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