What was the directory?
· The deputies of the National worked to produce a new constitution in 1795 (following Robespierre’s downfall) and from that emerged new revolutionary regime, the Directory.
· National Convention (the legislature) replaced by 2 councils, Council of Five Hundred and Council of Ancients, whilst the CPS (the executive), replaced by 5 Directors.
· 13 men served as Directors 1795-1797.
· Important Directors – Paul Barras, Lazare Carnot, Emmanuel Sieyes.
· Economic problems faced by Directory same as those of previous regimes- inflation, valueless currency and high food prices.
· 1795- Thermidorians had abolished Maximum to move back to free market. Led to rampant inflation which destroyed purchasing power of assignat. Added was a very hard winter. These led to great increases in price of bread and this prompted 2 protests In Paris. 12-13 Germinal (1-2 April) and 1-4 Prairial (20-23 May).
· By start of Directory, value of assignat plummeted to 1% of its face value. In attempt to solve inflation, Directory tried introducing new paper currency. Lasted just over a year and was complete failure.
· Paper currency withdrawn. From February 1787 metal coins only legal currency. As not enough coins in circulation this hampered commerce and deflation resulted. Directory thus never satisfactorily solved economic problem or passed lasting reforms, making it unpopular at all social levels.
· Directory more successful with government finances.
· September 1797, 2/3 of national debt written off through issue of bonds to government creditors. These bonds could be used to buy national property (property taken from crown, Church and others). These bonds fell in value however and became worthless.
· Government had gone bankrupt (‘bankruptcy of two thirds’). So although the debt greatly reduced, in turn reduced interest payments, the original creditors were alienated. The Directory could not rely upon their future support.
· For government income, directory in part relied upon profits of war, plunder taken from parts of Germany and Italy occupied by French armies. E.g. 15th May 1796- Bonaparte made city of Milan pay huge ransom. Had the benefit of allowing the Directory to function but drawback of making it more reliant on the army and on an aggressive war policy.
· More a solution provided by Vincent Ramel (finance minister) – 1798 - reformed tax system:
o Introduced 4 new direct taxes and reintroduced octrois (indirect tax from ancien regime- tax on goods brought into towns which was very unpopular).
o He made tax collection more efficient.