French Constitution of 1852

This is the French Constitution of 1852 as it appeared in the third revised edition (1883) of Francis Lieber's On Civil Liberty and Self-Government

Constitution made in virtue of the powers delegated by the French People to Louis Napoleon Bonaparte by the vote of the 20th and 21st of December, 1851.

The president of the republic—

Considering that the French people has been called on to pronounce its opinion on the following resolution:

The people wish for the maintenance of the authority of Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, and give him the powers necessary to make a constitution, according to the bases laid down in his proclamation of the 2d December.

Considering that the bases proposed to the acceptance of the people were:

1. A responsible chief appointed for ten years.

2. Ministers dependent on the executive power alone.

3. A council of state, formed of the most distinguished men, to prepare the laws and support the discussion of them before the legislative body.

4. A legislative body, to discuss and vote the laws, elected by universal suffrage, without scrutin de liste, which falsifies the election.

5. A second assembly, formed of the most illustrious men of the country, as an equipoising power (pouvoir ponderateur,) guardian of the fundamental compact and of public liberties.

Considering that the people have replied affirmatively by seven million five hundred thousand votes,

Promulgates the constitution, the tenor of which is as follows:

chapter i.Edit

Art. 1. The constitution admits, confirms, and guarantees the great principles proclaimed in 1789, and which are the bases of the public right of Frenchmen.

chapter ii.: forms of the government of the republic.Edit

Art. 2. The government of the French Republic is confided for ten years to Prince Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, the actual president of the republic.

Art. 3. The president of the republic governs by means of ministers, of the council of state, of the senate, and of the legislative body.

Art. 4. The legislative power is exercised collectively by the president of the republic, the senate, and the legislative body.

chapter iii.: of the president of the republic.Edit

Art. 5. The president of the republic is responsible to the French people, to whom he has always the right to make an appeal.

Art. 6. The president of the republic is the chief of the state; he commands the land and sea forces, declares war, makes treaties of peace, alliance, and commerce, appoints to all employs, and makes the regulations and decrees necessary for the execution of the laws.

Art. 7. Justice is rendered in his name.

Art. 8. He alone has the initiative of laws.

Art. 9. He has the right of granting pardon.

Art. 10. He sanctions and promulgates the laws and the senatus consultum.

Art. 11. He presents every year to the senate, and to the legislative body, by a message, the state of the affairs of the republic.

Art. 12. He has the right to declare the state of siege in one or several departments, on condition of referring it to the senate within the shortest possible delay. The consequences of the state of siege are regulated by law.

Art. 13. The ministers depend only on the chief of the state—they are only responsible for the acts of the government as far as they are individually concerned in them; there is no joint responsibility among them, and they can only be impeached by the senate.

Art. 14. The ministers, the members of the senate, of the legislative body, and of the council of state, the officers of the land and sea forces, the magistrates and public functionaries, take the following oath: I swear obedience to the constitution and fidelity to the president.

Art. 15. A senatus-consultum fixes the sum allowed annually to the president of the republic during the whole continuance of his functions.

Art. 16. If the president of the republic dies before the expiration of his term of office, the senate is to convoke the nation, in order to proceed to a fresh election.

Art. 17. The chief of the state has the right, by a secret act deposited in the archives of the senate, to point out to the people the names of the citizens whom he recommends to the interest of France to the confidence of the people and to their suffrages.

Art. 18. Until the election of the new president of the republic, the president of the senate governs with the co-operation of the ministers in functions, who form themselves into a council of government, and deliberate by a majority of votes.

chapter iv.: of the senate.Edit

Art. 19. The number of senators shall not exceed 150; it is fixed for the first year at 80.

Art. 20. The senate is composed: 1, of cardinals, marshals, and admirals; 2, of citizens whom the president of the republic may think proper to raise to the dignity of senators.

Art. 21. The senators are appointed for life.

Art. 22. The functions of senator are gratuitous; nevertheless, the president of the republic may grant to senators, on account of services rendered, or of their position with regard to fortune, a personal donation, which cannot exceed 30,000 francs per annum.

Art. 23. The president and the vice-presidents of the senate are named by the president of the republic, and chosen from among the senators. They are appointed for one year. The salary of the president of the senate is fixed by a decree.

Art. 24. The president of the republic convokes and prorogues the senate. He fixes the duration of its sessions by a decree. The sittings of the senate are not public.

Art. 25. The senate is the guardian of the fundamental compact and of public liberties. No law can be promulgated without being submitted to it.

Art. 26. The senate may oppose the promulgation:

1. Of laws which may be contrary to, or be an attack on, the constitution, on religion, on morals, on freedom of worship, on individual liberty, on the equality of citizens in the eye of the law, on the inviolability of property, and on the principle of the immovability of the magistracy.

2. Of those which may comprise the defence of the territory.

Art. 27. The senate regulates by a senatus-consultum:

1. The constitution of the colonies and of Algeria.

2. All that has not been provided for by the constitution, and which is necessary for its march.

3. The sense of the articles of the constitution which give rise to different interpretations.

Art. 28. These senatus-consulta will be submitted to the sanction of the president of the republic, and promulgated by him.

Art. 29. The senate maintains or annuls all the acts which are referred to it as unconstitutional by the government, or denounced for the same cause by the petitions of citizens.

Art. 30. The senate may, in a report addressed to the president of the republic, lay down the bases of bills of great national interest.

Art. 31. It may also propose modifications in the constitution. If the proposition is adopted by the executive power, it must be stated by a senatus-consultum.

Art. 32. Nevertheless, all modifications in the fundamental basis of the constitution, such as they were laid down in the proclamation of the 2d December, and adopted by the French people, shall be submitted to universal suffrage.

Art. 33. In case of the dissolution of the legislative body, and until a new convocation, the senate, on the proposition of the president of the republic, shall provide by measures of urgency for all that is necessary for the progress of the government.

chapter v.: of the legislative body.Edit

Art. 34. The election has for its basis the number of the population.

Art. 35. There shall be one deputy to the legislative body for every 35,000 electors.

Art. 36. The deputies are to be elected by universal suffrage, without scrutin de liste.

Art. 37. They will not receive any payment.

Art. 38. They are named for six years.

Art. 39. The legislative body discusses and votes bills and taxes.

Art. 40. Any amendment adopted by the committee charged to examine a bill shall be sent back without discussion to the council of state by the president of the legislative body. If the amendment is not adopted by the council of state, it cannot be submitted to the discussion of the legislative body.

Art. 41. The ordinary sessions of the legislative body last three months; its sittings are public; but, at the demand of five members, it may form itself into a secret committee.

Art. 42. The report of the sittings of the legislative body by the journals, or by any other means of publication, shall only consist in the reproduction of the minutes of the sitting, drawn up at its conclusion under the direction of the president of the legislative body.

Art. 43. The president and vice-presidents of the legislative body are named by the president of the republic for one year; they are to be chosen from among the deputies. The salary of the president of the legislative body will be fixed by a decree.

Art. 44. The ministers cannot be members of the legislative body.

Art. 45. The right of petition can only be exercised as regards the senate. No petition can be addressed to the legislative body.

Art. 46. The president of the republic convokes, adjourns, prorogues, and dissolves the legislative body. In the event of its being dissolved, the president of the republic must convoke a new one within a delay of six months.

chapter vi.: of the council of state.Edit

Art. 47. The number of councillors of state in ordinary service is from forty to fifty.

Art. 48. The councillors of state are named by the president of the republic, and may be dismissed by him.

Art. 49. The council of state is presided over by the president of the republic, and in his absence by the person whom he appoints as vice-president of the council of state.

Art. 50. The council of state is charged, under the direction of the president of the republic, to draw up bills and the regulations of public administration, and to solve the difficulties which may arise in administrative matters.

Art. 51. It supports, in the name of the government, the discussion of bills before the senate and legislative body. The councillors of state charged to speak in the name of the government are to be named by the president of the republic.

Art. 52. The salary of each councillor of state is 25,000 francs.

Art. 53. The ministers have rank, sitting, and deliberative votes in the council of state.

chapter vii.: of the high court of justice.Edit

Art. 54. A high court of justice shall try, without appeal, or without recourse to cassation, all persons who may be sent before it charged with crime, attentats, or conspiracies against the president of the republic, and against the internal and external safety of the state. It can only be formed in virtue of a decree of the president of the republic.

Art. 55. A senatus-consultum will determine the organization of this high court.

chapter viii.: general and transitory clauses.Edit

Art. 56. The provisions of the codes, laws and regulations, which are not contrary to the present constitution, remain in vigor until they shall have been legally revoked.

Art. 57. The municipal organization shall be determined by law. The mayors shall be named by the executive power, and may be chosen from those not belonging to the municipal council.

Art. 58. The present constitution will be in vigor from the day on which the great bodies of the state shall have been constituted. The decrees issued by the president of the republic, from the 2d December up to that period, shall have the force of law.

Given at the Palace of the Tuileries, this 14th day of January, 1852.


Sealed with the great seal.

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