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Conscience, honour and the failure of party in restoration France

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Abstract:

The political system adopted by Restoration France seemed to call for opposition, and possibly even parties, on the model of Britain. The French, however, remained deeply divided by the Revolution, such that the civilities of parliamentary government developed only with difficulty. Reflecting the distrust inherited from the Revolution, deputies favoured a secret ballot for votes in the chambers and this alone made it easy to disguise political loyalties or to change them. Those who resisted the British model emphasized the virtues of political choices that responded only to one's conscience and sense of honour. On that basis, party seemed inconsistent both with French individualism and with a sense of delicacy. Supporting the claims for indig- enous political mores were perceptions of British politics that exaggerated the discipline of their parties. Though party bonds in France remained very loose — and understanding of the logic of parliamentary government less than perfect — those now deemed the important political thinkers of the time were, in the main, admirers of the politics of party.

Keywords: France; Restoration; conscience; honour; opposition; party

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Political Studies, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada. Email:gunnj@qsilver.queensu.ca

Publication date: March 1, 2000

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