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In September 1792 the French National Convention met for the first time. It replaced the Legislative Assembly, which created it in order to draw up a new republican constitution. Their first order of business, however, was the trial and execution of Citizen Louis Capet, formerly King Louis XIV.

On 24th June 1793, the Convention adopted the first republican constitution of France. Yet, the pressures of war against an alliance of European monarchies and fears of counter-revolution resulted in the constitution never being implemented. Instead France was effectively governed by the Committee of Public Safety under the control of the Maximillien Robespierre and the Jacobins, in a period known as the Reign of Terror.

Following the fall of Robespierre in July 1794, the Convention had to deal with a royalist resurgence. They crushed suppressed an émigré force that landed by the British. The Convention delegates so feared that royalists would gain power that when it came to ratifying a new constitution, they first passed a Two Thirds Law requiring that only one thirds of the seats in the first election of the new government would be open to new members, ensuring that existing members of the Convention were in the majority.

The Convention ratified the new constitution on 22nd August 1795, and submitted it and the Two Thirds Law to the primary regional assemblies. In spite of widespread opposition, the Convention declared that 1,057,000 votes had been cast in favour of the new constitution, and only 49,000 against. Suspicions of vote rigging resulted in around 25,000 royalist insurgents, including National Guardsmen, from Paris marching on the Convention on 5th October. They were defeated by regular troops, including a young artillery general called Napoleon Bonaparte.

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On 26th October 1795, the National Convention dissolved itself. Under the terms of the new constitution it was replaced by a bicameral legislature consisting of the the lower house called the Council of Five Hundred, responsible for drawing up legislation, and a 250 member Council of Ancients, which could accept or reject laws but not draw up their own. The Council of Ancients elected a five man executive called the Directory, which gave its name to the new government.

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