The History of the French Revolution
FRENCH REVOLUTION, THE. The Revolution of 1789 in France which overthrew the Bourbon monarchy and the old feudal regime. In this article the name is employed for the period of French history beginning with the meeting of the States-General at Versailles, in 1789, and ending with the establishment of the Consulate, in 1799. For an account of the condition of France before the Revolution, and the causes that brought it about, see FRANCE.
When it was decided to summon the States-General, two important constitutional questions required solution-the distribution of representation among the three orders, and the method of voting in the States-General itself. Owing to the somewhat irregular character and procedure of this body, which had not met since 1614, there were no valid precedents which could be followed in 1789. In solution of the first question, a royal decree revived or created certain electoral divisions and provided for the election of 250 delegations of four members each-one from the nobility, one from the clergy, and two from the Third Estate-thus dividing the membership of the States-General equally between the two upper orders and the Third Estate. Supplementary decrees provided for special cases which arose and considerably increased the number of members. In each electoral district, in conjunction with the election of the members of the States-General, each of the three orders drew up cahiers, or lists of grievances, including propositions for new legislation. The question of the method of voting was not solved, but the official expectation was that the vote would be by order, which would have required a majority vote of each of the orders to pass any measure. This would have been a bar to any vital measure of reform. The Third Estate, however, expected and intended to have a vote by head; i.e., the three orders should vote as one body, and the simple majority should suffice to pass any measure. This would have placed the control in the hands of the Third Estate, which would vote as a unit and could depend upon the support of a few liberal nobles and the considerable number of parish priests among the representatives of the clergy. When the States-General met, the nobility and the clergy organized as separate houses, but the Third Estate refused to take any such action, in spite of royal and ministerial pressure, and finally on June 17 declared themselves the National Assembly and invited the nobility and clergy to join the Assembly. When the Third Estate first met on June. 20, they found their meeting hall closed, but secured a place of meeting in the building called the Tennis Court (jeu de paume), where they took the famous oath not to dissolve until they had given France a constitution. The parish priests, or curés, and a few of the liberal nobles then joined the Third Estate. After the fruitless royal session of June 23, in which the King commanded the three orders to meet separately, the remainder of the nobility and clergy, at the royal bidding, joined their fellows in the National Assembly, which came to be called the Constituent Assembly, because of its self-imposed task of framing a constitution. The leader of the Third Estate was Mirabeau (q.v.), an able but discredited noble who had secured an election as a representative of the Third Estate for Aix.
In July, under the influence of a few ultraconservative and reactionary members of the royal family and of the nobility, the King assumed a hostile attitude, dismissed Necker, the Minister of Finance, in whom the hopes of a regenerated France largely centred, and concentrated troops on Paris. Insurrectionary movements, by which the masses of the people began to show their interest, broke out in Paris. Blood was shed in the capital on July 12, and on the 14th the Bastille (q.v.), the visible sign of generations of tyranny, was stormed and partially destroyed. The propertied classes and the business people of the city, to prevent the recurrence of bloodshed and riot and to maintain order, organized a city militia, called the National Guard, and a provisional city government. The King, in alarm, withdrew the troops, recalled Necker, and in response to popular demand visited Paris, where he legalized the provisional measures and recognized Lafayette as commandant general of the New National Guard, and the astronomer Bailly as mayor of Paris, and changed the national colors from the white of the Bourbons to the new and popular tricolor.
Having failed in their attempt to overawe the National Assembly and the people of Paris, the Count of Artois, the King's youngest brother, and other leading reactionaries left France, being the first of the so-called émigrés (q.v.). Immediately following the capture of the Bastille, local disturbances broke out in many sections of the country, while other parts were swept by a panic known as the "Great Fear." The old administrative machine had broken down, and the nation was without an effective local government. In each locality the coolheaded lovers of law and order organized companies of the National Guard and established a provisional local administration.
On the night of August 4 a report on the condition of the nation was read in the Constituent Assembly and it was followed by the abolition of the old feudal and manorial privileges. The Assembly did not begin at once the necessary constructive work, but dallied with academic discussion on the rights of man, a declaration of which was adopted, to be a preface to the new constitution. (See ASSEMBLY, NATIONAL.) The King and his ministers failed to show any ability to deal with the crisis, while the attitude of the Queen and the court gave color to rumors and popular fears concerning the hostile designs of the King against reforms. This period of suspense was ended by another outbreak in Paris. A mob, composed largely of hungry women, after some disturbances in the capital, marched to Versailles on October 5, followed by Lafayette and the National Guard. Lafayette rescued the royal family, but did not disperse the mob, and on the following day the National Guard and the mob escorted the royal family to Paris and quartered them in the Tuileries. The Constituent Assembly soon followed and found a meeting place near the Tuileries. Thus far the Assembly had been dominated by admirers of the English constitution, like Mounier and Mirabeau, and by admirers of America, like Lafayette and the Lameths. Although there were some theoretical admirers of republican institutions, still, in practice, all had contemplated a constitutional monarchy for France. Now the most conservative members of the Assembly began to disappear, and slowly more radical principles developed. A symptom of this change was in the organization of clubs, the earliest and most important of which was the Society of the Friends of the Constitution, later known as the Jacobins (q.v.), from the old monastery in which its meetings were held. The Jacobins became a great political force, because of their system of affiliated clubs in the provinces, with which they were in close communication. (See FEUILLANTS; JACOBINS.) Another important club in Paris was the Cordeliers (q.v.), under the radical leadership of Danton. Newspapers as well as clubs sprang into existence in 1759, for the censorship ceased to discharge its functions. These papers differed widely in form, regularity of issue, and character. In general their purpose was political, and most of the space was occupied with accounts of the sessions of the Constituent Assembly. The most famous of the journals was the Moniteur; the most brilliant was the Révolutions de France et de Brabant of Camille Desmoulins, and the most erratic the Ami du Peuple of Marat On November 2 the Assembly decreed the transfer of the property of the church to the nation. In February, 1790, it abolished succession by primogeniture. In June it suppressed all titles of nobility.
The work of drawing up the new constitution went on apace in the Assembly, so that the first draft was accepted by the king on July 14, 1790, the anniversary of the taking of the Bastille, at the Feast of the Federation in the Champ de Mars, in which representatives from all parts of the country participated. The constitution gave the King a suspensive veto on all measures passed by the unicameral national legislature. The legislature shared with the King the control of foreign affairs. The most successful and most enduring portion of the new constitution was the provision made for the reorganization of France into 83 departments, each with its local administration. All officials were to be elected by the people. Another feature of the new arrangements was equally important because of the opposition which it aroused. This was the civil constitution of the clergy, which reorganized the church upon the lines of the new civil administration and transferred the actual control of the church from the hierarchy to the French state. The clergy were to be paid by the state and were required to take an oath to support the new arrangement. This caused a schism in the church in France, because two-thirds of the priests remained loyal to the Catholic church and refused to take the oath. The Assembly had already confiscated the estates of the church and issued assignats (q.v.), or a kind of government notes based upon these lands as security. The confiscated lands, comprising one-fifth of France, being thus placed suddenly upon the market, depreciated rapidly in value and the assignats owing to new issues, declined more rapidly. The only other important event of the summer of 1790 was the military mutiny at Nancy and its suppression by Bouillé (q.v.) on August 31. Necker, to whom, of all the King's ministers, the nation had looked for wise and able measures, failed to accomplish anything and retired from office in September, 1790, leaving the King without a single competent adviser. Mirabeau was the one man in public life who possessed real statesmanlike ability. Though viewed with suspicion by his colleagues in the Constituent Assembly, and with unconcealed contempt by the Queen and the court, he attempted to place his talents at the service of the nation, through both the Assembly and the King. Though his advice was not accepted, the nation realized that his death, on April 2, 1791, left France without a single statesman to guide her. Worst of all, France was not to be allowed to solve her problems alone. The Queen was in constant correspondence with her brother, the Emperor Leopold II, the ruler of the extensive Hapsburg dominions. This was regarded by the people as treasonable. Both Leopold and Frederick William II of Prussia regarded the events in France with suspicion and desired to save the French royal family from humiliation and possible danger. German rulers had allowed the increasing numbers of the émigrés to gather within their territories and threaten armed invasion of France to rescue the royal family and restore the old order. Contrary to the advice which Mirabeau had given, the King and his family escaped from Paris on the night of June 20, 1791, and fled towards the eastern frontier to take refuge with the émigrés under the protection of the Emperor Leopold. This confirmed the popular suspicion that the Queen was in treasonable correspondence with her brother, and that the King had perjured himself in swearing to support the new constitution. The King and the royal family were halted at Varennes and brought back to Paris.
The summer of 1791 witnessed two unfortunate events which foreshadowed the evil days to come. The first was the unprovoked firing upon a popular meeting in the Champ de Mars, in Paris, on July 17-an event known as the Massacre of the Champ de Mars. The other was the meeting at Pillnitz of Leopold II and Frederick William II in August, and the issue of a joint declaration intended as a warning to the popular party in France. Meanwhile the Constituent Assembly had revised the constitution on more conservative lines and submitted the completed work, the constitution of 1791, to the King, who took the oath to it on September 14. A new legislature having been chosen according to the provisions of the new constitution, the Constituent Assembly dissolved on Sept. 30, 1791.
The new legislature, known in history as the Legislative Assembly, began its sessions on Oct. 1, 1791. The Assembly was composed of about 750 members, chosen largely from the middle class, and included no one who had sat in the Constituent Assembly. There were no organized parties in the Legislative Assembly; but two small groups, one liberal and one radical, early came into prominence-the Girondists (q.v.), so named because their leaders came from Bordeaux in the Department of the Gironde; and the Mountain, who took this name because they occupied the highest seats on the left side of the ball. The majority of the members of the Assembly were moderates or even conservatives, but the Girondists were generally able to carry their measures. Unfortunately the Girondists were theorists and orators and included among their number no person of statesman-like character. Under the leadership of Brissot they became a republican party, and monarchy gradually became unpopular. Differences in regard to the nature of the proposed republic later arose between the Girondists and the Mountain-the one desiring a federal republic like the United States, the other advocating a republic one and indivisible with a centralized administration. The Legislative Assembly enacted stringent measures against the émigrés and the priests who refused to take the oath to support the civil constitution of the clergy. Failing to see that France needed peace in order to complete the solution of her internal questions and to establish a stable form of administration, the Girondists after prolonged discussions secured the passage, on April 20, 1792, of the fatal act declaring war against Prussia and Austria.
Lack of discipline was largely responsible for the failure of the French armies to keep the Austrians and Prussians out of France. The advance of the foreign armies increased the unrest in Paris. Small politicians began to form an organization to use the mob of Paris as a political force. On June 20 they directed a demonstration by the mob, which resulted accidentally in an invasion of the Tuileries. The knell of French monarchy had sounded. King, ministers, and legislators sat helpless awaiting the final blow, while the leaders of the mob. quietly but without concealment matured their plans. They usurped the government of Paris, organizing a revolutionary commune. Volunteers were sent to the armies, while others were brought to Paris from Brest and Marseilles, the latter entering Paris singing the patriotic hymn henceforth known as the "Marseillaise." On July 25 the Duke of Brunswick, who commanded the Austro-Prussian army which was preparing to invade France, issued a proclamation against the French Revolutionists which aroused the Parisians to frenzy. On August 10 all was ready, and the revolutionary leaders struck their blow. The Tuileries was stormed and the Swiss Guard was massacred. The royal family took refuge in the hall of the Legislative Assembly, which suspended the King and placed the royal family under strict surveillance in the Temple. A national convention to revise the constitution was called, to be elected not on the restricted franchise provided in the constitution of 1791, but by universal manhood suffrage. Numerous suspects were arrested, and Danton as Minister of Justice acted virtually as dictator. Lafayette in alarm abandoned his army and fled from France, but was seized and imprisoned by the Austrians. Further losses on the frontier resulted in further disturbances in Paris, culminating in the massacres of September, during which about 1000 royalists and nonjuring priests in the prisons were slain by the mob. Popular outbreaks also took place in some of the provincial cities. The tide of disaster and disorder was stemmed by the news of the engagement of Valmy on September 20, between Kellerman and the Duke of Brunswick, who vainly cannonaded the French position. On the same day the Legislative Assembly ended its sessions.
The National Convention, composed of about 750 members, nearly 500 of whom were new men, met on September 21 and promptly showed its character by abolishing the monarchy and declaring France a republic. The first weeks of the Convention were marked by the occupation of Savoy and Nice, the successes of the French armies on the Rhine, and the victory of Dumouriez over the Austrians at Jemappes (November 6). In December the King was brought to trial and called upon to answer for alleged acts of treason against the nation. Sentence of death was passed upon him, and on Jan. 21, 1793, he was beheaded. The division of parties, which had been noticeable to some extent in the Legislative Assembly, became marked in the Convention. The Girondists in the beginning possessed a decided majority; but as the party of moderation they showed themselves less able to cope with the many dangers that beset revolutionary France than the thoroughgoing members of the Mountain. As the representatives, too, of the higher bourgeoisie, they were destined to fall before the fierce champions of democracy. The. downfall of the Girondist influence, began with the trial of Louis XVI, when, against their will, they were compelled to vote to sentence the King to death.
On the frontiers the year 1793 opened with a series of disasters, which emphasized the folly of the declaration on February 1 of war against Great Britain, the Protestant Netherlands, and Spain. Successive defeats were reflected at Paris in successive measures of a vigorous and revolutionary character. Early in March 82 members of the Convention were dispatched to the different departments to raise 300,000 troops, and at Paris a Revolutionary Tribunal was established for the speedy trial of persons deemed guilty of crimes against the nation. The defeat of Dumouriez (q.v.) at Neerwinden on March 18, and the desertion of that general to the Austrians, were followed in April by the establishment of an executive committee of the Convention, the first Committee of Public Safety, which under the leadership of Danton wielded dictatorial powers of government. Civil war was already developing in France because of the resistance of the Catholic and royalist peasants of the Vendée and neighboring departments in western France to the levy of the 300,000 troops. Up to this time, April, 1793, the Girondists had shared responsibility for every measure of a revolutionary character and had themselves created the instruments of their own overthrow and destruction. But ever since the early weeks of the Convention the Girondists and the Mountain had been engaged in a life and death struggle, whose end was hastened by the terrible dangers which beset France. Hostile armies had crossed the frontier and were pressing towards Paris. Within was civil war. In the words of Danton, audacious measures were necessary. Danton and the Mountain were prepared to take. them. The Girondists wanted to debate when delay was treason. The Girondists were overthrown on June 2, and their leaders expelled from the Convention and placed in custody. The revolutionary commune of Paris, which contained the most radical individuals in power during the Reign of Terror, was placed on a legal footing. In the meanwhile the deputies on mission werc working with patriotic ardor in the provinces, and 13 armies were organized, equipped, and maintained in the field to serve against foes abroad and at home. A democratic constitution, the constitution of 1793, was speedily drawn up and promulgated, but it never went into actual force. The Committee of Public Safety ruled France from July, 1793, to July, 1794. In conjunction with the Committee of General Security in charge of the police administration, it saved France, though at the expense of the Reign of Terror.
The Great Committee of Public Safety apportioned its work to the different members. Carnot and Prieur of the Côte d'Or dealt with the questions of military strategy and the supply of arms and ordnance; Lindet and Prieur of the Marne had charge of the provisioning of the cities and the armies; Jeanbon Saint-André looked after the navy; Billaud-Varenne and Collot d'Herbois were charged with the internal administration and were the real managers of the Terror; Barère and Saint-Just were the spokesmen of the Committee in the Convention; while Robespierre, as the only member with a reputation, did little work, but was a figurehead who received all the glory and later all the blame for the acts of the Committee as a whole. The services of Robespierre, though not very material, were none the less real because, hiding behind his great personality, the workers were able, unquestioned and unhampered, to save France. The Great Committee carried out the internal administration by sending out members of the Convention as deputies on mission to the different departments to control and direct the revolutionary authorities established in each locality. Bluster, terror, imprisonment, and a few executions kept most of the departments in order. War and measures of a harsher character were employed against the royalist and Catholic uprisings in the Vendée and Brittany, and against the Girondist insurgents in Caen, Lyons, Marseilles, Toulon, and Bordeaux. Popular indignation against the Girondists became more bitter after the assassination of Marat (July 13) by Charlotte Corday, at the instigation, it was thought, of the Girondists at Caen. By the end of 1793 the Girondist rising had all been suppressed and the leaders, including 21 deputies to the Convention, executed. The Vendeans were completely defeated, but continued to carry on a guerrilla warfare until 1800. Nantes, the largest city in the Vendean country, was the headquarters of the infamous deputy on mission Carrier (q.v.), who executed more victims than did his colleagues in all the rest of France. At Paris Fouquier-Tinville (q.v.) and the Revolutionary Tribunal sent about 2600 persons to the guillotine, including nearly all of the notable victims of the Revolution from Queen Marie Antoinette down to the unsuccessful generals and the nonjuring priests. It is worthy of notice that the number of victims during the Reign of Terror has been greatly overestimated, and that more Frenchmen perished in single battles under Napoleon. The greatest sufferer during the Terror was the Catholic church, which had to expiate its abuses during the ancien régime and to suffer for its refusal to accept the civil constitution of the clergy. The opposition to the church culminated in the spasmodic establishment of the Worship of Reason, marked by the Festival in Notre Dame at Paris on Nov. 10, 1793. Danton and Robespierre recoiled from such desecration, and the Worship of Reason gradually died out. Later Robespierre tried to establish the Worship of the Supreme Being and inaugurated the new cult by the Festival of the Supreme Being on June 8, 1794. With the introduction of the Revolutionary Calendar in October, 1793, weeks were replaced by decades, and the observance of the Christian Sabbath and of saints' days instead of the decadi and the revolutionary festivals became a criminal offense. These revolutionary festivals were celebrated in Paris with great pageants under the direction of the painter David. The measures of the government of the Terror were not alone destructive and revolutionary, such as the Law of the Suspects and the Law of the Maximum, establishing fixed prices for commodities and wages, but included much of a constructive nature. The bases of the civil and criminal codes were the work of the committees of the Convention. Another committee devised the system of national education, afterward slightly modified and established by Napoleon. The military committee under Dubois-Crancé effected the reorganization of the army. The metric system and the French decimal currency were among the other creations of the Convention.
The suppression of civil war and the establishment of internal order permitted the use of all the nation's resources against the foreign foe, and a succession of victories planned by Carnot and made possible by the labors of his colleagues soon began to reward the efforts of the Great Committee of Public Safety. Beginning with the successes of Jourdan at Wattignies (Oct. 10, 1793), and of Pichegru at Weissenburg in December, the invaders were driven out of France, and the French armies were able in the spring of 1794 to take the offensive. The series of victories was crowned by Jourdan in the capture of Charleroi and the defeat of the Austrians at Fleurus (June 26, 1794). Thus, not only at home, but also against the foreign foe, the government of the Terror had justified itself.
The Revolution, however, was destined, Saturn-like, to devour its offspring. Robespierre and the Great Committee of Public Safety felt that the circumstances compelled them not only to crush insurrection and revolt, but also to silence any questioning of their policies and acts. On the one hand, Hébert, Chaumette, and the other leaders of the Commune of Paris were more radical than the Great Committee and incurred the dislike of Robespierre, because of their devotion to the Worship of Reason, and because of the indecent character of the Père Duchesne, a series of political tracts published by I3ébert. On the other hand, the Great Committee and Robespierre feared Danton, who had begun to suggest that the Terror had gone far enough. Robespierre and the Committee acted with promptness and vigor. The Hébertists were executed on March 24, 1794, and the Dantonists on April 5. After the death of Danton, Robespierre seemed to be supreme, and at his bidding the Revolutionary Tribunal worked more speedily and sent daily to the guillotine almost as many victims as it had previously done in a week. The Terror was at its height, but the fullness of time had come. The victory at Fleurus rendered further terroristic measures unnecessary. Furthermore, foes of Robespierre began to see that they stood in the way of the coming of his expected reign of peace and virtue and so were troubled for their own safety. Among these were even members of the Great Committee, who conceived the idea of making Robespierre the scapegoat for their deeds. The plot was laid, and on July 27 the blow fell. Robespierre and his two friends in the Great Committee, Couthon and Saint-Just, and others of his followers were ordered under arrest and executed on July 28 and the following days. This was the Revolution of the Ninth of Thermidor and the end of the Reign of Terror.
The remaining 15 months of the Convention were a period of reaction. The Committee of Public Safety, with a changing membership, continued to direct the administration; but the Revolutionary Tribunal was dissolved, the Law of the Maximum was repealed, the deputies ceased to go on mission, and the Jacobin Club, which had been so closely identified with the Terror, was closed. Girondists and Conservatives who had withdrawn from the Convention or had been expelled were recalled. Until the close of 1794 the Convention and the Committee of Public Safety were controlled by the Thermidorians, the men who had overthrown Robespierre. During the winter of 1794-95 they were superseded by the returning Conservatives and Girondists, who devoted the last months of the Convention to an attempt to obtain revenge for their sufferings during the Terror. On April 1, 1795 (12 Germinal), and on May 20 (1 Prairial), bread riots broke out in Paris, and the insurgents clamored for a restoration of the "red republicanism" of 1793. Both insurrections were crushed; the great Terrorists, like Billaud-Varenne and Collot d'Herbois, were deported, and the survivors of the Mountain imprisoned, deported, or executed. This reaction, known as the White Terror, extended to the provinces, especially to southern France, where the Vengeance wreaked upon the Mountain was more bloody than the Terror itself. In the summer of 1795 the Convention performed the task for which it had been elected in the summer of 1792 and drew up a new constitution called the Constitution of the Year III. The closing months of the Convention were marked by an unbroken series of military successes and by the first efforts towards the restoration of peace. The United Provinces were occupied by Pichegru and organized as the Batavian Republic under French protection; and the French Minister in Switzerland signed at Basel treaties of peace with Tuscany, Prussia (April 5, 1795), Saxony, Hanover. Hesse-Cassel, and Spain (July). France remained at war with Sardinia, England, Austria, and the Empire.
The Convention was not to close without one more insurrection in Paris-that of the 13th Vendémiaire (Oct. 5 1795) , in opposition to the new constitution. This rising was quelled by Barras with the aid of Napoleon Bonaparte. The Convention came to an end on Oct. 26, 1795, and was replaced by the Directory, the government established by the Constitution of the Year III. The executive authority was vested in a committee of five directors, and the legislative power was exercised by two houses, the Council of the Ancients and the Council of Five Hundred. By order of the Convention the first directors and two-thirds of the first legislature were to be chosen from the members of the Convention. One member of the Directory and one-third of the legislature were to retire annually, beginning in May, 1797. The new constitution had one fatal fault; it made inevitable a deadlock between the executive and the legislature and provided no means of breaking it except by revolution. Such a deadlock occurred after the elections of 1797 and was met by three of the directors, Barras, Larévellière-Lépeaux, and Reubell, who, by the coup d'état of 18 Fructidor (September 4), expelled their colleagues, Carnot and Barthélemy, and a large number of the members of the two councils, thus preventing the triumph of the party of reaction which had won in the elections. The reverse happened in the coup d'état of 30 Prairial (June 18, 1799), when the councils asserted themselves and seized control of the executive, under the leadership of Sieyès. The directors were assisted in the conduct of the central government by a ministry, which at one time or another included such able men as Talleyrand, Fouché, and Merlin of Douai. The local administration was conducted in an arbitrary manner by national agents appointed by the central government. The government was corrupt, and the reckless management of the finances would have ruined the nation had its coffers not been enriched by the plunder of Italy, sent home by Bonaparte. The measures against the émigrés and the nonjuring priests lost little of their harshness. Though the Worship of Reason had been forgotten, the attempt to give France civil religion continued, and new religions, like "Theophilanthropy," were devised and became the fad of the moment. Society, under the influence of the brilliant and dissolute Barras, the most important of the directors, was corrupt, irreligious, and dissolute. In short, little of importance and nothing of credit marked the internal history of the Directory, and only by the success of its military policy did it justify its existence. In Italy Bonaparte crushed Sardinia and forced her to accept peace, and in a series of campaigns of unsurpassed brilliancy drove the Austrians out of Italy, marched on Vienna, and forced the Emperor, Francis II, to sue for peace, which was concluded at Campo Formio, Oct. 17, 1797. In southern Germany Hoche and Moreau had conducted equally glorious but less successful campaigns against the Austrians. Bonaparte refused to invade England, the one remaining enemy of France, and was encouraged by the directors, who feared him in carrying out his scheme of conquering Egypt as a step towards destroying England's power in India. In spite of his victories the campaign was a failure. The English fleet under Nelson destroyed the French fleet in the battle of the Nile (Aug. 1-2, 1798) and held control of the Mediterranean. Meanwhile, freed from the fear of Bonaparte, the enemies of France once more assumed the offensive. Austria broke the Treaty of Campo Formio and, in alliance with England and Russia, renewed the war. The combined Austrian and Russian armies, by the victories of Suvaroff at the Trebbia (June 17-19, 1799) and at Novi (Aug. 15, 1799), drove the French into Genoa. The reverses of the French arms and the evil internal conditions caused discerning men like Sieyès, Fouché, and Talleyrand to turn to Bonaparte as the possible savior of France. In response to their invitations he returned from Egypt, and by the coup d'état of 18 Brumaire (Nov. 9, 1799) overthrew the Directory and the councils and established a provisional government, consisting of himself, Sieyès, and Roger Ducos as consuls. A new constitution, the Constitution of the year VIII, was drawn up, establishing the Consulate, with Bonaparte as First Consul; Cambacérès, Second Consul; and Lebrun, Third Consul. A Tribunate was to debate proposed laws, which were to be voted upon without debate by the Corps Législatif. Practically the First Consul was dictator with absolute powers.
The New International Encyclopaedia, Vol IX (New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1920) 261-266.