The French Revolution

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In the French Revolution, why did the Directory fall? 

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David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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After the overthrow of the radical Jacobins, a new five-man government was established in France, called the Directory. At that time, the country was in the midst of a serious economic crisis, with rampant inflation and mass unemployment. In the ensuing social unrest, various political groupings jockeyed for position, hoping to take advantage of an unstable situation.

In such a fractious environment, it was essential for France to have a strong, resolute government able of healing the country's many social, economic, and political divisions. However, the men of the Directory proved themselves incapable of doing so. They were, for the most part, thoroughly mediocre politicians, unable to step up to the plate and provide the firm, decisive leadership which France so desperately needed at that time.

The Directory consisted of men such as Barras, time-serving old politicos who were highly adept at the black arts of political intrigue, but not so skillful at the day-to-day running of the country. Although most people were glad to see the back of the Jacobins, many felt that the Directory had swung too far in the opposite direction, blatantly siding with men of wealth, property, and influence, to the detriment of the nation as a whole. The period of the Directory (1795-1799) was characterized by almost unimaginable levels of graft, corruption, and the waste of public funds. This further exacerbated an already serious financial crisis. And as it was just such a crisis that had precipitated the French Revolution in the first place, there was a general fear that history was about to repeat itself.

Given the enormous problems it failed to deal with, and given too its overwhelming lack of support in the nation, it was inevitable that the Directory could not last for long. And so it proved. A conspiracy between the hugely influential political philosopher and deputy, the Abbé Sieyes, and an ambitious young general by the name of Napoleon Bonaparte succeeded in toppling the hated Directory from power. The coup met with remarkably little resistance, as the French people on the whole were heartily sick of the Directory with its rampant corruption and incompetence. There was a general desire for order and stability, and it was felt that there was only one man who could satisfy it. That man, of course, was Napoleon.

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Adam Ferguson eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The directory was the government set up by the Constitution of the Year III as a result of the French Revolution. It was a very short-lived government, lasting only 4 years.

The Directory included a bicameral legislature consisting of the Council of Five Hundred who proposed legislation, and the Council of Ancients who rejected or accepted the legislation.

The executive branch of the Directory was led by five directors, whom the Council of Ancients picked from a list drafted by the Council of Five Hundred.

The Directory suffered from numerous problems that led to its downfall, including a weak executive office and rampant corruption. While the Directory did accomplish some good things, its policies focused heavily on preserving those in power instead of truly benefiting the people. This corruption, combined with a government that was weak and ineffective to begin with, paved the way for the French to accept the rule of the dictator Napoleon Bonaparte, who brought the order and stability the common people craved.

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The Directory suffered from extreme unpopularity among many French people. It fell as a result of a bloodless coup d'etat in 1799 that installed Napoleon Bonaparte, the most popular man in France due to his military victories. Napoleon overthrew the Directory with the help of many leading French politicians, most notably the Abbé Sieyes. After asuming power, Napoleon established a Consulate, in which he theoretically ruled alongside two other men. In reality, though, Napoleon as "First Consul" exercised basically dictatorial powers. Just five years after the overthrow of the Directory, Napoleon crowned himself Emperor of the French.

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