France: Legislation: 1871-1940
|Law on the Office of President of the Republic (1871)
The status of provisional regime set up in Bordeaux in early 1871 was debated by Assemblée national (National Assembly) in August 1871. Deputies Rivet and Adnet proposed to extend the term of Adolphe Thiers for three years. The Assembly appointed a commission chaired by deputy Vitet, which prepared a draft of the following law . The law was passed by the Assembly on 31 Aug 1871 (491 votes in favor; 94 against) and was promulgated in Journal officiel de la République française on 3 Sep 1871:
Loi portant que le Chef du Pouvoir exécutif prendra le titre de Président de la République française
Thiers continued in office with a new title of Président de la République française.
The law of 31 Aug 1871 created the office of Président de la République française (President of the French Republic), which existed throughout the period of the Troisième République (Third Republic). With the support of evidence found in legal record of that period it is possible to conclude that at early stage most official documents bore the complete formula Président de la République française, but exceptions with a reference to shorter style (Président de la République) are also present in the records (see, for example, Bulletin des lois de la République française).
A presidential decree of 2 Sep 1871  established the following formula for promulgation of laws:
L'Assemblée nationale a adopté, Le Président de la République française promulgue la loi...
This formula was in regular use until Les lois constitutionnelles (1875) were promulgated and came into existence as a constitution of the Third Republic. A number of articles of the constitutional laws of 1875 referred merely to Président de la République and not to Président de la République française, thus creating a basis for constitutional use of a shorter title for the French head of state.
On 6 Apr 1876 president Maurice de Mac Mahon signed a new decree , changing the formula for promulgating laws to:
Le Sénat et la Chambre des députés ont adopté, Le Président de la République promulgue la loi...
Later the first part of this formula was replaced with L'Assemblée nationale a adopté. Nevertheless, presidential decrees invariably used the formula Président de la République française until the end of the Third Republic (1940).
The longer formula (Président de la République française) practically came out of use under the constitutions of the Fourth (1946) and Fifth (1958) republics, which referred to the head of state as Président de la République. Starting from the election of Georges Pompidou (1969), the resolutions of Conseil constitutionnel (Constitutional Council) proclaimed the president-elect as Président de la République française, but official documents bearing the signature of the president, including both national laws and presidential decrees, are regularly headed Président de la République.
Marshal de Mac Mahon was elected Président de la République française on 24 May 1873 under the provisions of law of 31 Aug 1871, which omitted a clause on the date of precise termination of presidential term. At the time of passing the law of 31 Aug 1871 Adolphe Thiers was authorized to occupy the office of president until the National Assembly accomplishes its work, but his successor deemed it necessary to define his position as the head of state. In response to an appeal of Mac Mahon and his Cabinet, the National Assembly passed the law known as Loi du Septennat [3; 4], which conferred the executive authority with the title of Président de la République on Mac Mahon for the term of seven years.
The 7-year term started on 20 Nov 1873, the day when the law was promulgated by the President of the Republic, but Mac Mahon never completed it as he resigned the office on 30 Jan 1879.
The Constitutional Law on Organization of Public Powers of 25 Feb 1875 (Loi du 25 février 1875 relative à l'organisation des pouvoirs publics) authorized the Conseil des ministres (Council of Ministers) to exercise collectively the executive power during the vacancies in the office of President of the Republic:
These vacancies occurred in 1879 (resignation of Mac Mahon), 1887 (resignation of Grévy), 1894 (decease of Carnot), 1895 (resignation of Casimir-Perier), 1899 (decease of Faure), 1920 (resignation of Deschanel), 1924 (resignation of Millerand) and 1932 (decease of Doumer). The Council of Ministers assumed the functions of the President immediately after the vacancy occurred and continued to exercise it until the election of his successor. Upon the election in Palais de Versailles, President of the Council of Ministers and ministers met with the president elect and transferred to him the executive authority at the ceremony of installation (investiture).
The ceremony of installation (cérémonie d'investiture), which marks the beginning of a presidential term in France, passed through different stages before it became a regular tradition for the presidents of the Third, Fourth and Fifth republics. The first ceremony was held on 20 Dec 1848 at the session of the Constituent National Assembly when Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte was proclaimed President of the French Republic and swore an oath of office.
The fall of the Second Empire saw a repudiation of previous experience in conducting the ceremony of inauguration. The election of Mac Mahon (24 May 1873) was followed by a visit of a group of deputies to the Marshal's private residence. They communicated to him the voting results and received his consent to election. This tradition laid foundation to a series of cérémonie d'investiture held in a chamber adjoining the Salle des séances de la Chambre des députés in the Palais de Versailles (1879, 1887, 1894, 1895, 1899). In 1881 Jules Grévy ordered manufacturing a new Grand Collar of the Legion of Honor (Grand Collier de la Légion d'Honneur) to be used for investiture of the presidents of the Republic as Grand Master of the Order. The collar was usually presented to a new president by the Chancelier of the Order on the day of his installation as a new head of state or within a short interval (Jean Casimir-Perier was actually presented with the Grand Collar on 28 Jun 1894 at Palais-Bourbon, one day after his election and installation as president). Émile Loubet was the first president of the Third Republic, whose successor was elected during his tenure (Armand Fallières, 17 Jan 1906) and who opened a number of installation ceremonies in the Palais de l'Elysée (18 Feb 1906, 18 Feb 1913, 18 Feb 1920, 13 Jun 1931).
Under the Constitutions of 1946 and 1958, the installation of an elected President of the Republic consisted formally in the communication to him of his election, by the president of the National Assembly in 1947 and 1954, by the president of the Provisional Constitutional Commission (Commission constitutionnelle provisoire) in 1959, by the president of the Constitutional Council (Conseil Constitutionnel) in 1969, 1974, 1981, 1995, and 2002. Immediately following this formality, the newly installed president is invested with the insignia of Grand Master of the Legion of Honor by the Chancelier of the Order. In 1947 this took place at the Palace de l'Elysée after a motorcade from Versailles.
The Franco-German armistice (22 Jun 1940) signified the defeat of France in the war with German Reich and divided France into two zones, one to be under German military occupation, one to be left to the French in full sovereignty. The National Assembly was summoned at Vichy to decide upon the future of France. Acting under pressure of vice president of the Council of Ministers Pierre Laval, the Assembly voted a law (10 Jul 1940) giving Marshal Petain full power for the government of the republic and for establishing a new constitution:
Using this authority, Pétain decreed in the Constitutional Act of 11 Jul 1940 that he assumes the functions of Chef de l'État français (Head of the French State) and abolished Article 2 of the Constitutional Law of 25 Feb 1875 on the office of Président de la République:
|||Bulletin des lois de la République française, XIIe série, 2e semestre 1871. Partie principale, T. 3, n° 62 (Paris: Imprimerie nationale, 1872).|
|||Bulletin des lois de la République française, XIIe série, 1e semestre 1876. Partie principale, T. 12, n° 296 (Paris: Imprimerie nationale, 1876).|
|||Bulletin des lois de la République française, XIIe série, 2e semestre 1876. Partie principale, T. 7, n° 163 (Paris: Imprimerie nationale, 1877).|
|||Journal Officiel de la République Française, 23 Nov 1873.|