Living in the Languedoc: Central Government: Republican Principles
The original republican French Constitution was modelled on that of the USA, itself a product of the secular liberalism of the Enlightenment.
Like the US Constitution, and unlike the British one, is a written document.
As such it requires periodic revisions.
The current French republic is the Fifth Republic since the Revolution, a period which has also seen the re-establishment of French kingdoms and short-lived empires.
The chequered history of the French system, and the received opinions of the French authorities, are largely explained by the need to cling to the French Constitution as the guardian of liberties.
Without the checks and balances of an organically grown democratic monarchy, there is nothing else to cling to.
Important implications are:
1) A firm belief in the need for separation of powers (as in the USA).
Republicans are wedded to the axiomatic notion that it is absolutely necessary to separate the powers of the Executive, the Legistature and the Judiciary.
This has become EU orthodoxy too, which is why the British government felt obliged to abolish the position of Lord Chancellor.
As cabinet ministers who chaired part of the legislature and headed the judiciary, Lord Chancellors had provided living disproof of the axiom for a thousand years.
2) The need to convince the population of the benefits of their republican system.
As in the USA, schools and the media provide a picture of the world which accords with a particular national view.
In France you can expect to hear the "Rights of Man" referred to about 100 times more frequently than in other countries.
On the other hand, you would not for example expect to see the President lampooned in the way that monarchs are in their own countries, nor to hear anyone expressing the view that the freest countries in the world are the monarchies of north-west Europe, Australia and Canada.
As in other republics, national symbols are treated with a degree of reverence that can verge on the amusing to foreigners.
Most French people seem to unaware that their electoral system is almost indistinguishable from that of an eighteenth century elective monarchy.
3) Again as in the USA, the only real oposition to liberal secular principals come from the Churches.
Attempts to sparate Church and State in France have been even more contentious than elsewhere, and have never been fully realised.
Back to: The Rights of Man.
Next page: French Republican Symbols