The Government of France

By E. Drexel Godfrey | Go to book overview

spent a lifetime learning and perfecting the intricacies of political behavior as traditionally practiced in the Assembly; others less fortunate, or less skillful, were frustrated because they were unable to avoid being identified with the system. On the other hand, the Chamber sometimes experienced dramatic moments in the competition between great orators, immersed in critical issues and exercising almost total freedom of debate.

Perhaps because it was the arena where the "Rights of Man" were first enunciated and defended, the Assembly became in time the repository of Republican legitimacy -- in theory the cockpit where the representatives of the people jousted for public recognition of their views. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the highest duty of the deputy was to preserve the rights and liberties of his constituents against the encroachments of potentially tyrannical state officers. Inevitably confusion over rights and privileges developed: the deputies became more and more parochial and tended to regard their function as the defense of advantages which had accrued to their district by circumstance, natural good fortune or government action. From protectors of civil liberties the deputies were slowly transformed into the champions of vested and often purely local interests. The relationship between the legislators and the premier and his ministers, however, remained essentially the same. The ministers were constantly called on by indignant legislators to justify or explain actions of the government or its bureaucrats which threatened the individual dignity of the Frenchman or his sacred economic preserve.

The mark of the promising premier was his ability to deflect the demands which poured in on the government for the extension of special privileges, or to blunt the biting criticism of legislators who regarded the government as the epitome of obscurantism and the plunderer of local treasure. At the same time the premier who wished to survive was constantly forced to nurse along the coalition that constituted his majority, pleading with his own ministers not to lead the attack against him, while compromising the integrity of his legislative program in order to maintain the cohesion of his cabinet. To compound his difficulties the premier was often obliged to submit the various planks of his legislative program to hostile committees, whose chairmen were usually more anxious to enhance their own careers by brilliant critiques of the legislation under question than to contribute to the forward progress of public business. Perhaps most important was the fact that the Chamber could, virtually without

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The Government of France
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Introduction ii
  • Editor's Foreword iii
  • Contents v
  • 1 - The French Republican Tradition 1
  • 2 - The Background of the Social Order 10
  • 4 - The Executive 35
  • 5 49
  • 6 - Political Parties 62
  • 7 - Government and the Economy 88
  • 8 - The Administration, the Judiciary, And Local Government 103
  • 10 - The French Community and Algeria 117
  • 11 - Problems of the Future 158
  • The French Constitution 168
  • Suggestions for Further Reading 185
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