French Constitution of 1848

Constitution of the French Republic  (1848) 
French National Assembly

Adopted by the French National Assembly on 4 November 1848, following the French Revolution of 1848, which overthrew the July Monarchy. Ceased de facto operation with the coup d'état of 2 December 1851 by President Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte. Officially repealed on 14 January 1852, with the enactment of the French Constitution of 1852.

In presence of god, and in the name of the French people, the National Assembly proclaims:

I. France has constituted herself a republic. In adopting that definitive form of gouvernment, her proposed aim is to advance with greater freedom in the path of civilization and progress, to ensure that the burdens and advantages of society shall be more and more equitably apportioned, to augment the comfort of every individual by the gradual reduction of the public expenses and taxes, and by the successive and constant action of her institutions and laws cause the whole body of citizens to attain, without further commotion, a constantly increasing degree of morality, intelligence and prosperity.

II. The French republic is democratic, one and indivisible.

III. It recognizes rights and duties anterior and superior to all positive laws.

IV. Its principles are liberty, equality, fraternity. Its basis is family, labor, property, and public order.

V. It respects the nationality of foreign states, as it causes its own to be respected. It undertakes no wars with a view of conquest, and never employs its power against the liberty of any people.

VI. Reciprocal duties bind the citizens to the republic and the republic to the citizens.

VII. It is the duty of the citizens to love their country, serve the republic, and defend it at the hazard of their lives, to participate in the expenses of the State, in proportion to their property; to secure to themselves, by their labor, the means of existence, and by prudent forethought provide resources for the future, to cooperate for the common welfare by fraternally aiding each other, and in the preservation of general order by observing the moral and written laws which regulate society, families and individuals.

VIII. It is the duty of the republic to protect the citizen in his person, his family, his religion, his prosperity, and his labor, and to bring within the reach of all that education which is necessary to every man; it is also its duty, by fraternal assistance, to provide the means of existence to necessitous citizens, either by procuring employment for them, within the limits of its resources, or by giving relief to those who are unable to work and who have no relatives to help them.

For the fulfillment of all these duties, and for the guarantee of all these rights, the National Assembly, faithful to the traditions of the great Assemblies by whom the French revolution was inaugurated, decrees the constitution of the republic, as following:

Chapter I.—Of Sovereignty.

Article 1.

The sovereignty exists in the whole body of French citizens. It is inalienable and imprescriptible. No individual, no fraction of the people can arrogate to themselves its exercise.

Chapter II.—Rights of Citizens guaranteed by the Constitution.

Art. 2.

No person can be arrested or detained, except as prescribed by law.

Art. 3.

The dwelling of every person inhabiting the French territory is inviolable, and cannot be entered except according to the forms and in the cases provided against by law.

Art. 4.

No one shall be removed from his rightful judges—no commissions or extraordinary tribunals can be created under any pretext, or by any denomination whatsoever.

Art. 5.

The penalty of death for political offences is abolished.

Art. 6.

Slavery cannot exist upon any French territory.

Art. 7.

Every one may freely profess his own religion and shall receive from the State equal protection in the exercise of his worship. The ministers of the religions at present recognized by law, as well as those which may be hereafter recognized, have the right to receive an allowance from the State.

Art. 8.

Citizens have the right of associating together and assembling peaceably and unarmed, in order to petition or manifest their ideas by means of the press or otherwise. The exercise of these rights can only be limited by the rights or the liberty of others, or for the public security. The press cannot in any case be subjected to censorship.

Art. 9.

Education is free. The liberty of teaching is to be exercised according to the capacity and morality determined by conditions of the laws, and under the supervision of the State. This superintendence is to be extended to all establishments of education and instruction, without any exception.

Art. 10.

All citizens are equally admissible to all public employments, without other reason of preference than merit, and according to the conditions to be determined by law. All titles of nobility, all distinctions of birth, class or caste are abolished forever.

Art. 11.

All descriptions of property are inviolable; nevertheless, the State may demand the sacrifice of property for reasons of public utility, legally proved, and in consideration of a just and previous indemnity.

Art. 12.

The confiscation of property can never be reestablished.

Art. 13.

The Constitution guarantees to citizens the freedom of labor and of industry. Society favors and encourages the developement of labor by gratuitous primary instruction, by professional education, by the equality of rights between the employer and the workman, by institutions for the deposit of savings and those of credit, by agricultural institutions; by voluntary associations, and the establishment by the State, the departments and the communes, of public works proper for the employment of unoccupied laborers. Society also will give aid to deserted children, to the sick, and to the destitute aged who are without relatives to support them.

Art. 14.

The public debt is guaranteed. Every species of engagement made by the State with its creditors is inviolable.

Art. 15.

All taxes are imposed for the common good. Every one is to contribute in proportion to his means and fortune.

Art. 16.

No tax can be levied or collected except by virtue of the law.

Art. 17.

Direct taxation is only awarded for one year. Indirect taxes may be awarded for several years.

Chapter III.—Of Public Power.

Art. 18.

All public powers, whatever they may be, emanate from the people. They cannot be delegated by hereditary descent.

Art. 19.

The separation of powers is the first principle of a free government.

Chapter IV.—Of the Legislative Power.

Art. 20.

The French people delegate the legislative power to one sole assembly.

Art. 21.

The total number of representatives of the people shall be 750, including the representatives from Algeria and the French colonies.

Art. 22.

This number shall be increased to 900 for assemblies called together to revise the constitution.

Art. 23.

Population is the basis for election.

Art. 24.

Suffrage is direct and universal. The act of voting is by secret ballot.

Art. 25.

All Frenchmen aged 21, and in the enjoyment of their civil and political rights, are electors, without property qualifications of any kind.

Art. 26.

All electors are eligible to be elected without reference to property qualifications or to place of abode, who are 25 years of age.

Art. 27.

The electoral law will determine the causes which may deprive a French citizen of the right of electing or being elected. It will designate those citizens who, exercising or after having exercised official functions in a department or territory, cannot be elected there.

Art. 28.

The holding of any remunerating public office is incompatible with the trust of a representative of the people. No member of the National Assembly can be nominated or raised to public offices, receiving salary, the appointment to which is in the gift of the Executive, during the continuance of the Legislature. Exceptions to the regulations contained in the two preceding paragraphs are to be settled by the organic electoral law.

Art. 29.

The conditions of the preceding article are not applicable to assemblies elected for the revision of the Constitution.

Art. 30.

The elections for representatives shall be by departments, and by ballot. The electors shall vote at the chief place of their district; nevertheless the district may be, from local causes, divided into several subdivisions, under the forms and in conformity with the conditions to be determined by the electoral law.

Art. 31.

The National Assembly is elected for the period of three years, to be then wholly renewed. Forty-five days, at least, before the term of the Legislature, a law shall be passed to fix the period of the new elections. If no law is passed within the time prescribed by the preceding paragraph, the electors shall have full right to assemble and vote on the thirtieth day preceding the close of the Legislature. The new Assembly is convoked by full right for the day following that on which the trust of the preceding Assembly expires.

Art. 32.

The Assembly is permanent; nevertheless it may adjourn to any period which it shall determine. During the continuance of the prorogation, a commission, composed of members of committees, and twenty-five representatives appointed by the Assembly, by ballot, having an absolute majority, will have the right to convoke the Assembly, in cases of emergency. The President of the Republic has also the right to convoke the Assembly. The National Assembly will determine the place where it shall hold its sessions, and will direct the number and description of the military forces which shall be appointed for its security, and have them at its order.

Art. 33.

Representatives are always eligible to be re-elected.

Art. 34.

The members of the National Assembly are the representatives, not of the department which nominates them, but of the whole of France.

Art. 35.

They cannot receive imperative instructions.

Art. 36.

The persons of the representatives of the people are inviolable. They cannot be pursued, accused, nor condemned, at any time, for opinions uttered within the Assembly.

Art. 37.

They cannot be arrested for criminal offences, excepting when taken in the very fact, nor prosecuted, until after permission granted for such purpose by the Assembly. In case of an arrest in the very fact, the matter shall immediately be referred to the Assembly, which shall authorise or refuse the continuation of the prosecution. The above regulation to apply also to the case of citizens imprisoned at the time of being named representatives.

Art. 38.

Every representative of the people is to receive a remuneration, which he is not at liberty to renounce.

Art. 39.

The sittings of the Assembly are to be public. Nevertheless, the Assembly may form itself into a secret committee, on the requisition of a number of representatives, as settled by the rules. Each representative has the right of initiating parliamentary measures, which he will do according to the forms determined by the regulations.

Art. 40.

The presence of half the members, and also one over, is necessary to vote on any law.

Art. 41.

No bill (except in cases of urgency) shall be passed till after it has undergone three readings, at intervals of not less than five days between each reading.

Art. 42.

Every proposition, the object of which is to declare the urgency of a measure, must be preceded by an explanation of motives. If the Assembly is of opinion to accede to the proposition, it will fix the time when the report upon the necessity of the case shall be represented. On this report, if the Assembly admit the urgency of the case, it will declare it and fix the time of the debate. If it decides against the urgency of the case, the motion will have to go through the usual course.

Chapter V.—Of the Executive Power.

Art. 43.

The French people delegate the executive power to a citizen, who shall receive the title of President of the Republic.

Art. 44.

The President must be born a Frenchman, thirty years of age at least, and must never have lost the quality of Frenchman.

Art. 45.

The President of the Republic shall be elected for four years, and shall not be eligible for re-election until after an interval of four years. Neither shall the Vice-President, nor any of his relations or kindred of the President, to the sixth degree inclusive, be eligible for re-election after him, within the same interval of time.

Art. 46.

The election shall take place on the second Sunday in the month of May. If, in the event of death or resignation, or from any other cause, a President be elected at any other period, his power shall expire on the second Sunday of the month of May, in the fourth year following his election. The President shall be elected by secret ballot, and by an absolute majority of votes, by the direct suffrage of all the electors of the French departments and of Algeria.

Art. 47.

The records of the electoral operations shall be transmitted immediately to the National Assembly, which shall determine without delay upon the validity of the election, and shall proclaim the President of the Republic. If no candidate shall have obtained more than one half of the votes given, and at the least two millions of votes, or if the conditions required by Art. 44 are not fulfilled, the National Assembly shall elect the President of the Republic by an absolute majority, and by ballot, from among the five candidates eligible who shall have obtained the greatest number of votes.

Art. 48.

Before entering upon his functions, the President of the Republic shall, in the presence of the Assembly, take an oath of the tenor following:—“In presence of God, and before the French people, represented by the National Assembly, I swear to remain faithful to the democratic Republic, one and indisvisible, and to fulfil all the duties which the Constitution imposes upon me.”

Art. 49.

He shall have the right of presenting bills through the Ministers in the National Assembly. He shall watch over and secure the execution of the laws.

Art. 50.

He shall have the disposal of the armed force, without ever being allowed to command it in person.

Art. 51.

He cannot cede any portion of the territory, nor dissolve or prorogue the National Assembly, nor suspend the operation of the Constitution and the laws.

Art. 52.

He shall annually present by a message to the National Assembly an exposition of the general state of the affairs of the Republic.

Art. 53.

He shall negotiate and ratify treaties. No treaty shall be definitive until after it has been approved by the National Assembly.

Art. 54.

He shall watch over the defence of the State, but he shall not undertake any war without the consent of the National Assembly.

Art. 55.

He shall possess the right of pardon, but he shall not have the power to exercise this right until after he has taken the advice of the Council of State. Amnesties shall only be granted by an express law. The President of the Republic, the Ministers, as well as all other persons condemned by the High Court of Justice, can only be pardoned by the National Assembly.

Art. 56.

The President of the Republic shall promulgate the laws in the name of the French people.

Art. 57.

Laws of emergency shall be promulgated three days after and other laws one month after their passing counting from the day on which they were passed by the National Assembly.

Art. 58.

Previous to the day fixed for the promulgation, the President may, by a message assigning reasons therefore, demand a re-consideration of the law. The Assembly shall then re-consider it, its resolution becomes definitive, and shall be transmitted to the President of the Republic. In such a case the promulgation shall be made within the delay allowed to laws of emergency.

Art. 59.

In default of the promulgation of laws by the President, within the period fixed by the preceding articles, the President of the Assembly shall provide for their due promulgation.

Art. 60.

The credentials of envoys and ambassadors from foreign powers shall be addressed to the President of the Republic.

Art. 61.

He shall preside at all national solemnities.

Art. 62.

He shall be furnished with a residence at the expense of the Republic, and shall receive an allowance of six hundred thousand francs per annum.

Art. 63.

He shall reside in the place in which the National Assembly holds its sessions, and may not leave the continental territory of the Republic without being authorised by law so to do.

Art. 64.

The President of the Republic shall have power to appoint and revoke the appointment of the Ministers. He shall appoint and revoke, in a council of Ministers, the diplomatic agents, commanders-in-chief of the armies of the Republic, by sea and land, prefects and the chief commandant of the National Guards of the Seine, the Governors of Algeria and the other colonies, the Attorney General and all other functionaries of superior rank. He shall appoint and dismiss at the suggestion of the competent minister, according to the terms and conditions fixed by law, all other officers and functionaries of the governement of secondary rank.

Art. 65.

He shall have the right of suspending for a period not exceeding three months, the agents of the executive power elected by the people. He shall not be able to dismiss them unless by the advice of the council of state. The law will determine the case in which agents, having been dismissed, may be declared not to be eligible again for the same office. Such a declaration of inegibility can only be pronounced by a formal judgement.

Art. 66.

The number of ministers and their several powers, duties and emoluments shall be settled by the legislative power.

Art. 67.

The acts of the President, excepting those by which he appoints or dismisses the ministers of the Republic, shall be of no effect, unless countersigned by a minister.

Art. 68.

The President of the Republic, the ministers, the agents, and all the other depositories of public authority, shall be responsible, each in so far as he is concerned, for all the acts of the government and of the administration. Every measure by which the President of the Republic shall dissolve or prorogue the Assembly, or interpose any obstacle to the exercise of its public trust, shall be deemed a crime of high treason. By this sole act, the President becomes divested of his functions, and the people are bound not to yield obedience to him; the executive power is thereby transferred in full authority to the National Assembly. The judges of the High Court of Justice shall immediately assemble, on pain of forfeiture of their offices. They shall call together a jury, in some place to be by them designated, in order to proceed to trial and judgment upon the President and his accomplices; and they shall themselves appoint a magistrate to be charged with the functions of state attorney. A law shall determine the other cases of responsibility, as well as the forms and conditions of the prosecution of them.

Art. 69.

The ministers shall have admission into the National Assembly, and shall be heard whenever they require it, and they may also obtain the assistance of commissioners, who shall have been appointed by a decree of the President of the Republic.

Art. 70.

There shall be a Vice-President of the Republic, to be appointed by the National Assembly, from a list of three candidates presented by the President witnin the month succeeding his election. The Vice-President shall take the same oath as the President. The Vice-President shall not be appointed from among the relations or kindred of the President to the sixth degree inclusive. Should the President by any cause be prevented from officiating, the Vice-President will represent him for the time being. If the Presidency shall become vacant by the death of the President, his dismissal from office, or from other causes, a new election for President shall take place within a month.

Chapter VI.—Of the Council of State.

Art. 71.

There shall be a Council of State, of which the Vice-President of the Republic shall of right be the President.

Art. 72.

The members of this Council shall be appointed for six years by the National Assembly. The half of this Council shall be renewed in the two first months of each new legislature, by secret ballot, and by an absolute majority. They shall be indefinitely re-eligible.

Art. 73.

Such of the members of the Council of State, who shall have been appointed from among the members of the Assembly, shall be immediately replaced as representatives of the people.

Art. 74.

The members of the Council of State cannot be dismissed, except by the National Assembly and at the suggestion of the President.

Art. 75.

The Council of State shall be consulted upon all bills or laws proposed by the government, which, according to law, must be presented for their previous examination; and also upon parliamentary bills which the Assembly may send to them for their examination. It shall prepare the rules of public administration, and will alone make those regulations with regard to which the National Assembly have given it a special delegation. It shall exercise over the public administrations all the powers of control and of superintendence which are conferred upon it by law. The law will determine the other powers and duties of the Council.

Chapter VII.—Of the Interior Administration.

Art. 76.

The division of the territory into departments, arrondissements, districts and communes shall be maintained. Their present limits shall not be changed, except by law.

Art. 77.

There shall be—1st. In each department an administration composed of a prefect, a general council, and a council of prefecture. 2nd. In each arrondissement, a sub-prefect. 3rd. In each district, a district-council; nevertheless, only a single district-council shall be established in any city which is divided into several districts. 4th. In each commune, an administration, composed of a mayor, his assistants, and a municipal council.

Art. 78.

A law shall determine the composition and duties of the General Councils, the District Councils, and the Municipal Councils, as well as, also, the manner of appointing the Mayors and their assistants.

Art. 79.

The General Councils and the Municipal Councils shall be elected by the direct vote of all citizens living in the department or district; each district shall elect one member of the General Council; a special law shall regulate the forms of election in the department of the Seine, in the city of Paris and in cities containing a population of more than twenty thousand souls.

Art. 80.

The General Councils, the District Councils, and the Municipal Councils may be dissolved by the President of the Republic, with the advice of the Council of State; the law will fix the period within which a new election shall be held.

Chapter VIII.—Of the Judiciary Power.

Art. 81.

Justice shall be awarded, gratuitously, in the name of the French people. The proceedings shall be public, except in case where publicity may be detrimental either to the public order or public morals, in which case the court shall declare the same by a formal judgment.

Art. 82.

Trial by jury shall be continued in criminal cases.

Art. 83.

The decision upon all political offences, and upon all offences committed by means of the press, appertains exclusively to the jury. The organic laws shall determine the tribunal and powers in relation to offences and defamation against private individuals.

Art. 84.

The jury alone shall decide upon the question of damage claimed on account of offences by the press.

Art. 85.

The justices of peace and their assistants, the judges of the first instance and of appeal, the members of the Court of Cassation and of the Court of Accounts, shall be appointed by the President of the Republic, according to a system of candidateship or conditions which shall be regulated by the organic laws.

Art. 86.

The magistrates shall be appointed by the President of the republic.

Art. 87.

The judges of the first instance and of appeal, the members of the Court of Cassation and of the Court of Accounts shall be appointed for life. They shall not be dismissed or suspended, except after judgment, nor retire with a pension, except for causes, and according to proceedings appointed by law.

Art. 88.

The councils of war and of revision of the armies by sea and land, the maritime tribunals, the tribunals of commerce, the prud'hommes, and other special tribunals, shall retain their present organization and their present functions, until the law shall decide otherwise.

Art. 89.

Conflicts of privileges and duties between the administrative and the judicial authority shall be regulated by a special tribunal, composed of members of the Court of Cassation and of Counsellors of State, to be appointed, every three years, in equal number, by the respective bodies to which they belong. This tribunal shall be presided by the Minister of Justice.

Art. 90.

Appeals for incompetence, or excess of power, against the decrees of the Court of Accounts, shall be carried before the tribunal of conflictive jurisdiction.

Art. 91.

A High Court of Justice shall decide, without appeal, demur, or recourse of annulment, in all accusations made by the National Assembly against the President of the Republic or the ministers. It shall likewise, in the same way, try all cases of persons accused of crimes, attempts, or plots against the internal and external safety of the State, which the Assembly may have sent before it. Except in the case provided for in article 68, it shall not be called together unless by decree of the National Assembly, which shall also designate the city in which the court shall hold its sittings.

Art. 92.

The High Court shall be composed of five judges and of thirty-six jurymen. Every year, in the first fifteen days of the month of November, the Court of Cassation shall appoint from among its members, by secret ballot and an absolute majority, the judges of the High Court, the number to be five judges and two supplementary judges. The five judges, who are thus called upon to sit, will themselves select their President. The magistrates performing the functions of the public ministry shall be designated by the President of the Republic, and, in the event of the accusation of the President or his Ministers, by the National Assembly. The jury, to the number of thirty-six, and four supplementary jurymen, shall be taken from among the members of the General Councils of the Departments. Representatives of the people shall not be competent to form part of these juries.

Art. 93.

When a decree of the National Assembly shall have ordered the formation of the High Court of Justice, as also in the cases provided for in the 68th article, on the requisition of the President or of one of the judges, the President of the Court of Appeal, and in default of that court, the president of the tribunal of the first instance of the chief judiciary court of the department, shall draw lots in public assembly for the name of a member of the General Council.

Art. 94.

On the day appointed for the trial, if there are less than sixty jurymen present, the number shall be filled up by supplementary jurymen, drawn by lot by the President of the High Court of Justice, from among the names of the members of the General Council of the Department in which the court holds its sitting.

Art. 95.

Those jurymen who shall not have given an adequate excuse, for absence, shall be condemned to a fine of not less than one thousand francs, and not exceeding ten thousand, and to be deprived of their political rights during five years at the utmost.

Art. 96.

Both the accused and the public accuser shall have the right to challenge, as in ordinary cases.

Art. 97.

The verdict of the jury pronouncing the accused guilty, cannot be rendered except by a majority of two-thirds.

Art. 98.

In all cases regarding the responsibility of the ministers, the National Assembly may, according to the circumstances, send the accused minister to be tried either before the High Court of Justice or by the ordinary tribunals for civil indemnities (or damages.)

Art. 99.

The National Assembly and the President of the Republic may, in all cases, transmit the examination of the acts of any functionary, (except of the President himself,) to the Council of State, whose report shall be made public.

Art. 100.

The President of the Republic can only be brought to trial before the High Court of Justice. Except as is provided for by art. 68, he cannot be tried unless upon accusation brought against him by the National Assembly, and for crimes and misdemeanors, which shall be determined by law.

Chapter IX.—Of the Public Forces.

Art. 101.

The public force is instituted for the purpose of defending the State against enemies from without, and to ensure, internally, the maintenance of order, and the execution of the laws. It is composed of the National Guard and of the army by sea and by land.

Art. 102.

Every Frenchman, save in exceptions determined by the law, owes to his country his services in the army and in the National Guard. The privilege for every citizen to free himself from personal military service, shall be regulated by the law of recruitment.

Art. 103.

The organization of the National Guard, and the constitution of the army, shall be regulated by law.

Art. 104.

The public force is essentially obedient. No armed force can deliberate.

Art. 105.

The public force employed to maintain order in the interior can only act upon the requisition of the constituted authorities, according to the regulations prescribed by the legislative power.

Art. 106.

A law shall determine those cases in which the state of siege shall be declared, and shall regulate the forms and determine the effects of such a measure.

Art. 107.

No foreign troops can be introduced into the French territory, without the previous assent of the National Assembly.

Chapter X.—Special Regulations.

Art. 108.

The Legion of Honor is maintained; its statutes shall be revised and made to accord with the Constitution.

Art. 109.

The territory of Algeria and of the Colonies is declared to be French territory, and shall be governed by their separate laws until a special law shall place them under the provisions of the present Constitution.

Art. 110.

The National Assembly confides the trust of this present Constitution, and the rights it consecrates, to the guardianship and patriotism of every Frenchman.

Chapter XI.—Of the Revision of the Constitution.

Art. 111.

Whenever, in the last year of a legislature, the National Assembly shall have expressed the wish that the Constitution should be modified, in whole or in part, this revision shall be entered upon in the following manner:—The wish expressed by the Assembly shall not be converted into a definitive resolution until after three successive deliberations held upon the subject, at the interval of one month between each deliberation, and the measure shall only be carried by a vote of three-fourths of the Assembly. The number of votes must be 500 at the least. The Assembly for revision shall only be appointed for three months. It shall only engage in the special revision for which it has been assembled; nevertheless, in cases of emergency, it may provide for legislative necessities.

Chapter XII.—Transitory Arrangements.

Art. 112.

The provisions of the codes, laws and regulations now in force, and which are not in contradiction with the present constitution, shall remain in force until otherwise provided by law.

Art. 113.

All the authorities constituted by the present laws shall continue in the exercise of their present duties until the promulgation of the organic laws which relate to them.

Art. 114.

The law of judiciary organization will determine the particular mode for the appointment and first composition of the new tribunals.

Art. 115.

After the vote upon the Constitution, the constituant National Assembly shall proceed to draw up the organic laws which shall be determined by a special law for that purpose.

Art. 116.

The first election of a President of the Republic, shall take place in conformity with the special law, passed by the National Assembly on the 28th of October 1848.

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