The Legislative Councils and the Directory

The nation had learnt from the perils of centralised power and as such, following the Constitution of the Year III, the governing system of France was also changed to prevent a reoccurrence of the extremes of the Terror.


Firstly, there was the Council of Five Hundred which had 500 members, responsible for framing and proposing new laws. Each member had to be at least 30 years old and must have lived in the French Republic for a minimum of 10 years, and there were no necessary property qualifications, meaning that there was no land-owning requirement.

Secondly, there was the Council of Elders which had 250 members, responsible for overseeing and passing any legislation. While they could not initiate or amend any laws, they were able to send it back to the Council of Five Hundred to change. Each member had to be at least 40 years old and either married or a widower, with one-third of members elected annually. This rotation policy of sitting members was designed to prevent any concentration of power and a repeat of revolutionary excesses.


The Directory acted as the executive power of the nation, and was elected through a process involving both Legislative Councils. First, the Council of Five Hundred would choose 50 possible members out of their 500 to become Directors, and then the Council of Elders would choose 5 out of those nominated 50 to be those who constituted the executive Directory. The terms of these 5 Directors were limited, once again to help prevent concentration of power and achieve a better separation of powers.

The Directory controlled the military, policy, foreign affairs, official appointments and administered all laws, but did not have any role in making or amending laws. Politically, the Directory was moderately republican and essentially strove to achieve a balance between Jacobin and royalist ideology. However, the interests of the bourgeois were strongly represented here, including a focus on property rights, which influenced a hatred of the radical working class who they perceived to be a threat to their property securities and rights. Similarly, there was also a hatred of returning noble and clergy émigrés who wanted their confiscated lands to be returned. Economically, the Directory was strongly opposed to any government interference in the economy, but this was problematic because the economic conditions in France were still dire and in desperate need for alleviation and intervention.

See Also

Political Change

Constitution of the Year III