Executive Directory(Fr. directoire execu-tif), the name given to the executive government of the first French republic, established by the constitution of Fructidor, year III. (August, 1795). This constitution was framed by the moderate republican party, whose influence prevailed after the fall of Robespierre. The legislative power was vested by it in two assemblies, the council of 500 and the council of the ancients, the former having the exclusive right of proposing laws for the consideration of the latter. The judicial authority was committed to elective judges. The executive directory consisted of five members, and was chosen one each year by the council of the ancients from a list of candidates presented by that of 500. The directory promulgated the laws, appointed the ministers, and had the management of military and naval affairs, and the right of repelling hostilities, though not of declaring war. The directors decided questions by a majority vote, and presided by turns three months each, the presiding member having the signature and the seal.
During their term of office none of them could have a personal command, or absent himself for more than five days from the place where the councils held their sessions, without their permission; and after they had left office they could hold no command for two years, nor be reelected for five. The balance of power established by this constitution excited antagonism between the different branches of the government. The convention decreed that in the first" election two thirds of the members of the two councils should be chosen from its own body. This arbitrary act led to violent agitations in Paris, and finally to an insurrection of the royalist sections on the 13th Vendemiaire (Oct. 5, 1795), which was suppressed by Bar-ras and Bonaparte. The convention having held its closing session on Oct. 26, the two councils held their first on the 28th, and on Nov. l elected Barras and Lareveilliere-Le-peaux, Rewbell, Letourneur, and Carnot as directors. Their first proclamation promised a firm rule and inspired confidence.
Carnot organized the armies, and directed their movements; Moreau received the command of the army of the Rhine, Jourdan that of the Sambre and Meuse; Hoche suppressed the insurrection in the Vendee, and Bonaparte conquered Italy. But the elections of the year V. (May, 1797) gave the royalists a preponderance in the councils, which was supported by the minority of the directory, while Barras. Lareveilliere, and Rewbell sided with the minority in the legislative bodies. The movements of the royalists became more and more threatening, when the majority of the directors agreed to save the republic by an act of violence. This was executed by the aid of the army on the 18th Fructidor (Sept. 4, 1797). More than 50 members of the two councils, with Carnot, Barthelemy, who had replaced Letourneur, and a number of other influential persons, were condemned to transportation, and a persecution of both royalists and anarchists was commenced. Merlin of Douai and Francois of Neufchateau were substituted for the two proscribed directors, of whom Carnot escaped to Germany. Saved by the army of the interior, the republican rule was maintained by the victories and extortions of the armies abroad.
The treaty of Campo Formio was concluded; Switzerland and the Papal States were overrun and revolutionized; and Bonaparte was sent to Egypt to attack England indirectly. But the extreme rev-olutionary party carried the elections for the year VI. (May, 1798), a part of which were annulled by another violation of the constitution. A new coalition against France was formed. Switzerland and Italy were lost as rapidly as won. The republicans became impatient of the rule of the directory, in which Treilhard had replaced Frangois, and Sieves was elected instead of Rewbell. Finally the councils compelled Treilhard, Merlin, and Lareveilliere to resign on the 30th Prairial (June 18, 1799). Barras saved his office by the desertion of his associates, and maintained himself with Sieves and the three new directors, Gohier, Moulins, and Roger Ducos, till the 18th Brumaire (Nov. 9, 1799), when Bonaparte overthrew the directory and the constitution, and became master of France under the title of consul. The directory ruled France four years and a few days, and had altogether 18 members, of whom only Barras officiated during the whole period.