A Popular History of The Great War/Volume 1/Page 128

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FRANCE IN WARTIME


long as the war should last. At the same time the council ot ministers decided to convoke the chambers for the following day. According to the report of the minister of war, the state of siege was justified by "the necessity of concentrating all power in the hands of the military authority." The declaration of a state of siege was authorized by various constitutional laws "in cases of imminent peril resulting from foreign war or from an armed insurrection."

The constitutional laws of England do not permit under any circumstances the establishment of a state of siege. At all times, and in all places, the civil authority reserves to itself supreme power; the people has obtained for itself this prerogative after long struggles, in the course of which the Commons have maintained their independence and the liberty of the subject against all the encroachments of royal power. In France it is different. The country is nominally republic, but its institutions are monarchical. Administration, formidably centralised, is there concentrated in the hands of the government, which discharges its functions under the more or less efficacious control of Parliament. By virtue of the state of siege, the powers with which the civil authority was invested for the maintenance of order and of the police passed wholly and immediately to the military authorities. These immediately assumed the right of making perquisitions by day or by night in private houses; of sending to a distance those claimed by the law, and those whose homes were not in the districts subject to a state of siege; of ordering the surrender of arms and munitions, and even of proceeding to search for and to remove the same; of forbidding publications and meetings likely to provoke or prolong disturbance.

In short, the administration of justice passed into the hands of military tribunals whose duty was to take cognisance of crimes and offences against the security of the state, against the constitution, against public order and peace, regardless of the position of the chief offenders and of their accomplices. In a word, as will be plain to anyone reading between the lines of legal jargon, this transference was nothing more or less than the virtual suspension of every individual liberty, of all rights guaranteed by the constitution. In ordinary times the authority of the municipality, of the prefect, of the government was constrained to respect certain legal formalities and arrangements, in default of which their decisions might come before the council

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