Page:EB1911 - Volume 10.djvu/951

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928
[LAW AND
FRANCE

The system established by the constitution of 1875 has worked excellently in some of its departments; for instance, the mode of electing the president of the Republic. Between 1875 and 1906 there were seven elections, sometimes under Working of the constitution. tragic or very difficult conditions; the election has always taken place without delay or obstruction, and the choice has been of the best. The high court of justice, which has twice been called into requisition, in 1889 and in 1899-1900, has acted as an efficient check, in spite of the difficulties confronting such a tribunal when feeling runs high. Parliamentary government in the form set up by the constitution, besides the criticism to which this system is open in all countries where it is established, even in England, met with special difficulties in France. In the first place, the useful but rather secondary rôle assigned to the president of the Republic has by no means satisfied all those who have occupied this high office. Two presidents have resigned on the ground that their powers were insufficient. Another, even after re-election, had to withdraw in face of the opposition of the two chambers, being no longer able to obtain a parliamentary ministry. It is difficult, however, to accept the theory of an eminent American political writer, Mr John W. Burgess,[1] that in order to attain to a position of stable equilibrium, the French Republic ought to adopt the presidential system of the United States. In France this sharp division between the two powers has never been observed except in those periods when the representative assemblies were powerless, under the First and Second Empires. It is true that the apparent multiplicity of parties and their lack of discipline, together with the French procedure of interpellations and the orders of the day by which they are concluded, make the formation of homogeneous and lasting cabinets difficult; but since the end of the 19th century there has been great progress in this respect. Another difficulty arose in 1896. The Senate, appealing to the letter of the constitution and relying on its elective character, claimed the right of forcing a ministry to resign by its vote, in the same way as the Chamber of Deputies. The Senate was victorious in the struggle, and forced the ministry presided over by M. Léon Bourgeois to resign; but the precedent is not decisive, for in order to gain its ends the Senate had recourse to the means of refusing to sanction the taxes, declining to consider the proposals for the supplies necessary for the Madagascar expedition so long as the ministry which it was attacking was in existence. The weakest point in the French parliamentary organism is perhaps the right of dissolution. It is difficult of application, for the reason that the president must obtain the preliminary consent of the Senate before exercising it; moreover, this valuable right has been discredited by its abuse by Marshal MacMahon in the campaign of the 16th of May 1877, on which occasion he exercised his right of dissolution against a chamber, the moderate but decidedly republican majority in which he was re-elected by the country.

The legislative reforms carried out under the Third Republic are very numerous. As to public law, it is only possible to mention here those of a really organic character, chief among which are those which safeguard and Reforms under the Third Republic. regulate the exercise of the liberties of the individual. The law of the 30th of June 1881, modified in 1901, established the right of holding meetings. Public meetings, whether for ordinary or electoral purposes, may be held without preliminary authorization; the law of 1881 prescribed a declaration made by a certain number of citizens enjoying full civil and political rights, which is now remitted. The only really restrictive provision is that which does not allow them to be held in the public highway, but only in an enclosed space. But this is made necessary by the customs of France. The law of the 21st of July 1881 on the press is one of the most liberal in the world. By it all offences committed by any kind of publication are submitted to a jury; the punishment for the mere expression of obnoxious opinions is abolished, the only punishment being for slander, libel, defamation, inciting to crime, and in certain cases the publication of false news. The law of the 1st of July 1901 established in France the right of forming associations. It recognizes the legality of all associations strictly so called, the objects of which are not contrary to law or to public order or morality. On condition of a simple declaration to the administrative authority, it grants them a civil status in a wide sense of the term. Religious congregations, on the contrary, which The religious congregations. are not authorized by a law, are forbidden by this law. This was not a new principle, but the traditional rule in France both before and after the Revolution, except that under certain governments authorization by decree had sufficed. As a matter of fact the unauthorized congregations had been tolerated for a long time, although on various occasions, and especially in 1881, their partial dissolution had been proclaimed by decrees. The law of 1901 dissolved them all, and made it an offence to belong to such a congregation. The members of unauthorized congregations, and later, in 1904, even those of the authorized congregations, were disqualified from teaching in any kind of establishment. The liberty of primary education was confirmed and reorganized by the law of the 30th of October 1886, which simply deprived the clergy of the privileges granted them by the law of 1850, though the latter remains in force with regard to the liberty of secondary education. A law passed by the National Assembly (July 12, 1875) established the liberty of higher education. It even went Education. beyond this, for it granted to students in private facultés who aspired to state degrees the right of being examined before a board composed partly of private and partly of state professors. The law of the 18th of March 1880 abolished this privilege. Another law, that of the 22nd of March 1882, made primary education obligatory, though allowing parents to send their children either to private schools or to those of the state; the law of the 16th of June 1881 established secular (laïque) education in the case of the latter. The Third Republic also organized secondary education for girls in lycées or special colleges (collèges de fille). Finally, a law of the 10th of July 1896 dealing with higher education and the faculties of the state reorganized the universities, which form distinct bodies, enjoying a fairly wide autonomy. A law of the 19th of December 1905, abrogating that of the 18th Germinal in the year X., which Separation of church and state. had sanctioned the Concordat, proclaimed the separation of the church from the state. It is based on the principle of the secular state (état laïque) which recognizes no form of religion, though respecting the right of every citizen to worship according to his beliefs, and it aimed at organizing associations of citizens, the object of which was to collect the funds and acquire the property necessary for the maintenance of worship, under the form of associations cultuelles, differing in certain respects from the associations sanctioned by the law of the 1st of July 1901, but having a wider scope. It also handed over to these regularly formed associations the property of the ecclesiastical establishments formerly in existence, while taking precautions to ensure their proper application, and allowed the associations the free use of the churches and places of worship belonging to the state, the departments or the communes. If no association cultuelle was founded in a parish, the property of the former fabrique should devolve to the commune. But this law was condemned by the papacy, as contrary to the church hierarchy; and almost nowhere were associations cultuelles formed, except by Protestants and Jews, who complied with the law. After many incidents, but no church having been closed, a new law of the 2nd of January 1907 was enacted. It permits the public exercise of any cult, by means of ordinary associations regulated by the law of the 1st of July 1901, and even of public meetings summoned by individuals. Failing all associations, either cultuelles or others, churches, with their ornaments and furniture, are left to the disposition of the faithful and ministers, for the purpose of exercising the cult; and, on certain conditions, the long use of them can be granted as a free gift to ministers of the cult.

Among the organic laws concerning administrative affairs there are two of primary importance; that of the 10th of

  1. Political Science and Comparative Constitutional Law (Boston, 1896).