Jean Jacques Regis De Cambaceres, a French statesman, born at Montpellier, Oct. 18, 1753, died in Paris, March 8, 1824. He was educated for the bar, and at the opening of the revolution was sent as member first to the legislative assembly and then to the national convention. During the trial of Louis XVI. it was on his motion that counsel were allowed to the king, and were also permitted to communicate with him freely. He voted for the condemnation of that monarch, but was in favor of a provisional reprieve, and of death only in case of a hostile invasion. Through the reign of violence which followed he is said to have endeavored to restrain the more arbitrary acts of the body, but he acted with Marat, Robes-pierre, and Barere. On Jan. 24, 1793, he was chosen secretary to the convention, and it became his duty, in the session of March 26, to report the treason of Dumouriez. After the fall of Robespierre (July, 1794) he was president of the committee of public safety, and endeavored to put an end to the reign of terror. The same year he presented a plan for a civil code, which was always a favorite project with him; but his republicanism became suspected, and he was not successful.
He tried unsuccessfully to become a member of the directory, but secured a seat in the council of 500, where he renewed his efforts in behalf of a civil code (1796), which was subsequently made the basis of the Code Napoleon. After the movement of the 30th Prairial of the year VII. (June 18, 1799), he accepted the office of minister of justice under the directory. After the coup d'etat of the 18th Brumaire, in which he had taken no part, Cambaceres was continued by Bonaparte as minister of justice, and was soon after (Dec. 25, 1799) appointed second consul. On the elevation of Napoleon to the imperial dignity he became arch-chancellor of the empire, in which capacity he had to communicate all the emperor's measures to the senate. The grand cordon of the legion of honor and many distinguished foreign orders fell to his lot, and in 1808 he received the title of duke of Parma. He presided over the discussions of the civil code, assisting the committee largely by his legal knowledge, his judgment, and his previous study of the subject.
During the campaign of 1813 he was. president of the council of regency; but on the approach of the allies in 1814 he repaired to Blois, and from that place sent in his assent to the recall of the Bourbons. For a while afterward he lived in retirement, until Napoleon's escape from Elba and reassumption of power placed him once more in office. He acted as minister of justice and president of the chamber of peers. At the restoration he retired again, taking up his residence at Brussels, where he was permanently exiled, as one of those who had consented to the death of Louis XVI. In 1818, however, he was pardoned, and returned to Paris. He was an adroit politician, an accomplished jurist, and a very skilful diplomatist, but was facile in principle, and the willing instrument of the superior genius of Napoleon. Having been a Jacobin in the revolution, he became an ostentatious aristocrat under the empire, eagerly reviving and displaying the titles and ceremonies of the old regime.