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Under the government of Napoleon, and the legal leadership of Jean-Etienne Portalis, France adopted a comprehensive code of civil law in 1804 which enshrined many of the victories obtained during the Revolution such as individual liberty, equality before the law and the lay character of the state.

The Code also incorporated most parts of Roman law. The Code became a model for civil law systems such as Quebec, California and Louisiana.

Perhaps the most important aspect of the Code was the fact that the law was written (as opposed to judge-made) and in a non-technical style and thus more accessible to the public.

The Code regulated much of private law matters such as property, wills, contracts, liability and obligations.

The French Code inspired similar civil codes in Quebec (1865), Germany (1900), Switzerland (1907) and Japan.