Jean-Etienne PortalisBorn April 1, 1746. Portalis became lawyer in the French court, called Parlement, at the young age of 19. He was involved in several high profile trials.

For 25 years, he practiced law at Aix-en-Provence.

He barely escaped the French revolution by going into hiding in Paris but he was captured and condemned to the guillotine. However, at that moment, Robespierre had the upper hand in the Revolution and his henchmen managed to spring Portalis from the gallows as a payment for favors previously rendered.

At the age of 50, he began a political career and was elected to office in 1795. But his Monarchist reputation stayed with him and he was scheduled for deportation to Guyana. Once again, he went into hiding, this time exiling himself to Switzerland.

In 1799, he was given amnesty and was able to return to France.

He quickly rallied behind Napoleon, who he held in the greatest esteem even remarking that "under Bonaparte, all is possible and easy. I am constantly amazed by this man's genius."

In September 1800, Napoleon named him to the committee drafting a national civil code for France and he soon had a leadership role.

More than any other single person, Portalis personally wrote much of the Civil Code and often, he cast the deciding vote on drafting controversies on the committee.

When the Code Civil was published and tabled in the French legislature on January 21, 1801, Portalis defended it vigourously. On March 21, 1804, he witnessed his masterpiece approved by the government.

Napoleon showered Portalis with public honours but the aging lawyer died on August 26, 1807.