In ihren politischen Schriften während des Direktoriums, insb. in ihren Réflexions sur la paix intérieure (1795) und Des circonstances actuelles (1798), bietet Mme de Staël eine überzeugende Analyse der Erbschaft der französischen Revolution und der Schwierigkeiten, eine freie Regierung im postrevolutionären Frankreich zu aufzubauen. Sie verfolgt einen Mittelweg zwischen den Extremen, um die Revolution zu ,,beenden" und eine den Freunden der Freiheit vereinigende Mittelpartei zu bilden. In ihrer Kritik der Verfassung von 1795, ihren Reformvorschlägen bezüglich des Direktoriums sowie ihrer Befürwortung der Ereignisse des 18 Fructidor zeigt Mme de Staël die Kohärenz ihres ganz auf politischer Mäßigung beruhenden Verfassungsprogramms.
In a text written during the Directory, as France was trying to come to terms with the legacy of the Terror, Mme de Staël noted: “Time, wisdom, moderation: these are the only means with which one can found justice and humanity.”  While the country badly needed moderation to return to a minimal sense of normalcy, this virtue proved out of reach for Mme de Staël’s generation, engaged in a prolonged struggle to constitutionalize the liberties of 1789 and end the long revolutionary cycle that had begun with the fall of the Bastille. Resigned, she came to acknowledge that, during revolutionary periods, “one needs fanaticism to win, and a moderate party will never inspire fanaticism.” 
Along with Benjamin Constant, whom she had met for the first time in September 1794, she returned to Paris in the spring of 1795, accepting the republican regime as a fait accompli. Yet, she was fully aware of the daunting challenges France faced in the aftermath of the Terror. The practices of the Old Regime had corrupted the people and public morality but, she argued, they had also paved the way for the horrors of the revolution by instilling in the lower classes a desire for vengeance and a profound hatred of inequality and all distinctions of rank. Although the general wish of the French nation was to establish free institutions, there was a high level of political instability, which was matched only by the general ideological confusion. Therefore, the prevailing uncertain climate was ripe for opportunism. At war against European powers, France was confronted with an acute depreciation of paper money, and peace with England seemed a distant and unlikely prospect as leading British intellectuals and politicians (like Burke) questioned or opposed making peace with a regicide government.
If the legacy of the Terror was evident everywhere, it was arguably nowhere more apparent than in the legislative realm. Many of the laws passed during Robespierre’s reign continued in effect; although never properly implemented, the Constitution of 1793 had not been abrogated yet. The former power of the Jacobins still inspired fear and the political agenda of the ultraroyalists was dominated by their desire for revenge, as illustrated by the famous Verona Declaration issued in 1794 by Louis XVI’s brother. Under the influence of vocal ultraconservatives such as the Comte d’Antraigues, the future king Louis XVIII rejected all the changes that had been made in France since 1789, thus giving the impression that the only possible way out of the crisis was a return to the institutions of the Old Regime. Moreover, the new regime not only refused to give the nobles and clergy the same legal securities as other citizens enjoyed, but showed a willingness to resort to extreme revolutionary measures that belied any appearance of legality and shut many individuals out from the protection of the law.
It was against this background that the decree of October 24, 1795 was passed, excluding from any public employment the relatives of émigrés and all those who had voted for liberticidal projects. The decree signaled the fact that the new regime was intent on banishing or imprisoning those suspect of being attached to the Old Regime, as well as other categories of individuals whose commitment to the republic was regarded as dubious. The republic was now in the hands of the members of the Convention. This, Mme de Staël noted, was a great misfortune, because many of the deputies had contracted indelible “habits of servility and tyranny”  and had been tainted by their association with the government of the Terror.
Coming to terms with the institutional and moral consequences of the latter proved to be a daunting task, one carried out amidst a general cacophony of self-incrimination and moralizing that blurred the lines between good and evil. “The apologies of those who shared in the Reign of Terror,” Mme de Staël remarked,
All this made it difficult to find a simple and convincing explanation for the errors of the past, difficult even to distinguish between the agents of evil and their victims. Against those who insisted that republican principles and ideas were responsible for the Terror, Mme de Staël argued that the best proof of the excellence of republican principles was that the revolution could be brought to an end only with their aid. Republican principles, she insisted, were the only means of closing the revolutionary chapter and founding the new institutions that the country so badly needed.  The errors of the past, she opined, could be accounted for by the existence of a strong opposition to the revolution and by the fact that the republic had arrived in France prematurely, before the advent of republican ideas and mores, which alone could have ensured a firm foundation for the new republican institutions.  The proliferation of revolutionary laws made things worse, since they tended to make crises permanent, thus opening the door to arbitrariness.
Did moderation have a real chance in this unstable environment fraught with uncertainty and riven by moral and ideological confusion? What could a moderate voice have done to promote a coherent and successful reformist agenda? Upon her return to Paris in April 1795, Mme de Staël lost little time in attempting to secure a new place for herself in the midst of once-brilliant Parisian society. She acted the part of a political force, commanding respect and attention and taking a strong interest in the deliberations of the constitutional committee entrusted with the drafting of the Constitution of 1795. She reopened her salon on the rue du Bac, which attracted this time an eclectic audience mirroring the fragmented political landscape of the time. The house of Mme de Staël, La Revellière and Thibaudeau noted (not without irony), was the influential center of a “coterie” desirous of playing a great role in public affairs.  Among her guests were influential politicians and writers such as Boissy d’Anglas, Lanjuinais, Lezay-Marnésia, and Roederer.
Mme de Staël summarized her new republican (moderate) political agenda in Réflexions sur la paix intérieure which, unlike the previous Réflexions sur la paix addressed to Pitt, were printed but never distributed, mostly out of prudential considerations, at the recommendation of her close friend, François de Pange (only a few copies of the original print survived).  In a letter sent to the editors of Des nouvelles politiques, nationales et étrangères on June 3, 1795, Mme de Staël reaffirmed her attachment to the values and principles of the French Republic in unambiguous terms. Responding to accusations that had appeared in the press casting doubt on her republican credentials, she stated that she sincerely desired “the consolidation of the French Republic upon the sacred foundations of justice and humanity,” adding that under the then existing circumstances only a republican government could give France the peace and liberty that the country needed.  She attempted to rally all the friends of liberty against the twin dangers of anarchy and royalist extremism. “Since the revolution of the 9th Thermidor,” she wrote in early June 1795, “there are, in France, only two influential parties: the friends of a just and free Republic, whom all the enlightened and patriotic French citizens want to join; and the agitators promoting a bloodthirsty anarchy which everyone must reject.”  Although at first she seemed more concerned about the extreme left than about the ultraroyalists, she eventually came to believe that the existence of both extremes threatened to destabilize the new regime. In her view, the survival of the latter depended on the creation of a parti mitoyen, a political center large enough to include moderates from all camps, including surviving Girondists and committed Thermidorians, who, by putting aside for a moment their differences, could agree on a set of common values capable of restoring social peace and promoting institutional stability.
Establishing such a center, however, proved impossible. The moderates, who were expected to occupy or lead it, were far from being united.  And Mme de Staël, given her own political situation, was not prepared to play the role of the presumptive leader of such a party. Necker’s name was still on the list of émigrés, and his assets had not yet been returned to his family. In spite of her declaration of allegiance to the French Republic, her status remained uncertain; she was still considered a foreigner (and she would have to lobby hard to have her French citizenship recognized).  As wife of the Swedish ambassador to Paris, she had hoped that Sweden’s ouverture toward republican France would benefit her image and status. But on August 18, 1795, shortly before the adoption of the new constitutional text, Legendre denounced Mme de Staël in the Convention as the greatest protector of the émigrés. She was criticized for playing the role of a “sirène enchanteresse,” seeking to corrupt the leaders of the republic and plotting with the royalists to topple the government.  A few months later, in October 1795, the Committee of Public Safety ordered her to leave France within ten days, and then placed her under constant surveillance in Switzerland, soliciting and receiving from its informants detailed reports about her whereabouts.  Monachon, one of the spies paid by his superiors in Paris to follow her activities, commented on the alleged versatility of Mme de Staël, accusing her of insincerity and criticizing her desire to ingratiate herself with all parties. According to him, she made every effort to appear as a royalist among the émigrés and as friend of democracy among the patriots. 
It did not take Mme de Staël long to discover that in such a climate of intransigence, extreme opinions were more likely to attract followers than moderate ideas. She eventually came to doubt that reason could triumph over fanaticism,  but continued to believe that pluralism and moderation could act as a rallying point for all friends of liberty and a stabilizing force for the French Republic. In particular, she opposed any form of political Puritanism, arguing that a one-size-fits-all approach was unsuitable to a context in which everyone had previously made compromises and bowed under the yoke of circumstances.  To deal with such a complex situation, Mme de Staël argued, moderation was needed, along with a (legal) “dictatorship of institutions,” which she contrasted with the dictatorship of persecutions and arbitrary power. Only such a dictature des institutions could promote the rule of law and foster liberty and morality in the long-run. 
She embraced the ideal of a liberty above or beyond all parties, believing that one must support whatever government had the best chance of promoting civil and political liberty: “It is around the sacred love of freedom, around this feeling that requires all the virtues, which electrifies all souls... it is around its real meaning that one must rally.”  While most people want to be free, she argued, many abuse liberty; only enlightened minds know how to become and remain free.  In fact, during the revolution no word had been abused more than “liberty.” It had been invoked by its overzealous friends to justify the elimination of their opponents, denounced as enemies of the republic. “Liberty” had been on the lips of those who took part in the fall of the Bastille and of those who drafted and ratified the Constitutions of 1791 and 1793. Yet, genuine political liberty had long eluded France. Indeed the country seemed destined to rove the political seas forever in search of its final haven, that elusive political center capable of reflecting the country’s emerging pluralism.
“Everything which partakes of reason, justice, and humanity,” Mme de Staël wrote, “demands attention, concessions, and a reason always adjusted to the present moment without losing sight of the future; and it is honorable for the public person in charge of the interests of the nation to seek compromises in each case.”  In particular, she criticized the inflexibility and stubbornness of radicals on both sides, whose rigid adherence to principles was not, she contended, a virtue in this conflict-ridden post-revolutionary context, which demanded instead prudent concessions and accommodation. Praising flexibility, she renewed her call for a center between all parties, insisting that the pursuit of absolute principles (perfect justice or equality) was a costly illusion. Many flawed constitutions and forms of injustice had arisen from the legislators’ lack of pragmatism, illustrated by their failure to consider all the facets of political affairs and their inability to understand the inherent complexity of the political sphere:
Nothing illustrates better Mme de Staël’s moderate political agenda than the ideas in Réflexions sur la paix intérieure, a sophisticated manifesto at the heart of which lies the concept of political moderation. Her text advocated three principles which had also been endorsed by Necker: bicameralism, a strong and independent executive, and respect for private property. She avoided highly controversial topics, such as the renewal of the Convention, a subject likely to deepen further the rifts between competing parties. Seeking to reach out to moderates on both sides, her text was an invitation to reconciliation addressed to partisans of limited monarchy and defenders of an elitist form of republicanism based on limited suffrage, whom she invited to rally around a common value, “the sacred love of liberty.”  On the one hand, Mme de Staël appealed to constitutional royalists who were committed to political and civil liberty but still reluctant to accept the legitimacy of the new republican principles. On the other hand, she reached out to moderate republicans concerned with order and legality but as yet unwilling to cooperate with partisans of monarchy, including constitutional royalists. She sought to mobilize all these moderates to form a strong center which, she believed, was seminal for the stability and future of the republic. In her opinion, apart from their attachment to monarchy, the principles of royalist constitutionalists coincided with the interests of moderate republicans. She referred to the two groups as belonging to the same “party,” pursuing similar goals by different means, and invited them to seek a middle ground where they could reconcile their differences through mutual concessions, leaving aside, as much as possible, personal rivalries and dreams of vengeance. She warned both groups not to misjudge their allies and own forces and asked them to focus on their common interest in strengthening the executive power. “In the end,” Staël argued,
She added that one group “must sacrifice monarchy to the certainty of liberty,” while the other should be prepared to sacrifice “democracy to the guarantee of public order.”  An alliance between constitutional republicans and moderate royalists, she maintained, was both necessary and timely, and it was the only coalition that could have save the republic from ruin.
A couple of years later, Mme de Staël renewed her call to compromise in a letter to Roederer (April 1797), the editor of the Journal de Paris, a republican who had remained skeptical toward the Directory. Once again, she resorted to a powerful rhetorical arsenal in order to convince him to rally to the support of the endangered republic. The republicans, she admitted, had committed injustices, but they represented the lesser evil and deserved to be supported by all friends of liberty. The new political circumstances did not allow for hesitation or impartiality: faced with the possibility of a right-wing reaction, one had to be either for or against the Directory.  Mme de Staël’s claim that the greatest danger came from the ranks of the ultraroyalists might have been a rhetorical exaggeration on her part, signaling a shift from her earlier belief that the greatest danger to the republic was posed by the Jacobins. Whether this argument was a mere sophism used by proponents of the center to discredit their extremist opponents is a different question. Suffice it to say that such an interpretation would not render justice to the complexity and richness of Mme de Staël’s republican agenda. The only lasting cure for fanaticism, she averred, was the sovereignty of law and a wise blending of institutions capable of promoting the interests of disparate social and political groups.
It was in this context that Mme de Staël renewed her appeal for moderation and reasonableness, inviting moderates from both camps to join the “real” majority which, she opined, could alone express the permanent interests of the French nation.  She took to task radical republicans for having been immoderate in their attachment to democratic principles, and reminded them that only an ordered form of liberty could effectively defuse political fanaticism. The antidote to anarchy lay, she insisted, in moderation and the rule of law. The “torches of the furies” could be extinguished only through the principles of representative government. Only they could adequately promote limited power, create a proper balance of powers in the state, and provide for the orderly participation of the people (through their representatives) in the exercise of legislative power. The republicans’ agenda, she went on, must aim at strengthening their electoral and political base by recruiting new members from the ranks of moderate royalists. Mme de Staël called upon republicans to avoid appearing weak and hesitant and argued that they ought to be generous and open toward their opponents as well as firm in their commitment to governing the country. Their moderation of method and tone, she added, had to be combined with a bold political agenda and firmness in exercising political power: “Today, a new system must guide the ruling party. The latter had previously been violent and detached, and must now be ambitious and moderate. It must relinquish power under no pretext, and, step by step, it should rally around it the support of the majority of the nation.”  Worth noting here is the association between moderation, assertiveness, and power, and the implication that one can (and should) act like a moderate not only in opposition, but also while in power. This boldness is the mark of “good” moderation, and distinguishes it from the kind of moderation that has its origin in fear, timidity, powerlessness, or indifference.  As such, “true” moderation is not incompatible with passionate commitment to a cause—in this case, republicanism and representative government—and ought not to be interpreted as an expression of weakness or indecisiveness.
Mme de Staël’s appeal to moderation, which she sought in a hypothetical juste milieu between extremes, did not bear fruit and ultimately made her suspect in the eyes of many, both monarchists and republicans. Even Thibaudeau, who shared Staël’s republicanism, expressed skepticism toward her moderate agenda because it came from a person “who was receiving the Jacobins in the morning, the émigrés in the evening, and everyone else at dinner.”  While it is true that Mme de Staël counted among her guests members of the republican government, former émigrés, and writers seeking the favors of the new regime, it is also possible to interpret her ecumenical attitude as an expression of her commitment to moderation and an attempt to find a political anchor in a new environment. She defended moderation while also appearing to be an immoderate partisan of the new republican regime. Was this an example of her alleged versatility, or a necessary concession to circumstances? Did her attitude repose upon a set of principles that she never abandoned? In a “république de girouettes,”  almost anything was possible, including being a republican of the “extreme center.”
 Germaine de Staël, Des circonstances actuelles qui peuvent terminer la Révolution et des principes qui doivent fonder la république en France, ed. Lucia Omacini (Geneva: Slatkine, 1979), 313 (henceforth abbreviated as DCA). A revised version of this text (along with an outstanding introductory study by Bronislaw Baczko) was published in the new series of Mme de Staël’s complete works, Série III: Œuvres historiques, Tome I, Des circonstances actuelles et autres essais politiques sous la Révolution, ed. Lucia Omacini et al. (Paris: Honoré Champion, 2009; henceforth abbreviated as OCS(NS) III:1). I reviewed this volume in “Flirting with republicanism: Mme de Staël’s writings from the 1790s.” History of European Ideas 36: 3 (September 2010): 343-46. On Mme de Staël’s circle, see Coppet, creuset de l’esprit libéral. Les idées politiques et constitutionnelles du groupe de Madame de Staël, ed. Lucien Jaume (Marseille and Paris: Presses Universitaires d’Aix-Marseille and Economica, 2000).
 G. de Staël, Œuvres Complètes de Madame la baronne de Staël publiées par son fils, (Paris: Treuttel and Würtz, 1821), I: 54 (henceforth abbreviated as OCS, I).
 G. de Staël, Considerations on the Principal Events of the French Revolution, ed. Aurelian Craiutu (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2008), 376 (henceforth abbreviated as CPE). The most recent French edition was published by Tallandier in 1983 (ed. Jacques Godechot).
 Ibid., 377–78. For an analysis placing Mme de Staël’s writings in the Thermidorian context, see Biancamaria Fontana, “The Thermidorian Republic and Its Principles,” in Biancamaria Fontana, ed., The Invention of the Modern Republic (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 118–38. For more details on this period, see Bronislaw Baczko, Comment sortir de la Terreur (Paris: Gallimard, 1989); Andrew Jainchill, Reimagining Politics after the Terror (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2008); Claude Nicolet, L’idée républicaine en France (1789–1924): Essai d’histoire critique (Paris: Gallimard, 1982), Part 1.
 Staël, DCA, 33, 39–40, 42.
 Ibid., 34–35, 40. Compare this explanation with the slightly different account given in CPE, book 3, chapters XVI, XVIII.
 Marc Lahmer, La Constitution américaine dans le débat français, 1795–1848 (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2001), 170–71.
 See Lucien Jaume’s introduction to the critical edition of Staël’s text in OCS(NS), III: 1, 123–32.
 Madame de Staël, Correspondance générale, Tome III. Deuxième partie. Lettres d’une nouvelle républicaine, 17 mai 1795-fin novembre 1796, ed. Beatrice Jasinski (Paris: Jean-Jacques Pauvert, 1972), 7 (henceforth abbreviated as CGIII: 2). Roederer published a very favorable review of Réflexions sur la paix intérieure in which he praised Mme de Staël’s republicanism.
 Staël, CGIII: 2, 8.
 A former member of the Mountain and convinced republican, Thibaudeau, also dreamt of establishing a republic of the center. See Pierre Serna, La République des girouettes (1789–1815... et au-delà). Une anomalie politique: La France de l’extrême centre (Paris: Champ Vallon), 477–85.
 In October 1796, Mme de Staël asked Roederer to refer to her, in his review of her work on the influence of passions, as a “French” patriot and French citizen by birth and residence; see Staël, CGIII: 2, 249.
 For a few passages from Legendre’s speech, see Staël, CGIII: 2, 43. Legendre’s denunciation was followed by the publication of a moving éloge of Mme de Staël in Nouvelles politiques nationales et etrangères on August 26, 1795. On October 25, the Convention voted a harsh law against the émigrés, excluding them from all public functions, along with their relatives.
 In May 1796, the minister of the police, Cochon de Lapparent, fearing a secret alliance between Mme de Staël and the émigrés, sent an emissary to Coppet to follow and arrest her if she tried to cross the border into France. For more information, see Staël, CGIII: 2, 165–66, 190–91. As Béatrice Jasinski pointed out, it is likely that the characterization of Mme de Staël as persona non grata in France was due to a transcription error on the part of the officer of the department of Ain.
 For an extract from Monachon’s secret report about Mme de Staël calling into question her republican credentials and accusing her of opportunism, see Staël, CGIII: 2, 194.
 Here is what Mme de Staël wrote: “Dans un temps de révolution, il faut du fanatisme pour triompher, et jamais un parti mixte n’inspira du fanatisme. Les Vendéens et les républicains peuvent se battre, et la chance du combat rester incertaine. Mais toutes les opinions placées entre les deux partis exigent une sorte de raisonnement dont un esprit enthousiaste est incapable” (OCS, I: 54). During a private dinner with a few friends who belonged to the camp of moderate constitutionalists, she claimed: “Dans un état de fermentation, toutes les opinions extrêmes tendent à prévaloir, et vous, constitutionnels modérés, après avoir été victimes sous le règne d’une faction sanguinaire, vous le serez encore sous le règne d’une faction violente” (Staël, CGIII: 2, 48). See also the following fragment: “L’impulsion, le choc d’une révolution fait aller les opinions aux deux extrêmes opposés; non seulement un troisième parti est difficile à faire triompher, mais il faudrait que les constitutionnels en soutinssent un quatrième; et un tel équilibre, à travers tant d’écueils, parait tout à fait impossible” (Staël, OCS, I: 48).
 “Nous avons tous transigé pour le bien avec le mal: ce joug des circonstances a pesé sur les cœurs les plus purs... rien aujourd’hui n’est vrai, rien n’est équitable, que d’une manière relative” (Staël, OCS, I: 59).
 “Vous avez à choisir entre la dictature des institutions et celles des persécutions, et je préfère de beaucoup la première... S’il faut une dictature, c’est-à-dire une suspension de l’exercice de la volonté de tous, comment ne pas la chercher dans des institutions légales, au lieu de l’abandonner à des violences arbitraires?” (Staël, DCA, 177).
 Staël, OCS, I: 46. Also: “Cette fermentation brûlante produit un monde nouveau; un jour peut rendre impossible le plan de la veille; et c’est pour qui tend toujours au même but, la liberté, que les moyens changent sans cesse” (ibid., 50). The standard reference work remains Basil Munteano, Les idées politiques de Mme de Staël et la Constitution de l’an III (Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1931), 17. To Roederer, Mme de Staël wrote on July 17, 1796: “La république de 1795 est la moralité de tous les temps” (Staël, CGIII: 2, 9). On August 20, she remarked: “Que la Constitution soit entre les mains des honnêtes gens, et cette Constitution sera reconnue ce qu’elle est, la plus raisonnable de l’univers” (ibid., 230).
 “Les hommes ignorants veulent être libres; les esprits éclairés savent seuls comment on peut l’être” (Staël, OCS, I: 46).
 Staël, DCA, 313.
 Staël, OCS, I: 49. As Lucien Jaume has noted, this view seems to contradict Mme de Staël’s later skepticism toward invoking circumstantial justifications in De l’Allemagne (Part III, Ch. XIII).
 Staël, OCS, I: 46.
 Ibid., 53.
 Ibid., 58.
 To Roederer’s reservations about Constant’s Des réactions politiques, she replied: “Vous vous amusez à combattre des ombres, tandis que l’ennemi le plus redoutable, l’ennemi sans appel, est à vos portes... Les républicains ne sont pas si aimables, j’en conviens, mais qu’importe ce qu’ils sont lorsque la liberté périt de toutes parts? Vous rassemblez aux girondins qui, menacés par les jacobins, criaient sans cesse au royalisme. Il n’y a de danger que du côté de l’aristocratie, et là est la haine éternelle” (quoted in Henri Grange, Benjamin Constant amoureux et républicain. 1795–1799 (Paris : Les Belles Lettres, 2004), 163–64).
 The distinction between “legal” and “real” majority can also be found in the writings of Roederer, most notably: “De la majorité nationale de la manière dont elle se forme et des signes auxquels on peut la reconnaître, ou théorie de l’opinion publique” (1795), republished in Mémoires d’économie publique, de morale et de politique (Paris: Imprimerie du Journal de Paris, 1799), I: 75–88 as well as in Lucien Jaume, Échec au libéralisme: Les Jacobins et l’État (Paris: Kimé, 1990), 98–105.
 Staël, DCA, 132.
 Mallet du Pan denounced the latter as follows: “Cette modération qui a le cachet de la peur et que fort peu de gens croient utile et systématique, enfin cette indifférence affectée sur des dangers qu’on n’a l’air ni de prévoir ni de vouloir prévenir, font perdre aux Conseils ces avantages moraux et politiques qui feraient triompher leur cause, sans aucun doute, s’ils osaient en faire usage” (quoted in Staël, DCA, 138–39, n. 4).
 A. C. Thibaudeau, Mémoires sur la Convention et le Directoire (Paris: Baudoin Frères, 1824), II: 211.
 I borrow the term from Serna, La République des girouettes.