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République française
French Republic

Flag of France.svg 1870–1940 Flag of the French State.svg
Flag Coat of arms
Liberté, égalité, fraternité
Liberty, equality, brotherhood
La Marseillaise
Location of France
Capital Paris
Government Republic
- 1932-1940 Albert Lebrun
President of the Council of Ministers
- 1940 Philippe Pétain
Legislature Parliament
- Upper house Senate
- Lower house Chamber of Deputies
September 4, 1870 Proclamation by Leon Gambetta
June 22, 1940 French State established
- 1939 35,565,800
Currency French Franc
Flag of France.svg Second Empire Vichy France Flag of the French State.svg

The Third French Republic (1870-1940) was a republic in Western Europe.


The principles upon which the French constitution is based are representative government (by two chambers), manhood suffrage, responsibility of ministers and irresponsibility of the head of the state. Alterations or modifications of the constitution can only be effected by the National Assembly, consisting of both chambers sitting together ad hoc. The legislative power resides in these two chambersthe Senate and the Chamber of Deputies; the executive is vested in the president of the republic and the ministers. The members of both chambers owe their election to universal suffrage; but the Senate is not elected directly by the people and the Chamber of Deputies is.

The Chamber of Deputies, consisting of 584 members, is elected by scrutin d'arrondissement (each elector voting for one deputy) for a term of four years, the conditions of election being as follows: Each arrondissement sends one deputy if its population does not exceed 100,000, and an additional deputy for every additional 100,000 inhabitants or fraction of that number. Every citizen of twenty-one years of age, unless subject to some legal disability, such as actual engagement in military service, bankruptcy or condemnation to certain punishments, has a vote, provided that he can prove a residence of six months duration in any one town or commune. A deputy must be a French citizen, not under twenty-five years old. Each candidate must make, at least five days before the elections, a declaration setting forth in what constituency he intends to stand. He may only stand for one, and all votes given for him in any other than that specified in the declaration are void. To secure election a candidate must at the first voting poll an absolute majority and a number of votes equal to one-fourth of the number of electors. If a second poll is necessary a relative majority is sufficient.

The Senate is composed of 300 members who must be French citizens at least forty years of age. They are elected by the scrutin de lisle for a period of nine years, and one-third of the body retires every three years. The department which is to elect a senator when a vacancy occurs is settled by lot.

Both senators and deputies receive a salary of 600 per annum. No member of a family that has reigned in France is eligible for either chamber.

Bills may be proposed either by ministers (in the name of the president of the republic), or by private members, and may be initiated in either chamber, but money-bills must be submitted in the first place to the Chamber of Deputies. Every bill is first examined by a committee, a member of which is chosen to report on it to the chamber, after which it must go through two readings (dilibrations), before it is presented to the other chamber. Either house may pass a vote of no confidence in the government, and in practice the government resigns in face of ~he passing of such a vote by the deputies, but not if it is passed by the Senate only. The chambers usually assemble in January each year, and the ordinary session lasts not less than five months; usually it continues till July. There is an extraordinary session from October till Christmas.

France is divided into 86 administrative departments (including Corsica) or 87 if the Territory of Belfort, a remnant of the Haut Rhin department, be included. These departments are subdivided into 362 arrondissements. 2911 cantons and 36,222 communes.[1]

Overseas Administration[]

The principle underlying the administration of the French possessions overseas, from the earliest days until the close of the 18th century, was that of domination and assimilation, notwithstanding that after the loss of Canada and the sale of Louisiana (|) France ceased to hold any considerable colony in which Europeans could settle in large numbers. With the vast extension of the colonial empire in tropical countries in the last quarter of the 19th century the evils of the system of assimilation, involving also intense centralization, became obvious. This, coupled with the realization of the fact that the value to France of her colonies was mainly commercial, led at length to the abandonment of the attempt to impose on a great number of diverse peoples, some possessing (as in Indo-China and parts of West Africa) ancient and highly complex civilizations, French laws, habits of mind, tastes and manners. For the policy Of assimilation there was substituted the policy of association, which had for aim the development of the colonies and protectorates upon natural, I.e. national, lines. Existing civilizations were respected, a considerable degree of autonomy was granted, and every effort made to raise the moral and economic status of the natives. The first step taken in this direction was in 1900 when a law was passed which laid down that the colonies were to provide for their own civil expenditure. This law was followed by further measures tending to decentralization and the protection of the native races.

The system of administration bears nevertheless many marks of the assimilation era. None of the French possessions is self-governing in the manner of the chief British colonies. Several colonies, however, elect members of the French legislature, in which body is the power of fixing the form of government and the laws of each colony or protectorate. In default of legislation the necessary measures are taken by decree of the head of the state; these decrees having the force of law. A partial exception to this rule is found in Algeria, where all laws in force in France before the conquest of the country are also (in theory, not in practice) in force in Algeria. In all colonies Europeans preserve the political rights they held in France, and these rights have been extended, in whole or in part, to various classes of natives. Where these rights have not been conferred, native races are subjects and not citizens. To this rule Tunisia presents an exception, Tunisians retaining their nationality and laws.

In addition to Algeria, which sends three senators and six deputies to Paris and is treated in many respects not as a colony but as part of France, the colonies represented in the legislature are: Martinique, Guadeloupe and Reunion (|) (each electing one senator and two deputies), French India (|) (one senator and one deputy), French Guiana, Senegal and Cochin-China (|) (one deputy each). The franchise in the three first-named colonies is enjoyed by all classes of inhabitants, white, negro and mulatto, who are all French citizens. In India the franchise is exercised without distinction of color or nationality; in Senegal the electors are the inhabitants (black and white) of the communes which have been given full powers. In Guiana and Cochin-China the franchise is restricted to citizens, in which category the natives (in those colonies) are not included.1 The inhabitants of Tahiti though accorded French citizenship have not been allotted a representative in parliament. The colonial representatives enjoy equal rights with those elected for constituencies in France.

The oversight of all the colonies and protectorates save Algeria and Tunisia is confided to a minister of the colonies (law of March 20, 1894)1 whose powers correspond to those exercised in France by the minister of the interior. The colonial army is nevertheless attached (law of 1900) to the ministry of war. The colonial minister is assisted by a number of organizations of which the most important is the superior council of the colonies (created by decree in 1883), an advisory body which inclUdes the senators and deputies elected by the colonies, and delegates elected by the universal suffrage of all citizens in the colonies and protectorates which do not return members to parliament. To the ministry appertains the duty of fixing the duties on foreign produce in those colonies which have not been,,by law,, subjected to the same tariff as in France. (Nearly all the colonies save those 199,055, of whom 106,695 exercised their suffrage.

The colonies are divisible into two classes,

  1. those possessing considerable powers of local self-government,
  2. those in which the local government is autocratic.

To this second class may be added the protectorates (and some colonies) where the native form of government is maintained under the supervision of French officials.

Class (I) includes the American colonies, Reunion, French India, Senegal. Cochin-China and New Caledonia. In these colonies the system of assimilation was carried to great lengths. At the head of the administration is a governor under whom is a secretary-general, who replaces him at need. The governor is aided by a privy council, an advisory body to which the governor nominates a minority of unofficial members, and a council general, to which is confided the control of local affairs, including the voting of the budget. The councils general are elected by universal suffrage of all citizens and those who, though not citizens, have been granted the political franchise. In CochinChina. in place of a council general, there is a colonial council which fulfils the functions of a council general.

In the second class of colonies the governor, sometimes assisted by a privy council, on which non-official members find seats, sometimes simply by a council of administration, is responsible only to the minister of the colonies. In Indo-China, West Africa, French Congo and Madagascar, the colonies and protectorates are grouped under governors-general, and to these high officials extensive powers have been granted by presidential decree. The colonies under the governor-general of West Africa are ruled by lieutenant-governors with restricted powers, the budget of each colony being fixed by the governor-general, who is assisted by an advisory government council comprising representatives of all the colonies under his control. In Indo~ China the governor-general has under his authority the lieutenant governor of the colony, of Cochin-China, and the residents superior at the courts of the kings of Cambodia and Annam and in Tonkin (nominally a viceroyalty of Annam). There is a superior council for the whole of Indo-China on which the natives and the European commercial community are represented, while in Cochin-China a privy council, and in the protectorates a council of the protectorate, assists in the work of administration. In each of the governments general there is a financial controller with extensive powers who corresponds directly with the metropolitan authorities (decree of March 22, 1907)., Details and local differences hi form of government will be found under the headings of the various colonies and protectorates.[2]


  • Albert Lebrun () (May 10, 1932 - June 22, 1940)

President of the Council of Ministers

  • Philippe Pétain () (June 16, 1940 - June 22, 1940)


French Polities

Neighbouring Nations