Council of Five Hundred

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The Council of Five Hundred (Conseil des Cinq-Cents) and the Council of the Ancients (Conseil des Anciens) were the two chambers of the French Parliament from the introduction of the Directorial Constitution in 1795 to the introduction of the Consulate Constitution in late 1799 .

General Bonaparte before the Council of Five Hundred at Saint-Cloud on November 10, 1799 (painting by François Bouchot from 1840)


In response to the reign of terror, the new constitution of 1795 provided for limited voting rights. Indirect election by electors was introduced. By coupling it to a tax census , the number of eligible voters fell from seven to five million male citizens. The right to stand as a candidate , however, was limited to a small group of highly taxed people.

The legislative period was three years. A third of the MPs left each year. Their seats had to be filled again through new elections.


The parliament had a total of 750 seats. Of these, 711 came from France itself and the rest from the colonies. From the elected MPs, those MPs older than forty years of age and married or widowed were combined in the Council of Elderly. This chamber had 250 members. She was expected to have a moderating influence.


Legislative right was shared between the two chambers. The Council of Five Hundred had the right to legislate . The council of elders could either accept or reject the bills.

Both chambers were also involved in filling the executive - the board of directors. The council of five hundred proposed the directors, the council of elders then elected them.

Relationship with the executive

The legislative and executive branches were strictly separated. Board members were not allowed to belong to parliament. The board of directors was not even allowed to take part in the meetings of the parliament. Nor did it have the right to dissolve or adjourn it. Conversely, the MPs could not influence the course of government affairs.


The limitation of the right to vote could not prevent the parliamentary majority from opposing the board of directors. The unclear relationship of competences between parliament and government was a factor in political instability. In 1797 the royalists gained strength in Parliament. The result was the coup d'état of the 18th Fructidor V and the formation of a triumvirate around Paul de Barras as well as the removal of the royalists from parliament. Another intervention followed on May 11, 1798, when Jacobins and Rights were replaced by moderate MPs. After returning from Egypt, Napoleon and his allies began preparing for another coup. An important factor in this was the election of his brother Lucien Bonaparte as President of the Council of Five Hundred. Resistance to the coup d'état of 18th Brumaire VIII by the members of the Council of Five Hundred was broken by Lucien Bonaparte by troops who cleared the assembly hall. Later, some of the MPs agreed to the amendment of the constitution and the establishment of the consulate .