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17 | 2020
Gouverner par la loi

Les comités et commissions des assemblées révolutionnaires : pouvoir législatif et fonctions exécutives
Unter der Leitung von Virginie Martin, Céline Parcé und Cécile Robin
Vignette extraite des minutes du procès-verbal du Comité des inspecteurs de vendémiaire an III (septembre-octobre 1794)
Urheberrechte : Archives nationales (France)

Following recent works pertaining to both the elaboration and the execution of the law, and based on a conference that was held at the Archives nationales on June 13th, 2019, this issue will reconsider the axiom on “separation of powers”. It will analyse the executive functions of the various committees of the revolutionary assemblies, whether those functions were attributed rightfully or by circumstances, and whether they were openly acknowledged or obfuscated.

Between 1789 and 1795, the legislative assemblies established committees that almost systematically mirrored a ministry, with a similar name and almost exactly the same assignments, and sometimes even explicitly duplicating their role. This cannot be explained solely by the légicentrisme nor the exacerbated mistrust towards an weak Executive power. How should one describe this structure that stands parallel to the legislative government and can act as a parasite of the ministerial action?

Our hypothesis is that governing through committees is not so much the exception than the standard of operation for assemblies. And this standard was taken to its extreme under the Year II “revolutionary government”. By ruling through the proxy of those committees, alongside the ministries or at their expense, the deputies were inventing and experimenting this “Assembly government” as early as the first two legislatures. The committees were able to support and even stand in for the ministries, thus becoming an essential component of the necessary communication system between the Executive and Legislative powers.

The contributions collected in this issue will show how this situation allowed the committees to contribute to the balance of powers rather than to their confusion.