Futurs d'antan, Futuribles Journal n° 420


Address to Parliamentarians: Rules for Judges (1801) (Futures of Yesteryear)

With the approach of a new parliamentary session in France, where the National Assembly has undergone a significant turnover of personnel, this seemed a good time to re-read the “Preliminary Discourse” of the first project for a Civil Code delivered by Jean-Étienne-Marie Portalis (1746-1807) and to publish some extracts from it that seem particularly relevant to our present situation, given the propensity of legislators (and also of the executive) to increase the number of laws beyond all necessity, or “the mad idea of making provision for every possible case”, to the point where the entire society becomes paralyzed. The extract published here is taken specifically from Portalis’s thoughts on the respective roles of the legislator and the judge.

Some of our readers may perhaps see a connection with the speech delivered by President Emmanuel Macron at the Versailles special congress on 3 July, when he declared: “Let us put an end to legislative proliferation. It weakens the law, which, in the accumulation of written provisions, loses part of its vigour and, most definitely, part of its meaning.”

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