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Napoleon Essay Research Paper On 9th December

Napoleon Essay, Research Paper

On 9th December 1799 Napoleon managed to seize power of France. Between his seizure of power and the resumption of the war in Europe, Napoleon introduced several important domestic reforms. His policy focused on the law, education, the church and economics. Peace, prosperity and an administration characterised by vigour were the hallmarks of the consulate and for these Napoleon is often given a lot of praise. Although he did introduce many lasting reforms many of the consulate s achievements were becoming apparent before Brumaire. Through his reforms Napoleon aimed to end the disorder and discontent produced by the revolution. He moved progressively towards a dictatorship of the political right wing. His new reforms occasionally went against the revolutionary principles and his rule was more one of enlightened despotism than the revolutionary democracy.

As emperor Napoleon ensured he had a firm grasp on the law and used it to silence his opposition. He nominated magistrates for life and this gave him a firm control over the judiciary. In 1800 the Council of State began a scheme to codify and simplify the law. This codisation rejected the liberty of the revolution and this gave Napoleon greater power over all his subjects. In 1804 the Civil Code was introduced. This confirmed the rights of individual property. This reassured the bourgeois who had gained land during the revolution, which used to belong to the nobles. It gave Napoleon greater support and paved the way for him to allow the migr s back into the country. The Civil Code also restored the despotic authority of the father over the family. This had been removed during the revolution when women s rights became recognised due to the principle of equality. By restoring it Napoleon was undoing something established under the revolution.

Napoleon wasn t a lawyer but he largely influenced this code. Many aspects of the revolution were upheld including the preservation of equality before the law. The new criminal code, however, was more in line with the Ancien Regime than any period of the revolution. In 1810 a much hated and maligned tool of the Ancien Regime; the letter de cachet, was reintroduced by Napoleon. He argued that it s departure was a mere extravagance of the revolution. The Civil Code of 1804 became the Code Napoleon in 1807. While reintroducing aspects of the Ancien Regime it maintained many essential features of the revolution; civil equality, religious toleration and trial by jury. It is considered by many historians to be Napoleon s greatest achievement:

The codes are one of Napoleon s greatest claims to become a

benefactor of mankind.

(Grant and Temperley)

Napoleon also considered his code to be his greatest achievement. When he conquered Europe he spread his ideas throughout the continent by introducing this code. He promoted what he perceived as the revolutionary ideals.

The Code Napoleon consisted of the Civil Code, the Code of Civil Procedure, the Code of Criminal Procedure, the Penal Code and the Commercial Code. It secured many victories and principles of the revolution but due to Napoleon s personal views many provisions were hardened. For example, divorce was allowed, like the revolution, but with many restrictions.

The Code Napoleon embodies the general spirit of the revolution while compromising some ideas:

His code embodies the permanent conquest and while rejecting the

temporary extravagances of the revolution.

(Hal Fisher)

The feudal dues remained abolished and equality before the law remained. Napoleon also ensured there was no privileged exemption from tax. The code shows Napoleon s pragmatic nature in that he was not afraid to compromise revolutionary principles when he felt they were unworkable. He established elaborate spy systems, restricted the press and reintroduced the letter de cachet therefore infringing on people s liberty.

In the early years of the empire the Church was very cooperative. They helped to organise conscription and deserters and draft dodgers were refused absolution. Napoleon was brought up a Catholic but the Enlightenment and Revolution ended all genuine religious belief. Instead Napoleon saw the Church as an instrument of social control. He wanted to use in to establish his views of morality and to help confine women to the home and family. He recognised the social and political importance of Catholicism:

A state without religion is like a vessel without a compass.


He was not particular, however, which religion was his compass. It just so happened that France was a Catholic nation:

If I were governing Jews, I would rebuild the Temple of Solomon.


The Concordat was a settlement between Napoleon and the Church. Its aims were to reconcile the Church, to unify the country and to increase Napoleon s influence with other Catholic countries. Pope Pius VII wanted the official recognition of Catholicism in France. The Concordat was implemented in 1802. It laid down many terms including the Pope and Church would recognise the French Republic, the Pope accepted the French Church would be obedient to the state. The Government had the authority to appoint bishops, there was a papal veto, and all existing bishops had to resign their seats so that new ones could be nominated by Napoleon. The bishops in turn then appointed the priests. This meant Napoleon had control of the main ministers of the faith in France. The Concordat also laid down that bishops and priests had state salaries but had to swear allegiance to the state. Sunday was officially restored as a day of rest.

The Concordat was a great triumph for Napoleon although opposed by his generals and most of the politicians. To appease anti-clerical revolutionaries he added the Organic Articles without the Popes permission. The Pope objected but recognised that Napoleon had done much to restore the Catholic Church in France after the revolution. The Organic Articles gave equal rights to Protestants and showed a refusal to persecute Jews. Catholicism was declared not the state religion of France but the religion of most Frenchmen . No papal bull could be published in France and no papal representative could enter France without the Government s permission. The Concordat showed Napoleon s political skills and influence. He managed to appease the Church, the Catholics as well as the anti-clericals.

Only a powerful ruler could have brought the pope to terms with the revolution.


The success of the Concordat is debatable. Since the Church did not like being dependant on the State it s loyalty to the regime is questionable.

The revolution had tried to wrestle education away from Catholic Church control. Napoleon too sought educational reform, as he understood that for the nation to be successful he needed highly trained civil servants and a population, which would not challenge him. Education was generally for the sons of the propertied classes. The common people received their moral education fro the Church but the bourgeois preferred to send their sons to private schools, usually run by the Church. State education, therefore had limited success due to the different wishes and needs of the varied society. Although Napoleonic France believed in career open to talents in principle, in practice there were educational limits.

There was a system of Higher Education, which was used, by Napoleon, to educate future military leaders. The Imperial University was founded in 1806. It was similar to a ministry of education; it controlled the education and the exams, curricula and licensing of teachers that accompanied that role. There were thirty-four lycees (selective militarised boarding schools) throughout the country. The ecole polytechnique was a scientific university but became a military school. The best and brightest pupils were forced into military careers from a young age. As well as military schools Napoleon tried to promote utilitarian and vocational education but science and the arts continued to flourish in private schools and colleges. To try and curb this dangerous freeness of the private schools, in 1803 there began the suppression of teaching of moral and political sciences. Napoleon felt young people educated in politics and theology would be a threat to his government.

One factor in the limited success of educational reforms was that after the Concordat the Church became less cooperative. The Church was too powerful to control; it sought control of education in return for maintaining harmony among people. The Church already possessed monopoly of private education and through private schools the old teaching orders , suppressed during the revolution, were revived. The Church was dissatisfied with the Code Napoleon and its retention of divorce and became more difficult because of this. Following Napoleon s occupation of Rome and the annexation of the Papal States, in 1808, he was excommunicated and the Pope was arrested and imprisoned. Most French Catholics, however, still remained loyal to Napoleon.

To keep his popularity Napoleon needed to make France successfully economically. The new administration allowed the government to tap into the country s wealth by centralising tax collection and controlling expenditure. Tax collectors were paid officials who were less likely to be corrupt than their predecessors and the administration was so successful in controlling expenditure that the budget was balanced by 1802. Under the new administration, however, industrial and commercial profits were taxed lightly which went against the egalitarian principles of the revolution.

Until 1806 the government was able to finance it s wars and campaigns without the inflation, which had crippled previous governments. A key aspect of government policy was wartime plunder. This plunder financed the war, fed troops, helped establish the regime in France and the booty stimulated agriculture and industry and kept employment high. After 1806 the supply of loot began to dry up and military expenditure had to be met by taxation and customs dues. This led to a financial crisis in 1810 but in general the regime was still more stable than those previous.

The country continued with traditional methods of manufacture and there was no great agricultural or industrial revolution. The primitive state of communications prevented the emergence of a national market and preserved a regionalised and fragmented economy. The biggest failure of Napoleon s economic policies was that the British naval blockades and effects of the Continental System had destroyed large-scale maritime commerce. Napoleon believed that Britain was on the verge of economic breakdown due to French domination of the market, which excluded British goods, but this was an unfounded idea. The main changes that did take place were extensions of trades that had begun before 1800.

Napoleon also instigated vast public work schemes like road and canal building. As well as lowering unemployment these schemes helped the speedy travel of his armies. In 1802 Napoleon established the Legion of Honour, which had been abolished by the Revolution. He used personal patronage to ensure loyalty therefore consolidating his rule. The reintroduction of honours, which can be considered as inegalitarian, was intended to bind people to the regime and to instil loyalty. In practice it became a military reward scheme and by 1802 only five percent of legionnaires were civilian. Napoleon also created an Imperial Court and nobility. The bulk of these prestigious positions went to the military. It was a complete hierarchy of princes, dukes, counts, barons and knights based on financial status and loyalty to the regime. This new system was hereditary and therefore after the first generation would go against the principle of positions on merit . Napoleon saw it as a way of uprooting the traditional nobility and to also impress foreign rulers. He rewarded lavishly with land, money and titles giving opportunity to a middle class, which had been deprived of its revolutionary character.

In the Napoleonic era urban workers earned more after 1800 due to labour shortages but industrial discipline was strict. Trade unions were banned and workers could be fined. There was often police supervision at work places. Opposition to the regime was difficult as common people were apathetic and powerless and the more able members of society were educated and absorbed into the bureaucracy. Disorder in the countryside could not be repressed especially during economic slumps. Desertion and resistance to conscription were typical forms of opposition, particularly following defeats. Deserters, however, could be executed.

In a relatively short period of time Napoleon completely reorganised France during the period of the Consulate and Empire. Following the instability of the revolution he achieved a period of success. His reorganisation of the law is particularly commendable and many parts of his Civil Code still exist today.