chapter  5
34 Pages


The unique characteristic of the organization of power in nineteenth-century France was the coexistence of an active centralized administration with powerful elected assemblies. The latter, reduced to impotence under Napoleon, were re-established by Louis XVIII in the 1814 constitutional Charter as a condition of his restoration. Based on the English model, the Chamber of Deputies and Chamber of Peers (Senate after 1851) were intended to protect civil society against central authority. Many contemporaries believed, however, that a genuine parliamentary system could not function in the shadow of the over-mighty bureaucracy, which had the means to influence voters and deputies. At certain times - during the 1840s, when parliament was colonized by state officials who made up 45 per cent of deputies, and in the 1850s, when it was made subordinate to executive authority - this seemed to be proved. But from the 1880s until the 1960s, the republican parliament successfully asserted its power over ministers, and even over much of the bureaucracy.