Freedom of education and the Falloux law

Freedom of education and the Falloux law

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  • Three saints in the same font.

  • The Falloux law.

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Title: Three saints in the same font.

Author :

Creation date : 1850

Date shown: 04 February 1850

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Technique and other indications: News 67. Lithograph, at Aubert. Published in the "Charivari" of February 4, 1850

Storage location: Historic Center of the National Archives website

Contact copyright: © Historic Center of the National Archives - Photo workshop website

Picture reference: AE / II / News / 67

Three saints in the same font.

© Historic Center of the National Archives - Photography workshop

To close

Title: The Falloux law.

Author :

Creation date : 1850

Date shown: March 15, 1850

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Storage location: Historic Center of the National Archives website

Contact copyright: © Historic Center of the National Archives - Photo workshop website

Picture reference: A / 1200 / March 15, 1850

© Historic Center of the National Archives - Photography workshop

Publication date: January 2005


Freedom of education and the Falloux law


Historical context

The question of education in 1848

Under the July Monarchy, defenders of state education prerogatives opposed free education advocates, anxious to guarantee parents the freedom to choose where and how to educate their children.

Since 1833, the Guizot law has enshrined the freedom of primary education by organizing it on the principle of a public or private school for any municipality with more than 500 inhabitants. It is also widely demanded for secondary education, but several bills have proposed it without success.

In June 1848, the violence of the insurrections that bloodied Paris led the conservatives, supporters of order, to come to an agreement with the Catholics to find a compromise which established a teaching respectful of order and property. "Let's put our fears together", summed up the philosopher Victor Cousin (1792-1867). The public teachers, trained by the normal schools of the departments and followers of liberal and socialist ideas, appear to be responsible for the revolutionary agitation.

The conservatives make the withdrawal of the project of compulsory, free and secular primary education due to Hippolyte Carnot (1801-1888), short-lived Minister of Public Instruction, a condition for supporting the candidacy of Louis Napoleon Bonaparte for the presidency of the Republic. A legitimist, Falloux sided with Adolphe Thiers (1797-1877) among the supporters of the order.

Thiers, hostile to lay teachers, proposes to entrust all primary schools to the Church. But Montalembert (1810-1870) opposes in the name of Liberty to the Church exercising a monopoly over all education.

Image Analysis

Three saints in the same font

The three protagonists of the law on freedom of education, Montalembert snuffer n ° 1, Thiers n ° 2 and Molé n ° 3, splash around in a font. Posted in The Charivari of February 4, 1850, the caricature is anonymous, perhaps as a result of a hasty correction of the lithographic stone: the panel on the teachers went from the right of the font to its left, where it was able to take the place of the signature. Daumier, who has provided many caricatures for the News series, seems to be the author of this incisive and very spirited drawing.

Anticlerical, the newspaper shows the three deputies decked out in rat tails, cassocks and extinguisher robes, attributes customary to stigmatize members of the clergy as unpleasant and obscurantist. This derision denounces the collusion of partisans of order and Catholics. If Montalembert and Molé openly profess Catholicism, it is exciting to see Thiers, a notorious free-thinker and anticlerical, in unison with this "frenzied" round!

The caricature does not only target the law on education, under discussion since January 14, 1850 and vehemently contested by Victor Hugo on the 15, but also the Parieu law (January 11, 1850) which has just put teachers under control of the prefects for six months. The fear of socialism, accused of destroying social order and religion with the complicity of thousands of teachers, prompts the government to have department-level monitors suspected of subversive ideas in order to dismiss them more quickly. It is to them that the "De Profundis “, A psalm of mourning for Christians, because the prefects will exercise this repression with discretionary powers.

The Falloux law (March 15, 1850)

Adopted by 399 votes against 237, the Falloux law, which also has as authors Montalembert, Abbé Dupanloup (1802-1878) and Thiers, enshrines the freedom of education in secondary and primary education, by suspending the monopoly of the 'University on schools. The main authority, the Superior Council of Public Instruction, has only eight academics out of twenty-eight members, including seven representatives of recognized religions and three members of free education (title 1, chap. 1). In each department an academy is created, which triples their number (title 1, chap. 2, art. 1); the bishop sits there.

Schools can be public or independent (title 1, chap. 3, art. 17). Moral and religious instruction is at the forefront of the subjects taught (title 2, chap. 23) in all primary schools, public or private; separate schools for each religion are recommended (title 2, chap. 36). The various ministers of religion are part of the authorities responsible for primary education, and "the entrance to school is always open to them" (title 2, chap. 4, art. 44).

Religious congregations are made easier to open educational establishments, and municipalities have the right to choose a congregationalist as a teacher in public primary schools. A baccalaureate or an internship is sufficient to open a secondary school (Title 3, Chapter 1, Art. 60). Nuns need only a letter of obedience from their superior to teach in primary school (title 2, chap. 5, art. 49).

Free establishments can obtain premises and a public subsidy, but this cannot exceed one tenth of the establishment's annual expenditure (Title 3, Chapter 69).


A major event in the history of contemporary France

A clever compromise between Thiers, who wanted to grant the Church only the primary, and the ultramontanes who, rejecting any other dependence than that of the Pope in Rome, refused control of the University, made the law succeed. Pius IX also supports the action of Montalembert. Ultimately, state control over free schools is minimized, while the clergy participate in all education "committees". All the bishops see to the immediate application of the law, emphasizing the freedom of the Church in education, and free schools multiply: 257 are created between 1850 and 1852; the Jesuits, until then banned, can teach again.

The school problem comes to the fore between supporters and opponents of the Church. Education is not free, except for needy families. The Falloux law leads by reaction to a closer association between the defense of secularism and democratic ideas: the high schools tighten up on anticlericalism. This widens the gap that separates the two schools and the "two young people".

While giving liberty an extension favorable to the interests of the Church, the Falloux law maintained the principle of state prerogatives. The right of parents to choose their children's educational establishment has never taken precedence over the state's duty to conduct national education. What remains of the Falloux law today? Nothing concerning the primary, since the passage of the secular laws of 1881-1886. But, apart from the privilege of bishops, this was the regime under which private secondary education continued to function until 1960. The cap on subsidies to private establishments (Title 3, Chapter 69) is still in effect and in 1994 sparked demonstrations in defense of the Falloux law in the name of public education.

  • caricature
  • Catholicism
  • Montalembert (Charles Forbes of)
  • Second Republic
  • school
  • free school
  • education
  • Thiers (Adolphe)
  • Guizot (Francois)
  • freedoms


Maurice HEBERT and André CARNEC, The Falloux Law and freedom of education, La Rochelle, Rupella, 1953 Antoine PROST, History of education in France, 1800-1967, Paris, A. Colin, coll. "U", 1968. Jean-François SIRINELLI and Daniel COUTY, Dictionary of French History, 2 vol., Paris, A. Colin, 1999.

To cite this article

Luce-Marie ALBIGÈS, "Freedom of education and the Falloux law"

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