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Lot 22: PORTALIS Jean-Etienne-Marie (1746-1807) Opinion de Portalis sur la résolution présentée au Conseil des Anciens, et ayant pour but de charger le directoire exécutif de procéder seul au remplacement des places des juges devenues vacantes, 21 Frimaire

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)
Opinion de Portalis sur la résolution présentée au Conseil des Anciens, et ayant pour but de charger le
directoire exécutif de procéder seul au remplacement des places des juges devenues vacantes, 21 Frimaire
An IV
Copie manuscrite d'un discours prononcé le 11 décembre 1795 devant le Conseil des Anciens. Cahier de 21 pages et
demie in-folio, écrit à l'encre brune sur papier vergé au filigrane Bouchet.
« [...] Si le directoire avait le droit de remplacer successivement dans les tribunaux les juges décédés ou démissionnaires, les tribunaux
ne seraient bientôt plus qu'une émanation du Directoire. Que deviendrait la division, que deviendrait l'indépendance
du pouvoir ? Le Directoire exécutif est absolument étranger aux fonctions judiciaires. Toute surveillance, toute autorité lui est
interdite sur ce grand objet. On ne peut donc lui attribuer le droit de nommer des juges. Car s'il avait ce droit, on pourrait bientôt
le soupçonner de faire par des délégués ce qu'il ne peut faire lui même. Les juges d'après la constitution ne peuvent être constitués
par voie d'élection et non par voie d'autorité. Le droit d'élire n'appartient qu'au peuple ou à ceux aux quels le peuple l'a donnée.
C'est l'exercice le plus jaloux de la souveraineté. Il est incommunicable, nous ne pouvons donc transformer le Directoire en corps
électoral [...] L'attribution au Directoire du droit de remplacer les juges, influerait donc sur le caractère moral du juge. Elle aurait
des effets incalculables [...]»

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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