Paul Barras, the only Director to hold the office of President of the Directory
|Established||2 November 1795|
|Disbanded||10 November 1799|
|Preceded by||Committee of Public Safety|
|Succeeded by||French Consulate
with Napoleon Bonaparte as First Consul
|Palais Bourbon, Paris|
Part of a series on the
|History of France|
The Directory was the government of France during the penultimate stage of the French Revolution. Administered by a collective leadership of five directors, it operated following the Committee of Public Safety and preceding the Consulate. It lasted from 2 November 1795 until 10 November 1799, a period commonly known as the "Directory era." It was overthrown by Napoleon.
The Directory at first had some success in foreign policy, especially after Napoleon's conquests in Italy. It annexed Belgium and the left (western) bank of the Rhine River, and set up satellite regimes in Switzerland, the Netherlands, and most of Italy. The conquered lands were forced to provide huge subsidies to the French treasury, which otherwise was bankrupt. On the domestic front however, conditions went from bad to worse and the Directory responded with repression.
The period was a time of economic depression in France, with famines and widespread distress following the crop failure of 1795. Inflation was raging as the paper money was worth less than 1% of its face value. There was a major civil war in the Vendée region. The Army crushed it by massacring thousands of civilians, often by drowning. The government suppressed its critics, their clubs and their newspapers. It executed Gracchus Babeuf, the chief spokesman for the poor. The War of the First Coalition against Britain and its allies dragged on at great expense, and with an unpopular conscription (draft) of young men. In 1799 the enemies of France scored a series of major victories, pushing the French back to their borders. The bright spot seemingly was Napoleon's highly successful campaigns, but when he invaded Egypt, the British sank his fleet and his army became trapped, while the armies still in Europe suffered a series of defeats in 1799. The Directory had very little popular or elite support left. Napoleon returned to Paris and overthrew the Directory on November 9, 1799.
Historians have generally been negative about the Directory. Palmer says:
- The Directory became a kind of ineffective dictatorship. It repudiated most of the assignats [paper money] and the debt but failed to restore financial confidence or stability. Guerrilla activity flared up again in the Vendée and other parts of western France. The religious schism became more acute; the Directory took severe measures toward the refractory clergy [those who would not swear allegiance to the government].
It was a government of self-interest rather than virtue, thus losing any claim on idealism. It never had a strong base of popular support; when elections were held, most of its candidates were defeated. Historians have been quite negative on the Directory's use of military force to overturn election returns that went against them. Blum et al. argue, "Having by this coup d'état forfeited its claim to be a constitutional government, the Directory henceforth clung to power only by such illegal acts as purges and quashed elections." Overall its achievements were minor, though it did establish administrative procedures and financial reforms that worked out well when Napoleon started using them. Brown stresses the turn toward dictatorship and the failure of liberal democracy under the Directory, blaming it for, "chronic violence, ambivalent forms of justice, and repeated recourse to heavy-handed repression."
- 1 Origins
- 2 Constitution of Year III
- 3 Notoriety of the Directory
- 4 Military successes
- 5 18 Fructidor
- 6 1798
- 7 1799
- 8 End of the Directory
- 9 List of Directors
- 10 Ministers
- 11 See also
- 12 References
- 13 Further reading
In the first half of 1794 during the Revolution, the new French Republic was convulsed in civil and foreign wars. On 9 Thermidor Year II (27 July 1794), deputies in the National Convention delivered a counterstrike, arresting and executing Robespierre along with Louis Antoine de Saint-Just, Georges Couthon, and many others. Their removal from power, and the subsequent divergence of the Revolution's course, is known historically as the Thermidorian Reaction. The demand for change was so great, it necessitated a reformation of the entire system of government. The original Constitution of Year I, now permanently discredited by its origin among Jacobins, was quickly replaced by a new document, the Constitution of Year III. This dissolved the National Convention and established a unique new governmental system for France – a bicameral legislature led by a five-member Directoire executif.
Constitution of Year III
Under this new constitution, qualified property holders elected 750 legislators, who divided themselves into the Council of Five Hundred and the Council of Ancients. This bicameral legislature had a term of three years, with one-third of the members renewed every year. The Ancients held a suspensory veto, but possessed no initiative in legislation.
The constitution specified the executive as consisting of five directors, chosen by the Ancients out of a list sent to them by the Five Hundred. One director faced retirement each year. Ministers for the various departments of State aided the directors. These ministers did not form a council or cabinet and had no general powers of government.
The system made provision for the stringent control of all local authorities by the central government. Since the new constitution sought to create a separation of powers, the directors had no voice in legislation or taxation, nor could directors or ministers sit in either house. The law guaranteed freedom of religion, freedom of the press, and freedom of labour, but forbade armed assemblies and even public meetings of political societies. Only individuals or public authorities could tender petitions.
From the beginning, however, circumstances restricted the free play of the constitution. The Convention had acquired so much unpopularity that, if its members had retired into private life, they would have risked the undoing of their work. There was still support for a more conservative government in western France, and others with political aims who had lost opportunities in the preceeding years. The Convention was also wary of the tumult that had ushered their rise to power. Therefore a decree required that two-thirds of the first legislature must come from among the members of the Convention. This had the effect of making it difficult and useless for voters to choose alternative candidates.
When the constitution went before the primary assemblies, most electors held aloof, 1,057,000 voting for and 49,000 voting against it, and on 23 September it officially became law. Then all the parties which resented the limit upon freedom of election combined in Paris to rise in revolt. The government entrusted its defense to Barras, but on 13 Vendémiaire (5 October 1795) the young General Napoléon Bonaparte quelled attacks by large numbers of ill-equipped and ill-led Parisian insurgents with a few thousand regular troops and well-placed artillery. "A whif of grape" killed perhaps a thousand demonstrators and ended resistance.
After the selection of the Council of the Ancients by lot, it remained to name the directors. For its own security the Left resolved that all five must be old members of the Convention and regicides who voted to execute King Louis XVI. The Ancients chose Jean-François Rewbell; Paul François Jean Nicolas, vicomte de Barras; Louis Marie de La Révellière-Lépeaux; Lazare Nicolas Marguerite Carnot; and Étienne-François Le Tourneur.
Notoriety of the Directory
With the establishment of the Directory, the Revolution seemed on the verge of ending. The nation was tired of the violence of the Terror and needed time to recover. Woloch says that the Directory expected to operate a quiet, noncontroversial government but that was never possible because:
- the Terror had left a dual legacy that made such normalcy impossible. On the one hand massive disengagement, apathy, and cynicism about government; on the other hand rancorous, violent hostility between the politically engaged minorities of royalists and Jacobins, between whom the directorial moderates vainly attempted to navigate. Legality became the main casualty in this situation. The four years of the Directory were a time of chronic disquiet and the late atrocities had made goodwill between parties impossible. The same instinct of self-preservation which had led the members of the Convention to claim so large a part in the new legislature and the whole of the Directory impelled them to keep their predominance. War was at the center of attention, not only for the survival of France but for the loot and forced payments into the French treasury. The supply of the Army was taken out of the hands of the bureaucracy and given to private contractors, who made large fortunes through payoffs that highlighted the regime's tolerance of corruption.
As a majority of the population wanted to be rid of them, the Directory could survive only by illegal means. They disregarded the terms of the constitution, and, when the elections went against them, they used the Army to suppress the winners. The Army became increasingly powerful inside France. The state finances had been so thoroughly ruined that the government could not have met its expenses without the plunder and the tribute of foreign conquests.
The constitutional party in the legislature desired toleration of the nonjuring clergy, the repeal of the laws against the relatives of the émigré, and some merciful discrimination toward the émigrés themselves. The directors firmly opposed any compromises with monarchists.
As the economy worsened unrest grew Babeuf organized his Conspiracy of the Equals. Babeuf had, since 1789, been drawn to the Agrarian law, or sharing goods in common, as means of achieving economic equality. By the time of Robespierre's fall he had abandoned this as an impractical scheme and was moving towards a more complex plan of collective ownership and production. This, in essence, was still his ultimate aim when, in winter of 1795–96, he conspired with a group of former Jacobins, club-men and terrorists to overthrow the Directory by force. The movement was organised in a series of concentric circles: there was an inner insurrectionary committee, composed of a small body of intimates who alone were fully informed of the conspiracy's aims; beyond it, a group of sympathizers, ex-Jacobins and others, including Robespierre's old opponents, Amar and Lindet; and finally, on the fringe, the Paris militants who had been won over, reckoned by Babeuf at some 17,000 men. The plan was original and grievance was rife, but the sans-culottes, cowed and silenced since Prairial, failed to respond.
The conspirators were betrayed by a police spy to Carnot, a Director who was moving to the right. On the night of 23-24 Fructidor (9–10 September 1796) their partisans attempted to win over the soldiers of the camp of Grenelle. Carnot was aware of their plan and they were surprised by the cavalry. One hundred and thirty-one were arrested and thirty shot out of hand; the principal Babeuf associates were brought to trial; Babeuf and Darthé were guillotined.
War in the Vendée
In Vendée, peasants revolted against the French Revolutionary government in 1793. They resented the changes imposed on the Roman Catholic Church by the Civil Constitution of the Clergy (1790) and broke into open revolt in defiance of the Revolutionary government's military conscription of young men into the Army. This became a guerrilla war, known as the War in the Vendée. North of the Loire, similar revolts were started by the so-called Chouans (royalist rebels).
The revolt and its suppression, including both combat casualties and massacres and executions on both sides, are thought to have taken between 117,000 and 250,000 lives (170,000 according to the latest estimates).[a] Because of the extremely brutal forms that the Republican repression took in many places, certain historians such as Reynald Secher have called the event a "genocide". This description has become popular in the mass media, but has largely been rejected by mainstream scholars. Furet concludes that the repression in the Vendee "not only revealed massacre and destruction on an unprecedented scale but also a zeal so violent that it has bestowed as its legacy much of the region's identity."
Facing local revolts and foreign invasions in both the East and West of the country, the most urgent government business was the war. On 17 August, the Convention voted for general conscription, the levée en masse, which mobilized all citizens to serve as soldiers or suppliers in the war effort.
However, the Directory was sustained by the military successes of 1796. Hoche again suppressed the Revolt in the Vendée. Bonaparte's victories in Italy more than compensated for the reverses of Jourdan and Moreau in Germany. The king of Sardinia made peace in May 1796, ceding Nice and Savoy to the French Republic and consenting to receive French garrisons in his Piedmontese fortresses. By the Treaty of San Ildefonso, concluded in August, Spain became the ally of France. In October 1796, the Kingdom of Naples made peace.
Bonaparte finished the conquest of northern Italy and forced Austria to make the Treaty of Campo Formio (October 1797), whereby the emperor ceded Lombardy and the Austrian Netherlands to the French Republic in exchange for Venice and urged the Diet to surrender the lands beyond the Rhine. Notwithstanding the victory of Cape St Vincent, the United Kingdom was brought into such extreme peril by the mutinies in its fleet that it offered to acknowledge the French conquest of the Netherlands and to restore the French colonies.
The selfishness of the three Directors threw away this golden opportunity. In March and April, the election of a new third of the Councils had been held. It gave a majority to the constitutional party. Among the directors, the lot fell on Le Tourneur to retire, and he was succeeded by Barthélemy, an eminent diplomatist, who allied himself with Carnot. The political disabilities imposed upon the relatives of émigrés were repealed. Priests who would declare their submission to the Republic were restored to their rights as citizens. It seemed likely that peace would be made and that moderate men would gain power.
When the Directory held its first elections in Germinal (March–April 1797) in order to find replacement for the first third of the deputies, including the so-called "perpetuals" members, the Directorials were crushed in all but a dozen departments. Only eleven former deputies from the Convention were reelected, several of whom were royalists. Republican majority maintained by the Two-Thirds law disappeared. Royalists took control of the assemblies, General Pichegru presided over the Five Hundred and Barbé-Marbois over the Ancients. They voted for the abolition of the law of 3 Brumaire Year IV repressing refractory priests; emigres had started to return, taking advantage of being struck off the lists which made them liable to the death penalty under Convention's laws.
Meanwhile emboldened by Directorial passivity the Right resolved to emasculate it by depriving it of all its financial powers. The conflict between the Directory and the Councils entered a crucial phase when majority of the directors made their mind and abandoned their stance of watchful caution. Number of resolute appointments were made including Hoche to War Ministry. It was especially revealing since for ten days the Sambre-et-Meuse Army under Hoche's command had been marching on Paris.
Barras, Rewbell, and La Révellière-Lépeaux then sought help from the army. They accused the royalists of seeking to restore monarchy and to undo the work of the Revolution. Hoche, then in command of the Army of Sambre-et-Meuse, visited Paris and sent troops. Bonaparte sent General Augereau, who designed the coup d'état. On 18 Fructidor Year V (4 September 1797), Paris was placed under a military occupation. There was no resistance, and a decree stated that all those who wished to bring about the reestablishment of the monarchy would be shot on the spot. The elections were annulled in 49 departments, 177 deputies were removed and 65 were sentenced to "dry guillotine" — deportation to Guiana, 42 newspapers were suppressed and repressive measures against emigres and priests were re-implemented. The councils were purged, the elections in forty-nine departments were cancelled, and many deputies and other men of note were arrested. Some of them, including Barthélemy, Pichegru, Barbé-Marbois and Laffon de Ladebat were deported to Cayenne]. Carnot made good his escape. The two vacant places in the Directory were filled by Merlin de Douai and Nicolas-Louis François de Neufchâteau. Then the government frankly returned to Jacobin methods. The law against the relatives of émigrés was reenacted, and military tribunals were established to condemn any émigrés caught in France.
The nonjuring priests were again persecuted. Many hundreds were either sent to Cayenne or imprisoned in the hulks of old ships. La Révellière Lépeaux seized the opportunity to propagate his religion. Many churches were turned into Theophilanthropic temples. The government strained its power to secure the recognition of the décadi as the day of public worship and the non-observance of Sunday. Liberty of the press ceased. Newspapers were confiscated and journalists were deported wholesale. It was proposed to banish from France all members of the old aristocracy. Although the proposal was dropped, they were all declared to be foreigners and were forced to obtain naturalisation if they would enjoy the rights of other citizens. A formal bankruptcy of the state, the cancelling of two-thirds of the interest on the public debt, crowned the misgovernment of this disastrous time.
In the spring of 1798, not only a new third of the legislature had to be chosen, but the places of the members expelled by the revolution of Fructidor had to be filled. The constitutional party had been rendered helpless, and the mass of the electors were indifferent. However, among the Jacobins themselves, there had arisen an extreme party hostile to the directors. With the support of many who were not Jacobins but detested the government, it bade fair to gain a majority. Before the new deputies could take their seats, the directors forced through the councils the Law of 22 Floréal Year VI, annulling or adjusting the elections in thirty departments and excluding forty-eight deputies by name. Even this coup d'état did not secure harmony between the executive and the legislature. In the councils, the directors were loudly charged with corruption and misgovernment. The retirement of François de Neufchâteau and the choice of Treilhard as his successor (15 May 1798) made no difference in the position of the Directory.
While France was thus inwardly convulsed, its rulers were doubly bound to husband the national strength and practise moderation towards other states. Since December 1797, a congress had been sitting at Rastatt to regulate the future of Germany. That it should be brought to a successful conclusion was of the utmost importance for France. However, the directors were driven by self-interest to new adventures abroad. Bonaparte was resolved not to sink into obscurity, and the directors were anxious to keep him as far as possible from Paris. They, therefore, sanctioned the expedition to Egypt which deprived the Republic of its best army and most renowned captain. Coveting the treasures of Bern, the Directors sent Brune to invade Switzerland and remodel its constitution. In revenge for the murder of General Duphot (28 December 1797), they sent Berthier to invade the Papal States and erect the Roman Republic. They also occupied and virtually annexed Piedmont. In all these countries, they organised such an effective pillage that the French became universally hated.
As the armies were far below the strength required by the policy of unbounded conquest and rapine, the first permanent law of conscription was passed in the summer of 1798. The attempt to enforce it caused a revolt of the peasants in the Belgian departments. The priests were held responsible and some eight thousand were condemned to deportation en masse, although the much greater part escaped by the goodwill of the people. Few soldiers were obtained by the conscription, for the government was as weak as it was tyrannical.
Under these circumstances, Horatio Nelson's victory of Aboukir (1 August 1798), which gave the British full command of the Mediterranean and isolated Bonaparte in Egypt, was the signal for a second coalition. Naples, Austria, Russia and Turkey joined Great Britain against France. Ferdinand IV of Naples, rashly taking the offensive before his allies were ready, was defeated and forced to seek a refuge in Sicily.
Quasi-War with the United States, 1798-1799
Tensions between the U.S. and France developed into the Quasi-War, an undeclared naval war. France complained the U.S. was ignoring the Treaty of Alliance (1778) that had brought the French into the Revolutionary War. The United States insisted on taking a neutral stance in the war between France and Britain. After the Jay Treaty with Britain went into effect in 1796, France began to side against the United States and by 1797 they had seized over 300 American merchant ships. Federalists favored Britain, while Jeffersonian Republicans favored France. Federalist President John Adams built up the U.S. Navy, finishing three frigates, approving funds to build three more, and sending diplomats to Paris to negotiate. They were insulted by Foreign Minister Talleyrand (who demanded bribes before talking). The XYZ Affair told Americans about the negotiations and angered American public opinion. The war was fought almost entirely at sea, mostly between privateers and merchant ships. In 1800 the Convention of 1800 (Treaty of Mortefontaine) ended the conflict.
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (November 2014)|
In January 1799, the French occupied Naples along with Togar and set up the Parthenopaean Republic. But the consequent dispersion of their weak forces only exposed them to greater peril. At home, the Directory was in a most critical position. In the elections of April 1799, a large number of Jacobins gained seats. A little later Rewbell retired. It was imperative to fill his place with a man of ability and influence. The choice fell upon Sieyès, who had kept aloof from office and retained not only his immeasurable self-conceit but the respect of the public.
Sieyès felt that the Directory had bankrupted its own reputation, and he intended to do far more than merely serve as a member of a board. He hoped to concentrate power in his own hands, to bridle the Jacobins, and to remodel the constitution. With the help of Barras, he proceeded to rid himself of the other directors. An irregularity having emerged in Treilhard's election, he retired, and Gohier took his place (30 Prairial, 18 June 1799). Merlin de Douai and La Révellière Lépeaux were driven to resign in June 1799; Moulin and Ducos replaced them. The three new directors so lacked significance that they could give no trouble, but for the same reason they could give little service.
Such a government proved ill-fitted to cope with the dangers then gathering round France. The directors resolved on a French offensive in Germany. The French crossed the Rhine early in March, but Archduke Charles of Austria defeated them, first at Ostrach on 23 March and then at Stockach on 25 March 1799. Jourdan's Army of the Danube withdrew to the Rhine under the command of Lecourbe, while Jourdan himself returned to Paris to plea for more and better soldiers. The congress at Rastatt, which had sat for fifteen months without actually accomplishing anything, broke in April, and Austrian hussars murdered the French envoys. In Italy, the allies took the offensive with an army partly Austrian, partly Russian, under the command of the Russian field marshal (future generalissimo) Suvorov. After defeating Moreau at Cassano d'Adda on 27 April 1799, he occupied Milan and Turin. The puppet republics established by the French in Italy collapsed, and Suvorov defeated the French army on the Trebbia as it retreated from Naples.
Thus threatened with invasion on her German and Italian frontiers, France seemed disabled by anarchy within. The finances stood in the last distress; the anti-religious policy of the government kept many départements on the verge of revolt; and commerce almost ground to a halt due to the decay of roads and the increase of bandits. The French lacked any real political freedom, yet also lacked the ease or security which enlightened despotism can bestow. The Terrorists lifted their heads in the Council of Five Hundred. A Law of Hostages, which was really a new Law of Suspects, and a progressive income tax showed the temper of the majority. The Jacobin Club re-opened and became once more the focus of disorder. The Jacobin press renewed the licence of Hébert and Marat. Never since the outbreak of the Revolution had the public temper seemed so gloomy.
In this extremity, Sieyès chose as minister of police the old Terrorist Joseph Fouché, who best understood how to deal with his brethren. Fouché closed the Jacobin Club and deported a number of journalists. However, like his predecessors, Sieyès felt that for the revolution which he meditated, he must have the help of a soldier. As his man of action, he chose General Joubert, one of the most distinguished among French officers. The Directory sent Joubert to restore the fortunes of the war in Italy. At Novi, on 15 August 1799, he encountered Suvorov. He was killed at the outset of the battle and his men suffered defeat.
After this disaster, the French held scarcely any territory south of the Alps save Genoa. The Russian and Austrian governments then agreed to drive the enemy out of Switzerland and to invade France from the east. At the same time, the joint forces of Great Britain and Russia assailed the Netherlands. However, the narrow views and conflicting interests of the members of the second coalition doomed it to failure like the first. Lack of co-ordination between Austrians and Russians, and André Masséna's victory at Zürich (25–26 September 1799) stalled the invasion of Switzerland. In October, the British and the Russians had to evacuate the Netherlands. All immediate danger to France ended, but the issue of war remained in suspense. The Directors had felt forced to recall Bonaparte from Egypt. He anticipated their order and on 9 October 1799 landed at Fréjus.
End of the Directory
The Directory and the French Revolution itself came to an end with the coup d'état of 18 Brumaire (9 November 1799) in which General Napoléon Bonaparte overthrew the Directory and replaced it with the Consulate.
In November 1799, France was suffering the effects of military reverses brought on by Bonaparte's adventurism in the Middle East. The looming threat of opportunistic invasion by the Second Coalition had provoked internal unrest, with Bonaparte stuck in Egypt. A return to Jacobinism seemed possible.
The coup was first prepared by the Abbé Sieyès, then one of the five Directors. Bonaparte returned from Egypt a hero to the public despite his reverses. Sieyès believed he had found the general indispensable to his coup. However, Bonaparte promptly began a coup within the coup. Ultimately, the coup brought to power Bonaparte, not Sieyès.
The plan was, through the use of troops conveniently arrayed around Paris, first to persuade the Directors to resign, then to persuade the two Councils to appoint a pliant commission to draw up a new constitution.
On the morning of 18 Brumaire, members of the Council of Ancients sympathetic to the coup warned their colleagues of a Jacobin conspiracy and persuaded them to relocate to Saint-Cloud, west of Paris. Bonaparte was charged with the safety of the two Councils. Three directors, including Sieyès himself resigned, destroying quorum. However, the two Jacobin Directors, Gohier and Moulin, refused to resign. Moulin escaped, Gohier was taken prisoner, and the two Councils were not immediately intimidated and continued to meet.
By the following day, the deputies had worked out that they were facing an attempted coup rather than being protected from a Jacobin rebellion. Faced with their recalcitrance, Bonaparte stormed into the chambers accompanied by a small escort of grenadiers. He met with heckling in both houses; he was first jostled, then outright assaulted. His brother Lucien, President of the Council, called upon the grenadiers to defend their leader. Napoleon escaped, but only through the use of military force. Ultimately, military force also dispersed the legislature. The Directory was declared disbanded and a provisional Consulate was set up, with Bonaparte, Sieyès and Ducos as consuls.
The lack of reaction from the streets proved that the revolution was, indeed, over. In the words of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, "A shabby compound of brute force and imposture, the 18th Brumaire was nevertheless condoned, nay applauded, by the French nation. Weary of revolution, men sought no more than to be wisely and firmly governed." Resistance by Jacobin officeholders in the provinces was quickly crushed, twenty Jacobin legislators were exiled, and others were arrested.
Bonaparte completed his coup within a coup by the adoption of a constitution under which the First Consul, a position he was sure to hold, had greater power than the other two.
List of Directors
Gottschalk says that except for Lazare Carnot, none of the members of the Directory was particularly able, and this proved to be a major weakness. The following table displays all Directeurs and their dates of service:
- Political parties
|Term of office||Political Party||Legislature
|•||4 November 1795||5 September 1797||Clichyens||II
|•||2 November 1795||26 May 1797||Independent|
|•||2 November 1795||19 May 1799||Thermidorian|
|4||Louis Marie de La Révellière-Lépeaux
|•||2 November 1795||18 June 1799||Thermidorian|
|5||François-Marie de Barthélemy
|•||26 May 1797||5 September 1797||Clichyen|
|6||Philippe-Antoine Merlin de Douai
|•||8 September 1797||18 June 1799||Thermidorian|
|7||François de Neufchâteau
|•||8 September 1797||20 May 1798||Independent|
|8||Jean Baptiste Treilhard
|•||20 May 1798||17 June 1799||Independent||III
|•||20 June 1799||10 November 1799||Thermidorian|
|•||17 June 1799||10 November 1799||Thermidorian|
|11||Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès
|•||17 June 1799||10 November 1799||Independent|
|•||19 June 1799||10 November 1799||Thermidorian|
The Directory was officially led by a president, as stipulated by Article 141 of the Constitution of the Year III. An entirely ceremonial post, the first presidency was held by Rewbell who was chosen by lot on 2 Nov 1795. The directors conducted their elections privately, and appointed a new president every three months. The last president was Gohier, who resigned during Brumaire after his arrest by troops under the Bonapartist general Jean Victor Marie Moreau.
The ministers under the Directory were:
|Foreign Affairs||3 November 1795||16 July 1797||Charles-François Delacroix|
|16 July 1797||20 July 1799||Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord|
|20 July 1799||10 November 1799||Charles-Frédéric Reinhard|
|Justice||3 November 1795||2 January 1796||Philippe-Antoine Merlin de Douai|
|2 January 1796||3 April 1796||Jean Joseph Victor Génissieu|
|3 April 1796||24 September 1797||Philippe-Antoine Merlin de Douai|
|24 September 1797||20 July 1799||Charles Joseph Mathieu Lambrechts|
|20 July 1799||10 November 1799||Jean Jacques Régis de Cambacérès|
|War||3 November 1795||8 February 1796||Jean-Baptiste Annibal Aubert du Bayet|
|8 February 1796||16 July 1797||Claude Louis Petiet|
|16 July 1797||22 July 1797||Lazare Hoche|
|22 July 1797||21 February 1799||Barthélemy Louis Joseph Schérer|
|21 February 1799||2 July 1799||Louis Marie de Milet de Mureau|
|2 July 1799||14 September 1799||Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte|
|14 September 1799||10 November 1799||Edmond Louis Alexis Dubois-Crancé|
|Finance||3 November 1795||8 November 1795||Martin-Michel-Charles Gaudin|
|8 November 1795||13 February 1796||Guillaume-Charles Faipoult|
|13 February 1796||20 July 1799||Dominique-Vincent Ramel-Nogaret|
|20 July 1799||10 November 1799||Jean-Baptiste Robert Lindet|
|4 January 1796||3 April 1796||Philippe-Antoine Merlin de Douai|
|Police||3 April 1796||16 July 1797||Charles Cochon de Lapparent|
|16 July 1797||25 July 1797||Jean-Jacques Lenoir-Laroche|
|25 July 1797||13 February 1798||Jean-Marie Sotin de La Coindière|
|13 February 1798||2 May 1798||Nicolas Dondeau|
|2 May 1798||29 October 1798||Marie Jean François Philibert Lecarlier d'Ardon|
|29 October 1798||23 June 1799||Jean-Pierre Duval|
|23 June 1799||20 July 1799||Claude Sébastien Bourguignon|
|20 July 1799||10 November 1799||Joseph Fouché|
|Interior||3 November 1795||16 July 1797||Pierre Bénézech|
|16 July 1797||14 September 1797||François de Neufchâteau|
|14 September 1797||17 June 1798||François Sébastien Letourneux|
|17 June 1798||22 June 1799||François de Neufchâteau|
|22 June 1799||10 November 1799||Nicolas Marie Quinette|
|Navy and Colonies||3 November 1795||16 July 1797||Laurent Jean François Truguet|
|16 July 1797||27 April 1798||Georges René Le Peley de Pléville|
|27 April 1798||2 July 1799||Étienne Eustache Bruix|
|2 July 1799||10 November 1799||Marc Antoine Bourdon de Vatry|
- The number of deaths in the Vendée was 117,000 according to Reynald Secher, La Vendée-Vengé, le Génocide franco-français (1986); 200,000–250,000 according to Jean-Clément Martin, La Vendée et la France, Éditions du Seuil, collection Points, 1987; 200,000 according to Louis-Marie Clénet, La Contre-révolution, Paris, PUF, collection Que sais-je?, 1992; 170,000 according to Jacques Hussenet (dir.), « Détruisez la Vendée ! » Regards croisés sur les victimes et destructions de la guerre de Vendée, La Roche-sur-Yon, Centre vendéen de recherches historiques, 2007, p.148.
- Soboul (1973) pp 477-548
- R.R. Palmer and Joel Colton, A History of the Modern World (4th edition 1971) p 412
- Jerome Blum, Rondo Cameron, and Thomas G. Barnes. The European World - A History (2nd ed. 1970) p 488
- Hunt, Lansky and Hanson, (1979) p 735
- Martyn Lyons, France under the Directory (1975), pp. 159-73
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- In a Corner of France, Long Live the Old Regime, New York Times
- McPhee, Peter Review of Reynald Secher, A French Genocide: The Vendée H-France Review Vol. 4 (March 2004), No. 26
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- In a Corner of France, Long Live the Old Regime. The New York Times. 17 June 1989
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- François Furet and Mona Ozouf, eds. A Critical Dictionary of the French Revolution (1989), p 175
- Black, p. 173.
- Soboul 1975, p. 505.
- Furet 1996, p. 181.
- Soboul 1975, p. 507.
- Albert Soboul, The French Revolution (1975) p 508
- See: Seuls les morts ne reviennent jamais : les pionniers de la guillotine sèche en Guyane française, Philippe de Ladebat, ed. Amalthée, France, 2008 – http://site.voila.fr/fructidor/page1.html
- Alexander De Conde, The quasi-war: the politics and diplomacy of the undeclared war with France 1797–1801 (1966)
- Louis R. Gottschalk, The Era of the French Revolution (1715-1815) (1929) p 281
- Cheynet, Pierre-Dominique (2013). "France: Presidents of the Executive Directory: 1795-1799". Archontology.org. Retrieved 16 November 2013.
- Lefebvre & Soboul, p. 199.
- Muel, Léon (1891). Gouvernements, ministères et constitutions de la France depuis cent ans: Précis historique des révolutions, des crises ministérielles et gouvernementales, et des changements de constitutions de la France depuis 1789 jusqu'en 1890 ... Marchal et Billard. p. 47. Retrieved 2014-05-03.
- Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "French Revolution, The". Encyclopædia Britannica 11. Cambridge University Press.; excerpts are included in this article
- Black, Jeremy (2002). From Louis XIV to Napoleon: The Fate of a Great Power. Routledge. ISBN 9780203006382.
- Church, Clive H. "The Social Basis of the French Central Bureaucracy under the Directory 1795-1799," Past & Present No. 36 (April, 1967), pp. 59–72 in JSTOR
- Doyle, William (1990). The Oxford History of the French Revolution (2 ed.). Oxford University Press. pp. 318–40. ISBN 9780199252985.
- Furet, François (1996). The French Revolution, 1770–1814: 1770–1814. France: Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 0-631-20299-4.
- Goodwin, A. "The French Executive Directory—A Revaluation." History (1937) (1937) 22.87 pp: 201-218; more favorable than most historians
- Gottschalk, Louis R. the Era of the French Revolution (1715-1815) (1929) pp 280-306
- Hunt, Lynn, David Lansky and Paul Hanson. "The Failure of the Liberal Republic in France, 1795-1799: The Road to Brumaire," Journal of Modern History (1979) 51#4 , pp. 734-759 in JSTOR; statistical profile of the different factions
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- Palmer, Robert R. The Age of the Democratic Revolution: A Political History of Europe and America, 1760–1800 vol 2: The Struggle (1964) pp 211–62, 549-76
- Lefebvre, Georges; Soboul, Albert (1965). The Directory. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. OCLC 668426465.
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- Soboul, Albert (1975). 'The French Revolution, 1787-1799: From the storming of the Bastille to Napoleon. pp. 477–547.
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- Woronoff, Denis. Thermidorean Regime & the Directory, 1794-1799 (1984) 215p.
- Stewart, John Hall, ed. A Documentary Survey of the French Revolution (1951), pp 654–766