The Governments of Europe
by Frederic Austin Ogg
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*308. The Movement for Autonomy.*—Throughout a prolonged period there was in the territory insistent demand for the grant of a more independent status, to involve the eventual placing of Alsace-Lorraine on a footing of constitutional equality with Saxony, Bavaria, and the other confederated states. Within very few years after the annexation there sprang up, within the Territorial Committee first of all, a group of "autonomists," led by the secretary of state Baron Zorn von Bulach, who insisted in season and out upon statehood for the conquered territory, and within a decade the campaign gained momentum until it enlisted the support of men of all political faiths and became the principal rallying issue of Alsatian sentiment and enthusiasm. Until within recent years the tension of the international situation was alone sufficient to restrain the Imperial Government from according the demand favorable consideration. With the passing of time the danger of international conflict in which Alsace-Lorraine should be involved was, however, perceptibly diminished, and the way was to this extent cleared for a readjustment of the territory's anomalous status on the merits of the purely administrative and constitutional questions involved.

The programme of the autonomists, as it finally assumed shape, (p. 285) embraced four fundamental points: (1) the elevation of Alsace-Lorraine to membership in the German Empire, with all the rights and immunities commonly possessed by existing members; (2) the vesting of the executive authority in an independent head of the state, whether a king of a newly established line, a regent appointed for life, or even a president of a republic; (3) the establishment within the state of a full-fledged legislative body, with powers equivalent to those exercised by the Landtags of the existing states; and (4) the elimination of Kaiser, Bundesrath, and Reichstag from all legislation which concerns Alsace-Lorraine exclusively. Taking their stand on the situation as it was, and accepting the union with Germany with such grace as they could muster and assuming that it is to be permanent, the exponents of autonomy proposed to make the best of a state of things not of their choosing.

*309. The Government Bill of 1910.*—Under pressure of persistent public demand, the Imperial Government prepared an elaborate measure upon the subject, which, after having been approved by the Bundesrath, was submitted to the Reichstag, December 17, 1910. Although Chancellor von Bethmann-Hollweg had declared unreservedly for reform, the Government's proposals fell far short of the demands of the autonomist leaders. The cardinal features of the Imperial programme, were, in brief: (1) Alsace-Lorraine should remain a dependency of the Empire; (2) sovereign authority therein should continue to be exercised by the Kaiser, as the representative of the states, through his accustomed agent, the Statthalter at Strassburg; (3) the legislative functions of the Bundesrath and Reichstag in matters pertaining exclusively to Alsace-Lorraine should be terminated; and (4) such legislation should thereafter be enacted by a bicameral diet at Strassburg. The members of the upper chamber of this diet, not to exceed thirty-six, were in part to sit by ex-officio right, but some were to be named by chambers of commerce and other professional and business organizations, and a maximum of one-half might be appointed by the Emperor, on nomination of the Bundesrath. The sixty members of the lower house were to be chosen by manhood suffrage, but electors over thirty-five years of age were to have two votes, and those over forty-five three.

*310. The Bill Amended and Adopted, 1911.*—By those whose object was the procuring of statehood for Alsace-Lorraine, this plan was pronounced inadmissible. It did not alter the legal status of the territory; neither, it was alleged, did it give promise of increased local independence in law-making or administration. Conservatives, on the other hand, objected to the provision which was made for manhood suffrage. After being debated in the Reichstag the measure was (p. 286) referred to a special committee, by which amendments were reported to the effect that the territory should be created a state of the Empire and the Statthalter should be appointed for life. The second of these amendments the Government refused positively to accept, but it was agreed finally that the territory should be recognized as substantially a state of the Empire, and, as such, should be allowed three votes in the Bundesrath. Since 1879 the Statthalter had been authorized to send to the Bundesrath four "commissioners" who might speak when the subject under consideration touched the affairs of Alsace-Lorraine, but might not vote. Since under the new arrangement the three members representing Alsace-Lorraine were to be appointed and instructed by the Statthalter, who is himself practically the delegate of the king of Prussia, the Bundesrath insisted upon and obtained the special stipulation (1) that the votes of Alsace-Lorraine should not be counted in favor of the Prussian view of any question except when Prussia should be able to procure a majority without such votes and (2) that they should not be counted for or against any proposal to amend the Imperial constitution. The revised bill was passed in the Reichstag, May 26, 1911, and in accordance with a decree of August 26 the new constitution was put in operation September 1.

*311. The Governmental System To-day.*—Supreme executive authority is lodged, as before, in the Emperor. It is exercised, in the main, by the Statthalter, who is appointed by, and holds office at the pleasure of, the Emperor. In the Statthalter are vested all the rights and privileges in Alsace-Lorraine that hitherto have been held and exercised by the Imperial Chancellor. He appoints and instructs the plenipotentiaries in the Bundesrath, and Imperial orders and decrees have legal effect only when signed by him. All laws require the assent of the Emperor and the two chambers of the diet, and the budget of the year must be laid first before the lower chamber and must be accepted or rejected in its entirety by the upper one. The Emperor has the right to summon, to adjourn, and to dissolve the chambers simultaneously. Members of the popular branch are elected by direct and secret ballot and majority vote by all male German citizens twenty-five years of age who have resided in Alsace-Lorraine at least three years; except that a residence of one year qualifies teachers and occupants of official posts. The plural voting proposal contained in the Government bill of 1910 was abandoned. The first chamber elected under the new system—that chosen in October, 1911—contained twenty-five Centre members, eleven Socialists, ten members of the National Alsace-Lorraine group,[418] eight Liberal Democrats, and (p. 287) six Independents. The independent attitude promptly assumed by the body elicited from the Emperor, in May, 1912, a threat that the new constitution might be abrogated and Alsace-Lorraine incorporated with Prussia. The incident provoked a storm of criticism, and, outside the rabid Pan-German press, the Imperial pronouncement was commented upon everywhere adversely.[419]

[Footnote 418: The party which had contended most vigorously for Alsatian autonomy.]

[Footnote 419: On the organization of Alsace-Lorraine prior to 1911 see Howard, The German Empire, Chap. 10; Laband, Das Staatsrecht des deutschen Reiches, Secs. 67-69; P. Gerber, La condition de l'Alsace-Lorraine dans l'Empire allemand (Lille, 1906), and L'Administration en Alsace-Lorraine, in Revue du Droit Public, Oct.-Dec, 1909. On the problem of reform and the legislation of 1911 see R. Henry, La question d'Alsace-Lorraine, in Questions Diplomatiques et Coloniales, Feb. 1 and March 16, 1904; P. Braun, Alsace-Lorraine—La reforme de la constitution, ibid., Nov. 16, 1905, and Jan. 1, 1906; Alsace-Lorraine en 1908, ibid., March 1, 1909; Alsace-Lorraine—les preludes d'une lutte nationale, ibid., April 16, 1910; La constitution d'Alsace-Lorraine, ibid., March 16, 1911; A. Wetterle, L'Autonomie de Alsace-Lorraine, in Le Correspondant, Aug. 25, 1910, La nouvelle loi constitutionnelle de l'Alsace-Lorraine, ibid., June 10, 1911, and Les elections en Alsace-Lorraine, ibid., Nov. 25, 1911; Eccard, L'Autonomie de l'Alsace-Lorraine, in Revue Politique et Parlementaire, Nov. 10, 1910: G. Bruck, Die Reform der Verfassung von Elsass Lothringen, in Annalen des deutschen Reichs, 1911, I; and P. Heitz, La loi constitutionnelle de l'Alsace-Lorraine du 31 mai, 1911, in Revue du Droit Public, July-Sept., 1911, containing French translations of the documents. See also Annual Register for 1911, 328-332.]





Among European states of the first order there is but a single republic. In Great Britain the conspicuous success with which monarchy has been tempered with democracy has left the partisans of the republican style of government slender ground upon which to stand. Russia has as yet but partially emerged from a political status in which monarchy is both natural and inevitable. Germany and Italy, in days comparatively recent, achieved nationality through processes absolutely conditioned upon monarchical leadership. And it is all but inconceivable that the heterogeneous nationalities of Austria-Hungary should thus long have been held together by any force less tangible and commanding than the personality of a common sovereign. Although in some of these instances the functions ordinarily associated with monarchy are more nominal than actual, the fact remains that in no one of the greater European states, save France, has it as yet been found expedient, or possible, to dispense with royalty as an agency of public authority.

*312. The Multiplicity of Constitutions.*—The chain of circumstances by which the people of France have been brought to their present republican form of government constitutes one of the most remarkable chapters in the history of modern Europe. After centuries of governmental centralization, under conditions which enabled monarchy to do its best, and its worst, there came the gigantic disruption of 1789, inaugurating a series of constitutional changes by which was imparted to the political history of the French nation in the nineteenth century a more unsettled character than that exhibited by the public economy of any other European state. France to-day is governed under her eleventh constitution since the fall of the Bastille. All but one of the eleven have been actually in operation, during a longer or a shorter period. But, prior to the fundamental law at present in effect, no one of these instruments attained its twentieth year. Once having cut loose from her ancient moorings, the nation became through many decades the plaything of every current (p. 290) that swept the political sea. It is only within our own generation that she appears definitely to have righted herself for a prolonged and steady voyage. The constitutional system of the Third Republic is a product, not of orderly evolution, but of disruption, experimentation, compromise. It represents a precarious balance which has been struck between those forces of radicalism and conservatism, of progress and reaction, for whose eternal conflict France pre-eminently has furnished a theatre since 1789. Its connection with the remoter past is very much less direct and fundamental than is that of the governmental system of England, Russia, Austria-Hungary, or the Scandinavian states. At certain points, however, as will appear, this connection is vital. And the relation of the constitution of 1871-1875 to the several instruments by which it was more immediately preceded is essential to be observed, because this body of fundamental law comprises but the latest in a series of devices through which France since 1789 has sought orderliness and stability in public affairs. Some of these devices were shaped under the preponderating influence of radical democracy, some under that of monarchical reaction; but all are of interest and importance. For the purpose in hand it will be sufficient to review briefly the principal aspects of the several constitutional systems whose devising or operation has contributed with some directness to the political institutions and experience of the France of to-day.


*313. The Constitution of 1791.*—During the decade which elapsed between the outbreak of the Revolution and the establishment of the Consulate there were in actual operation in France two successive constitutions: that of September 3, 1791, which was in effect subverted by the uprising of August 10, 1792, and that of 5 Fructidor of the Year III. (August 22, 1795), terminated by the coup d'etat of 18 Brumaire of the Year VIII. (November 9, 1799). The instrument of 1791, essentially a compilation of measures voted during the years 1789-1791, was prepared by a committee appointed by the National Assembly, September 15, 1789.[420] It was shaped, in the main, by men who were desirous of preserving the form while destroying the substance of monarchy. At the head of the state was allowed to remain the king, shorn, however, of many of his accustomed prerogatives and obliged to exercise under stringent restraint the few that were left him. "King of the French," he henceforth was to be, "by the grace of God and the will of the nation." The legislative body (Corps (p. 291) legislatif) was made to consist of a single chamber whose 745 members, chosen for a two-year term according to a system of indirect suffrage, were distributed among the eighty-three newly created departments upon the three-fold basis of extent, population, and contribution of direct taxes.[421] Only male citizens who had attained the age of twenty-five, and whose annual payment of direct taxes was the equivalent of three days' labor, were entitled to participate in the choice of the electors, by whom, in turn, were chosen the deputies. The powers of the legislative body were ample. In respect to measures generally, the king possessed only a suspensive veto; that is to say, any measure passed by three successive legislatures acquired, without the royal sanction, the force of law. Fiscal measures might not be vetoed at all. The king was given no power to prorogue or to dissolve the legislative chamber, and without the assent of that body no proclamation of war, and no treaty, was valid. To it the ministers in charge of the six executive departments were made absolutely responsible. In conformity with prevailing ideas of the sovereignty of the people and the separation of powers, provision was made that all judges should be elected popularly, as also all local administrative authorities.[422]

[Footnote 420: A constitutional committee of five had been appointed the previous July 14; but, its recommendation proving unacceptable to the Assembly, it had resigned, September 11.]

[Footnote 421: Of the whole number of deputies, 247 were apportioned according to departmental areas and 249 according each to population and tax quotas.]

[Footnote 422: The texts of all French constitutions and fundamental laws since 1789 are printed in several collections, of which the best is L. Duguit et H. Monnier, Les constitutions et les principales lois politiques de la France depuis 1789 (Paris, 1898). Other serviceable collections are F. Helie, Les constitutions de la France (Paris, 1880) and E. Pierre, Organisation des pouvoirs publics; recueil des lois constitutionnelles et organiques (Paris, 1902). For English versions see F. M. Anderson, The Constitutions and other Select Documents illustrative of the History of France, 1789-1907 (2d ed., Minneapolis, 1908). The various constitutions are excellently summarized in M. Block, Dictionnaire general de la politique, 2 vols. (Paris, 1884), I., 494-518. For the text of the constitution of 1791 see Duguit et Monnier, 1-35; Helie, 268-294; Anderson, 58-95. For summary, Block, I., 494-497. Dupriez, Les Ministres, II., 253-269; Cambridge Modern History, VIII., Chap. 7.]

*314. The Constitution of the Year I. (1793).*—The constitution of 1791 was in operation rather less than a twelvemonth. The Corps legislatif elected under it, after precipitating war with Austria, gave way before the rising demand for the abolition of monarchy, called into being a constituent convention of 782 members, and voted its own dissolution.[423] September 21, 1792, the Convention met and decreed the abolition of the monarchy and the establishment of a republic.[424] Mindful for the time of the purpose of its (p. 292) creation, the new assembly appointed, October 11, a committee of nine to which was intrusted the task of drafting a republican constitution. February 15, 1793, the committee reported, and June 24 the Convention adopted an ultra-republican frame of government, the principal features of which were an executive council consisting of twenty-four members chosen by the legislative body from candidates named by the secondary electors of the departments; a unicameral Corps legislatif chosen indirectly by manhood suffrage for one year, with power to enact "decrees," but only to propose "laws"; and an arrangement whereby projected laws were to be communicated to primary assemblies of citizens to be voted upon after the principle of the referendum.[425]

[Footnote 423: The members of the Convention were elected by manhood suffrage, one of the last acts of the Legislative Body having been the repeal of the tax qualification required by the constitution of 1791.]

[Footnote 424: September 22 was reckoned the first day of the Year I. of French liberty, and the fundamental law of June 24, 1793, was known as the constitution of the Year I. For an illuminating sketch of the rise of the republic see H. A. L. Fisher, The Republican Tradition in Europe (New York, 1911), Chap. 4.]

[Footnote 425: Text in Duguit et Monnier, Les Constitutions, 66-78; Helie, Les Constitutions, 376-384; Anderson, Constitutions, 171-184. Summary in Block, Dictionnaire General, 497-498.]

*315. The Constitution of the Year III. (1795).*—By reason of the intensity of party strife within the Convention, and the critical condition of affairs generally, the constitution of 1793, although duly ratified by the people, was never put in operation. On the basis of a decree of December 4, 1793, the Convention maintained through upwards of two years a revolutionary provisional government, and when, finally, in October, 1795, the body passed out of existence, it left behind it in the Constitution of the Year III. an instrument of government essentially different from the proposed instrument of 1793. The Constitution of the Year III. was framed under a hurried order of the Convention by a committee of eleven. The Convention adopted the committee's plan with but few modifications, and when the project was submitted to a popular vote it was approved by the overwhelming majority of 1,057,390 to 49,997. September 23, 1795, the new frame of government was solemnly promulgated.

The instrument of 1795, like that of 1791, was introduced by a Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, in which were stated succinctly the fundamental principles of the Revolution. Legislative power was henceforth to be vested in two chambers conjointly—a Council of Five Hundred and a Council of Elders—the members of which should be chosen by the same electors, but under differing conditions of eligibility. The term of members of both chambers was fixed at three years, and one-third of the membership was renewable annually. The franchise was broader than under the (p. 293) constitution of 1791, being extended now to all citizens over twenty-one years of age who were able to read and write and who followed a trade or were liable to direct taxation; but the earlier system of indirect election by means of electoral colleges was retained. Upon the lower chamber alone was conferred the right of initiating legislation. The Elders, whose number was fixed at 250, might approve or reject, but were not permitted to amend, any measure submitted to them. Executive power was vested in a Directory consisting of five members chosen for a term of five years, one member retiring annually. Directors were selected by the Council of Elders from a double quota of nominees offered by the Council of Five Hundred. Aside from its creation of a plural, republican executive, the most notable feature of the constitution was its provision for the establishment of a bicameral legislative system, until now generally opposed by French reformers.[426]

[Footnote 426: For the text of the constitution of 1795 see Duguit et Monnier, Les Constitutions, 78-118; Helie, Les Constitutions, 436-466; Anderson, Constitutions, 212-254. Summary in Block, Dictionnaire General, 498-500. Cambridge Modern History, VIII., Chap. 13; G. Dodu, Le parlementarisme et les parlementaires sous la Revolution, 1789-1799; origines du regime representatif en France (Paris, 1911); Fisher, Republican Tradition in Europe, Chap. 5.]

*316. The Constitution of the Year VIII. (1799): Electoral System.*—The constitution of the Year III. continued in operation from October, 1795, to Napoleon's coup d'etat of 18 Brumaire of the Year VIII. (November 9, 1799). In the course of a month and a half following the event mentioned there was drawn up a new fundamental law, prepared in the first instance largely by Napoleon and Sieyes, put into final shape by two commissions composed each of twenty-five members of the old Councils, and subsequently ratified by popular vote.[427] Amended from time to time by important organic enactments, the Constitution of the Year VIII. (December 13, 1799) comprised the fundamental law under which Napoleon ruled France until his abdication in 1814.

[Footnote 427: In favor of the new constitution there were cast 3,011,007 votes; against it, 1,562.]

The new instrument, in ninety-five articles, was much briefer than the one which it replaced,[428] but the scheme of government for which it made provision was distinctly more complicated than that previously in operation. In the main, the Napoleonic constitution dealt with three subjects: the electoral system, the assemblies, and the executive. Nominally there was established a system of thoroughgoing manhood (p. 294) suffrage. But the conditions under which electoral powers were to be exercised rendered the plan very much less democratic than on the surface it appeared to be. The scheme was one devised by Sieyes under the designation of "lists of notables." In each communal district citizens twenty-one years of age and inscribed on the civil register were authorized to choose one-tenth of their number to comprise a "communal list." Those named on the communal list were to choose in their department a tenth of their number, who formed a "departmental list." And, similarly, those whose names appeared on the departmental list were to choose a tenth of their number, who formed a "national list." From these three lists in order were to be chosen, largely by the Senate, the public officials of the districts, the departments, and the nation. No electoral scheme has ever been devised which, while grounded upon the principle of manhood suffrage, more effectually withdraws from the people the actual choice of public officials, local as well as national.[429]

[Footnote 428: The constitution of the Year III., containing 377 articles, is one of the lengthiest documents of the sort on record.]

[Footnote 429: Under this system the primary electors numbered about 5,000,000; the district notables, 500,000; the departmental notables, 50,000; and the national list, 5,000.]

*317. Constitution of the Year VIII: Organs of Government.*—Of national governmental bodies there were four. One was the Tribunate, consisting of 100 members, one-fifth of whom were renewable every year. The function of the Tribunate was to discuss, but not necessarily to vote upon, legislative measures. A second was the Corps legislatif, or Legislative Body, of 300 members, one-fifth being renewed annually. To this assembly was committed the power to vote upon, but not to debate, legislative measures. A third was the Senate, consisting at the outset of sixty life members, to be increased through a period of ten years to eighty. The Senate was authorized to pass upon the constitutionality of laws and to choose the Tribunes, the Legislators, and the Consuls from the national list. Its own ranks were to be recruited by co-optation from triple lists of candidates presented by the Tribunate, the Legislative Body, and the First Consul. Finally, there was the Council of State, whose organization was left purposely indefinite. Its members were appointed by the First Consul, and their business consisted principally in the preparation and advocacy of legislative and administrative measures.

If under this scheme the legislative organs were weak, the executive authority was notably strong. Powers of an executive character were vested in three consuls, appointed by the Senate for ten years and indefinitely eligible. Upon the First Consul was conferred power to promulgate the laws, to appoint all civil and military officials, and to do many other things of vital importance. Upon the second and (p. 295) third consuls was bestowed simply a "consultative voice." Provision was made for a ministry, and under the letter of the constitution no act of the government was binding unless performed on the warrant of a minister. But in point of fact the principle of irresponsibility permeated the Napoleonic regime from the First Consul himself to the lowliest functionary. The conferring upon Napoleon, in 1802, of the consulship for life, and the conversion of the Consulate, in 1804, into the Empire, but concentrated yet more fully in the hands of a single man the whole body of governmental authority in France.[430]

[Footnote 430: The text of the constitution of the Year VIII. is in Duguit et Monnier, Les Constitutions, 118-129; Helie, Les Constitutions, 577-585; and Anderson, Constitutions, 270-281. Summary in Block, Dictionnaire General, I., 500-505. Cambridge Modern History, IX., Chap. 1.]


*318. The Constitutional Charter, 1814.*—May 3, 1814,—three weeks after Napoleon's signature of the Act of Abdication,—the restored Bourbon king, Louis XVIII., entered Paris. Already the Senate had formulated a document, commonly known as the "Senatorial Constitution," wherein was embraced a scheme for a liberalized Bourbon monarchy.[431] Neither the instrument itself nor the authorship of it was acceptable to the new sovereign, and by him the task of drafting a constitution was given over to a commission consisting of three representatives of the crown, nine senators, and nine members of the Legislative Body. The task was accomplished with despatch. June 4 the new instrument, under the name of the Constitutional Charter, was adopted by the two chambers, and ten days later it was put in operation. With some modification, principally in 1830, it remained the fundamental law of France until the revolution of 1848.

[Footnote 431: Duguit et Monnier, Les Constitutions, 179-182; Anderson, Constitutions, 446-450; Block, Dictionnaire General, I., 505-506.]

The governmental system provided for in the Charter was in a number of respects more liberal than that which had prevailed during the dominance of Napoleon. At the head of the state stood the king, inviolable in person, in whose hands were gathered the powers of issuing ordinances, making appointments, declaring war, concluding treaties, commanding the armies, and initiating all measures of legislation. But there was established a bicameral legislature, by which the king's ministers might be impeached, and without whose assent no law might be enacted and no tax levied. The upper house, or Chamber of Peers, was composed of a variable number of members named by the crown in heredity or for life.[432] The lower, or Chamber (p. 296) of Deputies, consisted of representatives elected in the departments for a term of five years, one-fifth retiring annually.[433] Provision was made for the annual assembling of the chambers; and although the proposing of laws was vested exclusively in the crown, it was stipulated that either house might petition the king to introduce a measure relating to any specific subject. The Charter contained a comprehensive enumeration and guarantee of the civil rights of French citizens.[434]

[Footnote 432: By law of December 29, 1831, it was stipulated that only life peers might thereafter be appointed, and the king was required to take all appointees from a prescribed list of dignitaries. Duguit et Monnier, Les Constitutions, 231-232.]

[Footnote 433: A law of June 9, 1824, stipulated that thereafter the Chamber of Deputies should be elected integrally for a period of seven years. Duguit et Monnier, Les Constitutions, 211.]

[Footnote 434: The text of the Charter of 1814 may be found in Duguit et Monnier, Les Constitutions, I., 183-190; Helie, Les Constitutions, 884-890; and, in English translation, in Anderson, Constitutions, 457-465, and University of Pennsylvania Translations and Reprints, I., No. 3. Summary in Block, Dictionnaire General, I., 506-508. Cambridge Modern History, IX., Chap. 18.]

*319. The Electoral System.*—The Charter prescribed the qualifications required of voters and of deputies, but did not define the manner in which deputies should be chosen. The lack was supplied by an election law enacted February 5, 1817. The system established was that of scrutin de liste. Under it the electors—men of a minimum age of thirty who paid each year a direct tax of at least three hundred francs—were required to assemble in the principal town of the department and there choose the full quota of deputies to which the department was entitled. The system proved of distinct advantage to the liberal elements, whose strength lay largely in the towns, and in 1820 when the conservative forces procured control and inaugurated a general reaction a measure was adopted, though only after heated debate, by which the arrangement was completely altered. The membership of the Chamber was increased from 258 to 430 and for the principle of scrutin de liste was substituted that of scrutin d'arrondissement. Each arrondissement became a single-member district and the electors were permitted to vote for one deputy only. In this manner 258 of the members were chosen. The remaining 172 were elected at the chief departmental towns by the voters of the department who paid the most taxes, an arrangement under which some twelve thousand of the wealthier electors became possessed of a double vote. Voting was by ballot, but the elector was required to write out his ballot in the presence of an appointee of the government and to place it in his hands unfolded.[435]

[Footnote 435: Duguit et Monnier, Les Constitutions, 206-209; Helie, Les Constitutions, 934-936.]

*320. Liberalizing Changes in 1830-1831.*—Upon the enforced (p. 297) abdication of Charles X. in 1830 a parliamentary commission prepared a revision of the Charter, which, being adopted, was imposed upon the new sovereign, Louis Philippe, and was continued in operation through the period of the Orleanist monarchy. The preamble of the original document, in which language had been employed which made it appear that the Charter was a grant from the crown, was stricken out. Suspension of the laws by the sovereign was expressly forbidden. Each chamber was given the right to initiate legislation, the responsibility of the ministers to the chambers was proclaimed, and the sessions of the Peers, hitherto secret, were made public. The integral renewal of the Deputies, established in 1824, was continued, but the term of membership was restored to five years. The minimum age of electors was reduced from thirty to twenty-five years, and of deputies from forty to thirty. Subsequently, April 19, 1831, a law was passed whereby the suffrage—so restricted at the close of the Napoleonic regime that in a population of 29,000,000 there had been, in 1814, not 100,000 voters—was appreciably broadened. The direct tax qualification of three hundred francs was reduced to one of two hundred, and, for certain professional classes, of one hundred. By this modification the number of voters was doubled, though the proportion of the enfranchised was still but one in one hundred fifty of the total population, and it would be a mistake to regard the government of the Orleanist period as in effect more democratic than that by which it was preceded. At the most, it was a government by and for the well-to-do middle class.[436]

[Footnote 436: For the act of the Chambers relative to the modification of the Constitutional Charter and to the accession of Louis Philippe, see Duguit et Monnier, Les Constitutions, 213-218; Helie, Les Constitutions, 987-992; and Anderson, Constitutions, 507-513. The electoral law of 1831 is in Duguit et Monnier, 219-230. Cambridge Modern History, X., Chap. 15; G. Weill, La France sous la monarchic constitutionnelle, 1814-1848 (new ed., Paris, 1912).]


*321. The Republican Constitution of 1848.*—With the overthrow of the Orleanist monarchy, in consequence of the uprising of February 24, 1848, France entered upon a period of aggravated political unsettlement. Through upwards of five years the nation experimented once more with republicanism, only at the end of that period to emerge a monarchy, an empire, and the dominion of a Bonaparte. By the provisional government which sprang from the revolution a republic was proclaimed tentatively and the nation was called upon to elect, under a system of direct manhood suffrage, an assembly to frame a constitution. The elections—the first of their kind in the history of (p. 298) France—were held April 23, 1848, and the National Constituent Assembly, consisting of nine hundred members, eight hundred of whom were moderate republicans, met May 4 in Paris. During the summer the draft of a constitution prepared by a committee of eighteen, was duly debated, and November 4 it was adopted by a vote of 739 to 30.

The Constitution of 1848 declared the Republic to be perpetual and the people to be sovereign. It asserted, furthermore, that the separation of powers is the first condition of a free government. In respect to the organs of government it provided, in the first place, for a legislative assembly consisting of a single chamber of 750 members[437] chosen integrally for three years, directly by secret ballot on the principle of departmental scrutin de liste, and by electors whose only necessary qualifications were those of age (twenty-one years) and of non-impairment of civil rights.[438] Executive powers were vested in a president of the Republic, elected for a term of four years by direct and secret ballot, and by absolute majority of all votes cast in France and Algeria. Under stipulated conditions, e.g., if no candidate should receive an absolute majority and at the same time a total of at least two million votes, the president was required to be chosen by the Assembly from the five candidates who had polled the largest votes. Save after a four-year interval, the president was ineligible for re-election. Upon him were bestowed large powers, including those of proposing laws, negotiating and ratifying treaties with the consent of the Assembly, appointing and dismissing ministers and other civil and military officers, and disposing of the armed forces. With respect to the functions and powers of the ministers the constitution was not explicit, and whether the instrument might legitimately be interpreted to make provision for a parliamentary system of government was one of the standing issues throughout the days of its duration.[439]

[Footnote 437: Including representatives of Algeria and the colonies.]

[Footnote 438: Electoral law of March 15, 1849. Duguit et Monnier, Les Constitutions, 247-265.]

[Footnote 439: Dupriez, Les Ministres, II., 308-312. The text of the Constitution of 1848 is in Duguit et Monnier, Les Constitutions, 232-246; Helie, Les Constitutions, 1102-1113; and Anderson, Constitutions, 522-537. Summary in Block, Dictionnaire General, I., 510-513. Cambridge Modern History, XI., Chap. 5; V. Pierre, Histoire de la republique de 1848, 2 vols. (Paris, 1873-1878); P. de la Gorce, Histoire de la deuxieme republique francaise, 2 vols. (Paris, 1887); E. Spuller, Histoire parlementaire de la deuxieme republique (Paris, 1893); Fisher, Republican Tradition in Europe, Chap. 8.]

*322. From Republic to Empire.*—December 10, 1848, Louis Napoleon, nephew of the first Napoleon, was chosen president by an overwhelming vote, and ten days later he assumed office. In May, 1849, an (p. 299) Assembly was elected, two-thirds of whose members were thoroughgoing monarchists; so that, as one writer has put it, both the president and the majority of the Assembly were, by reason of their very being, enemies of the constitution under which they had been elected.[440] The new order, furthermore, failed completely to strike root throughout the nation at large. In this state of things the collapse of the Republic was but a question of time. By an electoral law of May 31, 1850, requiring of the elector a fixed residence of three years instead of six months, the suffrage arrangements of 1849 were subverted and the electorate was reduced by three millions, or virtually one-third.[441] December 2, 1851, occurred a carefully planned coup d'etat, on which occasion the Assembly was dissolved, the franchise law of 1849 was restored, and the people, gathered in primary assemblies, were called upon to intrust to the President power to revise the national constitution.[442] December 20, by a vote of 7,439,216 to 640,737, the people complied. Thereafter, though continuing officially through another year, the Republic was in reality dead. November 7, 1852, the veil was thrown off. A senatus-consulte decreed a re-establishment of the Empire,[443] and by a plebiscite of eleven days later the people, by a vote of 7,824,189 to 253,145, sanctioned what had been done. December 2, Napoleon III. was proclaimed Emperor of the French.

[Footnote 440: Hazen, Europe since 1815, 201.]

[Footnote 441: The text of this measure is in Duguit et Monnier, Les Constitutions, 265-268, and Helie, Les Constitutions, 1149-1150. H. Laferriere, La loi electorale du 31 mai 1850 (Paris, 1910).]

[Footnote 442: Anderson, Constitutions, 538-543.]

[Footnote 443: Duguit et Monnier, Les Constitutions, 290-292; Anderson, Constitutions, 560-561.]

*323. The Imperial Constitution, 1852.*—Meanwhile, March 29, 1852, there had been put in operation a constitution,[444] nominally republican, but in reality strongly resembling that in force during the later years of Napoleon I. The substitution, later in the year, of an emperor for a president upon whom had been conferred a ten-year term was but a matter of detail. A senatus-consulte of December 25, made all of the necessary adjustments, and the constitution of 1852, with occasional modifications, remained the fundamental law of France until the collapse of the Empire in 1870. Upon the emperor were conferred very extended powers. His control of the administrative system was made practically absolute. He commanded the army and navy, decided upon war and peace, concluded treaties, and granted pardons. He alone possessed the power of initiating legislation and of promulgating the laws. To him alone were all ministers responsible, and of (p. 300) such parliamentarism as had existed formerly there remained not a vestige, Of legislative chambers there were two: a Corps legislatif of 251 members elected by direct manhood suffrage every six years, and a Senate composed of cardinals, admirals, and other ex-officio members, and of a variable number of members appointed for life by the emperor. The powers of the Senate, exercised invariably in close conjunction with the head of the state, were of some importance, but those of the popular chamber were so restricted that the liberal arrangements which existed respecting the suffrage afforded but the appearance, not the reality, of democracy.[445]

[Footnote 444: Drawn up by a commission of five, under date of January 14, 1852.]

[Footnote 445: The text of the constitution of 1852 is in Duguit et Monnier, Les Constitutions, 274-280; Helie, Les Constitutions, 1167-1171; Anderson, Constitutions, 543-549. Summary in Block, Dictionnaire General, I., 513-515. Cambridge Modern History, XI., Chaps. 5, 10.]

*324. Constitutional Alterations, 1869-1870.*—Throughout upwards of two decades the illusion of popular government was maintained as well as might be. The country was prosperous and the government, if illiberal, was on the whole enlightened. Discontent, none the less, was not infrequently in evidence, and during especially the second half of the reign the Emperor found it expedient more than once to make some concession to public sentiment. In the later sixties he was compelled to moderate the laws which dealt with the press and with political meetings, and in 1869-1870 he was brought to the point of approving a series of measures which gave promise of altering in an important manner the entire governmental system. One was a senatus-consulte of September 8, 1869, whereby the sittings of the Senate were made public, the Legislative Body was given the right to elect all of its own officials, and the parliamentary system was nominally re-established.[446] By reason of the fact, however, that ministers were not permitted to be members of either the Legislative Body or the Senate, and that they were declared still to be responsible to the crown, the effects of the last-mentioned feature of the reform were inconsiderable. By a senatus-consulte of April 20, 1870, (approved by a plebiscite of May 8 following) there were adopted still more important constitutional changes. In the first place, the Senate, which hitherto had been virtually an Imperial council, was erected into a legislative chamber co-ordinate with the Legislative Body, and upon both houses was conferred the right of initiating legislation. In the second place, the provision that the ministers should be dependent solely upon the emperor was stricken from the constitution, thus clearing the way for a more effective realization of the parliamentary system of government. Finally, it was (p. 301) stipulated that the constitution should thereafter be modified only with the express approval of the people.[447] These reforms, however, were belated. They came only after the popularity of the Emperor had been strained to the breaking point, and by reason of the almost immediate coming on of the war with Prussia there was scant opportunity for the testing of their efficacy.

[Footnote 446: Text in Duguit et Monnier, Les Constitutions, 307-308; Helie, Les Constitutions, 1314-1315; and Anderson, Constitutions, 579-580.]

[Footnote 447: The text of the measure of April 20, 1870, is in Duguit et Monnier, Les Constitutions, 308-314; Helie, Les Constitutions, 1315-1327; and Anderson, Constitutions, 581-586. Cambridge Modern History, XI., Chap. 17; H. Berton, L'evolution constitutionnelle du second empire (Paris, 1900). An important larger work is P. de la Gorce, Histoire du second empire, 7 vols. (Paris, 1894-1905).]


*325. The National Assembly.*—The present French Republic was instituted under circumstances which gave promise of even less stability than had been exhibited by its predecessors of 1793 and 1848.[448] Proclaimed in the dismal days following the disaster at Sedan, it owed its existence, at the outset, to the fact that, with the capture of Napoleon III. by the Prussians and the utter collapse of the Empire, there had arisen, as Thiers put it, "a vacancy of power." The proclamation was issued September 4, 1870, when the war with Prussia had been in progress but seven weeks.[449] During the remaining five months of the contest the sovereign authority of France was exercised by a Provisional Government of National Defense, with General Trochu at its head, devised in haste to meet the emergency by Gambetta, Favre, Ferry, and other former members of the Chamber of Deputies. Upon the capitulation of Paris, January 28, 1871, elections were ordered for a national assembly, the function of which was to decide whether the war should be prolonged and what terms of peace should be accepted at the hands of the victorious Germans. There was no time in which to frame a new electoral system. Consequently the electoral procedure of the Second Republic, as prescribed by the (p. 302) law of March 15, 1849, was revived,[450] and by manhood suffrage there was chosen, February 8, an assembly of 758 members, representative of both France and the colonies. Meeting at Bordeaux, February 12, this body, by unanimous vote, conferred upon the historian and parliamentarian Thiers the title of "Chief of the Executive Power," without fixed term, voted almost solidly for a cessation of hostilities, and authorized Thiers to proceed with an immediate negotiation of peace.

[Footnote 448: The best account of the beginnings of the Third Republic is that in G. Hanotaux, Histoire de la France contemporaine, 4 vols. (Paris, 1903-1909), I. There is an English translation of this important work by J. C. Tarver. A recent book of value is A. Bertrand, Les origines de la troisieme republique, 1871-1876 (Paris, 1911). Mention may be made also of E. Zevort, Histoire de la troisieme republique, 4 vols. (Paris, 1896-1901), I.; C. Duret, Histoire de France de 1870 a 1873 (Paris, 1901); A. Callet, Les origines de la troisieme republique (Paris, 1889); F. Littre, L'etablissement de la troisieme republique (Paris, 1880); L. E. Benoit, Histoire de quinze ans, 1870-1885 (Paris, 1886); F. T. Marzials, Leon Gambetta (London, 1890); and P. B. Ghensi, Gambetta: Life and Letters (New York, 1910). There is an interesting interpretation in Fisher, Republican Tradition in Europe, Chap. 11.]

[Footnote 449: Duguit et Monnier, Les Constitutions, cxvi.]

[Footnote 450: Most of the disqualifications for voting which were enumerated in the law of 1849 were declared inapplicable in the present election.]

*326. The Problem of a Permanent Government.*—Pending a diplomatic adjustment, the Assembly was disposed to defer the establishment of a permanent governmental system. But the problem could not long be kept in the background. There were several possible solutions. A party of Legitimists, i.e., adherents of the old Bourbon monarchy, was resolved upon the establishment of a kingdom under the Count of Chambord, grandson of the Charles X. who had been deposed at the revolution of 1830. Similarly, a party of Orleanists was insistent upon a restoration of the house of Orleans, overthrown in 1848, in the person of the Count of Paris, a grandson of the citizen-king Louis Philippe. A smaller group of those who, despite the discredit which the house of Bonaparte had suffered in the war, remained loyal to the Napoleonic tradition, was committed to a revival of the prostrate empire of the captive Napoleon III. Finally, in Paris and some portions of the outlying country there was uncompromising demand for the definite establishment of a republic.[451] In the Assembly the monarchists outnumbered the republicans five to two, and, although the members had been chosen primarily for their opinions relative to peace rather than to constitutional forms, the proportion throughout the nation was probably about the same. The republican outlook, however, was vastly improved by the fact that the monarchists, having nothing in common save opposition to republicanism, were hopelessly disagreed among themselves.[452]

[Footnote 451: G. Weill, Histoire du parti republicain en France de 1814 a 1870 (Paris, 1900).]

[Footnote 452: Of pure Legitimists there were in the Assembly about 150; of Bonapartists, not over 30; of Republicans, about 250. The remaining members were Orleanists or men of indecisive inclination. At no time was the full membership of the Assembly in attendance.]

*327. The Rivet Law, 1871.*—As, from the drift of its proceedings, the royalist character of the Assembly began to stand out in unmistakable relief, there arose from republican quarters vigorous opposition to the prolonged existence of the body. Even before the signing of the Peace of Frankfort, May 10, 1871, there occurred a clash between the Assembly and the radical Parisian populace, the upshot of which (p. 303) was the bloody war of the Commune of April-May, 1871.[453] The communards fought fundamentally against state centralization, whether or not involving a revival of monarchy. The fate of republicanism was not in any real measure bound up with their cause, so that after the movement had been suppressed, with startling ruthlessness, by the Government, the political future of the nation remained no less in doubt than previously it had been. Thiers continued at the post of Chief of the Executive, and the Assembly, clothed by its own assumption with powers immeasurably in excess of those it had been elected to exercise, and limited by no fixed term, gave not the slightest indication of a purpose to terminate its career. Rather, the body proceeded, August 31, 1871, to pass, by a vote of 491 to 94, the Rivet law, whereby the existing regime was to be perpetuated indefinitely.[454] By this measure unrestricted sovereignty, involving the exercise of both constituent and legislative powers, was declared by the Assembly to be vested in itself. Upon the Chief of the Executive was conferred the title of President of the French Republic; and it was stipulated that this official should thereafter be responsible to the Assembly, and presumably removable by it. A quasi-republic, with a crude parliamentary system of government, thereafter existed de facto; but it had as yet absolutely no constitutional basis.

[Footnote 453: In March the Assembly had transferred its sittings from Bordeaux to Versailles.]

[Footnote 454: Duguit et Monnier, Les Constitutions, 315-316; Anderson, Constitutions, 604-606.]

*328. Failure of the Monarchist Programmes.*—This anomalous condition of things lasted many months, during the course of which Thiers and the Assembly served the nation admirably through the promotion of its recovery from the ravages of war. More and more Thiers, who had begun as a constitutional monarchist, came to believe in republicanism as the style of government which would divide the French people least, and late in 1872 he put himself unqualifiedly among the adherents of the republican programme. Thereupon the monarchists, united for the moment in the conviction that for the good of their several causes Thiers must be deposed from his position of influence, brought about in the Assembly a majority vote in opposition to him, and so induced his resignation, May 24, 1873.[455] The opponents of republicanism now felt that the hour had come for the termination of a governmental regime which had by them been regarded all the while as purely (p. 304) provisional. The monarchist Marshal MacMahon was made President, a coalition ministry of monarchists under the Orleanist Duke of Broglie was formed, and republicanism in press and politics was put under the ban. Between the Legitimists and the Orleanists there was worked out an ingenious compromise whereby the Bourbon Count of Chambord was to be made king under the title of Henry V. and, he having no heirs, the Orleanist Count of Paris was to be recognized as his successor. The whole project was brought to naught, however, by the persistent refusal of the Count of Chambord to give up the white flag, which for centuries had been the standard of the Bourbon house. The Orleanists held out for the tricolor; and thus, on what would appear to most people a question of distinctly minor consequence, the survival of the Republic was for the time determined.[456]

[Footnote 455: Anderson, Constitutions, 622-627; A. Lefevre Pontalis, L'Assemblee nationale et M. Thiers, in Le Correspondant, Feb. 10, 1879; A. Thiers, Notes et Souvenirs de 1870 a 1873 (Paris, 1903); J. Simon, Le gouvernement de M. Thiers (Paris, 1878); E. de Marcere, L'Assemblee nationale de 1871 (Paris, 1904).]

[Footnote 456: Marquis de Castallane, Le dernier essai de restauration monarchique de 1873, in Nouvelle Revue, Nov. 1, 1895.]

In the hope that eventually they might gain sufficient strength to place their candidate on the throne without the co-operation of the Legitimists, the Orleanists joined with the Bonapartists and the republicans, November 20, 1873, in voting to fix the term of President MacMahon definitely at seven years.[457] By the Orleanists it was assumed that if within that period an opportunity should be presented for the establishment of the Count of Paris upon the throne, the President would clear the way by retiring. The opportunity, however, never came, and the septennial period for the French presidency, established thus by monarchists in their own interest, was destined to pass into the permanent mechanism of a republican state.

[Footnote 457: Duguit et Monnier, Les Constitutions, 319; Anderson, Constitutions, 630.]


*329. Circumstances of Formation.*—Meanwhile the way was opening for France to acquire what for some years she had lacked completely, i.e., a constitution. May 19, 1873, the minister Dufaure, in behalf of the Government, laid before the Assembly projets of two organic measures, both of which, in slightly amended form, passed in 1875 into the permanent constitution of the Republic. May 24 occurred the retirement of President Thiers, and likewise that of Dufaure, but in the Assembly, the two proposed measures were none the less referred to a commission of thirty. Consideration in committee was sluggish, and the Assembly itself was not readily roused to action. During the twelvemonth that followed several projets were brought forward, and there was desultory discussion, but no progress. In the summer of (p. 305) 1874 a new commission of thirty was elected and to it was intrusted the task of studying and reporting upon all of the numerous constitutional laws that had been suggested. The majority of this commission, monarchist by inclination, contented itself with proposing, in January, 1875, a law providing simply for the continuance of the existing "septennate." Only after earnest effort, and by the narrow vote of 353 to 352, were the republican forces in the Assembly able to carry an amendment, proposed by the deputy Wallon, in which was made definite provision for the election of the President of the Republic, and therefore, by reasonable inference, for the perpetuity of the Republic itself.[458]

[Footnote 458: Anderson, Constitutions, 633.]

Before the year 1875 was far advanced the Assembly threw off its lethargy and for the first time in its history addressed itself systematically to the drafting of a national constitution. To this course it was impelled by the propaganda of Gambetta and other republican leaders, by fear on the part of the Legitimists and Orleanists that the existing inchoate situation would lead to a Bonapartist revival, and by a new modus operandi which was cleverly arranged between the republicans and the Orleanists. Convinced that an Orleanist monarchy was, at least for a time, an impossibility, and preferring a republic to any alternative which had been suggested, the Orleanist members of the Assembly gave their support in sufficient numbers to the programme of the republicans to render it at last possible to work out for the nation a conservatively republican constitutional system.

*330. Texts and General Nature.*—Of the organic laws which comprise the constitution of France to-day five which date from 1875 are of principal importance: (1) that of February 24, on the Organization of the Senate; (2) that of February 25,—the most important of all,—on the Organization of the Public Powers; (3) that of July 16, on the Relations of the Public Powers; (4) that of August 3, on the Election of Senators; and (5) that of November 30, on the Election of Deputies. Collectively, these measures are sometimes referred to as the "constitution of 1875." Other and later constitutional enactments of considerable importance include (1) the law of July 22, 1879, relating to the seat of the Executive Power and of the two Chambers at Paris; (2) the law of December 9, 1884, amending existing organic laws on the Organization of the Senate and the Election of Senators; and (3) laws of June 16, 1885, and February 13 and July 17, 1889, respecting the Election of Deputies.[459]

[Footnote 459: The original texts of these documents are printed in Duguit et Monnier, Les Constitutions, 319-350, and Helie, Les Constitutions, 1348-1456. For English versions see Dodd, Modern Constitutions, I., 286-319; C. F. A. Currier, Constitutional and Organic Laws of France, in Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, March, 1893, supplement; and Anderson, Constitutions, 633-640. Albert Duc de Broglie, Histoire et Politique: Etude sur la constitution de 1875 (Paris, 1897); R. Saleilles, The Development of the Present Constitution of France, in Annals of Amer. Academy, July, 1895.]

Springing from the peculiar conditions which have been described, (p. 306) the handiwork of a body in which only a minority felt the slightest degree of enthusiasm for it, the constitution of the French Republic is essentially unlike any instrument of government with which the English-speaking world is familiar. It differs from the British in having been put almost wholly into written form. It differs from the American in that it consists, not of a single document, but of many, and in that it emanated, not from a great constituent assembly, charged with the specific task of formulating a governmental system, but from a law-making body which in truth had never been formally intrusted by the nation with even the powers of legislation proper, and had merely arrogated to itself those functions of constitution-framing which it chose to exercise.[460] It consists simply of organic laws, enacted chiefly by the provisional Assembly of 1871-1875, but amended and amplified to some extent by the national parliament in subsequent years. Unlike the majority of constitutions that went before it in France, it is not orderly in its arrangement or comprehensive in its contents. It is devoid of anything in the nature of a bill of rights,[461] and concerning the sovereignty of the people it has nothing to say. Even in respect to many essential aspects of governmental organization and practice it is mute. It contains no provision respecting annual budgets, and it leaves untouched the entire field of the judiciary. The instrument lays down only certain broad lines of organization; the rest it leaves to be supplied through the channels of ordinary legislation.

[Footnote 460: Among French writers upon constitutional law there has been no small amount of difference of opinion as to whether the National Assembly is to be regarded as having been entitled to the exercise of constituent powers. For a brief affirmative argument see Duguit et Monnier, Les Constitutions, cxvii. Cf. Dicey, Law of the Constitution, 121, note.]

[Footnote 461: It is to be observed, however, that many authorities agree with Professor Duguit in his contention that although the individual rights enumerated in the Declaration of Rights of 1789 are passed without mention in the constitutional laws of 1875, they are to be considered as lying at the basis of the French governmental system to-day. Any measure enacted by the national parliament in contravention of them, says Professor Duguit, would be unconstitutional. They are not mere dogmas or theories, but rather positive laws, binding upon not only the legislative chambers but upon the constituent National Assembly. Traite de droit constitutionnel (Paris, 1911), II., 13.]

*331. Amendment.*—It was the desire of all parties in 1875 that (p. 307) the constitutional laws should be easy of amendment, and indeed most men of the time expected the governmental system which was being established to undergo, sooner or later, fundamental modification. The process of amendment is stipulated in the law of February 25, 1875.[462] Amendments may be proposed by the President of the Republic or by either of the chambers of Parliament. When, by a majority of votes in each, the Senate and Chamber of Deputies declare a revision of the constitutional laws necessary, the two chambers are required to be convened in the character of a National Assembly, and amendments are adopted by absolute majority of this composite body. Contrary to earlier French practice, the exercise of constituent and of ordinary legislative powers is thus lodged in the same body of men, the only difference of procedure in the two instances arising from the temporary amalgamation of the chambers for constituent purposes. The sole limitation that has been imposed upon the revising powers of the Assembly is contained in a clause adopted in an amendment of August 14, 1884, which forbids that the republican style of government be made the subject of a proposed revision. In point of fact, amendments have been few, although some, as that of December 9, 1884, modifying the methods of electing senators and those of June 16, 1885, and February 13 and July 17, 1889, re-establishing single districts for the election of deputies and prohibiting multiple candidatures, have been of a high degree of importance.

[Footnote 462: Art. 8. Dodd, Modern Constitutions, I., 288.]

CHAPTER XVI (p. 308)



Under the French system of government functions of a purely executive nature are vested in the President of the Republic and the Ministry, assisted by a numerous and highly centralized body of administrative officials. The presidency had its origin in the unsettled period following the Prussian war when it was commonly believed that monarchy, in one form or another, would eventually be re-established. The title "President of the Republic" was created in 1871; but the office as it exists to-day hardly antedates the election of Marshal MacMahon in 1873. The character and functions of the presidency were determined in no small measure by the circumstance that by those who created the dignity it was intended merely to keep the French people accustomed to visible personal supremacy, and so to make easier the future transition to a monarchical system. Counting Thiers, the Republic has had thus far nine presidents: Adolphe Thiers, 1871-1873; Marshal MacMahon, 1873-1879; Jules Grevy, 1879-1887; F. Sadi-Carnot, 1887-1894; Casimir-Perier, June, 1894, to January, 1895; Felix Faure, 1895-1899; Emile Loubet, 1899-1906; Armand Fallieres, 1906-1913; and Raymond Poincare elected early in 1913.

*332. Election and Qualifications.*—The President is chosen for seven years by an electoral college consisting of the members of the Senate and of the Chamber of Deputies, meeting at Versailles in National Assembly. The choice is by absolute majority of the combined body. The constitutional law of July 16, 1875, stipulates that one month, at least, before the expiration of his term the President shall call together the National Assembly for the election of a successor. In default of such summons, the meeting takes place automatically on the fifteenth day before the expiration; and in the event of the death or resignation of the President the Chambers are required to assemble immediately without summons.[463] There is no vice-president, nor (p. 309) any law of succession, so that whenever the presidential office falls vacant there must be a new election; and, at whatever time and under whatever circumstance begun, the term of the newly elected President is regularly seven years. As upon the occasion of the assassination of Sadi-Carnot in 1894, a vacancy may arise wholly unexpectedly. Under even the most normal conditions, however, the election of a President in France is attended by no period of campaigning comparable with that which attends a similar event in the United States. The Assembly habitually selects a man who has long been a member, and has perhaps served as president, of one or the other of the chambers, who has had experience in committee work and, as a rule, in one or more ministerial offices, and who, above all things, is not too aggressive or domineering. An election is likely to be carried through all stages within the space of forty-eight hours. The qualifications requisite for election are extremely broad. Until 1884 any male citizen, regardless of age, affiliation, or circumstance, was eligible. In the year mentioned members of families that have reigned in France were debarred, and this remains the only formal disqualification. A President is eligible indefinitely for re-election.[464]

[Footnote 463: Art. 3. Dodd, Modern Constitutions, I., 291.]

[Footnote 464: A. Tridon, France's Way of Choosing a President, in Review of Reviews, Dec., 1912.]

*333. Privileges.*—The President is paid the sum of 1,200,000 francs a year, half as salary, half to cover travelling expenses and the outlays incumbent upon him as the official representative of the nation. He resides in the Palais de l'Elysee, where he maintains in a measure the state and ceremony that ordinarily are associated only with monarchy. His dignity is safeguarded by special and effective penalties for insult and libel. Like the President of the United States, during his term of office he is exempt from the processes of the ordinary courts; but, like his American counterpart, he may be tried by the Senate, on articles of impeachment presented by the lower legislative chamber. The President of the United States may be impeached for "treason, bribery, and other high crimes and misdemeanors"; the French President may be impeached for treason only. On the other hand, whereas the penalty that may be imposed upon the American President by the judgment of the Senate is confined to removal from office and disqualification to hold office, the French constitution fixes no limit to the penalty which may be visited upon a President convicted of treason. So far as the law is concerned, he might be condemned to death.

*334. Powers: Participation in Law-making.*—The President possesses powers which are numerous and, on paper at least, formidable. A (p. 310) first group pertains to the making of law. "The President of the Republic," says the constitutional law of February 25, 1875, "shall have the initiative of laws, concurrently with the members of the two chambers. He shall promulgate the laws when they have been voted by the two chambers; and he shall look after and secure their execution."[465] The concurrent power of initiating legislation, exercised through the Ministry, is something that is not possessed by the American President, who can do no more than suggest and recommend measures he deems desirable. The President of France, on the other hand, possesses only a suspensive veto. He may remand a measure of which he disapproves for fresh consideration by Parliament; but if it is re-enacted, by even a simple majority, it is incumbent upon him to promulgate it as law. If, however, the veto power is virtually non-existent, the President possesses an important prerogative in the right of issuing ordinances with the force of supplementary legislation. These may be not merely executive orders in matters of detail, such as are issued by the President of the United States, but sweeping injunctions deemed essential to the enforcement of the laws in general. The only limitation is that such ordinances must not contravene the constitution or any enactment of the chambers. The power is one which, rather curiously, rests upon no express constitutional provision, but simply upon custom. The right which the President possesses, with the consent of the Senate, to dissolve the Chamber of Deputies before the expiration of its term, thereby precipitating a general election, may also be made the means of exercising considerable influence upon legislative processes and achievements.

[Footnote 465: Art. 3. Dodd, Modern Constitutions, I., 286.]

*335. Powers: Executive and Judicial.*—As the head of the national administration, the President appoints to all civil and military offices connected with the central government. His appointments do not require ratification by the Senate, or by any other body. He may even create, by decree, new offices. And his power of removal from office, save in certain cases, is absolutely without restriction. Appointments and removals, however, are in practice made through the Ministry, and the President has no patronage at his immediate disposal other than that of the posts in his own household. In respect to foreign affairs the President's powers are more substantial. Like the American President, he represents his country in the sending and receiving of ambassadors, ministers, envoys, and consuls, and in the negotiation and conclusion of treaties. Treaties affecting peace, commerce, territorial possessions, finances, or the status of Frenchmen in foreign countries, require the ratification of the chambers; others call for no such action, and even a foreign alliance may be (p. 311) concluded by the Executive working independently. On the military side, the President is commander-in-chief of the armed forces of the nation, military and naval. He may not declare war without the consent of the chambers; but through the conduct of foreign affairs he may at any time, very much as may the President of the United States, create a situation by which war will be rendered inevitable. Finally, the President is vested with the powers of pardon and reprieve, although amnesty may be granted only by law.[466]

[Footnote 466: Dupriez, Les Ministres, II., 358-372; J. Nadal, Attributions du president de la republique en France et aux Etats-Unis (Toulouse, 1909). For a brief American discussion of the same subject see M. Smith, The French Presidency and the American, in Review of Reviews, Feb., 1906. Cf. A. Cohn, Why M. Fallieres is an Ideal French President, ibid., July, 1908.]


*336. Importance in the Government.*—"There is," says an English writer of the last generation, "no living functionary who occupies a more pitiable position than a French President. The old kings of France reigned and governed. The Constitutional King, according to M. Thiers, reigns, but does not govern. The President of the United States governs, but he does not reign. It has been reserved for the President of the French Republic neither to reign nor yet to govern."[467] The weakness of the French President's position arises specifically from two clauses of the constitutional law of February 25, 1875. One of them stipulates that "every act of the President of the Republic shall be countersigned by a minister." The other provides that "the ministers shall be collectively responsible to the chambers for the general policy of the government, and individually for their personal acts."[468] Under the operation of these principles the Ministry becomes the real executive. Like the sovereign of Great Britain, the President can do no wrong, because the acts that are officially his are in reality performed by the ministers, who alone (save in the case of treason) are responsible for them. Chosen by the members of Parliament, the President belongs normally to the party group which is at the time in the ascendant, and by it he is kept in tutelage. The leaders of this group are the ministers, and, in a very large measure, the President simply approves passively the policies of this body of men and signs and promulgates the measures which it carries through the chambers.

[Footnote 467: Henry Maine, Popular Government (London, 1885), 250.]

[Footnote 468: Arts. 3 and 6. Dodd, Modern Constitutions, I., 287.]

*337. Organization and Functions.*—Ministerial portfolios are created by executive decree. Their number has been somewhat variable. In (p. 312) 1875 there were nine. In 1879 there was created a tenth. Between 1881 and 1887 there were eleven. To-day there are twelve, as follows: (1) Interior; (2) Finance; (3) War; (4) Justice and Public Worship; (5) Marine; (6) Colonies; (7) Public Instruction; (8) Foreign Affairs; (9) Commerce; (10) Agriculture; (11) Public Works and Posts, Telegraphs, and Telephones; and (12) Labor. Portfolios may be not only created but rearranged by simple executive decree, though of course the necessary financial provisions are conditioned upon the approval of the chambers. The premier may occupy any one of the ministerial posts, or even two of them at one time. He is named by the President, and he, acting with the President, designates his colleagues and allots to them their respective portfolios. Usually, though not necessarily, the ministers are members of the Senate or of the Chamber of Deputies, principally the latter.[469] Whether members or not, they have a right to attend all sessions of both chambers and to take an especially privileged part in debate. Ministers receive annual salaries of 60,000 francs and reside, as a rule, in the official mansions maintained for the heads of the departments they control.

[Footnote 469: In earlier days the ministers of war and of the marine were selected not infrequently from outside Parliament, but this practice has been discontinued.]

Collectively the ministers possess two sets of functions which are essentially distinct. The one they fulfill as a "council"; the other as a "cabinet." In the capacity of a council they exercise a general supervision of the administration of the laws, to the end that there may be efficiency and unity in the affairs of state. In the event of the President's death, incapacitation, or resignation, the Council is authorized to act as head of the state until the National Assembly shall have chosen a successor. As a cabinet the ministers formulate the fundamental policies of the Government and represent it in the chambers. The Council is administrative and is expressly recognized by law; the Cabinet is political and is not so recognized. In the meetings of the Council the President of the Republic not only sits, but presides; in those of the Cabinet he rarely even appears. Aside from the President, however, the two bodies, in personnel, are identical.[470]

[Footnote 470: Dupriez, Les ministres, II., 332-357. A recent treatise of value is H. Noell, L'Administration centrale; les ministeres, leur organisation, leur role (Paris, 1911). Mention may be made of L. Rolland, Le Conseil d'Etat et les reglements d'administration publique, in Revue du Droit Public, April-June, 1911; J. Barthelemy, Les sous-secretaires d'etat, ibid.; P. Ma, L'organisation du Ministere des Colonies, in Questions Diplomatiques et Coloniales, Sept. 1, 1910.]

*338. The Parliamentary System: Multiplicity of Parties.*—On paper France has to-day a parliamentary system of government substantially like that which prevails in Great Britain. The President's (p. 313) authority is but nominal. The real executive consists of the ministers. These ministers are responsible, collectively in general matters and individually in particular ones, to the chambers, in reality to the Chamber of Deputies. When defeated on any important proposition, they resign as a body. Parliamentary government in France means, however, in practice, something very different from what it means across the Channel. The principal reason why this is so is to be found in the totally different status of political parties in the two countries. In Great Britain, while in later years small political groups have sprung up to complicate the situation, the political life of the nation is still confined very largely to the two great rival parties, which oppose to each other a fairly united front, and between which there is not likely to be anything like fusion or affiliation. In France, on the contrary, there is a multiplicity of parties and no one of them is likely ever to be in a position to dominate the Government alone. The election of 1910 sent to the Chamber of Deputies representatives of no fewer than nine distinct political groups. No ministry can be made up with any hope of its being able to command a working majority in the Chamber unless it represents in its membership a coalition of several parties. A Government so constituted, however, is almost inevitably vacillating and short-lived. It is unable to please all of the groups and interests upon which it relies; it dares displease none; it ends not infrequently by displeasing all.

*339. Frequency of Ministerial Changes.*—It is from this condition of things that there arises the remarkable frequency with which ministerial crises and ministerial changes take place in France. The ministry of M. Poincare, established in January, 1912, was the forty-fifth in the history of French parliamentarism since 1875—a period of but thirty-seven years. Between 1875 and 1900 but four years elapsed without at least one change of ministry. Since 1900 changes have been somewhat less frequent. The Waldeck-Rousseau ministry of 1899-1902—the longest-lived since 1875—endured virtually three years; the Combes ministry of 1902-1905 lasted more than two years and a half; and the Clemenceau ministry of 1906-1909 fell but little short of two years and nine months. None the less, a total of nine ministries within the space of thirteen years means an average of but one year and a half to the ministry. It is but fair to say that the ordinary "crisis" is not likely to involve a complete ministerial change. Defeated in the Chamber, or unable to make progress, the ministry as a body resigns; but, as a rule, many of the members are immediately reappointed, with perhaps a change of portfolios. A certain continuity arises also from the fact that the subordinate (p. 314) officials in the various departments enjoy a reasonable fixity of tenure. Nevertheless the most obvious feature of parliamentary government as it exists to-day in France, and in other continental countries, is its instability. Only where, as in England, there are two great parties, each possessing solidarity and sufficient strength, if returned to power, to support a homogeneous and sympathetic ministry, can the more desirable results of the parliamentary system be realized in full. There is as yet no evidence that such parties are in France in process of development.[471]

[Footnote 471: A French scholar writes: "Power cannot pass alternately, as in England and the United States, from the party on one side over to the party in opposition. This alternation, this game of see-saw between two opposing parties, which certain theorists have declared to be the indispensable condition of every parliamentary regime, does not exist, and has never existed, in France. The reason why is simple. If the party of the Right, hostile to the Republic, should come into power, the temptation would be too strong for them to maintain themselves there by establishing an autocratic government, which would put an end to the parliamentary regime, as in 1851. The electors are conscious of this tendency of the Conservatives, and will not run the risk of entrusting the Republic to them. When they are discontented with the Republicans in power, they vote for other Republicans. Thus, new Republican groups are being ceaselessly formed, while the old ones fall to pieces." C. Seignobos, The Political Parties of France, in International Monthly, Aug., 1901, 155. On the French parliamentary system see Dupriez, Les Ministres, II., 345-357, 373-461; E. Pierre, Principes du droit politique electoral et parlementaire en France (Paris, 1893).]

*340. Interpellation.*—The precariousness of the position occupied by French ministries is enhanced by the parliamentary device of interpellation. As in Great Britain, every member of the two chambers possesses the right at any time to put to an executive head a direct question concerning any affair of state which, without impropriety, may be made the subject of open discussion. A minister may not, however, be questioned without his consent, and the incident ordinarily passes without debate. In France, however, any member may direct at a minister an interpellation, designed not to obtain information, but to put the Government on the defensive and to precipitate a debate which may end in the overthrow of the ministry on some mere technicality or other matter in itself of but slight importance. The interpellation is a challenge. It is made the special order for a day fixed by the chamber, and it almost invariably results in a vote of confidence, or want of confidence, in the ministers. As employed in France, the interpellation lends itself too readily to the ends of sheer factiousness to be adjudged a valuable feature of parliamentary procedure.[472]

[Footnote 472: Dupriez, Les Ministres, II., 432-461. L. Gozzi, L'Interpellation a l'assemblee rationale (Marseilles, 1909); J. Poudra and E. Pierre, Traite pratique de droit parlementaire, 8 vols. (Versailles, 1878-1880), VII., Chap. 4.]


*341. The Bicameral System.*—With the dissolution of the States General in 1789, France definitely abandoned a parliamentary system based upon the mediaeval principle of orders or estates. Throughout upwards of a hundred years, however, the scheme of parliamentary organization which was to take the place of that which had been cast aside continued uncertain. During the Revolution ultra-democratic reformers very generally favored the maintenance of a national assembly of but a single house, and it was not until the promulgation of the constitution of 1795 that a frame of government including provision for a legislature of two houses was brought into operation. The bicameral system of 1795-1799 was succeeded by the anomalous legislative regime of Napoleon, but under the Constitutional Charter of 1814 the two-house principle was revived and continuously applied through a period of thirty-four years. The legislative organ of the Second Republic was a unicameral assembly, but an incident of the transition to the Second Empire was the revival of a Senate, and throughout the reign of Napoleon III. the legislative chambers were nominally two in number, although it was not until 1870 that the Senate as a legislative body was made co-ordinate with the Corps legislatif. On the whole, it can be affirmed that at the period when the constitution of the Third Republic was given form, the political experience of the nation had demonstrated the bicameral system to be the most natural, the safest, and the most effective. The opening stipulation of the Constitutional Law on the Organization of the Public Powers, adopted February 25, 1875, was that the law-making power of France should be exercised by a national parliament consisting of (1) a Chamber of Deputies and (2) a Senate. The one, it was determined, should rest upon a broadly democratic basis. The other was planned, as is customary with second chambers, to stand somewhat further removed from the immediate control of the voters of the country. But the two were intended to exist fundamentally to enact into law the will of the people, in whom the sovereignty of the French nation is clearly lodged. And even the most casual survey of the French governmental system as it operates to-day will impress the fact that the structure and organization of the parliamentary body have lent themselves to the usages of a democratic state in a measure even exceeding that intended by the founders of the existing order.

*342. The Senate as Originally Established.*—Having determined that the parliament should consist of two branches, the National Assembly, in 1875, faced the difficult problem of constituting an upper chamber (p. 316) that should not be a mere replica of the lower, and yet should not inject into a democratic constitutional system an incongruous element of aristocracy. The device hit upon was a chamber, seats in which should be wholly elective, yet not at the immediate disposal of the people. By the constitutional law of February 24, 1875, it was provided that the Senate should consist of three hundred members, of whom two hundred twenty-five should be elected by the departments and colonies and seventy-five by the National Assembly itself.[473] The departments of the Seine and of the Nord were authorized to elect five senators each, the others four, three, or two, as specified in the law. The senators of the departments and of the colonies were to be elected by an absolute majority and by scrutin de liste, by a college meeting at the capital of the department or colony, composed of the deputies and general councillors and of delegates elected, one by each municipal council, from among the voters of the communes. Senators chosen by the Assembly were to be elected by scrutin de liste and by an absolute majority of votes. No one should be chosen who had not attained the age of forty years, and who was not in enjoyment of full civil and political rights. The seventy-five elected by the Assembly were to retain their seats for life, vacancies that should arise being filled by the Senate itself. All other members were to be elected for nine years, being renewed by thirds every three years.

[Footnote 473: Dodd, Modern Constitutions, I., 288.]

*343. The Senate: Composition and Election To-day.*—The system thus devised continues, in the main, in effect at the present day. The principal variations from it are those introduced in a constitutional law of December 9, 1884, whereby it was provided (1) that the co-optative method of election should be abolished, and that, while present life members should retain their seats as long as they should live, all vacancies thereafter arising from the decease of such members should be filled within the departments in the regular manner, and (2) that the electoral college of the department should be broadened to include not merely one delegate from each municipal council, but from one to twenty-four (thirty in the case of Paris), according to the number of members in the council.[474] By the same law members of families that have reigned in France were declared ineligible; and by act of July 20, 1895, no one may become a member of either branch of Parliament unless he has complied with the law regarding military service.

[Footnote 474: Ibid., I., 310.]

Few of the life members survive to-day. When they shall have disappeared, the French Senate will comprise a compact body of three hundred men apportioned among the departments in approximate (p. 317) accordance with population and chosen in all cases by bodies of electors all of whom have themselves been elected directly by the people. The present apportionment gives to the department of the Seine ten members; to that of the Nord, eight; to others, five four, three, and two apiece, down to the territory of Belfort and the three departments of Algeria, and the colonies of Martinique, Guadeloupe, Reunion, and the French West Indies, which return one each. From having long been viewed by republicans with suspicion, the Senate has come to be regarded by Frenchmen generally as perhaps the most perfect work of the Republic.[475] In these days its membership is recruited very largely from the Deputies, so that it includes not only many men of distinction in letters and science but an unusual proportion of experienced debaters and parliamentarians. A leading American authority has said that it is "composed of as impressive a body of men as can be found in any legislative chamber the world over."[476] The sittings of the Senate, since 1879, have been held in the Palais du Luxembourg, a splendid structure on the left bank of the Seine dating from the early seventeenth century.[477]

[Footnote 475: J. C. Bracq, France under the Republic (New York, 1910), 8.]

[Footnote 476: Lowell, Governments and Parties, I., 22. But compare the view set forth in J. S. C. Bodley, France, 2 vols. (London, 1898), I., 46-60.]

[Footnote 477: O. Pyfferoen, Du senat en France et dans les Pays-Bas (Brussels, 1892).]

*344. The Chamber of Deputies: Composition.*—The 597 members of the lower legislative branch are chosen directly by the people, under conditions regulated by a series of electoral measures, principally the organic law of November 30, 1875.[478] The franchise is extended to all male inhabitants who have attained the age of twenty-one, and who are not convicts, bankrupts, under guardianship, or in active military or naval service. Of educational or property qualifications there are none. The only requirements are that the voter shall have his name inscribed on the electoral lists and shall be able to prove a residence of six months in the commune in which he proposes to cast his ballot. The conditions of the franchise are prescribed by the state; but the keeping and the annual revision of the electoral lists devolves upon the commune, and the lists are identical for communal, district, departmental, and national elections. The French registration system is notably effective and, as compared with the British, inexpensive.

[Footnote 478: Dodd, Modern Constitutions, I., 302-308.]

*345. Electoral Unit and Parliamentary Candidacies.*—The electoral area in France is the arrondissement, an administrative subdivision of (p. 318) the department. Each arrondissement returns one deputy, unless its population exceeds 100,000, in which case it is divided into single-member constituencies, one for each 100,000 or remaining fraction thereof. A fresh apportionment is made after each quinquennial census, when to each of the eighty-six departments is allotted a quota of representatives proportioned to population. The present method of election, under which the individual elector votes within his arrondissement or district for one deputy only, is known as the scrutin d'arrondissement. Established in 1876, the scrutin d'arrondissement was employed until 1885, when, at the behest of Gambetta, a change was made to a system under which deputies for an entire department were voted for on a general ticket, as, for example, presidential electors are voted for in an American state. This system—the so-called scrutin de liste—was maintained in operation only until 1889, when the scrutin d'arrondissement was re-established.[479]

[Footnote 479: Laws of June 16, 1885, and February 13, 1889; Dodd, Modern Constitutions, I., 316-318.]

The full membership of the Chamber is elected simultaneously, for a four-year term, save in the event that the Chamber shall be sooner dissolved. No nomination, or similar formality, is required of the candidate. To be eligible, however, he must be a qualified voter and as much as twenty-five years of age. By law of November 30, 1875, state officials are forbidden to become candidates in districts where their position might enable them to influence elections, and by act of June 16, 1885, members of families who have ever reigned in France are debarred. All that is required of a person who, possessing the requisite legal qualifications, wishes to be a candidate is that five days before the election he shall deposit with the prefect of the department within which the polling is to take place a declaration, witnessed by a mayor, of the name of the constituency in which he proposes to seek election. Even this trifling formality was introduced only by the Multiple Candidature Act of 1889, by which it is stipulated that no person shall be a candidate in more than one district. The French electorate is proverbially indifferent concerning the exercise of the suffrage, but the methods of campaigning which have become familiar in other countries are employed systematically, and no small measure of popular interest is occasionally aroused.[480]

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