Etienne Pasquier was born into a noble family, one of whose illustrious ancestors (Estienne Pasquier) had written Recherches sur la France. His father was president of the Chambre des enquêtes at the Paris parlement, his mother a jansenist. He was sent to school at the austere Collège de Juilly. Brilliant, he was given a dispensation in order to enter parlement at a young age. When Napoleon chose Pasquier as police prefect in 1810 (as a replacement for the corrupt but efficient Dubois), he hoped that Pasquier would bring rigour and severity to the Paris police. Was the choice a good one? Pasquier was imprisoned during the Terror and his father was guillotined, hence his horror of the Revolution. However, despite his links with Chateaubriand – who distanced himself from the regime on the execution of the Duc d'Enghien, Pasquier decided to rally to the Empire. Together with Molé, he was made a Maître de requêtes at the Council of State on 11 June 1806. But he was not without his doubts. As he justified himself to his secretary, Favre, later: “If the honest people do not get involved, is it not true that any power will be prey to intrigue and doubtful dealings? If the moderates say nothing, surely then the greatest influence will be acquired by those who propagate false ideas?” What was needed was to occupy positions so as to be able to act when the moment came in favour of a restoration. In the Council of State, Pasquier came to notice in his role as commissaire charged with all affairs related to the Jews. One of his duties was the compilation of a list of the questions to be asked of the assembly of notables of that religion. He was appointed Procurator general in the Council of the Seal of Titles (Conseil du Sceau des titres) and Councillor of State on 8 February 1810.
When he was called to the Police Prefecture in order to “clean it up” (the expression is his own, Memoirs, vol. 1, p. 411), he was in the end not very effective and was taken by surprised by the Malet conspiracy. He was arrested at the same time as Savary, but was not to be disgraced and ended up closer to darkred>Talleyrand. After the departure of the Regency Council on 29 March 1814, he along with the Seine Prefect was the only figure left in power. He maintained order whilst at the same time providing fertile soil for Talleyrand's intrigues in favour of Louis XVIII.
Notwithstanding this, he was dismissed on 12 May, the post of Police Prefect having been done away with. On 21 May he was appointed as director of the Ponts et Chaussées. He was put to one side during the Hundred Days and exiled from Paris, but during the Talleyrand/Fouché ministry of 9 July 1815, he was appointed Garde des Sceaux (Privy Seal) and Interior Minister. He was to fall with Talleyrand in September 1815, only to become Justice Minister on 19 January 1817. He was furthermore minister in Richelieu's second ministry in 1820. In 1821 he was called to the Chamber of Peers (House of Lords), becoming president of it during the July Monarchy. In 1842 he was elected to the Académie française against Vigny. Before leaving public life in 1848, he was appointed Chancellor of France by Louis-Philippe. He died in Paris on 5 July 1862. He had known all the regimes from Louis XVI to Napoleon III. No surprise then that his memoirs, particularly those for the empire period, are of the greatest interest.
Dictionnaire Napoléon, Paris: Fayard, 1999, pp. 481-482, Jean Tulard
Ed & tr.. P.H.