French Civil Code

Code Napoleon; or, The French Civil Code

Literally Translated from the Original and Official Edition, Published at Paris, in 1804. By a Barrister of the Inner Temple. Translation attributed to George Spence. Published by William Benning, Law Bookseller, London 1827


The Civil Code

Napoleon in later life considered the Civil Code to be the most significant of his achievements. The Code represented a comprehensive reformation and codification of the French civil laws. Under the ancien regime more than 400 codes of laws were in place in various parts of France, with common law predominating in the north and Roman law in the south. The Revolution overturned many of these laws. In addition, the revolutionary governments had enacted more than 14,000 pieces of legislation. Five attempts were made to codify the new laws of France during the periods of the National Convention and the Directory. Through the efforts of Napoleon the drafting the new Civil Code in an expert commission, in which Jean-Etienne-Marie Portalis took a leading role, took place in the second half of 1801. Napoleon attended in person 36 of the commission's 87 meetings. Although the draft was completed at the end of 1801, the Code was not published until 21 March 1804. The Civil Code represents a typically Napoleonic mix of liberalism and conservatism, although most of the basic revolutionary gains - equality before the law, freedom of religion and the abolition of feudalism - were consolidated within its laws. Property rights, including the rights of the purchasers of the biens nationaux were made absolute. The Code also reinforced patriarchal power by making the husband the ruler of the household. The Napoleonic Code was to be promulgated, with modifications, throughout the Empire. The Civil Code was followed by a Code of Civil Procedure in 1806, a Commercial Code in 1807, a Criminal Code and Code of Criminal Procedure in 1808 and a Penal Code in 1810. A Rural Code was debated, but never promulgated. The Code Napoleon, renamed the Civil Code, was retained in its majority after the restoration of the Bourbons in 1815. The Civil Code has served as the model for the codes of law of more than twenty nations throughout the world.


Preliminary Title. Of the Publication, Effect, and Application of the Laws in General


Book I. Of Persons

Book II. Of Property, and the Different Modifications of Property

Book III. Of the Different Modes of Acquiring Property

    General Dispositions

    Title I. Of Successions

    Of the opening of successions and of the seisin of heirs | Of the qualities requisite to succeed | Of the different orders of succession | Of irregular successions | Of the acceptance and repudiation of successions | Of division and restitution

    Title II. Of Donations during Life and of Wills

    General regulations | Of the capability of disposing or of receiving by donation during life or by will | Of the disposable portion of goods, and of reduction | Of donations during life | Of testamentary dispositions | Of dispositions permitted in favor of the grand-children of the donor or testator, or of the children of their brothers and sisters | Of distributions made by the father, mother, or other ancestors, among their descendants | Of donations made by the marriage-contract to the parties, and to children to be born of the marriage | Of dispositions between married persons, either by contract of marriage, or during marriage

    Title III. Of Contracts or Conventional Obligations in General

    Preliminary regulations | Of conditions essential to the validity of agreements | Of the effect of obligations | Of the different species of obligations | Of the extinction of obligations | Of the proof of obligations and of that of payment

    Title IV. Of Engagements which are formed without Contract

    Of quasi-contracts | Of crimes and quasi-crimes

    Title V. Of the Contract of Marriage and of the Respective Rights of Married Persons

    General regulations | Of the law respecting community | Of regulation of dowry

    Title VI. Of Sales

    Of the nature and form of sales | Who may buy or sell | Of things which may be sold | Of the obligations of the seller | Of the obligations of the purchaser | Of the nullity and rescinding of sales | Of auctions | Of the transfer of credits and other incorporeal rights

    Title VII. Of Barter

    Title VIII. Of the Contract of Hiring

    General regulations | Of the hiring of things | Of the hiring of labor and industry | Of lease in cheptel

    Title IX. Of the Contract of Partnership

    General ordinances | Of the different species of partnerships | Of the engagements of partners among themselves, and with regard to third persons | Of the different modes by which partnership is put an end to disposition relative to commercial partnerships

    Title X. Of Loans

    Of loan for use, or gratuitously | Of the engagements of the borrower | Of loan for consumption, or simple loan | Of loan on interest

    Title XI. Of Deposit and Sequestration

    Of deposit in general and of its different species | Of deposit properly so called | Of sequestration

    Title XII. Of Albatory Contracts

    Of play and betting | Of the contract for life annuities

    Title XIII. Of Procuration

    Of the nature and form of procuration | Of the obligations of the agent | Of the obligations of the principal | Of the different modes in which procuration is terminated

    Title XIV. Of Security

    Of the nature and extent of security | Of the effect of security | Of the extinction of security | Of legal and judicial security

    Title XV. Of the Compounding of Actions

    Title XVI. Of Personal Arrest in a Civil Matter

    Title XVII. Of Pledging

    Of pawning | Of antichresis

    Title XVIII. Of Privileges and Mortgages

    General enactments | Of privileges | Of mortgages | Of the mode of enrolment of privileges and mortgages | Of cancelling and reducing enrolments | Of the effect of privileges and mortgages against third persons in wrongful possession | Of the extinction of privileges and mortgages | Of the mode of clearing property of privileges and mortgages | Of the mode of exonerating from mortgages, where no enrolment exist, over the property of husbands and guardians | Of the publicity of the registers, and of the responsibility of the keepers

    Title XIX. Of Forcible Ejectment, and of the Order among Creditors

    Of forcible ejectment | Of the order and distribution of the price among creditors

    Title XX. Of Prescription

    General ordinances | Of possession | Of the causes which prevent prescription | Of the causes which interrupt, or which suspend the course of prescription | Of the time required in order to prescribe


The Civil Code: An Overview

By Tom Holmberg