Monday, March 3, 2014

Revolution to Empire

The Directory 1795–1799

The Directory became the new government of France after the Convention created a new constitution establishing a bicameral parliament. This government included an upper house, called the Council of Ancients, and a lower house, called the Council of Five Hundred. The Directory sought to relax the austerity and radicalism of the Committee of Public Safety by supressing the extremes of the Jacobin and royalist forces within France.

Despite desire for change and stability, the Directory was beset with economic and civil problems, giving rise to high inflation and increased spending. Support for the new government weakened as it began to alienate key sectors of French society with its obvious corruption and quest for control of conflicting factions.

The Rise of Napoleon

In 1799 Napoleon Bonaparte returned from the Egyptian Campaign.  Successful in suppressing uprisings against the government and victorious in his Italian campaigns, Bonaparte was known as an excellent strategist who had gained the respect of his men through bravery and courage under fire, meticulous planning and an unconventional approach to warfare. Despite defeats in Egypt, Napoleon returned to a hero’s reception. Outmanoeuvring the government and supported by his army he collaborated in a coup d’état to overthrow the Directory and establish the Consulate. By 1800 Napoleon had become the First Consul of France, and was now in a position of total power.

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