A native of Bourges, he was established as an advocate in Clermont-Ferrand, and did not hesitate to proclaim his Republican sympathies. In 1871 he was elected deputy of the French National Assembly, and re-elected in 1876 and in 1877. In the chamber he was president of the group of the centre-left, standing strongly for the republic but against anti-clericalism. In the republican chamber elected after May 16, 1877, he became minister of public instruction (December 1877), and proposed various republican laws, notably on compulsory primary education. He resigned in 1879. He was not re-elected in 1881, but in December 1882 was named senator for life.
Married in Montpellier on 15 July, 1873 Clémence Villa (Millau, 26 December, 1847 - Paris, 2 December, 1939), daughter of Achille Villa (Millau, 17 April, 1818 - Millau, 7 April, 1901) and wife Sophie Bimar (Montpellier, 13 October, 1824 - Montpellier, 6 February, 1885), by whom he had at least one son, the French senator and academic Achille Octave Marie Jacques Bardoux. One of his descendants, Valéry Giscard d'Estaing (born 1926) was President of France from 1974 until 1981.