Jourdan law

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The Jourdan Law of 1798 (French: loi Jourdan) effectively institutionalised conscription in Revolutionary France, which began with the levée en masse.

It stipulated that all single and childless men between the ages of 20 and 25 were liable for military service.

Exemptions existed however for the clergy, industrial workers essential for the war-effort, students from selected Grandes écoles, and public office holders.

The law discriminated against the poor and large peasant population through the legally sanctioned practice of 'replacement', which allowed anyone who was able, to purchase someone to enlist in their place.

It was named for the French General Jean-Baptiste Jourdan.


  • Forrest, Alan, Conscripts and Deserters: The Army and French Society During the Revolution and Empire, New York: Oxford University Press, 1989. p. 35.
  • Daly, Gavin, Inside Napoleonic France: State and Society in Rouen, 1800–1815, Aldershot: Ashgate, 2001. pp. 220–222.