Octroyed Constitution

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Octroyed Constitution


(from the French octroyer, “to grant” or “to bestow”), a constitution issued by the head of state without the participation of representative institutions.

Octroyed constitutions first appeared during the period of transition from feudalism to capitalism. As a rule, they marked a compromise between the big bourgeoisie and the landed aristocracy over the division of power. The first octroyed constitution in history was the French constitutional charter of Louis XVIII, which was proclaimed in 1814 after the restoration of the Bourbons to the throne. Among other such constitutions were the Japanese Constitution of 1889 and the 1906 Fundamental Laws of the Russian Empire.

During the age of imperialism, the features of an octroyed constitution are evident in constitutions granted to so-called self-governing colonies or to countries that are formally independent but recognize the head of state of an imperial power as their own. The 1948 Constitution of Sri Lanka is an example of the latter case. An octroyed constitution can be retracted at any time and for almost any reason, for either a fixed or an indefinite period of time.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.