June 23, 1795: Boissy d’Anglas on a New Constitution

  • Paul H. Beik
Part of the The Documentary History of Western Civilization book series (DHWC)


It is not so much François Antoine Boissy d’Anglas who matters in the presentation of the following document, although he presented it to the Convention, speaking for the Committee of Eleven that prepared the Constitution of the Year III (1795). Boissy d’Anglas was one of the leaders of the Thermidorian Convention and of the Council of Five Hundred in the early years of the Directory; it had, indeed, been he who was presiding over the Convention on 1 Prairial, An III (May 20, 1795), to be faced with a bloody head on a pike during the last insurrection of the sans-culottes. It was he who was chosen by the committee to make the presentation of the constitution on June 23, 1795, an event which led to a month of discussion before the constitution was passed without all of the committee’s recommendations in it. What is important in the following document is not any description of particular clauses; the commentary that Boissy d’Anglas delivered is 63 pages long without a listing of the clauses of the constitution. It is the fact that this document expresses the point of view of the majority of the Committee of Eleven that makes it important: one may say very important, for the Committee was expressing very well the current mood and hopes and ideas of the Thermidorian Convention and its explanation of why, having tolerated the Terror and accepted the Jacobin Constitution of 1793, it was embarking on a new course. What follows is a selection of eight passages from the speech, separated from each other by extra spacing, and chosen with an eye to their expression of the Committee’s attitude concerning where they were in the revolution, and the main lines, as well, of their political and social philosophy. The document is Discours préliminaire au projet de constitution pour la République française, prononcé par Boissy d’Anglas, au nom de la Commission des onze, dans la séance du 5 messidor, an 3. Imprimé par ordre de la Convention nationale (Paris, Messidor, An III), pp. 2–3, 4–5, 10, 12–14, 21–25, 29–33, 36–38, 40.


Social Philosophy Extra Spacing Current Mood National Representation Executive Power 
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© Paul H. Beik 1970

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  • Paul H. Beik

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