Council of Five Hundred

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Council of Five Hundred

Conseil des Cinq-Cents
French First Republic
Bouchot - Le general Bonaparte au Conseil des Cinq-Cents.jpg
General Bonaparte surrounded by members of the Council of Five Hundred during the 18 Brumaire coup d'état.
Established2 November 1795
Disbanded10 November 1799
Preceded by National Convention (unicameral)
Succeeded by Corps législatif
Meeting place
Salle du Manège, rue de Rivoli, Paris

The Council of Five Hundred (Conseil des Cinq-Cents), or simply the Five Hundred, was the lower house of the legislature of France under the Constitution of the Year III. It existed during the period commonly known (from the name of the executive branch during this time) as the Directory (Directoire), from 26 October 1795 until 9 November 1799: roughly the second half of the period generally referred to as the French Revolution.

Lower house chamber of a bicameral legislature

A lower house is one of two chambers of a bicameral legislature, the other chamber being the upper house.

Constitution of the Year III French constitution

The Constitution of the Year III is the constitution that founded the Directory. Adopted by the Convention on 5 Fructidor Year III and approved by plebiscite on September 6. Its preamble is the Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man and of the Citizen of 1795.

French Directory Executive power of the French Constitution of 1795-1799

The Directory or Directorate was a five-member committee that governed France from 2 November 1795, when it replaced the Committee of Public Safety, until 9 November 1799, when it was overthrown by Napoleon Bonaparte in the Coup of 18 Brumaire, and replaced by the French Consulate. It gave its name to the final four years of the French Revolution. On the other hand, according to the mainstream historiography - for example F. Furet and D. Richet in “French Revolution” - with the aforementioned terms is indicated also the regime and the period from the dissolution of the National Convention of Tuileries Palace on 26 October 1795, which was superseded by the two new elected Councils, and the coup d’état by Napoleon. Only in 1798 the Council of Five Hundred moved to the Palais Bourbon.


Role and function

The Council of Five Hundred was established under the Constitution of Year III which was adopted by a referendum on 24 September 1795, [1] and constituted after the first elections which were held from 12–21 October 1795. Voting rights were restricted to citizens owning property bringing in income equal to 150 days of work. [1] Each member elected had to be at least 30 years old, meet residency qualifications and pay taxes. To prevent them coming under the pressure of the sans-culottes and the Paris mob, the constitution allowed the Council of the Five Hundred to meet in closed session. [2] A third of them would be replaced annually. [3] [4]

The French constitutional referendum of 1795 was a referendum to establish the French Directory. The vote was held in July 1795 and was passed by a 95% majority.

<i>Sans-culottes</i> radical left-wing partisans of the lower classes during French Revolution

The sans-culottes were the common people of the lower classes in late 18th century France, a great many of whom became radical and militant partisans of the French Revolution in response to their poor quality of life under the Ancien Régime. The word sans-culotte, which is opposed to that of the aristocrat, came in vogue in 1792, during the demonstration of 20 June 1792. The name sans-culottes refers to their clothing, and through that to their lower-class status: culottes were the fashionable silk knee-breeches of the 18th-century nobility and bourgeoisie, and the working class sans-culottes wore pantaloons, or trousers, instead. The sans-culottes, most of them urban labourers, served as the driving popular force behind the revolution. They were judged by the other revolutionaries as "radicals" because they advocated a direct democracy, that is to say, without intermediaries such as members of parliament. Though ill-clad people and ill-equipped, with little or no support from the upper class, they made up the bulk of the Revolutionary army during the early years of the French Revolutionary Wars.

Besides functioning as a legislative body, the Council of Five Hundred proposed the list out of which the Ancients chose five Directors, who jointly held executive power. The Council of Five Hundred had their own distinctive official uniform, with robes, cape and hat, just as did the Council of Ancients and the Directors. [5] [4] Under the Thermidorean constitution, as Boissy d'Anglas put it, the Council of Five Hundred was to be the imagination of the Republic, and the Council of Ancients its reason. [6] [7]

Council of Ancients the upper house of the French Directory, a.k.a. Council of Elders

The Council of Ancients or Council of Elders was the upper house of French legislature under the Constitution of the Year III, during the period commonly known as the Directory, from 22 August 1795 until 9 November 1799, roughly the second half of the period generally referred to as the French Revolution.

François Antoine de Boissy dAnglas French politician

François-Antoine, Count of the Empire (1756–1826) was a French writer, lawyer and politician during the Revolution and the Empire.

Elections of 1795

1795 election results - 63 Republicans, 54 moderate Monarchists, 33 ultra-Monarchists Elections legislatives de 1795.png
1795 election results - 63 Republicans, 54 moderate Monarchists, 33 ultra-Monarchists

Elections of 1797

1797 election results: 28 Republicans, 44 Independents, 105 Moderate Monarchists Elections legislatives francaises de 1797.png
1797 election results: 28 Republicans, 44 Independents, 105 Moderate Monarchists

In the elections of April 1797, there were a number of voting irregularities a very low turnout, resulting in a strong showing for Royalist tendencies. A number of the newly elected deputies formed the Club de Clichy in the Council. [8] Jean-Charles Pichegru, widely assumed to be a monarchist, was elected President of the Council of Five Hundred. [9] After documentation of Pichegru's treasonous activities was supplied by Napoleon Bonaparte, the Directors accused the entire body of plotting against the Revolution and moved quickly to annul the elections and arrest the royalists in what was known as the Coup of 18 Fructidor. [9]

The Clichy Club was a political group active during the French Revolution from 1794 to 1797.

Jean-Charles Pichegru French general

Jean-Charles Pichegru was a distinguished French general of the Revolutionary Wars. Under his command, French troops overran Belgium and the Netherlands before fighting on the Rhine front. His royalist positions led to his loss of power and imprisonment in Cayenne, French Guiana during the Coup of 18 Fructidor in 1797. After escaping into exile in London and joining the staff of Alexander Korsakov, he returned to France and planned the Pichegru Conspiracy to remove Napoleon from power, which led to his arrest and death. Despite his defection, his surname is one of the names inscribed under the Arc de Triomphe, on Column 3.

Coup of 18 Fructidor coup détat

The Coup of 18 Fructidor, Year V, was a seizure of power by members of the French Directory on 4 September 1797 when their opponents, the Royalists, were gaining strength. Howard G. Brown, Professor of History at Binghamton University, stresses the turn toward dictatorship and the failure of liberal democracy under the Directory, blaming it on "chronic violence, ambivalent forms of justice, and repeated recourse to heavy-handed repression."

To support the coup, General Lazare Hoche, then commander of the Army of Sambre-et-Meuse, arrived in the capital with his troops, while Napoleon sent an army under Pierre Augereau. Deputies were arrested and 53 were exiled to Cayenne in French Guiana. Since death from tropical disease was likely, it was referred to as the "dry guillotine". The 42 opposition newspapers were closed. The chambers were purged, and elections were partly cancelled.

Lazare Hoche French general

Louis Lazare Hoche was a French soldier who rose to be general of the Revolutionary army. He won a victory over Royalist forces in Brittany. His surname is one of the names inscribed under the Arc de Triomphe, on Column 3. Richard Holmes says he was, "quick-thinking, stern, and ruthless...a general of real talent whose early death was a loss to France."

Paris Capital of France

Paris is the capital and most populous city of France, with an area of 105 square kilometres and an official estimated population of 2,140,526 residents as of 1 January 2019. Since the 17th century, Paris has been one of Europe's major centres of finance, diplomacy, commerce, fashion, science, and the arts. The City of Paris is the centre and seat of government of the Île-de-France, or Paris Region, which has an estimated official 2019 population of 12,213,364, or about 18 percent of the population of France. The Paris Region had a GDP of €709 billion in 2017. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit Worldwide Cost of Living Survey in 2018, Paris was the second most expensive city in the world, after Singapore, and ahead of Zürich, Hong Kong, Oslo and Geneva. Another source ranked Paris as most expensive, on a par with Singapore and Hong Kong, in 2018.

Pierre Augereau general, Marshal of France

Charles Pierre François Augereau, 1st Duc de Castiglione was a soldier and general and Marshal of France. After serving in the French Revolutionary Wars he earned rapid promotion while fighting against Spain and soon found himself a division commander under Napoleon Bonaparte in Italy. He fought in all of Bonaparte's battles of 1796 with great distinction. During the Napoleonic Wars, Emperor Napoleon entrusted him with important commands. His life ended under a cloud because of his poor timing in switching sides between Napoleon and King Louis XVIII of France. Napoleon wrote of Augereau that he "has plenty of character, courage, firmness, activity; is inured to war; is well liked by the soldiery; is fortunate in his operations."

Elections of 1798

The elections of April 1798 were heavily manipulated. The Council of the Five Hundred passed a law on 8 May barring 106 recently elected deputies from taking their seats, all of whom were of a left-wing persuasion. Elections in 48 departments were annulled. [10] Nevertheless, left-wing opinion grew in strength in the Council in 1799, and on 18 June 1799, the Council of Five Hundred and the Council of Ancients forced the resignations of the most anti-Jacobin Directors, Merlin de Douai, La Révellière-Lépeaux and Treilhard [11] in the co-called 'Coup of 30 Prairial VII'.

The Law of 22 Floréal Year VI was a law—arguably constituting a bloodless coup—passed on 11 May 1798 by which 106 left-wing deputies were deprived of their seats in the Council of Five Hundred, the lower house of the legislature under the French Directory.

Louis Marie de La Révellière-Lépeaux French politician

Louis Marie de La Révellière-Lépeaux was a deputy to the National Convention during the French Revolution. He later served as a prominent leader of the French Directory.

Jean Baptiste Treilhard French judge and diplomat

Jean-Baptiste Treilhard was an important French statesman of the revolutionary period. He passed through the troubled times of the Republic and Empire with great political savvy, playing a decisive role at important times.

Coup of 18th Brumaire Year VIII

Lucien Bonaparte, the Last President of the Council AduC 253 Bonaparte (Lucien, 1775-1840).JPG
Lucien Bonaparte, the Last President of the Council

In October 1799 Napoleon's brother Lucien Bonaparte was appointed President of the Council of Five Hundred. [12] Soon afterwards, in the coup of 18 Brumaire, Napoleon led a group of grenadiers who drove the Council from its chambers and installed him as leader of France as its First Consul. This ended the Council of Five Hundred, the Council of Ancients and the Directory. [13]

Gillray's caricature of the 18 Brumaire coup Buonaparte closing the farce of Egalite.jpg
Gillray's caricature of the 18 Brumaire coup

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  1. 1 2 Chronicle of the French Revolutions, Longman 1989 p.495
  2. Chronicle of the French Revolutions, Longman 1989 p.505
  3. Neely, Sylvia. A concise history of the French Revolution. Rowman and Littlefield. p. 226.
  4. 1 2 accessed 30/4/2017
  5. accessed 30/4/2017
  6. accessed 30/4/2017
  7. accessed 30/4/2017
  8. Chronicle of the French Revolutions, Longman 1989 p.561
  9. 1 2 Doyle, William (2002). The Oxford History of the French Revolution . Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 330. ISBN   978-0-19-925298-5.
  10. Chronicle of the French Revolution, Longman Group 1989 p.601
  11. Chronicle of the French Revolution, Longman Group 1989 p.637
  12. Chronicle of the French Revolution, Longman Group 1989 p.645
  13. Chronicle of the French Revolution, Timefem in 1670 p.650