree law; their primary task is to draw up and adopt a constitution.
Jacques Necker, who had become a popular minister and who had zealously sought a solution to the budgetary crisis, is dismissed by Louis XVI.
The Fall of the Bastille. Parisians, many from the class of artisans and journeyman workers, are alarmed by the gathering of troops, angry at the dismissal of Necker and the price of grain. They form the Permanent Committee and seek to protect themselves from feared attacks by royal forces by seizing 3,000 rifles and some cannon from the royal armory, the Invalides. They march to the Bastille and demand that it be opened and its gunpowder delivered to them. The Swiss Guards inside fire on the crowd. About 100 persons are killed. An attack begins and the Bastille falls; an angry mob kills all the Bastille's guards and tears the structure down brick-by-brick. Though it held only seven prisoners, the Bastille was one of Europe's most famous symbols of cruel and arbitrary power.
Louis XVI accepts the Marquis de Lafayette as commander of the National Guard, a citizens' militia designed to replace the now unreliable mix of royal troops and foreign mercenaries.
Upon the insistence of the Constituent National Assembly, Jacques Necker is recalled to his post as Director General of Finances and Minister of State.
It can be said that on this date the formal power of the Constituent National Assembly begins. Louis XVI travels from Versailles, with some of his retinue, to the city hall of Paris, where he is received by the new mayor, Jean Sylvain Bailly and an enormous crowd of people crying out "Long live the Nation!" The king places the new national blue and red ribbon on his hat. Thomas Jefferson, U.S. Ambassador to France, who had witnessed meetings of the Estates- General, is present.
July through August
The period of the so-called "Great Fear." Rural peasants organize to demand nobles relinquish their feudal privileges, but also begin to grow suspicious that the aristocracy is plotting to overthrow the National Assembly.
The National Assembly abolishes most feudal privileges still held by the aristocracy and the clergy, including taxes, tithes, obligatory labor on roads and payment of crops.
The National Assembly adopts the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, essentially declaring France to be a constitutional monarchy; Louis XVI chooses to ignore it.
First publication of Jean-Paul Marat's L'Ami du peuple (The Friend of the People), an eight-page daily newspaper-pamphlet, one of the most influential and radical publications of the Revolution. At first sympathetic to a constitutional monarchy, and progressively supportive of the sans-culottes and the Commune of Paris, Marat's fiery texts raged against both aristocrats and those who argued for egalitarian distribution of property.
The Women's March Upon Versailles. Starving Parisians, led by a large number of women, march upon Versailles and force the royal family back to Paris, where they take up residence at the Tuileries. Louis XVI is considered by many a "Prisoner" in Paris. The Assembly, still in Versailles, declares, in the spirit of constitutional monarchy, its inseparability from the king. Its meetings are transferred to a hall close to the Tuileries. Louis publicly accepts all of the National Assembly's previous decrees.
All church property is confiscated by the state.
The administrative reorganization of France begins. Old provincial boundaries give way to 83roughly equal administrative departements chiefly run by a bureaucracy made up of bourgeoisie.
The Assembly issues treasury notes called assignats based on the value of nationalized church property. The assignats would become a form of paper money subject to constant devaluation.
1790 February 13
Monastical vows are prohibited. Religious orders, except the teaching and charitable orders, are abolished.
All aristocratic, hereditary titles are abolished.
Adoption of the Civil Constitution of the Clergy. It provides for the appointment of all church officers, from archbishop down, by the National Assembly rather than the pope; additionally, all clergy now become employees of the state. October
Louis XVI secretly explores a possible coalition with foreign powers to end the Revolution. He writes a letter to his cousin Charles IV of Spain, complaining of the Civil Constitution of the Clergy.
All public officials and priests are required to sign an oath of loyalty to the new French nation. When many of the clergy object and refuse to take oaths to the state, the Catholic Church becomes targeted by more radical elements within the revolutionary movement.
1791 March 2
All guilds, which regulated entry into artisan crafts, are abolished.
The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen and the Civil Constitution of the Clergy are condemned by Pope Pius VI.
Worker unions and strikes are prohibited by the Le Chapelier Law.
Attempting to flee France, Louis XVI, Marie -Antoinette, and their children are arrested at Varennes and brought back to Paris. The National Assembly suspends the king's authority until further notice. This is a major turning point in the Revolution and would play a role in eventually destroying the constitutional monarchy, still to be formally established by the new constitution. Louis XVI, though in some ways much loved by the people of France, begins to be thought of by many as a traitor and a danger to the nation. Suspicions grow of conspiracies and foreign invasions.
The Emperor Leopold II of Austria appeals to other royalty to join with him in demanding respect for the liberty and honor of Louis XVI.
The Massacre of the Champ-de-Mars. Ever since the forced return of Louis XVI to Paris, debates rage over establishing a constitutional monarchy or declaring a republic. The Cordeliers Club demands a republic. The Jacobin Club splits on the question; those against a republic quit the Jacobins to form a new faction-the Feuillants. For the second anniversary of the Fall of the Bastille, a grand Altar of the Nation had been erected on the Champ-de-Mars. The Cordeliers come to this altar on the 17th to declare their demands that a republic be established. The Marquis de Lafayette, hero of the American War of Independence and now Commander of the National Guard, orders his troops to fire upon a large crowd that had gathered. About fifty persons are killed. The attempted flight of the royal family and incidents such as this massacre alarm many members of the National Assembly. Many continue to fear internal and foreign conspiracies and think the Revolution is in danger of being crushed.
The Declaration of Pillnitz. The rulers of Austria and Prussia agree to halt the French Revolution. They insist that England participate.
Jews in all regions of France are granted full citizenship.
Last session of the Constituent National Assembly. During its two years, it dismantled feudalist privileges and had begun reordering both government and society. The constitution now in place legalized a constitutional monarchy and a unicameral legislature over whose laws Louis XVI had a veto. It also provided for only a limited franchise for "citoyens actifs," those who paid a certain amount in taxes. And, in effect, only about 50,000 citizens, chosen amongst the richest taxpayers, could elect deputies and representatives to various district councils.
First session of the new Legislative Assembly (which replaces the National Assembly) under the Constitution of 1791.
October, 1791 to March, 1792
Debates divide the Assembly on a declaration of war against countries allied against the Revolution. Jacques Pierre Brissot, a Parisian deputy, urges war. Maximilien Robespierre argues against war, fearing that France is ill-prepared. Many believe that the royalists want to plunge the country into war, because military defeat would mean the end of the Revolution.
1792 January to March
Serious inflation begins. Food riots occur in Paris.
Louis removes the Count of Narbonne, Minister of War. All of his other ministers resign. Louis XVI forms a new government, composed mostly of republic-minded Jacobins.
France declares war on Austria. Prussia joins with Austria. French Royalists hope the war will go badly, leading to the restoration of the monarchy.
Rouget de Lisle composes his War Hymn for the Army of the Rhine and performs it for the Mayor of Strasbourg. In July of this year, it would become La Marseillaise.
Invasion of the Tuileries. In the previous weeks, tensions increased over a law on the deportation of refractory priests, the king's veto of this law, the dismantling of the king's constitutional Garde (6,000 men), and the stationing of 20,000 troops by the Assembly in Paris. Louis XVI had dismissed his Jacobin ministers on June 12 and replaced them with more moderate Feuillants. When the Assembly objects, Lafayette sends a letter condemning the Assembly and the Jacobins. On June 20, a large crowd, mostly from the neighborhoods of St. Antoine and St. Marcel, invade the Tuileries. They demand the return of the Jacobin ministers. They force Louis to don a liberty cap (bonnet rouge or bonnet phrygien) and to drink to the health of the people.
The Brunswick Manifesto (declared on July 25) is distributed throughout Paris. The Duke of Brunswick, commanding general of the Austro-Prussian Army, in an inflammatory declaration, warns Parisians to obey Louis XVI. It threatens them with violent punishment if they do not. The Assembly is offended and orders the sections of Paris to ready themselves. The Manifesto creates both fear and anger in Paris.
At a meeting of the Jacobin Club, Robespierre calls for the removal of the king.
Singing Rouget de Lisle's War Hymn of the Army of the Rhineor La Marseillaise, a battalion of troops from Marseille arrives in Paris. Plans are made by a revolutionary committee to proceed toward the overthrow of the king.
Second Invasion of the Tuileries. From August 3 to August 10, the procedure to end the monarchy had begun. Forty-seven of the forty-eight sections of Paris had petitioned the Legislative Assembly to abrogate the king's powers. One Parisian section (in the St. Antoine neighborhood) declares that it will bring down the monarchy on August 10, if the Assembly does not carry out the will of the people.
The Legislative Assembly does nothing before August 10; true to their word, citizens -- mostly sans-culottes -- march towards the Tuileries, which is defended by a contingent of French soldiers and Swiss Guards. The king, realizing that his French Garde is sympathetic to the Revolution (they had cried: "Vive la Nation!" when passing in review), decides to seek refuge at the Assembly. His troops, however, remain in a position of defense, are attacked, and many are killed by the insurgents. The Tuileries is taken and pillaged.
In the afternoon, the Assembly strips Louis of his powers and declares him a prisoner of the nation. It also decrees the formation of a new assembly to be called the Convention. Like the American Constitutional Convention , the National Convention would write a new constitution to replace that of 1791. The French Convention, however, would last for over three years and produce two constitutions.
An Executive Council of six ministers is elected by the Assembly to oversee the national election of representatives to the Convention. The Assembly also authorizes the arrest throughout France of suspected enemies of the Revolution. Royalist newspapers are prohibited.
The royal family is imprisoned in the tower of the Temple, former monastery of the Order of the Templars.
Lafayette deserts the army and the Revolution and flees to Austria. General Dumouriez takes command of the Armies of the North.
Prussian armies, including French emigres, invade France.
The September Massacres. In Paris, rumors abound of imminent invasion, the collapse of the Revolution, and of conspiracies mounted by imprisoned aristocrats. On September 3, the Prussian Army seizes Verdun. Widespread fear, incited in pamphlets, speeches, and rumors, precedes the massacre of about 1,500 prisoners.
Last session of the Legislative Assembly and the Constitutional Monarchy. The French Army defeats the Prussians at Valmy. Goethe witnessed this battle and said of it: "On this day begins a new era in the history of the world."
September 21, 1792 to October 26, 1795: The Convention
The Convention actually became a provisional revolutionary government. While debating new constitutional principles and new laws, the Convention also carried out a European war, oversaw the daily affairs of the nation, and repressed several revolts. The Convention can be divided into three periods. During the first (from September 21, 1792, to June 2, 1793) the Convention is dominated by deputies sometimes called Brissotins, or more commonly, Girondins (from the Gironde, in the southwest of France). These deputies represented interests of the provinces, often in opposition to those of the commune of Paris, dominated by the Jacobins. The Jacobins, organized into a political club and usually supported by radical "sections" of Paris, dominate the second period of the Convention, from June 2, 1793, to July 28, 1794. During this period, France was attacked by foreign enemies and unsettled by internal revolts. There was also popular discontent over food distribution, inflation, and legislative factionalism. Day-to-day administration was given over to two important national committees: the Committee of General Surveillance and the Committee of Public Safety. During this time, the Terror was made official policy up to the ninth of Thermidor (July 27, 1794), when Robespierre and his supporters lost their dominant position in the Committee of Public Safety and in the Convention, were accused, and executed. In the third, or post- Thermidorean, period of the Convention the Revolution began to dissolve into dangerous disputes between radical, liberal, and conservative factions.
The Convention abolishes the Monarchy and decrees the establishment of a republic. It begins deliberations on the new constitution.
Georges Danton, one of the most influential of the revolutionary orators, declares at the Convention that the French Revolution is a revolution against all kings.
A committee to draw up the new constitution is appointed. Danton and the Abbe Sieyes are members, but the majority are Girondins.
Throughout October of 1792, the French Army pushes the Prussians out of Verdun and Longwy. It enters Mainz and takes possession of Frankfort. The army under Dumouniez enters Belgium and defeats the Austrians at Jemmapes. The Austrians leave Belgian territory.
The Convention declares its willingness to help all subjected peoples to achieve their liberty.
Jacques Roux, a radical popular leader, makes one of several popular speeches in radical "sections" of Paris. Roux would become the leader of the Enrages, who demanded that the "aristocracy of the rich" be treated like the aristocracy stripped of their privileges in 1789. Jacques Roux and the Enrages would be attacked by the Girondists and the Jacobins, who both defended a central principle of the French Revolution, the right of property.
Revolutionary policies arc decreed to be valid in all occupied territories of the French Army.
Members in the English House of Commons urge taking up of arms against France to protect Louis XVI from the Convention.
1793 January 21
After a trial by the entire Convention, Louis XVI, is found guilty of conspiring against the nation and guillotined on the Place de la Republique.
February to March
Attacks on shops and food riots occur during a time of great scarcity.
The Convention declares war on Great Britain and Holland.
Military conscription is decreed by the Convention, which calls up 300,000 citizen soldiers. Conscription is unwelcome.
Royalist and Catholic revolt begins in the Vendee, strengthened by peasants opposed to the draft.
The Convention declares war on Spain.
A revolt attempted by the Enrages in Paris fails.
The Convention sets in place an "extraordinary criminal tribunal," later to be called the Revolutionary Tribunal. Its purpose is to judge all enemies of the Republic and curb counter-revolution.
The Convention, increasingly wary of the Enrages, decrees capital punishment for anyone who urges agrarian laws and attacks the principle of private property.
Dumouriez's army, suffers an important defeat at Neenwinden in Belgium.
Revolutionary committees of surveillance are created in each commune. They are charged with taking account of all those suspected of being enemies or traitors to the nation.
Jacobins begin to increase their influence in the Convention.
General Dumouriez deserts to the Austrians. After several important defeats, General Dumouriez had proclaimed the Convention primarily responsible for them. Like Lafayette before him, Dumouriez had also attempted to urge his army to march with him upon Paris, where he would dissolve the Convention, but the army refused. After being summoned to Paris and refusing, Dumouriez flees to the enemy. This treason would bring in its path great suspicion of his allies in the Convention, the Girondins.
The Committee of Public Safety. The Convention, attempting to deal with the radical movements of the Enrages, food shortages and riots, the revolt in the Vendee and in Brittany, recent defeats of its armies, and the desertion of its commanding general, creates the Committee of Public Safety (Comite de Salut Public). This committee is charged with carrying out a policy of "terrorizing" all of France's enemies within and without.
Robespierre, at the Jacobin Club, proposes a new version of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. Though he is opposed to the Enrages, his new version puts certain restrictions on the right of property and establishes the principle of the duty of society towards the well-being of its citizens.
Marat is arrested but almost immediately liberated by the Revolutionary Tribunal, an event which further intensifies the antagonism between the Girondins and Jacobins.
Price control voted for grain, known as the maximum.
The Commission of Twelve is created on the motion of the Girondins. It is aimed at rooting out "extremist" elements in the Commune of Paris, center of the activity of the Enrages, the Hebertists, led by Jacques-Rene Hebert. This commission further aggravates the Jacobins, much of whose support is in the Commune of Paris. The Commission arrests Hebert and others.
Representatives of the Commune come to the Convention to seek the liberation of the Hebertists. In the Convention, the Jacobins demand the arrest of the Girondins.
The Convention approves of the Constitution of 1793 or the Constitution of the Year I. Though adopted by national referendum on the following August 4, it would never actually be applied. Still, it was influential in the nineteenth century, admired by the sans-culottes and remembered during the Revolution of 1848. It invoked the right to work, the right to education, widely extended the franchise and de-emphasized private property in relation to liberty and social order. It also specifically enunciated the sacred right and duty of a people to revolt against a government that violates the "rights of the people."
Charlotte Corday assassinates Marat, powerful journalist, convention delegate, and supporter of Robespierre, but also one of the most important of revolutionary heroes to the people of Paris. His assassination and the subsequent national rite of mourning made him into a revolutionary saint.
The French surrender at Mainz.
Hoarding is voted a capital crime.
The metric system is decreed the new national standard.
The Convention decrees a levee en masse, calling upon the entire male population (between 18 and 25, unmarried or widower without children) to defend the country.
Toulon, a crucial naval port, falls to the British.
An important demonstration of sans-culottes at the Convention. Amongst other things, they demand immediate arrest of suspected enemies and traitors, the establishment of a revolutionary army of 6,000 men and 1,200 artillery to put down revolts. In a state of urgency and fear for the survival of the Republic, the Convention decrees most of what is demanded.
All women are required by the Convention to wear the tricolored ribbon, insignia of the Republic.
The law of the general maximum is decreed, a system of price controls on essential goods and wage regulation.
The Republican calendar is adopted, part of the dechristianizing program of the Revolution.
Marie - Antoinette is guillotined.
A number of Girondins are executed. Others flee to the provinces.
The Festival of Reason is celebrated in Notre Dame, replacing Catholic symbolism with the secular principles of knowledge, reason, and political liberty. All Catholic churches in Paris would be closed a short time later.
Although it continues sporadically, the revolt in the Vendee is, for the most part, defeated.
The Convention decrees the Law of the 14th Frimaire. This provides a provisional constitutional order, designed to centralize administrative power until a new Constitution can be put in place. The two central revolutionary committees are given complete administrative power. The Committee of Public Safety is charged with prosecuting the war and assigning duties to the representatives in the departments. The Committee of General Surveillance is given responsibility for the police and the administration of justice. A single revolutionary army is established. All revolutionary tribunals are suppressed in favor of one tribunal in Paris.
Camille Desmoulins publishes the first issue of Le Vieux Cordelier. He favors the ideas of Danton, urging peace negotiations with foreign powers and an end to the official Terror.
The siege and fall of Toulon. Napoleon Bonaparte's artillery distinguishes itself.
Robespierre delivers an important report on the principles of revolutionary government, which he describes as a necessary and provisional form of war against the enemies of liberty, to be distinguished from constitutional government, which conserves and protects liberty once firmly and peacefully established.
1794 February 4
Slavery is abolished in some of the French colonies.
Robespierre reports on the principles of political morality that should be respected by the Convention, in which he declares that the revolutionary government is based on both virtue and terror-"... virtue without which terror is evil, terror without which virtue is powerless."
February 26-March 3
The Laws of Ventose. They authorize the seizure and redistribution of all property belonging to those suspected of working against the Republic.
The Hebertists are judged to be extremists and anarchists by Robespierre and the Jacobins. They are accused of conspiracy and collusion with foreign powers. Most are executed.
The arrest of Danton and the Dantonists ordered by the Committee of Public Safety and the Committee of General Security.
Danton, Camille Desmoulins, and other Dantonists are guillotined.
Robespierre is elected president of the Convention. The Abbe Gregoire submits his report on the necessity of eliminating regional dialects and patois, in order to establish French as the national language.
The Festival of the Supreme Being is celebrated.
The fall of Robespierre. The events of these days are often referred to simply as "Thermidor" (the month of July-August in the republican calendar). Robespierre and his political allies are charged in the Convention with crimes against the Republic. Reaction against them had been developing for many weeks in the Committee of Public Safety and the Convention. They are accused, condemned, and guillotined within two days.
A separation of Church and State is effected with the decree of the Convention that it will no longer pay salaries or expenses of the Church.
The Jacobin Club is ordered closed.
The American and British governments sign a treaty in London agreeing to blockade French shores, this despite a treaty of Franco-American alliance signed in 1778.
Wage control and price control laws are repealed.
1795 February 21
Separation of Church and State and freedom of religion are officially decreed.
It is decided that the Constitution of 1793, the most liberal of all the revolutionary constitutions, will be set aside. A committee is charged with drafting a new constitution.
Food shortages and riots Occur throughout Paris. Sans-culottes demand solutions to the food shortages and the application of the Constitution of 1793.
A peace treaty is signed with Prussia.
A peace treaty is signed with the Netherlands.
Riots in the sans-culottes sections of Paris. The Convention is also invaded by demonstrators calling for bread and the enforcement of the Constitution of 1793. The army puts down these insurrections.
Louis XVII, dauphin of France, dies in the Temple. Many legends have developed since about the survival of the dauphin.
A peace treaty is signed with Spain.
The Constitution of the Year III is approved. Its preface is now a declaration of the rights and duties of man and of the citizen. It decrees voting privileges only to those who pay indirect taxes. It provides for a bicameral legislature, a Council of Five Hundred, which proposes laws and a Council of the Elders (250 members), which adopts or rejects them. All administrative power is placed in a Directory of five members, elected by the two councils for five years. Paul Barras would be the emerging leader of the Directory.
Napoleon is instrumental in putting down a royalist revolt in Paris.
Napoleon is named commander-in-chief of all armies within the boundaries of France
1796 February 19
Assignats, having become hugely inflated in value, are suppressed.
Napoleon takes command of the army, and begins to prepare his Italian campaign.
The Conspiracy of the Equals organized by Gracchus Babeuf. The goal is a Coup d'etat and the end of the Directory in order to set a communist government ill its place.
1797 March 4
John Adams is elected American President. During his regime the Franco-American alliance would come to an end. Adams favored expelling all French "Jacobins" from the United States.
Gracchus Babeuf is guillotined. His conspiracy had little effect, but his ideas are part of the development of nineteenth-century socialism.
The beginnings of the independence movement in the slave colony of Santo Domingo, present-day Haiti. A revolution there is led by Toussaint- L'Ouverture.
A group of moderate and rightist delegates to the legislative Councils of the Five Hundred and of the Elders, members of the political club of Clichy, plan a coup d'etat against the Directory.
The three dominant members of the Directory (Barras, Reubell, La Revelliere-Lepeaux), aware of the conspiracy, have the chief conspirators arrested. Many are exiled to Guyana. This is known as the Coup d'etat of the 18th Fructidor.
September to December
Dominique Ramel de Nogaret, Minister of Finances, liquidates the public debt by two-thirds with a system of coupons that, in effect, simply invalidates two-thirds of what is owed to various public creditors.
The peace treaty of Campio Formio is signed with Austria.
A Second Coalition uniting Russia, Great Britain, and eventually Austria against France is formed. The War of the Coalition continues to 1801.
1798 May 11
The so-called coup d'etat of the 22nd Floreal, Year VI. The two councils invalidate totally or partially the elections in forty-eight out of ninety-six departments. A good many of the excluded are Jacobins.
Napoleon launches his Egyptian campaign.
Admiral Nelson defeats the French fleet at Akoubir Bay.
1799 June 18
After attacks and threats of accusation from the two Councils, two members of the Directory resign (La Revelliere-Lepeaux and Douai). Barras and Sieyes remain.
Napoleon begins his return to France.
Napoleon arrives in Paris.
Lucien Bonaparte, Napoleon's brother, is elected president of the Council of the Five Hundred.
Emmanuel Joseph Sieyes, the former Abbe Sieyes, author of What Is the Third Estate?, prominent leader at every stage of the Revolution, meets with Napoleon. They plan together a coup d'etat, which Sieyes thinks (erroneously) will allow him to institute the rational constitution he had been elaborating for years.
On the 18th Brumaire, Napoleon stages his military coup d'etat. He becomes First Consul of The Consulate.
A new constitution, known as the Constitution of the Year VIII (the fourth since 179 1) is proclaimed and submitted for approval in a plebiscite. This constitution is not preceded by the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. In a preface announcing the new constitution the following is declared: "Citoyens, la Revolution est fixee aux principes qui Pont commencee: elle est finie." [Citizens, the Revolution is established upon its founding principles: the Revolution is over.]
Causes: American Revolution, costs (rent, food) rising faster than income, privileges of the 1st & 2nd Estates came at the expense of the 3rd Estate, social conflicts between classes, bad harvests, rising unemployment, spread of Enlightenment ideas, legal system which blocked effective reforms, economic crisis of the government due to overspending (half of taxes went to pay interest on royal debt) bread prices (3/4 of diet, 1/3 to 1/2 of income) 1st Estate: clergy - 130,000 controlled 10% of land, paid no taxes, divided by wealth / status / power
2nd Estate: nobles - 350,000 controlled 25-30% of land, paid no taxes, controlled most industry, natural resources, investments
3rd Estate: 75-80% of pop, controlled 35-40% of land, mainly peasants, but also artisans, poor urban labor, and the bourgeoisie (middle class - 8%, controlled 20-25% of land, merchants, bankers, lawyers, doctors, teachers)