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The Development of the Notion of Separation of Powers*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 July 2014

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It suffices to examine two of the most important texts which form the basis of France's constitutional system, the Declaration of Human Rights of 1789, and the Law of June 3, 1958, in order to become convinced that separation of powers is one of those immutable principles which imposes itself as self-evident on every liberal constituent body. Article 16 of the Declaration of 1789 proclaims that “any society in which the protection of rights is not ensured, nor the separation of powers established, has no constitution”. The constitutional Law of June 3, 1958, for its part, authorizes the government to establish a constitutional project, provided that five principles be respected; among these principles appears, immediately following the necessity of universal suffrage, the separation of powers.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press and The Faculty of Law, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem 1992

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1 Duguit satirized the reconciliation attempted in 1791, in which he saw a resurgence of the dogma of the Holy Trinity: just as Catholic theology conceives of one god in three beings, thus the followers of separation of powers must imagine one sovereign in three powers: La separation des pouvoirs et l'Assemblee Nationale de 1789 (Paris, 1899)Google Scholar.

2 de Malberg, Raymond Carre, Contribution a la Theorie Generale de l'Etat (Paris, Sirey, 1922) vol. II, pp. 109142Google Scholar.

3 This was irrefutably proven, once and for all, by Eisenmann, Charles, “L'Esprit des Lois et la separation des pouvoirs”, in Melanges Carre de Malberg (Paris, 1933) 190ffGoogle Scholar; “La pensee constitutionnelle de Montesquieu”, in Recueil Sirey du bicentenaire de l'Esprit des Lois (Paris, 1952)Google Scholar; “Le systeme constitutionnel de Montesquieu et le temps present”, in Actes du Congres Montesquieu (Bordeaux, 1956)Google Scholar. Cf. also Troper, Michel, La separation des pouvoirs et l'histoire constitutionelle francaise (Paris, LGDJ, 2nd ed., 1980)Google Scholar.

4 Esprit des Lois, Book XI, chap. III.

5 Esprit des Lois, Book XI, chap. IV.

6 Rousseau, The Social Contract, Book 3, chap. 4.

7 Cf. Troper, Michel, “L'interpretation de la Declaration des droits; l'exemple de l'article 16”, (1988) 8 Droits 111122Google Scholar.

8 Du gouvernement representatif (1816).

9 Luchaire, and Mauss, , Documents pour servir a l'Histoire de l'elaboration de la constitution (Paris, La Documentation française, 1987) vol. I, pp. 333334Google Scholar.