This volume offers a lively reconstruction and a systemic overview of one of the most fascinating periods in history for scholars of constitutions: the decade from 1789 to 1799 in revolutionary France. This decade witnessed a series of bold, but unsuccessful, experiments in constitutional construction. A constitutional monarchy, a republic of terror, and then a liberal republic were the institutional projections of a prolonged attempt to translate the constitutional model created, and successfully implemented, by the American Revolution into the political and social reality of the Ancien Rgime. That attempt failed, and the decade ended with Napoleon's Consulate: the civilian guise of a military dictatorship. By using, in an innovative manner, first-hand sources (contemporary publications, such as newspapers and pamphlets, and parliamentary assembly records), the author reviews constitutional models, describes their rationale and investigates the reasons why they failed. The authors argues that the former British colonies expressed greater degrees of statesmanship and more sensitivity toward the public good with respect to the Old Continent, where revolutionary leaders never managed to overcome passions, hatred, and personal tastes. They were, perhaps, human, all too human. Nevertheless, the French experience has bequeathed to contemporary scholars a rich legacy: the grammar and the language of modern public law.
Roberto Martucci teaches History of Political Institutions at the University of Macerata.