On this day 229 years ago, the French National Convention adopted the Constitution of the First French Republic. France had long been governed under absolutist rule and divided into three estates. In 1789, when food prices rose due to a bad harvest, the third estate, made up of ordinary citizens, revolted against that form of government and demanded proper political representation, a fair tax system, and the drafting of a constitution. When Louis XVI refused these demands, the delegates of the third estate took the oath of the ballroom on June 20, 1789. After the king reacted to the protest with reprisals, the citizens showed solidarity with their delegates in the Assembly of Estates and stormed the Bastille in Paris. The French Revolution was in full swing.

As a result, the newly formed French National Assembly, which had already been involved in drafting the “Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen,” transformed France into a constitutional monarchy in September 1791, with Louis XVI remaining at its head. After Prussia and Austria declared their solidarity with the French king in the “Pillnitz Declaration” and called for the reintroduction of absolutism, the National Assembly declared war on both countries in April 1792. As a result, Louis XVI, who had since been suspected of collaborating with the opponents of the Revolution, was deposed during the storming of the Tuileries, arrested, and executed soon after.
Shortly after the king’s deposition as head of state, a National Convention was convened with the task of drafting a new republican constitution. Already in its first session, on September 22, 1792, the latter proclaimed the proclamation of the Republic. The proclamation of France’s first democratic constitution followed on June 24, 1793, formally establishing the First French Republic. In contrast to the census suffrage of the constitutional monarchy, the Constitution of 1793 for the first time allowed universal suffrage for all French males over the age of 21.

However, that constitution never came into force, as the National Convention suspended its implementation as early as August while France was still at war with Prussia and Austria. The National Convention was subsequently dissolved and the Welfare Committee was introduced as an executive body, with the help of which the radical Jacobin Maximilien de Robespierre imposed his reign of terror against the internal critics of the Revolution.