The divorce law of 20 September 1792 was indeed a revolutionary change from what had preceded it. Under the old regime, marriage was indissoluble; After 1792, couples could divorce quickly and easily. This law recognized the two principles of adultery, in which neither spouse was named as the culprit of divorce. In the first case, couples may divorce by mutual consent, or one of the spouses may file for divorce simply because of incompatibility of temperament. In order to ensure that unilateral divorce is not used lightly, a six-month waiting period has been imposed. In the case of divorce for a specific reason, the reasons were immorality, cruelty, mental illness, conviction for certain crimes, desertion for at least two years, or emigration. Even by modern standards, it was an extremely liberal divorce law. It made divorce affordable even for the poorest, it was also available throughout the France and was not based on a double standard of sexual morality that would have disadvantaged women. This divorce law reflected the Revolution`s commitment to the rights of the individual and its aversion to Roman Catholicism. Civil divorce was permitted under the Napoleonic Code until the Restoration abolished it in 1816. It was an amicable divorce system, and France did not return to such a system until the 20th century. Divorce was not legal at all until 1884, and then on the usual Western terms of female adultery, mental illness, or any other inability of the woman to fulfill her marital obligations. Divorce and women in France Divorce became legal in France for the first time on September 20, 1792.
It was abolished in 1816 and despite divorce laws introduced by legislators in the 1830s and 1848s, it was not reintroduced until 1884 under the Third Republic. During this period, the political climate of the France shaped its divorce laws; Divorce was considered republican and even a revolutionary institution in the nineteenth century. With the return of the monarchy in France in 1816, divorce was completely abolished. Under Louis XVII, Roman Catholicism once again became the state religion and, according to his doctrine, judicial separation became the only option for unhappy couples. After the fall of the Bourbons in the July Revolution of 1830, several attempts were made to restore Napoleonic law. In 1831, 1832, 1833 and 1834, a divorce law was introduced and easily passed by the Chamber of Deputies. Each time, however, the Peerenkammer rejected even the much more restrictive law of 1803 that was proposed. The French aristocracy clearly rejected any return to revolution; Their vote against these divorce laws was as much a rejection of the revolutionary legacy as it was of the social implications of divorce. The question of divorce disappeared until the last years of the Second Empire. With the political liberalization of the late 1860s came some demands for the reintroduction of divorce, but only from self-proclaimed radicals and feminists such as Olympe Audouard, André Léo and Léon Richer.
With the founding of the Third Republic, interest in a new divorce law grew. Between 1875 and 1884, Alfred Naquet, a former radical socialist and now a member of Vaucluse, and other supporters of a new law went to the conference circle. They held conferences in cities across the France, where they explained the desirability and even the need for a new divorce law. Unlike in 1848, women accounted for a relatively small proportion of the number of pamphlets and books published on divorce in the 1870s. Significantly, Naquet himself was forced to abandon his earlier support for free love and the abolition of marriage during the election campaign. The death was recorded in the same way as the birth. A family member or hospital official would file an obituary at City Hall, and a coroner would visit the body, examine it and issue a burial permit. It was only when the burial permit was granted that a death certificate was issued by the city. Other critics of divorce have focused on the ridicule of supporters of a new law. An article on the women`s club claimed that a divorce would be of most interest to widows and old servants because it would bring a large number of men back into the marriage market. According to this article, the women`s club would decree that a husband is a privilege.
Since all privileges were thefts, married women had to abandon their husbands to the club, which then held a lottery in which any man could be won for a one-year wedding. Such descriptions of promiscuity referred to the sexual radicalism of Father Enfantin and the Simonian saints of the 1830s and made many feminists cautious in their support for divorce. Pauline Roland, who had been a supporter of free love in the 1830s, recognized the legitimacy of divorce but saw it as a failure of the couple and recommended that their children be taken to be raised by « innocent » parents. According to Roland, marriage must be based on fidelity, and women`s emancipation would not include sexual freedom. In the end, the reintroduction of divorce was not even discussed by the assembly. On September 27, this bill was officially withdrawn. At the end of October, Crémieux definitively announced that the divorce would not be reinstated. Restitution for divorce met with resistance as early as early April 1848, nearly two months before a proposal reached the National Assembly and even before the Women`s Club took up the issue. Critics of divorce claimed that the only moral basis for marriage was its indissolubility. The reintroduction of divorce in French society would call into question the purity and strength of all marriages, even those it would not dissolve. According to them, indissolubility is not only a religious principle, but also the cornerstone of social order and stability. In 1876, Naquet introduced a bill based on the original 1792 act.
MEPs scoffed at the idea that reinstating divorce in France was necessary or desired, and they even refused to form a commission to discuss it. Naquet reintroduced the law in 1878, which was again rejected. He then renounced to adopt a law similar to that of 1792. He turned to Napoleonic law, Title VI of the Civil Code, and inspired a new, more conservative bill. She was narrowly defeated in the Chamber of Deputies in 1881. However, it was reconsidered and passed by the House in 1882 and sent to the Senate. The Senate amended the bill by abolishing divorce for adultery by their husbands, eliminating the double sexual standard in the law. This version was accepted by both houses, and after 68 years, the divorce was reinstated in France on July 27, 1884. Michele Plott Bibliography Phillips, Roderick. Putting Asunder: A History of Divorce in Western Society, Cambridge University Press, 1988. Phillips, Roderick.
L`éclatement de la famille dans la France du XVIIIe siècle: Rouen, 1780-1800, Oxford, 1980. Desser Zeit, Dominica. Divorcer à Lyon sous la Révolution et l`Empire, Lyon, 1981. McGregor, O.M. Divorce in England, London, 1957. Contributors` Table of Contents Back to encyclopedia homepage JGC revised this file (www.ohiou.edu/~chastain/dh/divorce.htm) on the 20th. February 1999. Please email your comments or suggestions to email@example.com © James Chastain 1997, 2004. Although this divorce law differed only slightly from those proposed by liberal legislators in the 1830s, men of all classes found it threatening because radical women demanded the right to divorce in 1848.
The Wome n`s Club, chaired by Eugène Niboyet, met in early May 1848 to discuss the question of divorce and published articles in favour of divorce in its newspaper, La Voix des Femmes. Les Vésuviennes, a quasi-military organization of Parisian working women, also advocated a return to a conservative divorce law. This was part of their plan for a new egalitarian marriage in which men and women would share domestic chores and public service.