The Constitution of Year III (1795)

The Constitution of Year III was drafted by the Thermidorian-ruled National Convention during the spring and summer of 1795. It was finally adopted in August 1795 and endorsed by a plebiscite three weeks later. This Constitution established a national government under the Directory. It aimed to revive the republic but also to limit voting and participation in politics through restrictive qualifications based on gender, class and property:

Executive government

“The executive power shall be delegated to a Directory of five members appointed by the legislative body, which for such purpose performs the functions of an electoral body, in the name of the nation.

The Council of Five Hundred shall prepare, by secret ballot, a list of ten times the number of members of the Directory to be appointed, and shall present it to the Council of Elders, which shall choose, also by secret ballot, from said list.

The members of the Directory must be at least 40 years of age. They may be chosen only from among citizens who have been ministers or members of the legislative body… The Directory shall be renewed in part by the election of one new member annually.

Each member of the Directory shall preside over it in turn for three months only. The president shall possess the right of signature and shall have custody of the seal. Laws and acts of the Legislative Body shall be addressed to the Directory in the person of its president.

The Executive Directory may not deliberate unless at least three of its members are present…

The Directory shall provide, according to law, for the external and internal security of the Republic. It may issue proclamations in conformity with the laws, and for the execution thereof. It shall dispose the armed force – but neither the Directory collectively nor any one of its members may, under any circumstances, command the same while in office or during the two years immediately following the expiration of his term.

If the Directory is informed that a conspiracy is being plotted against the external or internal security of the State, it may issue warrants of apprehension and arrest against those who are presumed to be the authors or accomplices thereof. It may question them – but it shall be required, under the penalties provided for the crime of arbitrary detention, to send them before the police officer within two days, in order to proceed according to law.

The Directory shall appoint the generals in chief; it may not choose them from among the blood or marriage relations of its members… It shall supervise and ensure the execution of laws in the administrations and courts, through commissioners of its own appointment. It shall appoint the ministers, from outside its own membership, and may dismiss them when it thinks it advisable…

General provisions

There shall be no superiority among citizens other than that of public functionaries, and that only in relation to the performance of their duties.

The law shall recognise neither religious vows nor any obligation contrary to the natural rights of man. No one may be prevented from speaking, writing, printing or publishing his ideas. Writings may not be subjected to any censorship before their publication. No one may be held responsible for what he has written or published, except in cases provided for by law.

No one may be prevented from performing the worship of his choice, so long as he complies with the laws. No one may be forced to contribute to the expenses of a religion. The Republic does not pay for any…

The Constitution guarantees the inviolability of all property, or just indemnification for that of which legally established public necessity requires the sacrifice. The house of every citizen is an inviolable asylum. During the night, no one shall have the right to enter except in case of fire, flood or a call proceeding from inside the house…

Corporations and associations which are contrary to public order may not be formed. No assembly of citizens may call itself a popular society… Citizens may exercise their political rights only in the primary or communal assemblies.

All citizens shall be free to address petitions to the public authorities, but they must be individual ones. No association may present them collectively, except the constituted authorities, and only for matters within their competence. The petitioners must never forget the respect due the constituted authorities.

Every armed gathering is an attack upon the Constitution; it shall be dispersed immediately by force. Every unarmed gathering, likewise, shall be dispersed, at first by verbal command, and, if necessary, by the deployment of armed force…

There shall be uniformity of weights and measures throughout the Republic.

The French era shall date from September 22nd 1792, the day of the establishment of the Republic…

The property of émigrés is irrevocably acquired for the benefit of the Republic…

The citizens shall always remember that the duration, preservation, and prosperity of the Republic depend principally upon the wisdom of elections in the primary and electoral assemblies.

The French people entrust the present Constitution to the fidelity of the legislative body, the executive Directory, the administrators and the judges; to the vigilance of fathers of families, to wives and mothers, to the affection of young citizens, to the courage of all Frenchmen.”