FRANCE: Record

3 minute read

Setting something of a record for legislation in France, the French Cabinet one day last week decreed 80 new laws ranging from a 402-article “Code of the French Family” to a prescription of the death penalty for ten forms of espionage.

Most important political decree was one prolonging the life of the present Chamber of Deputies until June 1942, or two years beyond the four-year term for which the Deputies were elected in 1936. Only precedent for prolonging the Chamber occurred in 1918, during the World War, but even so there was no exact parallel. Then the Chamber, rather than the Cabinet, voted itself one more year in office.

Excuse for last week’s action was that France could not afford to hold a general election, with its attendant publicity of the divisions of French political thought, while it was engaged in a “white war” with the Axis powers. Said Finance Minister Paul Reynaud, author of the French three-year economic plan which will also run until 1942: “Today … on the threshold of the most perilous period of our history, I am sure that nobody would do anything to weaken France by dividing her. The bloodless war which is being forced on us, we can and must win.”

There were a few cries that by this decree Premier Edouard Daladier was tinkering with democracy in France. But it was also remembered how ably in the past Adolf Hitler had taken advantage of French internal dissensions to further his aggressions.

Important legislation of the week:

>All radio stations in France were placed under Premier Daladier’s control, and Léon Brillouin, radio research scientist, was appointed director general of radio broadcasting.

>Brilliant, witty Jean Giraudoux, author of such ironical War novels as Suzanne and the Pacific and My Friend from Limousin, was named Commissioner for Information, a new office roughly corresponding to the propaganda ministry in totalitarian countries.

>France has long worried about her birth rate, one of the lowest in the world. Statisticians have figured that, should births keep on declining at the present rate, France’s population would decline from its present 42,000,000 to 35,000,000 in 1980. French births numbered in all 610,000 last year, as compared to about 1,000,000 in Italy, 1,500,000 in Germany. In the “more babies” campaign decreed last week the Government: 1) announced “motherhood” bonuses of from $53 to $80 for first-born and higher premiums for succeeding children; 2) doubled the penalties for abortion and increased those on obscene literature; 3) slapped a tax on bachelors and childless families; 4) increased the tax on alcohol to pay for the campaign. This year’s appropriation to pay for the “Code of the French Family” was 9,000,000,000 francs ($238,600,000).

>Made punishable by death last week were such acts as: 1) publication of military information not made public by the Government; 2) destruction of material involved in national defense; 3) any action tending to “shake the faith” of the armed forces; 4) revelation of measures taken to arrest spies. Such offenses heretofore have usually been punished in times of peace by fines and short jail sentences.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at