Democracy and representation in the French Directory, 1795–1799
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Democracy was no more than a marginal force during the eighteenth century, unanimously denounced as a chimerical form of government unfit for passionate human beings living in commercial societies. Placed in this context this thesis studies the concept of ‘representative democracy’ during the French Revolution, particularly under the Directory (1795–1799). At the time the term was an oxymoron. It was a neologism strategically coined by the democrats at a time when ‘representative government’ and ‘democracy’ were understood to be diametrically opposed to each other. In this thesis the democrats’ political thought is simultaneously placed in several contexts. One is the rapidly changing political, economic and international circumstances of the French First Republic at war. Another is the anxiety about democratic decline emanating from the long-established intellectual traditions that regarded the history of Greece and Rome as proof that democracy and popular government inevitably led to anarchy, despotism and military government. Due to this anxiety the ruling republicans’ answer during the Directory to the predicament—how to avoid the return of the Terror, win the war, and stabilize the Republic without inviting military government—was crystalized in the notion of ‘representative government’, which defined a modern republic based on a firm rejection of ‘democratic’ politics. Condorcet is important at this juncture because he directly challenged the given notions of his own period (such as that democracy inevitably fosters military government). Building on this context of debate, the arguments for democracy put forth by Antonelle, Chaussard, Français de Nantes and others are analysed. These democrats devised plans to steer France and Europe to what they regarded as the correct way of genuinely ending the Revolution: the democratic republic. The findings of this thesis elucidate the elements of continuity and those of rupture between the Enlightenment and the French Revolution.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: 2023-07-30
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations. Print and electronic copy restricted until 30th July 2023
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