policy under the directory
The Directory, the name given to the form of executive power adopted in France from August 1795 to November 1799, has not been much favored by historians. For too long it was cast to one side, treated as an unwanted codicil by a generation whose main focus was on the Jacobin Republic and who showed little interest in a regime that preferred stability to radical change and sought to impose order at almost any price. Its limited constitution—seen as a reversal of the move toward wider participation that had marked the early years of the republic—was dismissed as timid or bourgeois, a step backward from democracy that reflected the natural caution of leaders whose respect for order was matched only by their contempt for the ordinary people of Paris. Its executive of five directors was derided for the supposed mediocrity of its members—in the first instance Paul de Barras, Louis-Marie de La Révellière-Lépeaux, Jean-François Reubell, Louis-Honoré Letourneur, and Lazare Carnot. France, it was alleged, was bored—a claim that is supported in the falling away of political activity, the closure of clubs, and the slow, lingering death of a once vibrant political press. For many the Directory seemed a period of drab decline, a staging post along the road to the military coup d'état of 18 Brumaire (9 November 1799) that brought Napoleon to power.
But it is questionable whether the Directory represented a real break in the continuity of the Revolution. In Georges Lefebvre's words, "the Thermidorians abandoned power and right away took it back again under cover of the Constitution of the Year III" (p. 1). The same deputies continued in office, with an essentially unchanged agenda. And the new constitution struggled with the same problem, that of finding a workable balance between executive and legislative power, a problem endemic since the end of the constitutional monarchy, when the revolutionaries enshrined all sovereign authority in a single body, the Convention. The new constitution was intended to correct the errors of the Jacobins, to create responsible and durable institutions for the republic. It did not betray the principles of the republic, but rewrote them in a way that supported the owners of property, the defenders of the social order. The words of the Declaration of the Rights of Man were still inscribed above the text, as they had been in every constitution since 1791, giving them the power of constitutional law; but, in contrast to previous constitutions, these words were now accompanied by others, defining the obligations incumbent on citizens, the duties that came with the fundamental rights. What had changed was simply the balance of responsibility between the individual and the collectivity; and yet this was a quite fundamental change. Gone was the dream of universal male suffrage. A French citizen was defined as "every man fully twenty-one years of age, born and residing in France, who has had himself enrolled on the civil register of his canton, has lived thereafter on the territory of the Republic, and pays a direct land tax or personal property tax"; soldiers who had fought for the republic were given citizenship without this qualification. Gone, too, was the notion that citizens should vote directly for their legislators; the new electoral system was indirect, with electors choosing the deputies, while the legislature itself was reconstituted in two chambers, the Conseil des Cinq-Cents (Council of the Five Hundred) and the Conseil des Anciens (Council of the Ancients), whose members were older, at least thirty and forty, respectively. At every turn the Directory sought to guarantee maturity and stability.
The new regime shared with the Thermidorians a fear of neo-Jacobinism and popular violence. But its republican credentials should not be questioned. The creation of a five-man executive did not contradict any political law of republicanism—after all, the Jacobins had passed executive power to a much more authoritarian body, the Committee of Public Safety—while legislative answerability was assured by instituting annual elections. In fact, the turnout in these elections was often poor, especially in rural areas, and there was considerable uncertainty about who had the right to vote. The Directory never succeeded in persuading the electorate to give it their enthusiastic support, and the apparent self-interest shown by the deputies in passing the Two-Thirds Law, which attempted to guarantee their retention of office, was seen by many as a blatant attempt to subvert the will of the people. Besides, having to hold elections every year was itself a source of public disorder in many parts of the country, and the Directory had to use military force to make the constitution work: there were serious coups, from either the Left or the Right, every year from 1797 to 1800. In response the government appeared to swing like a pendulum from one year to the next, aligning itself opportunistically against the perceived danger of the moment—be it François-Noël Babeuf 's Conspiracy of the Equals in 1796 or a serious threat of royalist insurrection in 1797. The recurrent hustings only provided an excuse for electoral violence, violence that bred upon the bitterly divided polity that the Directory inherited from the Jacobins and their tormentors. The elections also threatened the very stability that the Directors sought to ensure, and when the voting threatened to produce a majority that was too extreme—most notably with the neo-Jacobin resurgence in Year VI (1798)—the government did not hesitate to over-turn the results and order a purge of the legislature. The appearance of weakness was hard to conceal, and this was only increased by stumbling attempts to counter the financial instability that the Directory had inherited. By 1795 the assignat was wholly discredited, rendered worthless by a mixture of public distrust and uncontrolled inflation. The government therefore abandoned it in order to avert financial chaos, turning first to another form of paper, the mandats territoriaux (a system of government bonds backed by national lands), before reverting to metal currency and setting off a spiral of deflation and misery. It was only in 1798 that measures to balance the budget and consolidate the national debt began to rebuild confidence and establish fragile economic stability.
If the political order was built within the republican tradition, so were the Directory's priorities in policymaking. Bourgeois it may have been, and charges of corruption against its leaders were certainly sustainable. But there was no attempt to subvert the republic; the directors' stated aim was to strengthen republican values by avoiding the excesses of radical egalitarianism and political factionalism. They praised the value of republican symbolism, enforcing the use of the new calendar and introducing a panoply of revolutionary festivals to mark everything from the seasons of the year to the phases of human life. They opposed royalism in all its forms, whether in cliques within the army or in the return from emigration of some of the nobles and monarchists who had sought refuge abroad. They also remained true to the anticlericalism of the Jacobins, making no attempt to reinstate the clergy or to reinstitute religious worship in France. The most that the Directory would do for Catholic opinion was to permit individual communities to reopen their churches and hold Catholic services—but there was no official encouragement to do so; it remained a concession made in response to local demand, often from vocal groups of local women who had not acclimatized to the faithless world of dechristianization. Elsewhere, churches remained closed, and after the royalist coup of 18 Fructidor Year V (4 September 1797), the government insisted that all practicing clergy should swear an oath of hatred to kings. In areas such as the West, the religious wounds opened by the Civil Constitution of the Clergy (1790) remained raw, and by 1799 the Directory faced renewed violence in the Catholic heartlands of the Vendée.
The measures taken by the Directory in other spheres contributed to the maintenance of a secular regime. Educational reforms promoted institutions of higher learning—notably the École normale supércoleieure and the École polytechnique, in Paris—while Joseph Lakanal urged greater interest in public schooling at the primary level, again without proposing any role for the church. If laws and decrees suggested greater investment than actually occurred, it is as much a reflection on the state of the economy as on the difficulties experienced in finding and training schoolteachers in the small towns and villages of the provinces. Increasingly, indeed, state policy was thwarted by financial restraints—at a time when the country's energy was increasingly channeled into foreign war and imperial acquisition. The Directory aimed to increase French influence across Europe—the wars after 1795 were conducted entirely on foreign soil—and the electorate at home followed the campaigns of generals such as Louis-Lazare Hoche and Napoleon Bonaparte with enthusiasm. The contrast between foreign glory and domestic malaise was only too glaring, as the French created sister republics in Holland and Switzerland, and divided Belgium, the Rhineland, and northern Italy into departments on the French model. They claimed to be bringing the benefits of liberty to the peoples of Europe. But they also pillaged the lands they conquered, seizing money and art treasures in Italy and sequestrating one-third of the grain produced in Belgium. This invited resentment, proving that liberty cannot easily be imposed at the point of a bayonet.
Cobb, Richard. Reactions to the French Revolution. London, 1972.
Crook, Malcolm. Elections in the French Revolution: An Apprenticeship in Democracy, 1789–1799. Cambridge, U.K., 1996.
Dupuy, Roger, and Marcel Morabito, eds. 1795: Pour une République sans Révolution. Rennes, France, 1996.
Godechot, Jacques. La grande nation: L'expansion révolutionnaire de la France dans le monde de 1789 à 1799. 2nd ed. Paris, 1983.
Lefebvre, Georges. The Directory. Translated by Robert Baldick. London, 1965.
Lyons, Martyn. France under the Directory. Cambridge, U.K., 1975.
Directory, group of five men who held the executive power in France according to the constitution of the year III (1795) of the French Revolution. They were chosen by the new legislature, by the Council of Five Hundred and the Council of Ancients; each year one director, chosen by lot, was to be replaced. The Directory was balanced by two representative assemblies elected indirectly by property holders. Governing a nearly bankrupt nation, the Directory had a stormy history. Politically, it walked a narrow course between Jacobins on the left and royalists on the right. During its history, the Directory instituted positive monetary reforms, which helped revive trade and agriculture, and provided the basis for Napoleon's restoration of order. But full recovery from the Revolution was not possible. The Directory not only faced a series of political crises, but was riddled with inefficiency and corruption. It suppressed the conspiracies of
Babeuf on the left and royalist uprisings on the right and later annulled some results in the elections of 1797 and 1798. Its increasingly repressive measures resulted in political isolation and bankruptcy. In the coup of 18 Fructidor (Sept. 4, 1797), the more conservative directors, Lazare Carnot and François de Barthélemy were ousted, and measures against the church and émigrés were revived. In addition, the Directory lost control of foreign policy to the generals in the field, especially Napoleon Bonaparte. Some of Napoleon's actions, such as negotiating the Treaty of Compo Formio and the Egyptian expedition, may have led to the formation of the Second Coalition against France. Discontent with the Directory rose to a high pitch with the military reverses of 1799 in which the republics from Holland to S Italy fell to the combined assault of Russian, Austrian, and British forces. Despite the fact that an invasion of France was prevented and these forces were defeated before Napoleon's return, the Abbé Sieyès, elected a director in May, 1799, secretly prepared the coup of 18 Brumaire (Nov. 9, 1799), which put Bonaparte in power, replacing the Directory with the Consulate.
See M. Lyons, France under the Directory (1975).
di·rec·to·ry / diˈrektərē/ • n. (pl. -ries) 1. a book listing individuals or organizations alphabetically or thematically with details such as names, addresses, and telephone numbers. ∎ Comput. a file that consists solely of a set of other files (which may themselves be directories). 2. chiefly hist. a book of directions for the conduct of Christian worship, esp. in Presbyterian and Roman Catholic Churches. 3. (the Directory) the French revolutionary government in France 1795–99, comprising two councils and a five-member executive. It maintained an aggressive foreign policy but could not control events at home and was overthrown by Napoleon Bonaparte.
A directory may contain the names of files and of other directories. For instance, if directory x contained directory y, which contained file z, then it would be necessary to include x, y, and z in any reference to the file. See also access path.
A provision in a statute, rule of procedure, or the like, that is a mere direction or instruction of no obligatory force and involves no invalidating consequence for its disregard, as opposed to an imperative or mandatory provision, which must be followed. The general rule is that the prescriptions of a statute relating to the performance of a public duty are so far directory that, though neglect of them may be punishable, it does not affect the validity of the acts done under them, as in the case of a statute requiring an officer to prepare and deliver a document to another officer on or before a certain day.
Generally, statutory provisions that do not relate to the essence of a thing to be done, and as to which compliance is a matter of convenience rather than of substance, are directory, while provisions that relate to the essence of a thing to be done, that is, matters of substance, are mandatory.