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Lot 49: PORTALIS Jean-Etienne-Marie (1746-1807) Discours de Portalis au Sénat sur l'instauration de l'Empire héréditaire, 16 mai 1804.

JEAN ETIENNE MARIE PORTALIS (1746-1807)

Platinum House

by Leclere

November 24, 2012

Marseille, France

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Description: PORTALIS Jean-Etienne-Marie (1746-1807)
Discours de Portalis au Sénat sur l'instauration de l'Empire héréditaire, 16 mai 1804.
MANUSCRIT in-folio, non signé, non daté. Ecrit par un secrétaire à l'encre noire sur papier vergé au filigrane
G.Gaudin. 38 pages in-folio, texte en colonnes, annotations marginales, ratures, corrections, un paragraphe biffé.
« Citoyens sénateurs, c'est un beau spectacle que celui d'une grande nation qui à peine sortie de la révolution la plus terrible vient
dans le silence de tous les partis, et dans le calme de toutes les passions, choisir elle même les institutions les plus convenables à sa
gloire et à son bonheur. L'époque mémorable à laquelle nous sommes arrivés et qui doit fixer pour toujours le sort de la France, a été
préparée par les prodiges d'une administration de quelques années. Déjà le libérateur, à qui nous sommes redevable de ces prodiges
avait été établi par le voeu public, magistrat suprême de l'état [...] Les français n'ont pu voir sans effroi les horribles conspirations
tramées contre leur patrie et contre le héros qui la gouverne. Ils ne se sont pas contentés d'applaudir au présent, la crainte des
maux passés les a conduit à chercher une garantie pour l'avenir. Votre voeu citoyens sénateurs, le voeu du tribunat et des diverses
autorités constituées, celui de la France, ont appelé des institutions capables d'assurer à jamais la prospérité publique. [...] Dans
les circonstances ou nous vivons, c'est en établissant l'hérédité du pouvoir dans une famille nouvelle, que nous réussirons à détruire
jusque dans le germe les espérances chimériques d'une ancienne famille qui se montre moins jalouse de recouvrer ses titres que de
faire revivre les abus qui les lui ont fait perdre [...] La puissance impériale est déférée à Napoléon Bonaparte et à sa famille. Ici
le projet de Senatus Consulte ne fait que promulguer le voeu de tous les français. Qui d'autre que l'homme extraordinaire qui a
sauvé la France pourrait être appelé à la gouverner ? quelle autre famille que la sienne pourrait offrir les mêmes droist, les mêmes
espérances et la même garantie ? [...] »
On joint un manuscrit sur le Système Héréditaire, brouillon de 20 pages in-folio.

Notes: Jean-Étienne-Marie Portalis (1 April 1746 - 25 August 1807) was a French jurist and politician in time of the French Revolution and the First Empire.
His son, Joseph Marie Portalis was a diplomat and statesman.
Portalis was born at Le Beausset, currently in the Var département of Provence, France to a bourgeois family, and was educated by the Oratorians at their schools in Toulon and Marseille, and then went to the University of Aix.
As a student, he published his first two works, Observations sur Émile (on Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Emile: Or, On Education) in 1763 and Des Préjugés in 1764.
In 1765 he became a lawyer at the parlement of Aix-en-Provence, and soon obtained so great a reputation that he was instructed by Étienne François de Choiseul in 1770 to draw up the decree authorizing the marriage of Protestants.
From 1778 to 1781, Portalis was one of the four assessors or administrators of Provence.
In November 1793, after the First French Republic had been proclaimed, he came to Paris and was thrown into prison for being the brother-in-law of Joseph Jérôme Siméon, the leader of the Federalists in Provence.
He was soon released to a maison de santé, where he remained until the fall of Maximilien Robespierre during the Thermidorian Reaction.
On being released he practised as a lawyer in Paris, and, in 1795, he was elected by the capital to the Council of Ancients of the French Directory, becoming a leader of the moderate party opposed to the directory rule.
As a leader of the moderates, he was targeted by the coup d'état of 18 Fructidor, but, unlike General Charles Pichegru and François Barbé-Marbois, he managed to escape to Switzerland, then to Holstein, and did not return until after Napoleon Bonaparte established himself as the leader of the new Consulate.
Bonaparte made him a conseiller d'état in 1800, and then charged him, with François Denis Tronchet, Félix-Julien-Jean Bigot de Préameneu, and Jacques de Maleville, to draw up the Code Civil.
Of this commission he was the most notable member, and many of the most important titles, notably those on marriage and heirship, are his work.
He did a famous speech, "Discours préliminaire au projet de code civil" in which he presents the core principles of the civil code: legal certainty (non-retroactivity), the notion of "ordre public" and the forbidding of the "arrêt de règlement" which was a characteristic production of the Ancien Régime's judges and was contrary to the idea that only the law prevails.
In 1801 he was placed in charge of the Department of Religion or Public Worship, and in that capacity had the chief share in drawing up the provisions of the Concordat of 1801.
In 1803 he became a member of the Académie française, in 1804 Minister of Public Worship, and in 1805 a Chevalier Grand-Croix de la Légion d'honneur.
He soon after became totally blind, and, after an operation, he died at Paris.

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