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Napoelon: Friend or Foe of the French Revolution?

Napoelon: Friend or Foe of the French Revolution?



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Published by Reader93
An essay discussing whether or not Napoleon Bonaparte truly supported the ideals of the French Revolution.
An essay discussing whether or not Napoleon Bonaparte truly supported the ideals of the French Revolution.

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Published by: Reader93 on Mar 13, 2009
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Napoleon: Friend or Foe of the French Revolution?
Napoleon Bonaparte is easily one of the most authoritative swayers in history.During his reign, he radically changed the landscape of Europe, as well as the politicalplaying field of the time. Born of the French Revolution, Napoleon was able to derivepower from his famous Coup d’état, in which he overthrew The Directory andestablished himself as the ruler of France, a rule which lasted from 1799 to 1814. Whileat first, Napoleon generally adhered to the philosophies of the French Revolution asmanifested in The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, as time progressed, hisabsolute power suffered from corruption at the expense of the French populace.It is thoroughly possible that Napoleon personally did not believe inadhering to the principals of the French Revolution during his entire reign. However, hesought to supply a few basic rights of the French Revolution which only ultimatelybenefited himself. Napoleon violated almost every principle delineated in theDeclaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen in order to benefit his own means. He did,though, support several principles, primarily manifested with the Napoleonic Code.At first, Napoleon was simply the “First Consul” of France, giving him theparticular position of power with the country, but not yet supplying him with totalcontrol. Slowly but surely, this changed as Napoleon ameliorated his power further witheach plebiscite. In order to give an illusory that his ain power was increasing throughdemocratic means, Napoleon held a plebiscite in which people can decide whether ornot Napoleon can increase his power. The validity and honesty of these plebisciteswere questionable; but nonetheless, the people of France were under the impressionthat they were ruled by a leader that they elected. Eventually, Napoleon would becomethe emperor of France, having comprehensive control over the French empire which heworked to create for years. The Napoleonic Code was a set of statements incorporated into the Frenchlaw which reflected some idea of the French Revolution. They were not entirely upheldby Napoleon, but the stipulations in which they were supply an argument for those whobelieve that Napoleon did indeed support the philosophies born from the FrenchRevolution. For instance, the main ideas traced in the Napoleonic Code were EqualityUnder the Law (most obviously violated due to the treatment of women), the right toProtection of Property, and the right to Acquisition of property. All of the above weremainly upheld throughout Napoleon’s reign with the exception of “Equality Under theLaw.” However, one notable condition in which Napoleon did adhere to equality was histreatment of the Jews. Jews were no longer cast in unfavorable light; some might evenargue that Napoleon’s treatment of Jews was palpably favorable.1
Napoleon: Friend or Foe of the French Revolution?
 Two years into his reign, Napoleon Bonaparte approved the “Concordat of 1801,” in which Catholicism was recognized as France’s major religion. This wasrecognition of the principle “Law is an expression of general will.” Though Francerejected the inherent political power of any religious institution
a religiousinstitution, the ratification of the Catholic Church was permissible because it wasparallel to the interests of the people, as the majority of France believed in Catholicism.Madame de Remusat, an individual who lived in France during Napoleon’s rule,brought up a few points about him that seems to suggest that he supported the FrenchRevolution. She reminds us that the only way in which Napoleon could ever gain thepower he has is because France was a republic at the time, and the very idea of rulergaining power due to a republic is an idea inherent in the French Revolution. Shementions that before Napoleon’s rule, the very word “republic” was almost taboo inEurope. Ironically, during Napoleon’s rule, it is probable that using the word “republic”outside of the context of praising Napoleon was taboo. Napoleon seems to be the onlyone who ever benefited from this republic during his years. His monopolization of therepublic under himself undermines the very idea. Joseph Fouche, Napoleon’s Minister of Police (which is a position that is roughlytantamount to the modern Secretary of State) held a very prominent position whoseprimary role was that of foreign policy. The French Revolution, however, did not dealvery much with foreign policy so the very construct of an important person who dealtwith foreign policy inherently does not support the revolution. Rather, the construct of having a high-profile minister that deals with foreign affairs is
the FrenchRevolution, as the government is investing in a praxis which is not wholly an interest tothe French people.Louis Bergeron is a historian that corroborates the idea of Napoleon being true tothe Revolution. He states that Napoleon upheld the ideas of civil equality, thedestruction of feudalism, and “ruining the privileged position of the Catholic Church.”However, one could expostulate that Napoleon did not actually practice civil equality,as exemplified by his horrid treatment of women, and that he only sought to destroythe Feudalistic nobles and Catholic Church because it was a way of increasing his ownpersonal power, not unlike Louis XIV’s strategy to weaken the nobility in order toincrease the power of the monarchy. Indeed, Bergeron said himself that Napoleon’spractice was often “disconcerting borrowings from the old regime.”George Rude, too, substantiated the idea that Napoleon upheld theRevolutionary ideas. He claimed that Napoleon chose to defend Robespierre rather2
Napoleon: Friend or Foe of the French Revolution?
than prosecute him, and that Napoleon studied Rousseau, an individual whosethoughts are manifested in The Declaration of the Right of Man and Citizen. He furtherdisambiguated that Napoleon has sympathized with much of Jacobin philosophy andthat he has believed in the overthrow of privileged aristocracy. In fact, Rude believesthat Napoleon, in practice, developed the ideas of the French Revolution more thananything. Vocally, though, Rude states that Napoleon “prided himself on being arelative of aristocratic figures, such as the late Louis XVI and Francis of Austria.”Napoleon’s violation of The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen isfurther elucidated by his violation of “free communications” and no one shall bedisquieted on account of his opinions.” This was accomplished by not allowing anyfreedom of consciousness whatsoever. Those who disagreed with him were often sentto Asylums, many were also jailed without a rational given reason. Furthermore,Napoleon successfully eradicated all but four newspapers, the remaining of which onlyexisted under governmental influence. This particular example is a prime way in whichhe did not allow freedom of the press, a parcel of freedom of consciousness. The foremost statement of The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen wascontravened by Napoleon. The declaration states “Men are born and remain free andequal in rights. Social distinctions may be founded only upon the general good.” “Men”is referred to in the “human” sense, not in the gender sense. It is unlikely that strippingwomen of their family and political rights is “founded only upon the general good.” The myriad of irrational arrestments Napoleon made throughout his career is anobvious infringement of “No person shall be accused, arrested, or imprisoned except inthe cases and according to the forms prescribed by law,” as well as a transgression of the entire notion of freedom in general. In fact, irrational arrestments have been atrend that is present in totalitarian governments throughout history, and never in aworking democracy. Furthermore, the lack of balance of power within France was aninherent disagreement with The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, plebisciteor not.Napoleon repeatedly waged wars on other countries to pursue his own interests,rather than that of the people. It is very unlikely that the French would find it favorableto be constantly at war and creating hegemony throughout Europe. The fact that warwas waged for his own interests was also supported by the fact that he put irrationallyhigh taxes on the countries he controlled; all that money went to the government andultimately benefited him, not the people. The Declaration of The Rights of Man andCitizen acutely states “The principle of all sovereignty resides essentially in the nation.3

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Great essay but I would really like to know the sources of information used to write it. Is it possible for you to find them and share the source names? @READER96
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