From 1789 to 1870 in France, not less than eight constitutions and twelve regimes followed one after another. France also experienced all types of suffrages, from the most restricted one of the Ancient Regime, to the universal manhood suffrage. This period is undeniably crucial to one who aims to understand the slow evolution of the idea of democracy in the French people's mindset. Indeed, if the idea of democracy had an uninterrupted, quiet and progressive evolution in the mind of most French people, the democratization of the institutions happened in a rather uneven way. Although this definition is evolving during the period studied, democratic institutions are mainly characterized by the ability for the people as citizens to participate to their creation and amendment, and to the shaping of the State's policy, directly or by the election of representatives. The democratic nature of the institutions is as a result highly linked to the type of suffrage that is established. But if the universal suffrage is necessary to the construction of a democratic regime, it is not enough. From 1789 de 1870, what is the relationship between the different types of suffrage and the construction of democratic institutions in France?
In the fist part, we will see that from 1789 to 1814, the universal suffrage is starting to be considered as necessary for the creation of a legitimate regime, whereas democracy doesn't make any consensus.
[...] Indeed, in 1848 the National constituent assembly elected by universal suffrage on the 4th of April, most of which members are moderates, feared the developing of the social turmoil because of the increase of unemployment. As a result, they decided to close the National factory floor, only a month after their opening. This decision launched a workers revolt, and the bloody days of June 1848. General Cavaignac, named president of a temporary council, brutally crushed the rebellion, causing 5,000 deaths arrests, and more than 11,000 deportations. [...]
[...] II 1814-1870: from the “restoration” to the 2nd Empire, the progressive winning back of the universal suffrage and democratization of the institutions On the 4th of June 1814, Louis 18th promulgated a Chart, which he granted the French. The monarchic regime which is instituted is moderated. On the one hand, the “time chain” is “tied up again”, as the sacred and sacrosanct king possesses the sovereignty, the executive power, and the initiative of the laws, and the Bourbon's dynasty is re-established, but on the other hand, the Chart maintains many gains of the Revolution and of the Empire, as the property right, freedom of expression and o the press, Religious liberty, and Napoleon's Civil Code. [...]
[...] Not only do the French People have for the first time the possibility to participate directly to the executive, and legislative political life of the nation by the election of Representatives, but the constitution also establishes a new institution, the State Council; which can make a connection between the executive and the legislative forces. Indeed, its members, nominated by the Assembly, are governed by the vice president, representative of the executive force. Furthermore, all the Acts of the president of the republic have to be countersigned by a minister. [...]
[...] In other words, the relationship between the type of suffrage that is adopted and the relative democracy of the institution isn't simple. First of all, the universal suffrage mustn't be used as a plebiscite, but as a real way for citizens to participate to the political life of the city, by the election of representatives of the Nations in the Executive and Legislative powers. Second of all, the difficult arbitrage between restricted census suffrage and universal suffrage is due to a common interrogation of the people and the power owners: is the Nation as a whole always right? [...]
[...] This generates a change in the voting system: for the election of the Convention, a decree eliminates the difference between active and passive citizens, and decreases the minimum age required from 25 to 21. But this step towards democracy is soon destroyed by the progressive radicalisation of the Revolutionaries. On the 22nd of September 1792 the convention is elected by theoretically indirect manhood suffrage, but in this context of extreme tension and political confusion, only a minority of patriots voted. [...]
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