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  • La Réception de la Constitution anglaise au XIXe siècle: une étude du droit politique français par Tanguy Pasquiet-Briand
  • Aurelian Craiutu
La Réception de la Constitution anglaise au XIXe siècle: une étude du droit politique français. Par Tanguy Pasquiet-Briand. Bayonne: Institut universitaire Varenne, 2017. 958 pp.

'Ce qui caractérise particulièrement l'Angleterre, c'est le mélange de l'esprit chevaleresque avec l'enthousiasme de la liberté', Mme de Staël wrote in her Considérations sur les principaux événements de la Révolution française. This combination had created a fortunate balance between order and liberty that made England appear as 'un corps entier de [End Page 335] gentilshommes' (Mme de Staël, La Passion de la liberté (Paris: Robert Laffont, 2017), p. 742). Although the real country across the Channel differed markedly from the idealized image offered by Staël, it did not prevent her from recommending England as a political model for post-Revolutionary France. In this respect, she was neither the first nor the last to do so, in a country with a turbulent history of absolutism and revolution. As Tanguy Pasquiet-Briand shows in this learned book, published from a prize-winning doctoral dissertation (Université Paris 2), there are numerous references to England and its constitution in modern French political and legal tradition. By carefully tracing these references and reflecting on their significance, Pasquiet-Briand, a specialist in constitutional law, offers us a stimulating interdisciplinary study at the intersection of political theory, law, and history. His book extends the analysis of Édouard Tillet's La Constitution anglaise, un modèle politique et institutionnel dans la France des Lumières (Aix-en-Provence: Presses universitaires d'Aix-Marseilles, 2001). The story told in Pasquiet-Briand's book begins in the early eighteenth century, when Paul de Rapin-Thoyras, a Protestant critic of absolutism, claimed that France could import England's constitutional monarchy based on bicameralism and separation of powers. Montesquieu, Voltaire, and Jean-Louis de Lolme appear here less as innovators than as continuators of an older tradition of Anglomania that was renewed during the Revolution and its aftermath by the monarchiens, Necker, and the members of the Coppet group. As Pasquiet-Briand shows, during this time there was a gap between the French 'stylization' of the unwritten English Constitution and what the latter meant in practice, but this gap did not hinder the creation of a powerful liberal myth of the English Constitution in France. During the Revolution, the use of the English Constitution as a political model was contested by thinkers as diverse as Paine, Condorcet, and Sieyès. The Constitution of 1791 explicitly rejected the English model, opting instead for suspensive royal veto and monocameralism. In the nineteenth century, the French reception of the English Constitution led the French to embrace a tradition of political moderation (in the writings of the French Doctrinaires), and a prudential philosophy of constitutional law, most notably in writings of Émile Boutmy and Adhémar Esmein. By 1875, Pasquiet-Briand argues, key principles of the English Constitution had become un acquis of the political and legal French culture, thus creating a new French model of the English Constitution. The framework of constitutional monarchy à l'anglaise, clothed in French republican institutions, gave birth to a parliamentary regime capable of moderating the rivalry between powers and interests in society. This book brilliantly tells the story of this unexpected triumph, and invites us to discover the forgotten richness of the French liberal tradition.

Aurelian Craiutu
Indiana University Bloomington


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pp. 335-336
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