The Constitution of 1795 France

The Constitution of 1795 France

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The Constitution of 1795 and the Directory:

The fall of the Jacobin government allowed the wealthier middle classes to seize power. On August 22, 1795, the convention was finally able to ratify a new constitution, the Constitution of 1795, which ushered in a period of governmental restructuring. The new legislature would consist of two houses: an upper house, called the Council of Ancients, consisting of 250 members, and a lower house, called the Council of Five Hundred, consisting of 500 members. Fearing influence from the left, the convention decreed that two-thirds of the members of the first new legislature had to have already served on the National Convention between 1792  and   1795.

The new constitution also stipulated that the executive body of the new government would be a group of five officers called the Directory. Although the Directory would have no legislative power, it would have the authority to appoint people to fill the other positions within the government, which was a source of considerable power in itself. Annual elections would be held to keep the new government in check.

The Constitution of 1795 France

The dilemma facing the new Directory was a daunting one essentially, it had to rid the scene of Jacobin influence while at the same time prevent royalists from taking advantage of the disarray and reclaiming the throne. The two- thirds rule was implemented for this reason, as an attempt to keep the same composition as that of the original, moderate-run National Convention. In theory, the new government closely resembled that of the United States, with its checks-and-balances system. As it turned out, however, the new government’s priorities became its downfall: rather than address the deteriorating economic situation in the country, the legislature instead focused on keeping progressive members out. Ultimately, paranoia and attempts at overprotection weakened the group.

Meanwhile, the Committee of Public Safety’s war effort was realizing unimaginable success. French armies, especially those led by young General  Napoleon  Bonaparte, were making progress in nearly every direction. Napoleon’s forces drove through Italy and reached as far as Egypt before facing a deflating defeat. In the face of this rout, and having received word of political upheavals in France, Napoleon returned to Paris. He arrived in time to lead a coup against the Directory in 1799, eventually stepping up and naming himself “the first consul”—effectively, the leader of France. With Napoleon at the helm, the Revolution ended, and France entered a fifteen-year period of military rule.

The Constitution of 1795 France, The Constitution of 1795 France, The Constitution of 1795 France
The Constitution of 1795 France, The Constitution of 1795 France, The Constitution of 1795 France

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