Research Subjects: Government & Politics

Public Instruction
Special Schools
National Pupils

Imperial Catechism

Imperial University
Grand Master

Documents upon Napoleon and Education

May I, 1802 (II Floréal, Year X)

From these documents excellent idea of the educational system of Napoleon can be obtained Documents A and C, the two principal creative acts show the plan of the system and incidentally throw some light upon its educational spirit and ideals. Document B, although an extract from a church instead of a school text-book, will serve to convey some idea of the character of the teaching touching political matters.

A. Law upon Public Instruction.

Title I. Division of the Instruction.

  1. Instruction shall be given:
    1st. In the primary schools established by the communes;
    2d. In the secondary schools established by the communes or kept by private masters;
    3d. In the lycées and the special schools maintained at the expense of the public treasury.

Title II. Of the Primary Schools.

  1. ...
  2. The instructors shall be chosen by the mayors and tile municipal councils; their stipend shall consist of: 1st, the dwelling provided by tile communes; 2d, a fee paid by the parents, and fixed by tile municipal councils.
  3. The municipal councils shall exempt from the fee those of the parents who may be unable to pay it; nevertheless, this exemption cannot exceed a fifth of the children received into the primary schools.
  4. The sub-perfects shall be especially charged with the organization of the primary schools; they shall render monthly to the prefects an account of their condition.

Title III. Of the Secondary Schools.

  1. Every school established by the communes or kept by individuals, in which instruction is given in tile Latin and French languages, the first principles of geography history, and mathematics, shall be considered a secondary school.
  2. The government encourages the establishment of secondary schools and will recompense good instruction which shall be given there, either by the grant of a habitation or by the distribution of gratuitous places in the Iycées to those of the pupils of each department who shall most distinguish themselves, and by the bounties granted to the fifty masters of those schools which shall have had the most pupils admitted to the lycées.
  3. Secondary schools cannot be established without the authorisation of the government. The secondary schools, as well as all the private schools whose instruction shall be higher than that of the primary schools, shall be placed under the special surveillance and inspection of the prefects.

Title IV. Of the Lycées.

  1. Lycées shall be established for instruction in letters and the sciences. There shall be at least one lycée for each tribunal of appeal district.
  2. Instruction shall be given in the lycées in the ancient languages, rhetoric, logic, ethics, and the elements of the mathematical and physical sciences.
  3. The number of professors in the lycée shall never be less than eight; but it can be increased by the government, as well as the number of the subjects of instruction, according to the number of pupils who shall attend the lycées.

  4. There shall be in the lycées, study masters, and masters of drawing, military exercises, and of accomplishments, [i.e. music and dancing] .
  5. Instruction shall he given there:
    To pupils whom the government shall place there;
    To the pupils of the secondary schools who shall be admitted there by a competition;
    To pupils whose parents shall have placed them there to board;
    To day scholars.
  6. The administration of each lycée shall be confided to a principal; he shall have immediately under him a study-critic and a proctor conducting the affairs of the school.
  7. The principal, the critic, and the proctor shall be appointed by the First Consul: they shall form the council of administration for the school.
  8. ln each of the cities where a lycée is established there shall be a bureau of administration for that school. This bureau shall be composed of the prefect of the department the president of the tribunal of appeal, the commissioner of the government be fore this tribunal, the commissioner of the government before the criminal tribunal the mayor and the principal.
  9. ...
  10. The First Consul shall appoint three inspectors-general of studies who shall visit the lycées at least once a year, shall definitely settle their accounts, shall examine all parts of the instruction and administration, and shall render an account thereof to the government.
  11. ...
  12. The first appointment of the professors of the lycées shall be in the following manner: three inspectors-general of studies, in conjunction with three members of the national institute, designated by the First Consul, shall go over the departments and shall there examine the citizens who present themselves to occupy the different places of professors. For each place they shall indicate to the government two persons, one of whom shall be appointed by the First Consul.
  13. When the lycées are once organized and a chair becomes vacant, the three inspectors-general of studies shall present one person to the government; the bureau, in conjunction with the council of administration and the professors of the lycées shall present another; the First Consul shall appoint one of the two candidates.
  14. ...
  15. ...

Title V. Of the Special Schools.

  1. The last grade of instruction shall include in the special schools the complete and profound study of the sciences and the useful arts, as well as the perfecting thereof.
  2. The special schools now in existence shall be preserved, without prejudice to the modifications which the government believes that it must order for the economy and the welfare of the service. When the place of a professor shall become vacant, including the school of law which shall be established at Paris, it shall be filled by the First Consul from three candidates who shall be presented the first by one of the classes of the national institute, the second by the inspectors-general of studies, and the third by the professors of the school in which the place shall be vacant.
  3. The following new special schools shall be instituted:
    1st. Ten law schools can be established: each, of them shall have four professors at most;
    2d. Three new schools of medicine can be created, which shall have at most eight professors each, and one of which shall be devoted especially to the study and treatment of the diseases of the troops of the army and navy;
    3d. There shall be four schools of natural history, physics, and chemistry, with four professors in each;
    4th. The mechanical and chemical arts shall be taught in two special schools; there shall be three professors in each of these schools;
    5th. A school of transcendental mathematics shall have three professors;
    6th. A special school of geography, history, and public economy shall be composed of four professors;
    7th. In addition to the schools of the arts of design existing at Paris, Dijon, and Toulouse, there shall be formed a fourth one with four professors;
    8th. The observatories in operation at present shall each have a professor of astronomy;
    9th. There shall be in several lycées professors of the living languages;
    10th. There shall be appointed eight professors of music and composition.
  4. The first appointment of the professors for these new special schools shall be made in the following manner: The classes of the institute corresponding to the places which are to be filled shall present one person to the government; the three inspectors-general of studies shall present a second: the First Consul shall choose one of the two.

    After the organization of the new special schools, the First Consul shall appoint to the vacant places from among the three persons who shall be presented to him as is provided in article 24.


Title VII. Of the National Pupils.

  1. Six thousand four hundred boarding pupils shall be supported at the expense of the Republic at the lycées and the special schools.
  2. Out of these six thousand four hundred pensioners, two thousand four hundred shall be chosen by the government from among the sons of military men and of civil, judicial, administrative, or municipal functionaries who shall have served the Republic well; and for ten years only, from among the children of citizens of the departments united with France, although they may have been neither military men nor public functionaries.
  3. These two thousand four hundred pupils must be at least nine years of age and know how to read and write.
  4. The other four thousand pupils shall be taken from a double number of pupils of the secondary schools, who shall be presented to the government in consequence of an examination and a competition. Each department shall furnish a number of these latter pupils proportional to its population.
  5. The pupils supported in the lycées cannot remain there more than six years at the expense of the nation. At the end of their studies they shall undergo an examination, in consequence of which one-fifth of them shall be placed in the different special schools, according to the inclination of these pupils, in order to be supported there for from two to four years at the expense of the Republic.


B. Imperial Catechism. April 4, 1807.

Extract, Larousse, Grande Dictionaire Universel, III, 567.

Lesson VII. Continuation of the Fourth Commandment.

Q. What are the duties of Christians with respect to the princes who govern them, and what in particular are our duties towards Napoleon I, our Emperor?

A. Christians owe to the princes who govern them, and we owe in particular to Napoleon I, our Emperor, love, respect, obedience, fidelity, military service and the tributes laid for the preservation and defence of the Empire and of his throne; we also owe to him fervent prayers for his safety and the spiritual and temporal prosperity of the State.

Q. Why are we bound to all these duties towards our Emperor?

A. First of all, because God, who creates empires and distributes them according to His will, in loading our Emperor with gifts, both in peace and in war, has established him as our sovereign and has made him the minister of His power and His image upon the earth. To honor and to serve our Emperor is then to honor and to serve God himself. Secondly, because our Lord Jesus Christ by his doctrine as well as by His example, has Himself taught us what we owe to our sovereign: He was born the subject of Caesar Augustus; He paid the prescribed impost; and just as He ordered to render to God that which belongs to God, so He ordered to render to Caesar that which belongs to Caesar.

Q. Are there not particular reasons which ought to attach us more strongly to Napoleon I, our Emperor?

A. Yes; for it is he whom God has raised up under difficult circumstances to re-establish the public worship of the holy religion of our fathers and to be the protector of it. He has restored and preserved public order by his profound and active wisdom; he defends the State by his powerful arm; lie has become the anointed of the Lord through the consecration which he received from the sovereign pontiff, Head of the Universal Church.

Q. What ought to be thought of those who may be lacking in their duty towards our Emperor?

A. According to the Apostle Saint Paul, they would be resisting the order established by God himself and would render themselves worthy of eternal damnation.

Q. Will the duties which are required of us towards our Emperor be equally binding with respect to his lawful successors in the order established by the constitutions of the Empire?

A. Yes, without doubt; for we read in the Holy Scriptures, that God, Lord of heaven and earth, by an order of His supreme will and through His providence, gives empires not only to one person in particular, but also to his family.


C. Decree for Organizing the Imperial University, March 17, 1808.

Duvergier, Lois, XVI, 238-248.

Title I. General Organization Of The University.

  1. Public instruction in the entire empire is intrusted exclusively to the University.

  2. No school, no establishment for instruction whatsoever, can be formed outside of the Imperial University and without the authorisation of its head.

  3. No one can open a school nor give instruction publicly without being a member of the Imperial University and graduated by one of its faculties. Nevertheless, the instruction in the seminaries is under the control of the archbishops and bishops, each for his own diocese. They appoint and dismiss the directors and professors thereof. They are only required to comply with the regulations for the seminaries, ap proved by us.

  4. The Imperial University shall be composed of as many academies as there are courts of appeal.

  5. The schools belonging to each academy shall be placed in the following order:
    1st. The faculties of theology,
    bestowing of the degrees;
    2d. The lycees for the ancient languages, history, rhetoric logic, and the elements of the mathematical and physical sciences;
    3d. The colleges, secondary communal schools, for the elements of the ancient languages and the first principles of history and the sciences;
    4th. The institutions and schools conducted by individual instructors in which the instruction is allied to that of the colleges;
    5th. The schools and boarding-schools belonging to individual masters and devoted to studies less advanced than those of the institutions;
    6th. The petty schools and primary schools, in which reading, writing, and the first principles of arithmetic are taught.

Title II. Of The Composition Of The Faculties.

  1. There shall be in the Imperial University five orders of faculties, to wit:
    1st. The faculties of theology.
    2d. The faculties of law,
    3d. The faculties of medicine,
    4th. The faculties of mathematical and physical sciences,
    5th. The faculties of letters.

. . . . . . . .

Title IV. Of The Order Which Shall Be Established Among The Members Of The University Of The Ranks And The Titles Attached To The Functions.

I. Of the Ranks among the Functionaries.

  1. The functionaries of the Imperial University shall take rank among themselves in the following order:

    Of Administration. Of Instruction.
    1st. The grand master.
    2d. The chancellor.
    3d. The treasurer.
    4th. The councillors for life.
    5th. The ordinary councillors.
    6th. The inspectors of the University.
    7th. The rectors of the academy.
    8th. The inspectors of the academies.
    9th. The deans of the faculties.
    10th. The professors of the faculties.
    11th. The head-masters of the lycees.
    12th. The critics of the lycees.
    13th. The professors of the lycees.
    14th. The principals of the colleges.
    15th. The fellows.
    16th. Regents of the colleges.
    17th. The heads of the institutions.
    18th. The masters of the boarding schools.
    19th. The masters of studies.

  2. After the first formation of the Imperial University, the order of the ranks shall be followed in the selection of the functionaries, and no one can be appointed to a place until after having passed through the subordinate places.

    The places shall form also a field of action which shall present, for knowledge and good conduct, the promise of rising to the highest ranks of the Imperial University.

Title V. Of The Principles Of Instruction In The Schools Of The University.

. . . . . . . .

  1. All the schools of the Imperial University shall take for the basis of their instruction:
    1st. The precepts of the Catholic religion;
    2d. Fidelity to the Emperor, to the Imperial Monarchy, the depository of the welfare of the peoples, and to the Napoleonic dynasty, the conservator of the unity of France and of all the liberal ideas proclaimed by the constitutions;
    3d. Obedience to other rules of the teaching corps, which have for their object the uniformity of instruction, and which tend to train for the State citizens attached to their religion, to their prince, to their fatherland, and to their family;
    4th. All the professors of theology shall be required to conform themselves to the provisions of the edict of 1682, concerning the four propositions contained in the declaration of the clergy of France of the said year.

Title VI. Of The Obligations Which The Members Of The University Contract.

  1. By the terms of article 2 of the law of May 10, 1806, the members of the Imperial University at the time of their installation shall contract by oath the civil obligations, special and temporary, which shall bind them to the instructional corps.
  2. They shall bind themselves to the precise observance of the rules and regulations of the University.
  3. They shall promise obedience to the grand master in all that he shall command them for our service and for the good of the instruction.
  4. They shall bind themselves not to leave the instructional corps and their functions until after having obtained the consent of the grand master therefor in the forms which shall be prescribed.
  5. The grand master can release a member of the University from his obligations and permit him to leave the corps: in case of refusal by the grand master, and of persistence on the part of the member of the University in the resolution to leave the corps, the grand master shall be required to deliver to him a letter of exeat after three consecutive demands repeated at intervals of two months.
  6. Whoever shall have left the instructional body without having fulfilled these formalities shall be removed from the roll of the University and shall incur the penalty attached to that removal.
  7. The members of the University shall not be able to accept any salaried public or private position without the properly attested permission of the grand master.
  8. The members of the University shall be required to inform the grand master and his officers of everything in the establishments of public instruction which may come to their knowledge that is contrary to the doctrine and the principles of the instructional corps.
  9. The disciplinary penalties which the violation of the duties and obligations may entail shall be:
    Ist. Arrests;
    2d. Reprimand in the presence of an academic council;
    3d. Censure in the presence of the council of the University;
    4th. Change to a subordinate employment;
    5th. Suspension from duty for a fixed time, with or without total or partial deprivation of stipend;
    6th. Reform or retirement given before the time of emeritation, with a stipend less than the pension of the emerited;
    7th. Lastly, removal from the roll of the University.
  10. Every person who shall have incurred removal shall be disqualified for employment in any public administration.
  11. The relations between the penalties and the infraction of duties, as well as the grading of these penalties according to the different employments, shall he established by rules.

Title VII. Of The Functions And Prerogatives Of The Grand Master Of The University.

  1. The Imperial University shall be administered and governed by the grand master, who shall be appointed and dismissed by us.
  2. The grand master shall have the selection to the administrative places and to the chairs of the colleges and the lycees; he shall likewise appoint the officers of the academies and those of the University, and he shall make all the promotions in the instructional corps.
  3. He shall install the persons who shall have obtained the chairs of the faculties, according to the competition whose method shall be determined by the council of the University.
  4. ...
  5. He shall grant permission to instruct and to open houses of instruction to the graduates of the University who shall ask it from him and who shall have fulfilled the condition required by the regulations in order to obtain this permission.
  6. The grand master shall be presented to us each year by the minister of the interior, in order to submit to us: Ist, the list of the establishments of instruction, and particularly of the boarding schools, institutions, colleges and lycees; 2d. that of the officers of the academies and of the officers of the University; 3d, the promotion list of the members of the instructional corps who shall have merited it by their services. He shall cause these lists to be published at the opening of the academic year.
  7. He can transfer from one academy to another the regents and principals of the colleges maintained by the communes, as well as the functionaries and the professors of the lycees, upon taking the opinion of three members of the council.
  8. He shall have the authority to impose arrests, reprimand, censure, the change and suspension of functions (article 47) upon members of the University who shall have been delinquent enough in their duties to incur these penalties.
  9. ...

  1. He shall give to the different schools the regulations for discipline, which shall be discussed by the council of the University.
  2. He shall convoke and preside over this council, and he shall appoint its members, as well as those of the academic councils, as shall be provided in the following titles.

    . . . . . . . .

Title IX. Of The Council Of The University.

Of the Formation of the Council.

  1. The council of the University shall be composed of thirty members.

  2. Ten of these members, of whom six shall be chosen from among the inspectors and four from among the rectors, shall be councillors for life or titular councillors of the University. They shall be commissioned by us.
    The ordinary councillors, to the number of twenty, shall be taken from among the inspectors, the deans and professors of the faculties, and the head-masters of the lycees.

  3. Every year the grand master shall make up the list of the twenty ordinary councillors, who shall complete the council for the year.
  4. ...
  5. The council shall be divided for work into five sections:
    The first shall occupy itself with the condition and the improvement of the studies;
    The second with the administration and the police of the schools;
    The third with their accounts;
    The fourth with litigious matters;
    And the fifth with affairs of the seal of the University.
    Each section shall examine the matters which shall be sent to it by the grand master, and shall make report thereof to the council, which shall deliberate thereon.
    Of the Prerogatives of the Council.
  6. The grand master shall propose for the discussion of the council all the projects for regulations and rules which may be made for the schools of different degrees.
  7. All questions relative to the police, the accounting and the general administration of the faculties, the lycees, and the colleges shall be decided by the council, which shall fix the budgets of these schools upon the report of the treasurer of the University.
  8. It shall pass judgment upon the accusations of the superiors and the complaints of the subordinates.
  9. It alone can impose upon the members of the University the penalties for reformation or removal (article 47) after investigation and examination of the offences which shall involve condemnation to these penalties.
  10. The council shall admit or reject the works which shall have been or ought to be put into the hands of the pupils or placed in the libraries of the lycees or colleges; it shall examine the new works which shall be proposed for the instruction of the same schools.
  11. It shall hear the report of the inspectors upon return from their missions.
  12. The litigious matters relative to the general administration of the academies and their schools, and in particular those which shall concern the members of the University in relation to their functions, shall be carried to the council of the University. The decisions, taken by majority of the votes and after an exhaustive discussion shall be executed by the grand master. Nevertheless, in this he can have recourse to our Council of State against the decisions upon the report of our minister of the interior.
  13. In conformity with the proposal of the grand master and upon the presentation of our minister of the interior, a commission of the council of the University can be admitted to our Council of State in order to solicit the reform of the regulations and the decisions interpretative of the law.
  14. The minutes of the meetings of the council of the University shall be sent each month to our minister of the interior: the members of the council may cause to be inserted in these minutes the motives for their opinions, when they differ from the opinion adopted by the council.
  15. . . . . . . . .

Title XI. Of The Inspectors Of The University And Of The Inspector Of The Academies.

  1. The general inspectors of the University shall be appointed by the grand master, and taken from among the officers of the University; their number shall be at least twenty and cannot exceed thirty.
  2. They Shall be divided into five orders, as are the faculties; they shall not belong to any academy in particular; they Shall visit them in turns and upon the order of the grand master, in order to ascertain the condition of the Studies and of the discipline in the faculties, the lycees, and the colleges, to make certain the accuracy and the talents of the professors, regents and masters of study, to examine the scholars, and lastly, to supervise their administration and accounts.
  3. . . . . . . . .

Title XII. Of The Rectors Of The Academies.

  1. Each academy shall be governed by a rector under the immediate orders of the grand master, who shall appoint him for five years, and shall choose him from among the officers of the academies.


  1. They [the rectors] shall cause the deans of the faculties, head-masters of the lycees, and principals of the colleges to give accounts to them of the condition of these establishments; and they shall direct their administration, especially in relation to the severity of the discipline and economy in the expenses.
  2. They shall cause to be inspected and looked after by the individual inspectors of academies, the schools, and especially the colleges, institutions, and boarding schools, and they themselves shall make visits as often as it is possible for them.

Title XIII. Of The Regulations To Be Given To The Lycees, Colleges, Institutions, Boarding School And Primary School.

  1. For the future, and after the complete organization of the University, the head-masters and critics of the lycees, the principals and regents of the colleges, as well as the masters of study of these schools, shall be bound to celibacy and to the life in common.

    The professors of the lycees can be married and, in that case, they shall dwell outside of the lycee. The celibate professors can dwell therein, and take advantage of the life in Common.

  2. . . . . . . . .

  1. There shall be nothing printed and published to announce the studies, the discipline, the boarding conditions, or upon the exercises of the pupils in the schools, unless the different programs have been submitted to the rectors and councils of the academies and approval has been obtained for them.
  2. Upon the proposal of the rectors and the advice of the inspectors, and after an information made by the academic councils, the grand master, after having consulted with the council of the University, can cause the closing of the institutions and schools in which there shall have been discovered serious abuses and principles contrary to those which the University professes.


  1. Measures shall be taken by the University in order that the art of instructing in reading, writing, and the first principles of arithmetic in the primary schools shall henceforth not be exercised except by masters sufficiently enlightened to impart readily and accurately these fundamental acquirements necessary for all men.
  2. For that purpose there shall be established under the care of each academy, and within the precincts of the colleges or the lycees, one or several normal classes, for the purpose of training masters for the primary schools. The most suitable methods for improving the art of teaching reading, writing, and cyphering shall be set forth there.
  3. . . . . . . . .

Title XVI. Of The Costumes.

  1. The common costume for all the members of the University shall be the black coat with a palm embroidered in blue silk upon the left part of the breast.
  2. The regents and professors shall give their lectures in black tamine robes. Over the robe and upon the left shoulder shall be placed the shoulder knot, which shall vary in color according to the faculties, and in braiding only according to the grades.
  3. . . . . . . . .

Title XIX. General Provisions.

  1. The Imperial University and its grand master, charged exclusively by us with the care of education and public instruction in all the Empire, shall aim without respite to improve the instruction of all sorts, and to favor the composition of classical works; they shall particularly take care that the instruction of the sciences shall always be upon the level of acquired knowledge and that the spirit of system shall never arrest their progress.
  2. and last. We reserve to ourselves to recognize and reward in a particular manner the great services which may be rendered by the members of the University for the instruction of our peoples; and also to reform, and that by decrees taken in our council, every decision, rule, or act emanating from the council of the University or the grand master, whenever we shall deem it useful for the good of the State.



Title: The constitutions and other select documents illustrative of the history of France, 1789-1901
Author(s): Anderson, Frank Maloy, 1871-
Publication: Minneapolis, The H.W. Wilson company,
Year: 1904
Description: xxvi, 671 p. p., 20 cm.


Dickinson, Revolution and Reaction in Modern France, 48-51; Cambridge Modern History, IX, 126-130; Fournier, Napoleon, 233-235, 406-410; Rose, Napoleon, I, 27 1-275; Lanfrey, Napoleon, II, 221-224, 111, 139-141; Sloane, Napoleon, II, 144-147, III, 72-74; Lavlsse and Rambaud, Histoire générale, IX, 248-253.



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