Constitution of the Year III (1795)


Constitution of the Year III (1795)


By mid–1795, dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs, particularly the extra–constitutional nature of the government, had become widespread. The Left demanded "bread and the Constitution of 1793" while those who had suffered under the Terror sought to "end the Revolution" by finishing off popular political activity in the sections that had led to continual uprisings, civil unrest in the provinces (notably revenge being taken on those in power during the Terror), and the ongoing wars abroad that continued to make heavy demands on the domestic economy. To this end, the Convention assigned a committee including Sieyès to draft yet another constitution, which was presented on 22 August. The excerpt below demonstrates how this constitution sought to ensure a moderate continuation of the Revolution, which would reconcile a stable social order based on personal liberty (meaning individual property rights) with juridical equality rather than the direct democracy and guarantees of social and economic equality contained in the Constitution of 1793. To achieve this delicate balance, the framers reduced the authority of the legislature, which would now have two houses so it could not pass legislation as rapidly. By creating an explicit executive body, this constitution concentrated power, but also limited how much any one individual or political faction could exert by sharing executive power among five Directors. Finally, the constitution proscribed political gatherings of any sort to prevent the re–formation of the club movement or the organization of national political parties.


John Hall Stewart, A Documentary Survey of the French Revolution (New York: Macmillan, 1951), 588–91, 610–12.








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 forty years of age.

They may be chosen only from among citizens who have been ministers or members of the Legislative Body.

The present article shall be observed only dating from the ninth year of the Republic.

Dating from the first day of Year V of the Republic [22 September 1796], members of the Legislative Body may not be elected members of the Directory or ministers, either during the continuance of their legislative functions or during the first year after the expiration of same.

The Directory shall be renewed in part by the election of one new member annually.

During the first four years, the order of retirement of those first elected shall be determined by lot.

None of the retiring members may be reelected until after an interval of five years.

Ancestors and descendants in direct line, brothers, uncles and nephews, first cousins, and those related by marriage in said several degrees may not be members of the Directory at one and the same time, or succeed one another therein until after an interval of five years.

In case of the removal of one of the members of the Directory by death, resignation, or otherwise, his successor shall be elected by the Legislative Body within ten days at the latest.

The Council of Five-Hundred shall be required to propose candidates within the first five days, and the Council of Elders shall complete the election within the last five days.

The new member shall be elected only for the term of office remaining to the one to be replaced.

Nevertheless, if such time does not exceed six months, the person elected shall remain in office until the end of the fifth year following.

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.

It shall choose for itself, from outside its own membership, a secretary who shall countersign dispatches and record deliberations in a register, in which every member has the right to have his motivated opinion inscribed.

When it deems expedient, the Directory may deliberate without the presence of its secretary; in such case, the deliberations shall be recorded in a special register by one of the members of the Directory.

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 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 in the degrees stated in article 139.

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.

It may not select anyone under the age of thirty years, or from among the blood or marriage relations of its members in the degrees stated in article 139.

The ministers shall correspond directly with the authorities that are subordinate to them.

The Legislative Body shall determine the number of the ministers and their prerogatives.

Such number may not be fewer than six or more than eight.

The ministers do not constitute a council.

The ministers shall be jointly and severally responsible for non-execution of laws, as well as for non-execution of orders of the Directory.

The Directory shall appoint the collector of direct taxes in each and every department.

It shall appoint the superintendents-in-chief for the administration of indirect taxes and the national domains.

Until peace has been made, all public functionaries in the French colonies, except in the departments of the Île de France and the Île de la Réunion, shall be appointed by the Directory.

The Legislative Body may authorize the Directory to send to all French colonies, as occasion may require, one or more special agents appointed by it for a limited time.

Such special agents shall perform the same duties as the Directory, and shall be subordinate thereto.


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 recognize 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.

There shall be neither privilege, nor mastership, nor wardenship, nor limitation on the liberty of the press, of commerce, or of the practice of industry or arts of any kind.

When circumstances render such prohibitive laws necessary, they shall be essentially provisional, and shall be effective for one year only, unless formally renewed.

The law shall watch particularly over the professions which affect public morals and the security and health of citizens; but admission to the practice of such professions may not be made conditional upon any pecuniary payment.

The law shall provide for the compensation of inventors, or for the maintenance of the exclusive ownership of their discoveries or productions.

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.

During the day, orders of the constituted authorities may be executed therein.

No domiciliary visit may take place except by virtue of a law, and for the person or object expressly designated in the warrant ordering such visit.

Corporations and associations which are contrary to public order may not be formed.

No assembly of citizens may call itself a popular society.

No private society which concerns itself with political questions may correspond with another, or affiliate therewith, or hold public sessions composed of the members of the societies and of associates distinguished from one another, or impose conditions of admission and eligibility, or arrogate to itself rights of exclusion, or cause its members to wear any external insignia of their association.

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.

Several constituted authorities may never unite for the purpose of deliberating together; no instrument emanating from such a union may be executed.

No one may wear distinctive symbols indicative of duties formerly performed or services rendered.

The members of the Legislative Body, and all public functionaries, shall wear, in the performance of their duties, the costume or insignia of the authority with which they are invested; the form thereof shall be determined by law.

No citizen may renounce, in whole or in part, the indemnity or salary assigned to him by law because of public duties.

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

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

The French nation declares that under no circumstances will it permit the return of Frenchmen who, having abandoned their homeland since 15 July 1789, are not included in the exceptions provided in the laws against émigrés; and it forbids the Legislative Body to make new exceptions in such connection.

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

The French nation likewise proclaims, as a guarantee of public faith, that after a legally consummated auction of national property, whatever its origin, the lawful acquirer may not be dispossessed thereof; reserving to third claimants, if need be, indemnification by the National Treasury.

None of the powers instituted by the Constitution shall have the right to change it in its entirety, or in any of its parts, except for reforms which may be effected by way of revision in conformity with the provisions of Title XIII.

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.



“Constitution of the Year III (1795),” LIBERTY, EQUALITY, FRATERNITY: EXPLORING THE FRENCH REVOUTION, accessed July 20, 2024,