Press and Politics

Press and Politics

  • Freedom of press.


  • Seizure of the National press.

    ADAM Victor-Jean (1801 - 1866)

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - Bulloz

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Title: Seizure of the National press.

Author : ADAM Victor-Jean (1801 - 1866)

Date shown: July 27, 1830

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Technique and other indications: Lithograph, printed by Bichebois.

Storage place: National Library of France (Paris) website

Contact copyright: © Photo National Library of France

Picture reference: Prints, De Vinck 11056 (87), fol. 17

Seizure of the National press.

© Photo National Library of France

Publication date: September 2006

Historical context

Censorship in the French edition under the Ancien Régime

Officially born in the 16th century, with the order of François I of January 13, 1535 prohibiting the printing of any new book following the Affaire des Placards, censorship is at the heart of the institutional and social functioning of the Old regime. The evolution of the legislation in this field follows that of the History of France, until the fall of the monarchy in 1789. If a relative tolerance settles during the XVIIIe century, with the multiplication of the tacit permissions and the appointment of Lamoignon de Malesherbes, enlightened mind, as director of the bookstore in 1750, one of the first gestures of the National Assembly at the time of the Revolution is to abolish censorship. According to article XI of the Declaration of the rights of man and of the citizen, promulgated on August 26, 1789, "Any citizen can (...) speak, write, print freely, except to answer for the abuse of this freedom in the cases determined by the law".

Image Analysis

The press released on probation

Although accompanied by some control measures, this new freedom of the press and the abolition of all prior censorship resulted in the publishing industry in an avalanche of publications, most often libels and pamphlets of a political nature. , between 1789 and 1793.

A print from the period illustrates this editorial frenzy well: as printers and typographers bustle about their workbench, a crowd grabs pamphlets and newspapers fresh from the presses, jostling each other to be the first to spread the news to the streets. The tumult of the crowd and the contrasting expressions of the faces reflect the violence of political passions under the Revolution and highlight the role played by writings in the emergence of public opinion which asserted itself throughout the 19th century.

But this “mad freedom” did not last long: the old bookstore system was soon replaced by a new legislative order emanating from the popular will under the Terror. On March 29, 1793, the Convention passed a decree restoring repressive censorship. A time put on hold after the fall of Robespierre, this censorship was once again put back on the agenda by Napoleon who, relying on the police, instituted strict control over the bookstore and the printing press and promulgated a series of regulations reorganizing these two branches in 1810.

Under the Restoration, prior censorship was abolished, while a series of legislative texts tended to set the framework for this freedom of the press. At the same time, many debates arose at this time around the liberal ideas expressed under the Revolution.

However, the ordinances promulgated by Charles X on July 26, 1830, aimed at muzzling the opposition press, put an end to this liberal impetus and brought the press and publishing back twenty years. The reaction of the book workers was not long in coming: the next day, the printing presses closed, demonstrations broke out at the Palais-Royal, leading to a real insurrection, and the book people published a protest against the power in place in two newspapers. of the opposition, The weather and The National, founded on January 3, 1830 by a group of liberals led by Thiers. These are then the object of a violent repression, as shown in this lithograph by Victor Adam representing the seizure of the National by police on July 27. This breaks the presses, certain elements of which are lying on the ground in the foreground, and seizes the seditious copies. The revolution of 1830 was nevertheless well underway, leading to the fall of Charles X and the advent of Louis-Philippe.


The press and the birth of public opinion

Having come to power thanks to the ordinances of Charles X against the periodical press, Louis-Philippe is forced to restore freedom of the press: the Constitutional Charter promulgated on August 14, 1830 stipulates that "Citizens have the right to publish and have their opinions printed in accordance with the laws [and that] censorship can never be reinstated."However, this victory of liberal principles is only apparent, and we soon come back to the repressive methods of previous governments. Never denied throughout the 19th century, this close monitoring of the printing press and the bookstore shows how the press represented a crucial issue in the eyes of the powers in place who sought to control public opinion and muzzle all forms of opposition. In full expansion from the July Monarchy, newspapers reached an increasingly large readership, in particular thanks to advances in literacy, the decrease in subscription prices and the publication of popular serial novels. . Used as forums by the various political parties to disseminate their ideas beyond government spheres, they have played a major role in the constitution of public opinion and the advent of democracy.

  • censorship
  • printing house
  • hurry
  • public opinion
  • freedoms


Roger CHARTIER and Henri-Jean MARTIN (dir.),History of the French edition,volumes II and III, Paris, Promodis, 1984-1985.André Jardin and André-Jean Tudescq,The France of the Notables (1815-1848),2 volumes, Paris, Seuil, "New history of contemporary France", vol.6, 1988.Robert NETZ,History of censorship in publishing,Paris, PUF, 1997.

To cite this article

Charlotte DENOËL, "Press and Politics"


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