The Politics of Codification: The Lower Canadian Civil Code of 1866


264 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-7735-1235-7
DDC 346.714'009




Reviewed by Domique Marshall

Dominique Marshall is an assistant professor of history at Carleton
University in Ottawa.


Recently the Civil Code of Quebec has re-emerged as a central element of
political debate because it is one of the “distinct” features of
Quebec society, and because the deep inferiority that characterizes
Quebec women’s legal status is rooted in it. With the change of
colonial authority, Lower Canadian law became mixed. The juxtaposition
of prerevolutionary French civil law with British statutory laws and
customs brought confusion and frustration, especially on commercial
matters. Furthermore, the transformation of the economy brought many
piecemeal amendments to the original laws, changes that need to be
“unified.” After the “harmonization” of 1866, the Code received
little opposition, an apparent consensus that is reflected in most
Canadian political histories and in Quebec nationalist manifestos by the
unquestioned (if not static) nature of mentions of the Code.

This book documents the history of the changing motivations behind
codification since the turn of the century. It also describes the
principal agents of the immediate process, the sources of their beliefs,
and the common traits of their generation; explains the process itself;
and examines the status of married women and the law of obligations. The
author obtained primary-source materials from personal collections as
well as from the archives of the Commission of Codification. He chose
the excerpts in the book with an attention to the contrasts and
connections between domestic and public lives as well as local and
national interests. The book is beautifully illustrated with portraits,
maps, and pictures, which not only are helpful but also offer elements
for further interpretation of the “politics.”


Young, Brian J., “The Politics of Codification: The Lower Canadian Civil Code of 1866,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed February 21, 2024,