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Corpus of ‘imprimés’ or printed working documents of the Conseil d’État

Introduction to the corpus of Conseil d’État ‘imprimés’

Title The ‘imprimés’ or printed working documents of the Conseil d’Etat
Dates 1800-1814
Producer     Conseil d’État, France
Volume of material 3,661 documents in the Gerando collection
Outline of the contents The ‘imprimés’ or printed working documents of the Conseil d’Etat consist of the printed version of draft legislation discussed in the sittings of the Conseil d’Etat between 1800 and 1814. They have been conserved in seven more or less complete collections compiled by several Conseillers d’État. In the absence of the minutes of these sittings and the records of the matters discussed by the Conseil, entirely destroyed in 1871, these printed documents are a primary source of information on the development of legislation during the Consulate and Empire.

Detailed description: genesis of the ‘imprimés’ or printed working documents of the Conseil d’Etat

The Conseil d’État was created by the Constitution of An VIII and given the responsibility of preparing and discussing draft laws and regulations at the Government’s request.
The 5 sections of the Conseil d’État discussed 79,187 projects between 1800 and 1814, 58,435 of which were passed in its general assemblies, which adds up to an average of 5,700 projects a year. The agendas and minutes of these sittings were destroyed by fire in 1871.
Submission of a project to the Conseil d’État involved sending the general secretariat a dossier prepared by the minister concerned, setting out the problem he had encountered or the draft legislation he wished to the Conseil d’État to consider. The dossier was passed on to the appropriate section by the secretariat.
It is this dossier that forms the basis of the ‘imprimés’ or printed working documents of the Conseil d’État. A rapporteur was designated by the section to prepare the file on the dossier provided by the Government. His examination of it led to the drawing up of further documents to complement the initial ones.
To facilitate the proceedings, certain projects under discussion were printed. These printed working documents were then circulated before the sittings to the Emperor, the Ministers and the Conseillers d’État present.
The printed documents took the physical form of bundles of texts. Each one consisted of various parts: the minister’s report, the section report, the joint report of several ministers or combined sections, a draft order then decree of the minister or section, a draft opinion or opinion given as a reference, a draft bill, draft regulation, draft public service regulation, a previous regulation cited as an established precedent, articles of associations or religious congregations, statements backed up by figures in the form of tables (notably the public service budget), draft sénatus-consulte (senatus consultum), preliminary drafts of codes…

Background to their conservation

We owe the conservation of these printed working documents to the more or less complete collections made by various Conseillers d’État. They are of very great importance to the historian as all the other original sources regarding the legislative activity of the Conseil d’État from 1799 to 1814 were lost in the fire of 1871. It is however regrettable that the printed documents of the Conseil d’État relate to just 5% of the matters discussed by the Conseil during this period.
These printed documents were numbered from 1 to 3,063 between 1799 and 1814, with several successive drafts grouped together under the same number. To date, 4,629 different printed documents have been located in various collections.

Installation of the Conseil d'État at the Palais du Petit-Luxembourg, 25 December 1799, Louis-Charles-Auguste Couder Installation of the Conseil d’État at the Palais du Petit-Luxembourg, 25 December 1799, Louis-Charles-Auguste Couder, 1856 © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - H. Lewandowski)