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Jewels from the French Collection: Code Civil des Français

Jewels of the French Collection


Code Civil des Français title page

Code Civil des Français
​À Paris : De l'imprimerie de la République, 1804

Code Civil des Français
Paris: De l’Imprimerie de la République, An XII. - - 1804
“Édition originale et seule officielle.”

One goal of the French Revolution had been to fashion a code of laws which reflected the new legal order: the end of feudalism, and equality under the law. Napoleon turned his attention to this project, and in 1804 the first edition of the Code Civil abrogated all other French laws in force on the subjects it covered. Its drafters drew upon the host of existing legal traditions in France: Roman, canon, and customary law, plus royal legislation, and laws enacted during the Revolution. The Code Civil covered private law, divided into three books:

  • Persons: civil rights, marriage, divorce, paternal power;
  • Property;
  • Modes of acquisition of property.

By Napoleon’s own assessment, the Code Civil was his greatest achievement: “I will go down to posterity with the code in my hand.”