Leading up to the first French Republic was the French Revolution. The people of France had suffered tensions and lack of funds. France had three estates: Clerics (members of the Catholic Church), Nobles, and Peasants (who were far more than half the population). Each estate had representatives in the government but each estate only got one vote. Most often than not, the clerics and nobles would vote together, making laws that helped them out while shouldering the peasants with most of the taxes and other burdens.
|King Louis XVI|
In a time when peasants were required by law to give tithe and levy to the Church and to also pay rent to the Lord of the Manor (they did not own their own land), along with fees for the wineries and millers (set by the Lords), added taxes became too much. Angry that they were always out voted, the peasants asked that they be give two votes instead of one, since they had the largest estate. Louis had no problem with this, while the other estates shot it down. Upset that they had been denied, the third estate declared themselves the National Assembly and later took the Tennis Court Oath, declaring they would not leave the tennis court where they meet until they had a new constitution.
|Tennis Court Oath|
|March of Women|
|Storming the Bastille|
In 1792, King Louis XVI was beheaded and a republic was official in France. For the next year, the First republic struggled. In 1793, the Terror began to bring stability. During the Terror, anyone viewed as an enemy of the Republic was sent to the guillotine (a machine used to behead).
Crowds would amass to watch the executions. Scientist would watch the heads after the came off to see how many times the eyes blinked. Old ladies would gather with their knitting to call down curses on the condemned.
For the next few years France struggled with all the changes the new Republic attempted to make. Some are mentioned on this earlier post. Things did not get better until Napoleon Bonaparte came to power in 1799 (not yet as emperor).