Napoleonic Legal Code

Napo­le­on later con­si­de­red the Civil Code to be the most important of his achie­ve­ments. The Code repres­ents a com­pre­hen­si­ve reform and codi­fi­ca­ti­on of French civil law. Under the Anci­en Régime, the­re were more than 400 codes of law in various parts of Fran­ce, with com­mon law pre­vai­ling in the north and Roman law in the south. The revo­lu­ti­on over­threw many of the­se laws. In addi­ti­on, revo­lu­tio­na­ry governments had pas­sed more than 14,000 laws. Five attempts were made to codi­fy the new laws of the Fran­ce at the time of the Natio­nal Con­ven­ti­on and the Direc­to­ry. In the second half of 1801, Napoleon‘s efforts led to the draf­ting of the new Civil Code in a com­mis­si­on of experts in which Jean-Eti­en­ne-Marie Por­ta­lis play­ed a lea­ding role. Napo­le­on per­so­nal­ly atten­ded 36 of the Commission‘s 87 mee­tings. Alt­hough the design was com­ple­ted by the end of 1801, the code was not publis­hed until March 21, 1804. The Civil Code repres­ents a typi­cal­ly Napo­leo­nic blend of libe­ra­lism and con­ser­va­tism, alt­hough most of the fun­da­men­tal revo­lu­tio­na­ry achievements—equality befo­re the law, reli­gious liber­ty, and the aboli­ti­on of feudalism—have been con­so­li­da­ted in its laws. Pro­per­ty rights, inclu­ding the rights of purcha­sers of natio­nal assets, have beco­me abso­lu­te. The code also streng­t­he­ned patri­ar­chal power by making the hus­band the head of the fami­ly. The Napo­leo­nic Code was to be pro­mul­ga­ted throughout the empi­re with modifications.

The Civil Code was fol­lo­wed by a Code of Civil Pro­ce­du­re in 1806, a Com­mer­cial Code in 1807, a Cri­mi­nal Code and a Code of Cri­mi­nal Pro­ce­du­re in 1808 and a Cri­mi­nal Code in 1810. A rural law was dis­cus­sed, but never pro­mul­ga­ted. The Napo­leo­nic Code, ren­a­med the Civil Code, remai­ned lar­ge­ly inta­ct after the Bour­bon Res­to­ra­ti­on in 1815. The Civil Code has ser­ved as a model for the legal sys­tems of more than twen­ty nati­ons around the world. The pre-Napo­leo­nic French legal sys­tem lacked har­mo­ny. The word “sys­tem” can­not even be used to descri­be this web of laws becau­se the­re was no sys­te­ma­tic struc­tu­re that ruled the Fran­ce. Dif­fe­rent pro­vin­ces in Fran­ce were gover­ned by dif­fe­rent laws. The sou­thern pro­vin­ces of Fran­ce were gover­ned by Roman law, while the nort­hern pro­vin­ces of Fran­ce were gover­ned by cus­to­ma­ry law.

The Civil Code retai­ned the revo­lu­tio­na­ry law accord­ing to which a civil aut­ho­ri­ty must solem­ni­ze mar­ria­ges. (He did not reco­gni­ze reli­gious mar­ria­ges as legal.) Many other fami­ly laws were based on tra­di­tio­nal and even anci­ent Roman law. The father direc­ted his child­ren. A father can veto his son‘s mar­ria­ge until the age of 26 and his daughter‘s mar­ria­ge up to the age of 21. Fathers even had the right to lock up their child­ren at will. The deve­lo­p­ment of the Napo­leo­nic Code was a fun­da­men­tal chan­ge in the natu­re of the civil legal sys­tem, making laws clea­rer and more acces­si­ble. It also repla­ced the ear­lier con­flict bet­ween the roy­al legis­la­tu­re and, par­ti­cu­lar­ly in the last years befo­re the Revo­lu­ti­on, the pro­tests of the jud­ges repre­sen­ting the views and pri­vi­le­ges of the social clas­ses to which they belon­ged. Such a con­flict led revo­lu­tio­na­ries to have a nega­ti­ve atti­tu­de towards the jud­ges who made the laws. Alt­hough the Code Napo­lé­on is not the first civil code and does not repre­sent his ent­i­re empi­re, it is one of the most influ­en­ti­al. It was adop­ted in many coun­tries occu­p­ied by the French during the Napo­leo­nic Wars.

In the regi­ons of the Wes­tern Rhi­ne (Rhe­nish Pala­ti­na­te and Prus­si­an Rhi­ne Pro­vin­ce), the for­mer Duchy of Berg and the Grand Duchy of Baden, the Napo­leo­nic Code had an influ­ence until the intro­duc­tion of the Civil Code in 1900 as the first com­mon civil code for the ent­i­re Ger­man Empi­re. [21] Thus, the civil law sys­tems of the coun­tries of modern con­ti­nen­tal Euro­pe, with the excep­ti­on of Rus­sia and the Scan­di­na­vi­an coun­tries, were influ­en­ced to vary­ing degrees by the Napo­leo­nic Code. In the United Sta­tes, who­se legal sys­tem is lar­ge­ly based on Eng­lish com­mon law, the sta­te of Loui­sia­na is uni­que in that it has a strong influ­ence of the Napo­leo­nic Code and Spa­nish legal tra­di­ti­ons on its civil code. 3. What are the important dif­fe­ren­ces bet­ween the code and com­mon law sys­tems? The draft arti­cle of the Code con­tains important pro­vi­si­ons on the rule of law. Laws can only be enfor­ced if they have been duly pro­mul­ga­ted, and only if they have been offi­cial­ly publis­hed (inclu­ding pro­vi­si­ons on time limits for publi­ca­ti­on taking into account the means of com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on avail­ab­le at that time). Thus, no secret laws have been appro­ved. It pro­hi­bi­ted retro­spec­ti­ve laws (i.e., laws that app­ly to events that occur­red befo­re they were intro­du­ced). The law also pro­hi­bi­ted jud­ges from deny­ing jus­ti­ce becau­se the law was ina­de­qua­te, ther­eby encou­ra­ging them to inter­pret the law. On the other hand, it pro­hi­bi­ted jud­ges from making gene­ral judgments with legis­la­ti­ve value (see abo­ve). [8] At the time of Napo­le­on, the­re was con­fu­si­on in Fran­ce bet­ween cus­to­ma­ry, feu­dal, roy­al, revo­lu­tio­na­ry, eccle­si­asti­cal and Roman laws.

Dif­fe­rent legal sys­tems con­trol­led dif­fe­rent parts of the coun­try. The French wri­ter Vol­taire once com­p­lai­ned that a man who tra­v­eled across the Fran­ce had to chan­ge the laws as often as he chan­ged hor­ses. 2) The term “Code Napo­lé­on” is also used to refer to the juris­dic­tions of other juris­dic­tions influ­en­ced by the French Code Napo­lé­on, in par­ti­cu­lar the Civil Code of Lower Cana­da (repla­ced by the Civil Code of Que­bec in 1994), which is main­ly deri­ved from the Cou­tume de Paris, which the Bri­tish con­ti­nued to use in Cana­da after the Trea­ty of Paris of 1763. Most of the laws of Latin Ame­ri­can coun­tries are also influ­en­ced by the Napo­leo­nic Code, for examp­le: the Chi­lean Civil Code and the Puer­to Rican Civil Code. [23] Deter­mi­ned to unite the Fran­ce into a strong modern nati­on, Napo­le­on lob­bied for a sin­gle set of writ­ten laws that app­lied to all. He appoin­ted a com­mis­si­on to pre­pa­re a code. Napo­le­on wan­ted this code to be clear, logi­cal and easy to under­stand for all citi­zens. The com­mis­si­on, com­po­sed of Napo­le­on and legal experts from all regi­ons of Fran­ce, met for several years. The French Civil Code, which came into for­ce on March 21, 1804, mar­ked the first major revi­si­on and reor­ga­niz­a­ti­on of laws sin­ce Roman times. The Civil Code (ren­a­med the Napo­leo­nic Code in 1807) deals main­ly with pro­per­ty and fami­ly issu­es. But the­se are­as of law have great­ly influ­en­ced people‘s lives. The French codes, which now num­ber more than 60,[15] are fre­quent­ly modi­fied and rein­ter­pre­ted by the courts.

The­re­fo­re, for more than a cen­tu­ry, all app­li­ca­ble codes have been docu­men­ted in the annu­al­ly revi­sed edi­ti­ons of Dal­loz (Paris). [16] The­se edi­ti­ons con­sist of detail­ed notes with refe­ren­ces to other codes, rele­vant laws, judi­cial decisi­ons (even if not publis­hed) and inter­na­tio­nal instru­ments. The “small” ver­si­on of the Civil Code com­pri­ses near­ly 3,000 pages in this form, which are avail­ab­le in print and online.