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The French Constitution of 1799 was written by a constitutional convention appointed by the 3rd National Assembly, often known as the "Farmer's Assembly." The constitution was based almost entirely on the old system of government of the Roman Republic.
The constitution eliminated the at-large representation of the country in the National Assembly, which had made vote rigging incredibly easy. It re-established the provinces that had been dissolved by the 1st National Assembly. The Senate would be made up of one-third Senators appointed by the parliaments and two-thirds elected by popular vote as apportioned by population among the provinces.
It created an executive headed by two appointed consuls, with greatly limited powers. It also created a judiciary, with national and provincial branches independent of the Senate or the Parlements.
The Senate became, with the creation of the New Constitution, the national legislature, replacing the National Assembly. It was to consist of two-thirds popularly elected members, and one- third those appointed by provincial parlements. The Magistrates of Provinces were also automatically members, but usually resigned and sent an envoy and nominated a replacement.
The Senate was given all powers over foreign policy, such as declaring war, making peace, approving treaties. It has sole power to coin money as well. The Senate was also tasked by the Constitution "to preserve order across the Nation," and used this power to
The Tribunals function as something as a court of legislative review. They were permitted to veto the laws passed by the Senate, or any provincial parlement. The highest Tribunals were selected by the triennial convention of the Provincial Parlements. This convention was based on the ancient Tribal Assembly of Rome. The Tribunes appointed lower tribunes to oversee provinces, and usually act as province-level courts of legislative review. . In addition, the provincial tribunals were usually tasked by the province with presiding over impeachments, though not all provinces permitted this.
The Consuls were to be elected to three-year terms by the Senate. The Consuls were given command over the military and were permitted to preside over the Senate's proceedings. The Consuls were also the highest magistrates of the Republic, and had the power to request the Senate to remove others of lower rank.
The Consuls would later jointly appoint the president, but the post was not created until the late 19th Century.
The apparent dictatorship of the President and National Assembly led to a fear of centralization by the framers of the Constitution. The Provincial parliaments were reinstated by the constitution, and created for the first time in provinces that had previously had none.
These parlements were turned into fully functioning regional legislatures as well. In some provinces these elected the Chief Magistrate, and in others the Chief Magistrate would be elected by popular vote. Since relatively few powers were delegated to the Senate, provincial powers were quite great, though would diminish through the ages.
The Parliaments were also tasked with selecting the Tribunals of the Republic. Every third year, every parliament would send a small delegation that would have one vote in the National Convention of Parlements. The Convention would suggest legislation to the Senate as well. Each Parliament's delegation would cast three votes for different people to be sworn in as Tribunes. The people having the highest number of votes, so long as it was more than half the number of provinces, would be sworn in as Tribunes.
The Constitution went into effect in late 1799. At the same time as the election for the first Senate, and the election of the parliaments, a refendum was held for the approval of the Constitution. It was approves by 4,311,000 votes to 773,000. The Senate was a far more stable institution, and elections were reasonably free.