Lecture 3 - Napoleonic France
Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Napoleon was an opportunistic individual. He was born in Corsica. The
minute the revolution began, he flew back to Corsica and attempted to
start a revolution there. He saw another noble had already done this and
left and offered his forces to the French revolutionaries.
In Toulon-Paris , Napoleon demonstrated his expertise and defeated the
British and loyalist control in the Southern region.
Coup D’etat (1799) was pulled off and allowed Napoleon to create the
Consulate and label himself as an everlasting Consulate. He also went
further on to crown himself as Emperor Bonaparte (May 1804).
He also created the conditions for the French state. He declared “I Am
the Revolution.” He also looked towards the Centralization of the
state. In addition he also allowed for plebiscites (a popular vote). This is a
façade of a democracy, allowing the people to think that they have an
input in the political system. However, they essentially have no input to
create any type of policy. Furthermore, this was to give advantages to the
Bourgeoisie and the Peasantry. He also established the Bank of
France as he needed a stable and working economy. For the peasantry,
he promised from the beginning that feudalism would never be brought
The Revolution itself and the main three slogans of the French Revolution
Liberte, Egalite and Fraternite.
Whatever liberty the French revolution brought, Napoleon
destroyed. He reestablished a censorship. Within one year after
he became first console, he prohibited over sixty newspapers and
by the end of his reign only four papers remained free. This was
against the freedom of expression guarantee in the second article
of the revolution.
During the revolution, the departments prefects had been
elected, but with Napoleon in power he promoted them on his
Early on he recognized the importance of education, setting up
an education system for France whereby the entire curriculum
was based on France. The entire purpose of the school was to serve the state and also to indoctrinate the people to the
greatness of Napoleon.
“The University of France” was set up to censor all
The Secret Police were also created to catch conspirators and
eliminate every sense of political freedom. This put such great
pressure on the intellectuals.
Napoleon did introduce meritocracy. If one was intelligent and
competent, he would offer them roles in the system. He also
offered those who had fled to return to France to again join
France without penalties.
He opened the door for the majority of the French population.
Even in this case, what he brought thereafter undermined the
democratic values of the French state.
To promote the interests of the state, he introduced the Legion
of Honour (May 1802) that started awarding individuals with
awards and land. He compelled society to strive for greater
In 1804 he created a new hereditary nobility.
In this aspect he did achieve great result and alleviated some of
the greatest pressures present in France.
Civil War was ongoing in France with half of the state standing
against the revolution due to loyalist or religious affiliation.
After taking over, Napoleon sent a letter to pope asking for a
compromise, offering the presence of 25 million Catholics for a
negotiated settlement. They do achieve a compromise called
Concordat in 1801, allowing the church to call the shots in the
French church and appoint individuals in French church.
Napoleon also made the Catholic religion the main religion in
France but he also allowed religious tolerance. He allowed
protestants and even the majority Jews to practice their
He realized that the security of his own system would never be
guaranteed if he was at odds with the church.
In addition he brought to codes, the Civil Code, that changed
France and the whole world. France was governed by three
different laws, Roman Laws, Noble Laws, Common Law; as such
France could neve