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Constitution of the Year III

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Constitution of the Year III
Title page of the original edition
Title page of the original edition
Original titleConstitution de l'an III
Presented22 August 1795
Date effective22 September 1795
LocationArchives Nationales
Full text
Constitution of the Year III at Wikisource
Constitution de l'an III at French Wikisource

The Constitution of the Year III (French: Constitution de l’an III) was the constitution of the French First Republic that established the Executive Directory. Adopted by the convention on 5 Fructidor Year III (22 August 1795) and approved by plebiscite on 6 September. Its preamble is the Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man and of the Citizen of 1789.

It remained in effect until the coup of 18 Brumaire (9 November 1799) effectively ended the Revolutionary period and began the rise to power of Napoleon Bonaparte. It was more conservative than the not implemented, radically democratic French Constitution of 1793.

Largely the work of political theorist Pierre Daunou, it established a bicameral legislature; an upper body known as the Council of Ancients, and a lower house, or Council of 500. This was intended to slow down the legislative process, in reaction to the wild swings of policy resulting from the unicameral National Assembly, Legislative Assembly, and National Convention.[1]

All taxpaying French males over 25 were eligible to vote in primary elections, subject to a one year residence provision; it is estimated these totalled around 5 million, more than the 4 million under the 1791 Constitution. They selected 30,000 electors, over the age of 30 and income equivalent to 150 days taxes, who in turn voted for the Council of 500.[1]

A five-man Directory, chosen by lot each year, constituted the executive branch. The central government retained great power, including emergency powers to curb freedom of the press and freedom of association. The Declaration of Rights and Duties of Mankind at the beginning of the constitution included an explicit ban on slavery. It was succeeded by the Constitution of the Year VIII, which established the Consulate.

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Pierre Claude François Daunou was the principal author of the Constitution of Year III.[2]

After the fall of Robespierre and the overthrowing of the Revolutionary Government on 9 Thermidor Year II (27 July 1794), the Thermidorian Convention refused to apply the Constitution of June 1789, also known as the Constitution of the First Year. The Thermidorians decided instead to draft the Constitution of Year III, intended to be more liberal, moderate, and favourable to the bourgeoisie than that of the First Year.[3]

On 4 Floréal Year III (23 April 1795), the Convention delegates the task of drafting a new Constitution to a commission composed of 11 of its members, including Boissy d'Anglas, future Second Consul Cambacérès, Daunou, Merlin de Douai, and the Abbé Sieyès. A decree (décret) of 15 Floréal had declared the position of a member of the Constitutional Commission incompatible with being a member of the Committee of Public Safety. Following this decree, Cambacérès, Merlin, and Sieyès opted to remain members of the Committee, and were replaced by Baudin, Durand-Maillane, and Lanjuinais.[4]

While discussing the project, Sieyès wished to implement a control of the constitutionality of laws, by creating a "Constitutional Jury" (French: Jury Constitutionnaire").[5] Despite defending this idea in June 1795, it was not implemented, but would later become the basis of the Conservative Senate (Sénat conservateur) of the Consulate.[6]

The day after the close of debates, the first day of Fructidor An III, deputy Baudin des Ardennes presented a report on "the means of ending the Revolution", in which he recommended that two-thirds of the seats on the Conseil des Anciens and the Conseil des Cinq-Cents be reserved for members of the former Convention, amount to 500 of the 750 elected.[7] To justify this "decree of two-thirds" (French: Décret des deux-tiers), he explained that "the fall of the Constituent Assembly taught you well enough that (electing) an entirely new legislature to set in motion a constitution that has not yet been tried is an infallible means of having it overthrown".[8]

The decree was passed, along with the constitution, on 5 fructidor an III (August 22, 1795). The decree and constitution were then submitted to a plebiscite, and adopted by the decree of 1st Vendémiaire, An IV (September 23, 1795), proclaiming the French people's acceptance of the constitution presented to them by the National Convention.

The royalists responded to the two-thirds decree with the insurrection of 13 Vendémiaire (October 5, 1795). The Thermidorians thus retained the Republic, but re-established two-tier census suffrage out of distrust of universal suffrage.[9]

Territorial Modifications

The new territory of the French Republic is detailed in the first of the three Titles (Titres) of the Constitution of the Year III, "Division of the Territory" (French: Division du territoire).[10]

The territory of the Republic is composed of 89 departments, composed of 81 of the 83 departments created in 1790, to which were added the following 8 departments:

Colonies are declared “integral parts of the Republic” and “subject to the same constitutional law”,[11] and therefore given the statute of departments. Their departmentalisation is achieved by the creation of 11 to 13 departments:[12]


Acquiring of French Citizenship

The status of citizen (French: citoyen) is reserved for men aged 21 years and above.[13] Every man over the age of 21, born and living in France, having registered his name at the civil register of his canton and having since remained within the territory of the Republic for at least a year, who pays a "direct contribution, land or personal", is a French citizen.

Citizenship is given, without the condition of "direct contribution", to those who have "carried out one or multiple campaigns for the establishment of the Republic".[14]

The conditions for the acquiring of citizenship by foreigners are described in the article 10[10] as follows:

  • Having reached the age of twenty-one,
  • Having declared his intention to settle in France,
  • Residing in France for seven consecutive years,

Provided that he pays direct taxes there and that, in addition, he either

  • owns property in France,
  • owns an agricultural or commercial establishment,
  • or that he has married a French woman.

Loss of French Citizenship

In addition to the conditions of acquiring citizenship, the Constitution also provides the possibility of suspension or revoking of this citizenship.


  1. ^ a b Lyons 1975, p. 15.
  2. ^ Takeda, Chinatsu (1 June 2003). "Deux origines du courant libéral en France" [Two Origins of the Liberal Current in France]. Revue Française d'Histoire des Idées Politiques. 18 (2): 240. doi:10.3917/rfhip.018.0233. ISSN 1266-7862 – via Cairn. des Idéologues sont directement impliqués dans la rédaction de la Constitution de l'an III dont Daunou est le principal rédacteur.
  3. ^ Biard, Michel; Dupuy, Pascal (2020). La Révolution française: dynamique et ruptures, 1787-1804. Collection U (in French) (4th ed.). Malakoff: Armand Colin. pp. 121–123. ISBN 978-2-200-62769-0.
  4. ^ Machelon, Jean-Pierre; Conac, Gérard (1999). La Constitution de l'an III, Boissy d'Anglas et la naissance du libéralisme constitutionnel [The Constitution of Year III: Boissy d'Anglas and the birth of constitutional liberalism] (in French). p. 215. On petit être surpris de constater que les trois grands juristes qu'étaient Cambacérès, Sieyès et Merlin préférèrent la réalité du pouvoir immédiat à l'expertise constitutionnelle. Leur désertion permit en tout cas à Daunou, Boissy d'Anglas, Lanjuinais, Thibeaudeau de jouer les premiers rôles. (We may be surprised to note that the three great jurists who were Cambacérès, Sieyès and Merlin preferred the reality of immediate power to constitutional expertise. Their desertion in any case allows Daunou, Boissy d'Anglas, Lanjuinais, and Thibeaudeau to play the leading roles.)
  5. ^ Bloquet, Sylvain. "Les sources manuscrites de la Constitution de l'an VIII" [The manuscript sources of the Constitution of Year VIII]. Jus Politicum (22).
  6. ^ Fioravanti, Marco. "Sieyès et le jury constitutionnaire : perspectives historico-juridiques" [Sieyès and the Constitutional Jury: historical-legal perspectives]. Annales historiques de la Révolution française. 349 (3): 87–103.
  7. ^ "The Directory of France". Brittanica. But as one of its final acts the Convention added the "Two-thirds Decree" to the package, requiring for the sake of continuity that two-thirds of its deputies must sit by right in the new legislature regardless of voting in the départements.
  8. ^ Ozouf, Mona. “Les décrets des deux-tiers ou les leçons de l’histoire”. In 1795, pour une République sans Révolution, edited by Roger Dupuy. Rennes: Presses universitaires de Rennes, 1996.
  9. ^ Machelon, Jean-Pierre; Conac, Gérard (1999). La Constitution de l'an III, Boissy d'Anglas et la naissance du libéralisme constitutionnel. p. 230.
  10. ^ a b "Constitution du 5 Fructidor An III" [Constitution of 5 Fruction of Year III]. Conseil Constitutionnel.
  11. ^ Article 6 of the Constitution of Year III
  12. ^ Article 7 of the Constitution of Year III
  13. ^ Article 8, Constitution of the Year III
  14. ^ Article 9, Constitution of Year III


  • Lyons, Martyn (1975). France under the Directory (2008 ed.). Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0521099509.
  • Machelon, Jean-Pierr; Conac, Gérard (1999). La Constitution de l'an III, Boissy d'Anglas et la naissance du libéralisme constitutionnel [The Constitution of Year III: Boissy d’Anglas and the birth of constitutional liberalism] (in French). Presses Universitaires de France. ISBN 978-2-13-063729-5.

This page was last edited on 14 May 2024, at 06:20
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