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'The weakness of the Directory was the most important factor in Napoleon's seizure of power in the coup of Brumaire' How far do you agree?

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Introduction

Andrew Deans 'The weakness of the Directory was the most important factor in Napoleon's seizure of power in the coup of Brumaire' How far do you agree? The events of the 18-19 Brumaire of the Year VIII (9-10 November 1799) saw General Napoleon Bonaparte seize power from the Directory and establish the Consulate. The Councils of Five Hundred and of Ancients signed away the time of the Directory and paved the way towards Napoleon's becoming. But these events were certainly no matter of coincidence, and a large number of factors played a part in the coup being a success and also Napoleon being the main beneficiary. For the Directory to be overthrown, it must be considered that it possessed some inherent weakness that made them both possible to overthrow and deserving of being removed for a foreseen greater good. And there were certainly signs of this weakness. For years, the Directory had been using the army to maintain itself. It was heavily reliant on foreign excursions, and the plunder they yielded, to buoy its failing finances. France was virtually bankrupt thanks to economic downturn and the Directory's repeated use of the army to prevent any small challenge to their power was making them increasingly unpopular with the people. ...read more.

Middle

It was also the army who moved the Council of Five Hundred out of Paris to St Cloud to allow them to be more intimidated and who, upon the orders of Lucien, cleared the chamber of the Five Hundred after the 'attack' on Napoleon. It was fashionable among the public at the time to consider France to be in something of a rut, but it was the imminent threat of invasion that really frightened the public. While Napoleon had been in Egypt, Europe's other major continental powers had formed a Second Coalition of Turkey, Austria, Russia, Naples and England and were proceeding to reverse French gains from the previous decade and threaten the lands of 'old' France, her traditional territories, via an invasion at Provence. Threatened militarily, many people began turning to the idea of a strong, decisive, military man to rescue France.4 Additionally, the middle-classes supported Napoleon as they saw him as the best man to protect their lands from possible Bourbon or Jacobin revival. They trusted Napoleon to keep the extreme groups down and also to work to improve the economy, using his armies to fight off foreign competition if necessary. ...read more.

Conclusion

Sieyes knew full well that he would need military support to maintain security while he was busy trying to persuade the two Councils to agree to his plans, and without it the coup would have had no chance of success. While the Ancients technically brought the coup to its successful conclusion when they signed France over to the three-man executive of Napoleon, Sieyes and Ducos, they, by that time, had very little choice in the matter. With the Five Hundred essentially removed and the military at Napoleon's command, the Ancients' action was little more than a formality, albeit it a significant one. 1 M. Lyons, France under the Directory (Cambridge 1975) 2 M.Crook, Elections in the French Revolution: An Apprenticeship in Democracy, 1789-1799 (Cambridge 1996) pp. 131-57 3 A. Stiles and D. Rees, Napoleon, France and Europe (Hodder and Stoughton 2004) p.17 4 D.G. Wright, Napoleon and Europe (Longman 1996) p.16 5 A. Stiles and D. Rees, Napoleon, France and Europe (Hodder and Stoughton 2004) p.19 6 M. Crook, The Resistible Rise Napoleon Bonaparte 7 G. Ellis, Napoleon: Profiles in Power (Pearson 1997) p.32 ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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