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The Foundation of the French State

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Presentation on theme: "The Foundation of the French State"— Presentation transcript:

1 The Foundation of the French State
(The Old Regime, the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Period) Prof. Dr. Jean Marcou August 2008

2 1- “The Old Regime” & the French Monarchy
Consider what French Historians called “l’Ancien Régime”. This term means “Former Regime” and can be rendered in English as “Old Rule”, “Ancient Regime” or more simply “Old Regime” “The Old Regime” refers primarily to the aristocratic system established under the Valois (14th to 16th) and the Bourbon (16th to 18th) Dynasties from the 14th to 18th Century. In fact “the Old Regime” developed out the French Monarchy of the Middle Ages and finally was swept away centuries later by the French Revolution in 1789.

3 1-“The Old Regime” & the French Monarchy
The end of the « Old Regime » is considered as a turning point in the French History The society of the « Old Regime » consisted in 3 Estates : the Roman Catholic Clergy, the nobility and Third Estate (Tiers Etat), that’s to say the rest of the people. In this society, social and political privileges where based on the law. “The first are praying, the second are fighting, the third are working” said an archbishop of Reims (XIth Century).

4 The Ancien Regime One of the first decision of the Revolution was to proclaim the “Declaration of human rights and citizens” (27 August 1789) which abolishes the privileges and establishes the equality of rights. Since this date, all the French regimes (monarchies, republics, empires) have never call into question the equality before the law (except the Vichy regime ). So the end of the “Old Regime” is a major date for the Citizenship and the individual rights in France.

5 1- Tocqueville and the “Old Regime”
Despite the importance of the Revolution for the French contemporary State and Society, some authors and analysts have emphasized the interest of “Old Regime” to better understand some of the aspects of a French State. First of them : Alexis de Tocqueville ( ), political thinker, historian, today considered as an early political scientist. His 2 majors works are : “Democracy in America” (1835) and “The Old Regime and the Revolution” (1856). In both, he explored the effects of the rising equality of social conditions on the individual and the state in western societies.

6 1- Tocqueville and the “Old Regime”
The main goal of the French Revolution was the suppression of the feudal institutions to establish a new social and political order based on equality. But beside this social and political changes, Tocqueville observes a lot of permanencies, specially when he analyses the bureaucratic structures of the State. Taking several examples, he shows that many institutions of the New Order have been set up at the end of the “Old Regime” (Council of State, the “Grand Corps”, the “Prefect”…)

7 1- Tocqueville and the “Old Regime”
To assess the changing outcomes of the Revolution Tocqueville is not looking to the changes but to the permanencies. Observed that the French Revolution was essentially a movement for reform to increase the power and the jurisdiction of Central Authorities. For Tocqueville, Centralization (creation of departments, uniformity of the administrative institutions on the territory, prefects…) which is traditionally considered as one of the main Revolution outcomes, has been in fact prepared by the reforms and evolutions of the “Old Regime” and more generally by a reinforcement of the State institutions within the period of the “absolute monarchy” (17th- 18th centuries: BUREAUCRACY)

8 1- Tocqueville and the “Old Regime”
In the wake of his other master piece (Democracy in America – ) and taking into account the importance of centralization Tocqueville sees France as the opposite of the US. In France, people relied on the central power better than becoming active themselves. In the US, political action was based on the grassroots level.

9 Tocqueville and the Old Regime
A French paradox which permits to understand the crucial place of the State in the French Political History: despite the importance of political changes (human rights, citizenship, accountability…) provoked by the Revolution the French modern State building came before, during, and after the “Old Regime”

10 2- The French Revolution
The French Revolution ( ) is a major period of upheaval in the French contemporary history during which the « Old Regime » (absolute monarchy based on the survival of feudal privileges) was swept away to permit the rising of a modern state and of a new society based on Enlightenments principles of inalienable rights, citizenship and nationalism. The red Phrygian Cap (Symbol for Liberty in France) 3 Colors Type of cap dating back to ancient Greece,

11 2- The French Revolution: Main Causes:
Authoritarianism of absolutism (lack of liberties and rights, wars of Louis XV…) which is more pronounced in France than iin neighbouring States and the rise of the Enlightenments. The poor situation of the finances due to enormous expenditures (wars, wasting, luxury of the expenses…) and to the ineffectiveness of the financial system to manage the debt. The incapacity of the nobility to shift to a condition comparable to the English gentry’s one and to merge with the bourgeoisie. Widespread and frequent famines, poor situation of the populace which was not the poorest in Europe but became to feel injustice.

12 2- The French Revolution
The decade of the French Revolution consists in different periods which can be summarized as follows: 1- The first events and the failure of a Constitutional Monarchy ( ) 2- The National Convention Period and Jacobin period ( ) 3- The Directory and the end of the Revolution ( )

13 2-The French Revolution
The failure of a Constitutional Monarchy ( ): The convening of the Estates- general, (May 1789) The National Assembly and the Tennis Court Oath (Serment du Jeu de Paume) (June 1789), The Storming and destruction of the Bastille (14 July 1789) The Constituent Assembly (9 July ) and the Constitution of 1791 The Legislative Assembly ( ) and the establishment of a constitutional Monarchy

14 2- The French Revolution
2- The National Convention Period and Jacobin period ( ): War against the Coalition, storming of the King’s Palace of Tuileries and the proclamation of the Republic and the establishment of a regime of Assembly (1792) Beginning of conflicts of fractions and tendencies (The Jacobins verses the Girondists the execution of the King (1793) the Constitution of 1793 (inspired by the Declaration of 1789, popular sovereignty, economic and social rights, right to public education, the Reign of Terror ( ): elimination of Radicals (Hebert) and moderates (Danton), masses execution, dictatorship of the Public Safety Committee (Robespierre, Saint-Just and Couthon) the “Thermidorian” reaction ( ).

15 2- The French Revolution
The Directory and the end of the Revolution ( ): the failure of a regime of strict separation of powers, the coup of 18 Brumaire (1799) and the end of the revolution. A very complicated regime (Constitution of Year III or 1795): first bicameral legislature (Council of 500 and Council of Elders) and executive power given to 5 Directors (proposed by the Council of 500 and appointed by the Council of Elders) Regime of permanent political conflicts, corruption and threats of coup (from Royalists and Jacobins) As France was involved in wars at the same time and as the army became very important to prevent coups and maintain order, the military gained much power. Coming back from Egypt Napoleon staged the famous coup of 18 Brumaire on year VIII (9 November 1799)

16 2-The French Revolution
The French Revolution didn’t establish the democracy the failure of the popular sovereignty Napoleonic plebiscites and the success of the authoritarianism National sovereignty (Siéyès – “What is the Third Estate ?”) and suffrage “censitaire” (after the first events the main problem for the leaders was to check the mob) The French revolution failed in establishing a new constitutional regime Failure of a constitutional monarchy ( ) Difficulty to find a new kind of executive (Committee of Public Safety, Directors, Consuls…) End of the First republic and of the representative regime

17 2- The French Revolution
The French Revolution was successful in establishing the Nation-State: The territory became indivisible, inalienable The new administrative map and the creation of the departments were substantial reforms which survive until now. The French Revolution was successful in establishing the citizenship and individual rights: Despite the monarchy restoration the privileges and the Estates of the Old Regime were never restored. The equality of rights before the law was maintained by all the regimes which took place in the French History until now (except by the Vichy Period) And today the Declaration of 1789 is still a part of the present French constitution and one of the basis of the French Constitutional Court (Constitution Council) decisions.

18 2- The French Revolution
The French Revolution was successful in launching a movement of secularisation of the State and Society: - Confiscation of the Church lands and abolition of the church authority to levy taxes (dîme). - The civil constitution of the Clergy (12 July 1790) which make the Catholic Church in France a department of the state, and clergy state employees and required that they take an oath of loyalty to the constitution. - But the revolutionary calendar was abolished in ( ).

19 3-The Napoleonic period
Mainly known as a general and a military strategist, Napoleon is in fact the founding father of the French modern State. Despite his title of Emperor, Napoleon career as a soldier and then as a politician was boosted by the Revolution. He has been first a republican and a “jacobin”. That’s why, he continued and ended the reforms of the Revolution and could be considered probably as the first Modern State French man.

20 The Napoleonic Period Napoleon period could be summarised as follows:
: First consulate (Constitution of Year VIII- 3 consuls) : Second Consulate (Napoleon first consul for life) : The First Empire (End of the First Republic - Napoleon I Emperor) : Napoleon first abdication – Exile to Elba Island 1815 (March)-1815 (June): The Hundred Days –Napoleon second abdication – Exile to Saint-Helena Island

21 3- The Napoleonic period
Main reforms of Napoleon concerning the modernization of the French State, the status of the religions, the culture : Establishment of the Civil Code (1804) Creation of the Prefects (1800) and improvement of the territorial reforms of the Revolution by an increase of the centralization Creation of the Council of State (1799) Establishment of the Concordat (1801) Development of the military and civil medals, specially the “Légion d’Honneur” (1804). Development of the « Grandes Ecoles » (high schools) to train the high civil servants, specially l’Ecole polytechnique (X)

22 3- The Napoleonic period
Establishment of the Civil Code (1804) « My true glory is not to have won 40 battles, Waterloo will erase the memory of so many victories but what will live forever is my Civil Code.” (Napoleon on Saint-Helena) That is true because the Civil Code is still the basis of the Law in France and in a lot in countries in Europe (Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Turkey…) The Civil Code is in fact a reform coming from the Revolution. It spurred the development of the bourgeoisie expanding the right to own property and breaking in fact the feudalism. The Civil Code set up the rules of the private and social life of the citizen created by the Revolution (property, contract, civil and family life).

23 3-The Napoleonic period
As a lot of Napoleonic reforms (prefects, Council of State…) the reform of the Civil Code was exported (or imported) by many countries and remained in force after Napoleon’s defeat. Creation of the Council of State (1799) A very significant reform which makes understand how Napoleon took major state’s evolutions down by the Old regime and modernized them in the context of the post-revolutionary times. Tocqueville uses this example to show the continuity between the reforms at the end of the Old regime and the reforms done by the Revolution.

24 Napoleonic Period The Council of State is the former Council of the King of the Old Regime. It is a very special and ambiguous institution which aims both to protect the privileges of the State and the rights of the citizen. The State can’t go to trial and be judged as a citizen, that why it has it’s own jurisdiction but at the same time the citizen has also to be protected to accept the domination of the State as fair. At the same time, the Council of State is not only a judge but the first technical counsellor of the government.

25 Napoleonic Period With this example, we have the clear demonstration of how France mixes a strong State authority and Citizen rights. The result of this mixture is the Administrative Law. England and the US made the opposite refusing to create a special judge and a special law to manage the relations between the State and the citizens. This main legacy of the Napoleonic period was imported in Turkey by the Ottoman Empire, during the Tanzimat Period (1868), but this system was imitated in a lot of countries through the world : Belgium, The Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Greece, Egypt…

26 3- The Napoleonic Period
After the end of this period, the main basis of the State set up by Napoleon remained in force Despite the restoration of the Monarchy ( ), despite the establishment of the Republic (definitively since 1870), despite of course a lot of modernization reforms, Napoleon’s State is in a sense still leaving in France.

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