The constitution of the year III, approved by the National Convention granted an executive power in a Directory of five members and juridical power in two chambers, the Council of the Five Hundred the Council of Ancients (collectively called the Corps Législatif). This management, a bourgeois republic, might have achieved stability had not the conflict continued the struggle between revolutionaries and counter-revolutionaries everywhere Europe. The battle, moreover, embittered present antagonisms between the Directory and the legislative councils in France and often initiated new ones. These arguments were settled by coups d’état, chiefly those of 18 Fructidor, September 4, 1797, which removed the royalists from both the Directory and the councils, and of November 9, 1799, in which Bonaparte ended the Directory and became the ruler of France as its “first consul.”
After the success of Fleurus, the progress of the French armies in Europe had continued. Holland and Rhineland were occupied, and in 1795 Holland, Prussia, Tuscany, and Spain negotiated for peace. When the French army under Bonaparte invaded Italy (1796), Sardinia came quickly to terms. Austria was the latest to give in (Treaty of Campo Formio, 1797). Most of the nations conquered by the French were established as “sister republics,” with institutions formed on those of Revolutionary France.
End of the French Revolution
Peace on the continent of Europe did not stop the revolutionary expansion. The majority of the directors had shared the Girondin wish to spread the Revolution over the continent and listened to Jacobin’s abroad appeals. Hence French troops in 1798 and 1799 entered the Papal States, Switzerland, and Naples and set up the Roman, Helvetic, and Parthenopean republics. Great Britain, however, continued War with France. Unable to effect an arrival in England, the Directory, on Bonaparte’s request, chose to threaten the British in India by occupying Egypt. An expeditionary corps under Bonaparte quickly occupied Malta and Egypt. However, the squadron that had convoyed Horatio Nelson’s fleet defeated it at the Battle of the Nile on August 1, 1798. This disaster prompted the formation of a Second Coalition of powers alarmed by the growth of the Revolution. This coalition of Russia, Austria, Turkey, and Great Britain achieved great achievements during the spring and summer of 1799 and managed to drive back the French soldiers to the frontiers. Bonaparte thereupon returned to France to use his high prestige and the disrepute into which the army reverses had brought the government. His coup d’état of 18 Brumaire abolished the Directory and replaced the consulate. Although Bonaparte announced the end of the Revolution, he was to spread it in new forms throughout Europe.