Research Subjects: Government & Politics

Title I

Rights of Citizenship

Of the Colleges

College of the Possidenti

College of the Dotti

College of the Commercanti

Of the Censurate

Of the Government

Of the Consulta of State

Of the Ministers

Of the Legislative Council

Of the Legislative Body

Of the Tribunals

Of the Public Functionaries

General Dispositions

Constitution of the Italian Republic

Framed at Lyons 1801-1802


The Cisalpine Republic was created in 1796-97 during Napoleon's first Italian campaign. At the end of Napoleon's second Italian campaign and after the peace of Lunéville (1801) Austria had for all intents and purposes lost all influence in Italy. In 1802 Napoleon renamed the Cisalpine Republic the "Republic of Italy" and gave it a new constitution, with himself as president. Originally an executive triumvirate and a legislative assembly governed the Cisalpine Republic. The various French regimes were characterized by an abolition of feudalism, tithes and primogeniture; secularization of church lands; the institution of civil marriage and an attempt at administrative centralization — all of the goals of the revolution in France.

In Jan 1802 Napoleon summoned 450 delegates to Lyons to legitimatize the new republic. The new constitution was drafted by Pierre-Louis Roederer (1754-1835). The Assemblies of Lyon were tightly controlled, the delegates being handpicked, the agenda set by the French and pressure applied to the delegates to assure a favorable outcome. Freedom of religion was guaranteed, but Catholicism was named the religion of the state. The legislative body, elected indirectly, could reject but not amend government proposals. The executive alone was responsible for initiating legislation. The institutions of government were largely modeled after the French. The eventual slowness of the Italians to unify and codify their own laws led to the imposition of the French Civil Code. The title "King of Italy" itself was intended to keep alive hopes of a unified Italy.

Napoleon chose as his vice-president the prominent Milanese liberal Francesco Melzi d'Eril (1753-1816). Melzi, who was related to the future Spanish leaders the Palafox family, had played a leading part in the creation of the Cisalpine Republic. Melzi was given a great deal of internal autonomy. Napoleon delegated much of his authority for Italian affairs to Melzi. The Italians however were restricted from carrying on an independent diplomacy and Napoleon kept a close control over the Italian armed forces. As in France the powers of the police were increased and brigandage was effectively suppressed. It was Napoleon who tried to push the insular Melzi to create a government administration that reflected the make-up of the new Republic. Napoleon also had to rein in Melzi anticlerical tendencies.

On 19 March 1805 the republic was converted into the Kingdom of Italy (with the constitution remaining largely the same with some modifications) with Napoleon's coronation as king (both Joseph and Louis Bonaparte, in his son's name, refused the crown) in Milan and his stepson Eugene de Beauharnais as viceroy. Melzi was made duke of Lodi, a senator and given the Legion of Honor, but removed from office. By this time however Melzi and Napoleon had created a modern and reasonably efficient state.

By Tom Holmberg


Title I. Of the Italian Republic.

  1. The catholic religion apostolic and Roman, is the religion of the state.
  2. The sovereignty resides in the whole of the citizens.
  3. The territory of the republic is divided into departments, districts, and communes.


Title II. Of the Rights of Citizenship.

  1. Every person born of a Cisalpine father, and remaining on the territory of the republic, acquires the rights of a citizen as soon as he becomes of age.

The next three articles regard naturalization. Strangers who have acquired landed property in the state, or who possess commercial or manufacturing establishments, and who have resided seven years in it, may be naturalized. Also persons who possess great talents or expertness in any of the arts or sciences, even in the mechanical ones, or who have tendered great services to the state, may acquire the right of citizenship.

  1. The law determines the ratio of minority, the quantum of property necessary to constitute a qualification, and causes for which the exercise of the rights of citizenship may be lost or suspended.
  2. Also regulates the formation of a civic register. Those citizens only whose names are inserted in this list, shall be eligible to offices under the state.


Title III. Of the Colleges.

  1. The three electoral colleges, namely the college of Possidenti, that of the Dotti, and that of the Commercanti, are the primitive organ of the national sovereignty. Next three articles regulate the forms of their meetings. They are to meet once in two years, at least, on the invitation of the government, to complete their number, to appoint the members of the consulta, of the legislative body, and of the tribunals of revision and appeal, and the commissaries of finance. Their sittings are to continue a fortnight. They are to deliberate, but not discuss, and that by secret ballot, and a third of the members must be present to make a house.

  1. At every ordinary sitting of the colleges, the government is to present to each of them a list of the places vacant, and the instructions necessary for the nomination to them, and the colleges may receive the claims of the candidates.
  2. 16, 17. They are to approve or reject denunciations, give their decisions on the alterations in the constitution that may be proposed to them. No person under thirty years of age is eligible to any of the colleges, and the election is for life.

  1. A member of any of the colleges forfeits it 1st, by fraudulent bankruptcy; 2d, by absence without good cause during three following sessions; 3d, by accepting an employment under a foreign power without consent of the government; 4th, by remaining without the state for six months after being recalled, or for any of those causes which induce forfeiture of citizenship.
  2. Every college on adjourning shall send to the next censorial assembly the minutes of its sitting.


Title IV. Of the College of the Possidenti.

  1. The college of the Possidenti is composed of 300 citizens, chosen from such landed proprietors as possess a revenue of 6000 livres at the least. The place of its meeting, for the first ten years, shall be at Milan.
  2. Every department may send a member to this college, in the proportion of one for every 30,000 inhabitants.
  3. If there be not a sufficient number of inhabitants in a department possessed of the qualification required by the 20th article, the number shall be completed from a quadruple list of the most considerable proprietors of the same department.
  4. At every session the college is to complete its numbers according to the lists of landed property which it is authorized to require of the government.

  5. It is to elect nine members from its own body, who are to constitute the censorial power.
  6. It is to make out a triple list according to the relative majority of votes, for the election of the public functionaries, indicated in the 11th article, and present it to the censors.


Title V. Of the College of the Dotti.

  1. The college of the Dotti is composed of 200 citizens, chosen from among persons who are celebrated for their knowledge in the sciences, or the liberal or mechanical arts, or from among those who are distinguished for their acquaintance with ecclesiastical learning, or their researches in morality, legislation, political or administrative information. It shall reside for the first ten years in Bologna.
  2. At every meeting the session transmits to the censurate a triple list of those citizens duly qualified, according to which it is to fill up the vacancies in offices.
  3. It is to select from its body six members, who are to constitute part of the censurate.
  4. It is to form a double list, according to the majority of suffrages, for the election of public functionaries mentioned in the 11th article, and present it to the censurate.


Title VI. Of the College of the Commercanti.

  1. The college of the Commercanti is composed of 200 citizens, chosen from among the most considerable merchants and manufacturers. It is to reside at Brescia for the first ten years. It is to complete itself at every session according to the information that it has a right to demand of the government.

The articles 28 and 29 [above] are common to all the colleges [therefore articles 31 and 32 are omitted].


Title VII. Of the Censurate.

  1. The Censurate is a committee to twenty-one members, nominated by the colleges in the form and proportion expressed in the 24th and 28th articles. It shall reside for the first ten years at Cremona.
  2. It shall assemble always on the fifth day after the sittings of the three colleges.
  3. The sitting shall continue for only ten days, and seventeen members are necessary to constitute a meeting.
  4. It is to nominate to all vacant offices from the lists transmitted by the three colleges, and by the greatest number of votes.
  5. It is to declare the election of the functionaries nominated by the majority of the three colleges.
  6. It is to nominate to the vacancies in the college of the Dotti, agreeable to the 27th article.
  7. It is to terminate its nominations within the time fixed for its meetings.
  8. It is to exercise its functions according to the articles 109, 111, [and] 114.
  9. The censurate is to renew itself at every meeting, ordinary or extraordinary, of the electoral colleges.
  10. The acts of the censurate are to be presented to the colleges at their first meeting.


Title VIII. Of the Government.

  1. The Government is entrusted to a president, a vice-president, a consulta of state, to ministers, and to a legislative body, in conformity to their respective privileges.
  2. The president is to exercise his functions for ten years, and to be indefinitely reeligible.
  3. The president has the originating of all the laws, conformably to article the 79th.
  4. He has also the originating of all the diplomatic negotiations.
  5. He is exclusively invested with the executive power, which he is to exercise by the medium of the ministers.
  6. He appoints the ministers, the civil and diplomatic agents, the chiefs of the army and the generals. The law provides for the nomination of officers of inferior rank.
  7. He names the vice-president, who, in his absence, takes his place in the consulta of state, and represents him in all the capacities which he may choose to confide to him. Once appointed, he cannot be dismissed during the presidence of him by whom he was elected.
  8. In every case where the office of president may be vacant, he shall possess all the privileges of the president until the election of his successor.

Next follow several regulations respecting the transaction of the public business between the president and the secretary of state.

  1. The salary of the president is fixed at 500,000 livres of Milan, and that of the vice-president at 100,000.


Title IX. Of the Consulta of State.

  1. The Consulta of State consists of eight citizens, of forty years age at least, elected for the life by the colleges, and distinguished for eminent services done to the republic.
  2. The president presides in the consulta of state, and one of its members is to be appointed minister for foreign affairs.
  3. The consulta of state is specially charged with the consideration of diplomatic treaties, and every object which relates to the foreign affairs of the state.
  4. The instructions relative to negotiations are discussed in the consulta, and treaties shall be definitive only when sanctioned by the absolute majority of its members.

The 58th, 59th, 60th, 61st, and 62d sections are not of much importance.

  1. The president exclusively possesses the initiative in all affairs proposed in the consulta, and in all decisions his voice is to preponderate.
  2. In the case of the cessation, resignation, or death of the president, the consulta of state elects his successor by an absolute majority of votes within the space of forty-eight hours; and it cannot separate until the accomplishment of that object.
  3. The salary of the members of the consulta of state is fixed at 80,000 livres.


Title X. Of the Ministers.

Under this head are comprehended a grand national judge or minister of justice, a minister for the administration of the public treasury, and a secretary to the national judge, who is occasionally to be his substitute.

  1. No act of the government can be voted unless signed by a minister.


Title XI. Of the Legislative Council.

  1. The Legislative Council cannot be composed of less than ten citizens of the age of thirty years at least, appointed by the president, but who may be dismissed by him at the end of three years.
  2. 77, 78, [and] 79. The members of the legislative council have deliberative voices on the projects proposed by the president, which cannot be passed but by an absolute majority of votes. They are specially charged with the drawing up of projects of law, and explaining the motives for sanctioning them. The salary of each counsellor is fixed at 20,000 livres.


Title XII. Of the Legislative Body.

  1. The Legislative Body is composed of seventy-five members, of thirty years of age at least, chosen by each department according to its population. One half of them are to be taken from the college.
  2. It is to be renewed by thirds every two years. The going out of the first and second third is to be determined by lot.
  3. The government convokes the legislative body, and prorogues its sittings. They cannot, however, be shorter than two months annually.
  4. In order to entitle it to deliberate, more than one half of the members must be present, not including the orators.

The regulations which follow merely relate to the forms of appointing the orators, and promulgating or denouncing laws as unconstitutional.

The salary of the members of the legislative body is fixed at 6000 livres of Milan, and that of the orators at 9000.


Title XIII. Of the Tribunals.

This head embraces the appointment of the different tribunals, civil and military, which are formed after the model of the French republic.

The judges are all appointed for life, and cannot be deprived of their situations but in consequence of improper conduct.


Title XIV. Of the Responsibility of the Public Functionaries.

  1. The functions of the members of the colleges, and of the censurate, of the president and vice-president of the government, of the members of the consulta of state, of the legislative council, of the legislative body, of the chamber of orators, and of the tribunals of revision an cassation, are not subject to any responsibility.
  2. The ministers are responsible - 1. for acts of the government signed by them; 2. for neglect in executing the laws and the rules of public administration; 3. for particular orders given by them contrary to the constitution and to regulations by which it was supported; 4. for peculation.
The other sections of this head relate to the powers of the tribunal of cassation, for trying the ministers accused, and to the share taken by the colleges and the censurate in that transaction.


Title XV. General Dispositions.

  1. The constitution acknowledges no other civil distinction than that which is derived from exercise of public functions.
  2. 118, [and] 119. Every inhabitant of the Cisalpine territory is free with respect to the particular exercise of his religion. The republic recognizes no privileges for, or impediments to industry and commerce, both externally and internally, but those founded in law.

  1. There is throughout the republic an uniformity of weights, measures, coin, of civil and criminal laws, and the elementary system of instruction.
  2. A national institute is charged with collecting discoveries, and bringing to perfection the sciences and the arts.
  3. A national exchequer is to regulate and ascertain the accounts of the revenues and expenses of the republic. It is to consist of five members appointed by the colleges. One of whom is to resign in every two years, but is to be reeligible.
  4. The troops who receive pay are to obey the orders of the administration. The national guards are subject only to the laws.
  5. The public force, by its very nature, must obey. No armed body can deliberate.
  6. All the debts and credits of the ancient provinces, now the Cisalpine, are recognized by the republic.
  7. Every purchaser of national property, at a legal sale, cannot be disturbed in the possession of it; but any lawful claimant is to be indemnified by the treasury of the state.
  8. The law assigns, on the national property not sold, a sufficient revenue to all bishops, chapters, seminaries, curates, and for church repairs. This revenue cannot be otherwise applied.
  9. The consulta may at the end of three years propose any alterations in the constitution it deems necessary.



The Annual Register, or, A View of the History, Politics, and Literature for the Year 1802. London: Printed by R. Wilks for W. Otridge and Sons, etal. (Publisher varies by year.) Published for the years 1758-1837 in 80 vols.; illus., maps; 21-23 cm. Alternate titles for some years include: Annual Register, or, A View of the History and Politics of the Year... and New Annual Register, or General Repository of History, Politics, and Literature, for the Year... Succeeded by: Annual Register of World Events.



Placed on The Napoleon Series: December 2000


Research Index | Government Index | Legislation Index ]

Search the Series

© Copyright 1995-2017, The Napoleon Series, All Rights Reserved.