Looking at the Past
France has not always been a republic. The people of France have traditionally been willing to change their system of government. Over the years, they have changed it many times.
For several hundred years after the provinces joined together to make one large country, France was a monarchy, ruled by kings. There was also a large aristocracy of dukes, counts, barons and other nobles.
In 1789, a large group of people began to rebel against the system, and in 1792 they overthrew the king. The events of 1789 to 1792 were known as the French Revolution. The king, the queen and many nobles were executed during this time, and a republic was declared. Today it is known as the First Republic. The slogan behind the revolution and the republic was, "Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite which means, Liberty, Equality and Brotherhood.
Not everyone liked the idea of a republic, especially after the extreme supporters of the revolution sentenced many moderate people to death. Some people were frightened by the violence of the revolution. Others thought that a strong leader was needed for France. They found one in Napoleon who established an empire and became the emperor of France.
When Napoleon's empire collapsed, kings ruled France again. Then the French decided they needed a republic again, and the Second Republic was declared. It was followed by a second empire, and then the French wrote a new constitution and declared a new republic.
Several times over the years that followed, the French rewrote the constitution. Each new constitution meant a new republic. The present republic is called the Fifth Republic.
The history of the French state shows two sides of the French. They often think they would like a strong leader who can rule France and keep the country great. But they do not want to give up individual freedom, and they want to have a