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Code Napoléon

Code Napoléon (kôd näpôlāôNˈ) [key] or Code Civil sēvēlˈ, first modern legal code of France, promulgated by Napoleon I in 1804. The work of J. J. Cambacérès and a commission of four appointed by Napoleon I in 1800 was important in making the final draft. The Code Napoléon embodied the private law of France (i.e., law regulating relations between individuals) and, as modified by amendments, it is still in force in that country. It is a revised form of the Roman law, i.e., the civil law, which prevailed generally on the Continent. It shows, of course, many specific French modifications, some based on the Germanic law that had been in effect in N France. The code follows the Institutes of the Roman Corpus Juris Civilis in dividing civil law into personal status (e.g., marriage), property (e.g., easements), and the acquisition of property (e.g., wills), and it may be regarded as the first modern analogue to the Roman work. Not only was it applied by Napoleon to the territories under his control—N Italy, the Low Countries, and some of the German states—but it exerted a strong influence on Spain (and ultimately on the Latin American countries) and on all European countries except England. It was the forerunner, in France and elsewhere, of codifications of the other branches of law, including civil procedure, commercial law, and criminal law. Quebec prov. and the state of Louisiana owe much of their law to the Code Napoléon. In addition to the Code Civil, Napoleon was responsible for four other codes: the Code of Civil Procedure (1807), Commercial Code (1808), Code of Criminal Procedure (1811), and the Penal Code (1811).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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