Cause celebre. Enfant egare dans la Vendee. Plaidoyer pour L.R.A. Voyneau fils, dragon du 15e regiment, contre L.A.F. Voyneau, son frere. Jean-Simon Loiseau.
Cause celebre. Enfant egare dans la Vendee. Plaidoyer pour L.R.A. Voyneau fils, dragon du 15e regiment, contre L.A.F. Voyneau, son frere
The Voyneau Affair and National Adoption: "Of the greatest interest in the art of oration"

Cause celebre. Enfant egare dans la Vendee. Plaidoyer pour L.R.A. Voyneau fils, dragon du 15e regiment, contre L.A.F. Voyneau, son frere

Paris: Aux Archives du Droit Francais, 1808. First Edition. Softcover. 8vo. [4], 47, [1] pp. Original printed wrappers (edges a little frayed). Very good. Item #1976

In the development of the Code Civil, the extraordinary "Voyneau Affair" has fourfold significance. It tested in the French Supreme Court the relationship between national adoption and parental authority; established legal precedence in the rights of French war refugees in exile; explored the definition of the "tierce opposition" procedure; and assessed the limits of the concept of "civil death." The case has been frequently utilized by legal scholars to illustrated the elasticity of the Code Civil.

The present pamphlet is Jean-Simon Loiseau's "beautifully composed" argument on behalf of L.-R.-A. (Auguste) Voyneau (b. 1789). As an infant Auguste disappeared during the Terror in the Vendee region and in 1795 was pronounced dead. Shortly thereafter it was determined that the infant had in fact been rescued among the corpses of a destroyed village and taken to Nantes. In 1796 a former servant of the Voyneau family encountered the young boy and thought she recognized him, or at least claimed to recognize him, from a telltale scar on his forehead. "Madame Voyneau, however, refused to accept that the boy was her son. She insisted that the child was actually the son of a poverty-stricken miller and the center of an elaborate plot to introduce an 'intruder' into her family and thus deprive them of the money that Auguste or the would-be Auguste would eventually inherit from his parents" (Heuer, p. 153).

After a thorough investigation, the court of Nantes ruled that the boy was in fact her son. In the absence of her husband, Auguste Voyneau, who had fled the Revolution in 1789 and was then living in exile, Madame Voyneau appealed the ruling, which was rejected by the judges of the court of Fontenay, and she was ordered to pay a restitution of 700 francs.

The Senatus-Consulte of 6 Floreal An X granted amnesty to the elder Auguste Voyneau, who then returned to France and contested these judgments, by means of a "tierce opposition," based on the fundamental importance of paternal rights and authority. The plaintiff argued that, having been granted amnesty, he had been "reborn" to his country and family, and yet was being prohibited by the courts from exercising an essential right of a citizen and father, namely to acknowledge or deny that a child was his own. "Voyneau continued to maintain that paternal rights, being natural and inalienable, took precedence over the formal penalties that had been imposed on emigres" (Heuer, p. 154).

On July 23, 1806, the Court of Appeal in Poitiers ruled that Voyneau's "rebirth" as a French citizen did not restore him to the position of a "pere de famille" with complete power over his family, since "the rights acquired by a wife or children of an amnestied man during his civil death belong to them irrevocably." Because Voyneau had gone into exile, he could not contest sovereign judgments because he was "legally dead" to the State. Secondly, in his absence his "widow" had brought together in a court of law the rights of both maternity and paternity, and had lost the case on appeal; therefore the "tierce opposition" strategy was not permissible to him. However, if Voyneau had not returned to France, his daughter could have formed the third party against the judgment and the "tierce opposition" could have been employed in a separate case.

"The thwarted 'pere' then took his case to the Supreme Court, where the case was tried in 1808. Jean-Simon Loiseau, one of the chief compilers and editors of the jurisprudence of the Code Civil [and the author of the present 'Plaidoyer'], represented Voyneau's ostensible son Auguste. He argued that before the amnesty, M. Voyneau had been neither a father nor a French citizen: 'In the eyes of the law, he was not a father, a husband, or a citizen; he was dead for his children, for his family, as for his country.' Louiseau's argument directly echoed the rationale presented by the makers of the Code Civil for dissolving the marriages of those proclaimed to be civilly dead."

M. Voyneau and his lawyers invoked the specter of "National Adoption," arguing that if as an emigre he was stripped of his rights as father and citizen, the Republic -- and not his wife -- should have represented him, since the state had "adopted" the child during his absence. The idea that the state could, and should, literally act as the father of its adopted children was ridiculed by Loiseau in the present pamphlet, but ultimately the elder Voyneau was victorious. Four days after Louiseau's argument was presented, the Supreme Court reversed the lower court's decision, declaring that Voyneau "retained the right to defend the condition of a child born of his marriage," and thus to reject a child believed to be "an impostor." In concluding that Voyneau could not disown a child he did not recognize as his son, the Supreme Court ruled that the lower court had falsely applied the amnesty provided by the Senatus-Consulte of 6 Floreal An X. Not surprisingly the case dragged on for two more years. "After rehashing extensive testimony about the boy's physical appearance, especially his eye color and the exact placement of his scar, the court ruled that the evidence did indeed indicate a plot to introduce an intruder into the Voyneaus' home. The supposed Auguste was not their child" (Heuer, p. 155).

Rare: OCLC lists only two copies worldwide (McGill and BnF) to which CCFr adds only two others (Nantes BM + Poitiers BM). Querard (I, 337) lists only the equally rare 1809 reprint only.

¶ LITERATURE: The significance of this case has been explored in considerable detail by Jennifer Ngaire Heuer in her "The Voyneau Affair and the 'National Adoption'" in: The Family and the Nation: Gender and Citizenship in Revolutionary France (Cornell University Press, 2007), pp. 153-158. Charles Bonaventure Marie Toullier, Le droit civil francais, suivant l'ordre du Code (Brussels, 1838), vol. V pp. 249-250. See the contemporary review of the present work in "Journal typographique et bibliographique" 12e annee (1809) p. 374: "le plus grand interet sous le rapport de l'art oratoire et de la singularite de la cause." See also the lengthy article by Marcel Faucheux, "Un episode de l'insurrection vendeenne" in: Societe d'Emulation de la Vendee (1965), posted on Canalblog by Shenandoah Davis (accessed 12/29/16).

Price: $450.00

See all items in Law
See all items by