August 1871, on the conseils généraux, considerably increased the powers and independence of these elective bodies, Administrative changes. which have become important deliberative assemblies, their sessions being held in public. The law of 1871 created a new administrative organ for the departments, the commission départmentale, elected by the council-general of the department from among its own members and associated with the administration of the prefect. The other law is the municipal law of the 5th of April 1884, which effected a widespread decentralization; the maires and their adjoints are elected by the municipal council.
The war of 1870-71 necessarily led to a modification of the military organization. The law of the 25th of July 1872 established the principle of compulsory service for all, first in the standing army, the period of service in which was Reorganization of the army. fixed at five years, then in the reserve, and finally in the territorial army. But the application of this principle was by no means absolute, only holding good in time of war. Each annual class was divided into two parts, by means of drawing lots, and in time of peace one of these parts had only a year of service with the active army. The previous exemptions, based either on the position of supporter of the family (as in the case of the son of a widow or aged father, &c.) or on equivalent services rendered to the state (as in the case of young ecclesiastics or members of the teaching profession), were preserved, but only held good for service in the active army in times of peace. Finally, the system of conditional engagement for a year allowed young men, for the purposes of study or apprenticeship to their profession, only to serve a year with the active army in time of peace. By this means it was sought to combine the advantages of an army of veterans with those of a numerous and truly national army. But the conditional volunteering (volontariat conditionnel) for a year was open to too great a number of people, and so brought the system into discredit. As those who profited by it had to be clothed and maintained at their own expense, and the sum which they had to furnish for this purpose was generally fixed at 1500 francs, it came to be considered the privilege of those who could pay this sum. A new law of the 15th of July 1889 lessened the difference between the two terms which it attempted to reconcile. It reduced the term of service in the active army to three years, and the exemptions, which were still preserved, merely reduced the period to a year in times of peace. The same reduction was also granted to those who were really pursuing important scientific, technical or professional studies; the system was so strict on this point that the number of those who profited by those exemptions did not amount to 2000 in a year. This was a compromise between two opposing principles; the democratic principle of equality, being the stronger, was bound to triumph. The law of the 21st of March 1905 reduced the term of service in the active army to two years, but made it equal for all, admitting of no exemption, but only certain facilities as to the age at which it had to be accomplished.
In 1883 the judicial personnel was reorganized and reduced in number. With the exception of a few modifications the main Justice and taxation. lines of judicial organization remained the same. In 1879 the conseil d’état was also reorganized. The whole fabric of administrative jurisdiction was carefully organized, and almost entirely separated from the active administration.
The system of taxation has remained essentially unaltered; we may notice, however, the laws of 1897, 1898 and 1900, which abolished or lessened the duties on so called hygienic drinks (wine, beer, cider), and the financial law of 1901, which rearranged and increased the transfer fees, and established a system of progressive taxation in the case of succession dues.
The labour laws, which generally partook of the nature both of public and of private law, are a sign of our times. Under the Third Republic they have been numerous, the most notable being: the law of the 21st of March Labour legislation. 1884 on professional syndicates, which introduced the liberty of association in matters of this kind before it became part of the common law (see Trade Unions); the law of the 9th of April 1898 on the liability for accidents incurred during work, and those which have completed it; that of the 22nd of December 1892 on conciliation and arbitration in the case of collective disputes between employers and workmen; that of the 29th of June 1893 on the hygiene and safeguarding of workers in industrial establishments, and the laws which regulate the work of children and women in factories; finally, that of the 15th of July 1893 on free medical attendance (see Labour Legislation).
As to criminal law, there have been more than fifty enactments, mostly involving important modifications, due to more scientific ideas of punishment, so that we may say that it has been almost entirely recast since the establishment Criminal law. of the Third Republic. The separate system applied in cases of preventive detention and imprisonment for short periods; liberation before the expiry of the term of sentence, subject to the condition that no fresh offence shall be committed within a given time; transportation to the colonies of habitual offenders; the remission of the penalty in the case of first offenders, and the lapsing of the penalty when a certain time has gone by without a fresh condemnation; greater facilities for the rehabilitation of condemned persons, which now became simply a matter for the courts, and occurred as a matter of course at the end of a certain time; such were the chief results of this legislation. Finally, the law of the 8th of December 1897 completely altered the form of the preliminary examination before the juge d’instruction, which had been the weakest point in the French criminal procedure, though it was still held in private; the new law made this examination really a hearing of both sides, and made the appearance of counsel for the defence practically compulsory.
As to private law, both civil and commercial, we could enumerate between 1871 and 1906 more than a hundred laws which have modified it, sometimes profoundly, and have for the most part done very useful work without attracting much attention. They are generally examined and drawn up by commissions of competent men, and pass both chambers almost without discussion. There have, however, been a few which aroused public interest and even deep feeling. Firstly, there was the law of the 27th of July 1884, and those which completed it; this law re-established divorce, which had been abolished since 1816, but only permitted it for certain definite causes determined by law. On the other hand, the law of the 6th of February 1893 increased the liberty and independence of a woman who was simply judicially separated, in order to encourage separation, as opposed to divorce, when the conditions allowed it. The law of the 25th of March 1896 on the succession of illegitimate children, who were recognized by the parents, treated them not in the same way as legitimate children, but gave them the title of heirs in the succession of their father and mother, together with much greater rights than they had possessed under the Code Civil. The law of the 24th of July 1899, on the protection of children who are ill-treated or morally neglected, also modified some of the provisions of the law as applied to the family, with a view to greater justice and humanity. Finally, on the occasion of the centenary of the Code Civil (see Code Napoléon), a commission, composed of members of the chambers, magistrates, professors of law, lawyers, political writers, and even novelists and dramatic authors, was given the task of revising the whole structure of the code.
See generally Adhémar Esmein, Cours élémentaire d’histoire du droit français (6th ed., 1906); J. Brissand, Cours d’histoire générale du droit français public et privé (1904); Ernest Glasson, Histoire du droit et des institutions en France (1887-1904); Paul Viollet, Histoire des institutions politiques et administratives de la France (3rd ed., 1903); Fustel de Coulanges, Histoire des institutions politiques de l’ancienne France; Jacques Flach, Les Origines de l’ancienne France (1875-1889); Achille Luchaire, Histoire des institutions monarchiques de la France sous les premiers Capétiens (2nd ed., 1900); Hippolyte Taine, Les Origines de la France contemporaine (1878-1894); Adhémar Esmein, Eléments de droit constitutionnel français et comparé (4th ed., 1906); Léon Duguit et Henry Monnier, Les Constitutions et les principales lois politiques de la France depuis 1789 (1898).
- (J. P. E.)