Napoleon Essay

Napoleon was a successful man in that he was able to increase the amount of control he had over
France yet at the same time meet the expectations of the revolutionary people. In the area of religion Napoleon had similar views as early revolutionists. Further he organized society through a chain of laws, which benefited France by giving order as well as performing purposes identical to those of the revolution. In his pursuit of power he was able to compromise between his wants and the revolutionary people’s wants. Napoleon was the son of the revolution because he followed a course which imitated that of the revolutions.

Napoleon followed the wishes of many religious believers of the revolution. During the late 1700’s many
Catholic peasants revolted against revolutionary thinking because the National Assembly issued the Civil
Constitution of the Clergy. It declared that all bishops and priests be elected by all citizens, including those who weren’t Catholics like Jews, Protestants and Atheists. Napoleon discarded the bill and replaced it with the Concordat of 1801. It handed power back to the Pope. People of the revolution respected their religion, and did not stand for it being degraded. Napoleon avoided making the same mistake that the National Assembly had by following the people’s way of thinking.

What’s more is that Napoleon eradicated the Spanish Inquisition. Those of the revolution would have
detested the Spanish Inquisition. It took away the right to choose one’s own religion. The Declaration of Rights of Man asserts that “No one shall be disturbed because of his opinions, including his views on religion…” In the past peasants and workers have fought for equality, like during the storm of the Bastille and the bread march to Versailles. Napoleon was serving the people by getting rid of the Spanish Inquisition.

Napoleon established a series of laws that accomplished the goals set by the French Revolution. He put
into place the “Code Napoleon”. It stated “The equality of all citizens before the law.” In times of the French
revolution the equality of man before the law was thought to be vital in a society. Before the meeting of the Estates General could take place, the third estate demanded the king of a vote by “head”. The main reason being that in the Estates General they only accounted for one vote and represented 96% of the population. The clergy and the nobles always seemed to have similar interests, meaning that the third estate would always become outvoted. The third estate was aiming at attaining equal representation before the law for peasants, workers and bourgeoisie.

Before the revolution the justice system was tainted and inequality was rampant. This was most apparent when taking a look at the Bastille. The Parisian workers were enraged that innocent people who had done nothing to be treated unfairly and wrongly were being imprisoned in the Bastille. Therefore they besieged the Bastille and freed all innocent prisoners captive inside. These people were angered that only some, mainly the nobles, had equality before the law. The same standard of equality before the law was exhibited in the “Declaration of the Rights of Man” which stated that “[the law] must be the same for all…All citizens are equal before it…” The “Code Napoleon” followed a trend, which had been set by the French Revolution, of equality before the law. He sustained an ideal which the people (workers, peasants and bourgeoisie) were all supportive of.

A law that he was able to rid of in the areas of Westphalia, Naples and Spain was feudalism. In the times
of the French revolution, the Estates General and the National Assembly both disapproved of feudal rights. This idea was most obvious in the Estates General when the third estate wrote up “cahiers” in which they were demanding the king to exterminate various feudal rights. Later, on August 4, 1789 feudalism become such a problem that the National Assembly abolished all feudal rights. When they drew up the “Declaration of Rights of man”, it also stressed anti-feudalism stating that: “Men are born free and remain equal in rights.” Revolutionists, including governing bodies of the revolution had antagonistic feelings towards feudal rights. By abolishing them in his conquered countries Napoleon was following a similar path as the French Revolution.

Napoleon took many actions in order to increase his power over France. Furthermore, his actions not only
satisfied him but also appeased to ways of the French Revolution. In 1799, Napoleon was able to overthrow the Directory using a violent military coup. By examining the French revolution it becomes very apparent that violence was popular. It was demonstrated frequently by many members of society in France. Workers used forceful tactics to free the prisoners of the Bastille and stole weaponry from inside. They disregarded their feeling for mankind and killed many soldiers guarding the Bastille. Similarly the women of Paris stormed the Palace of Versailles in October of 1789 and kidnapped the Royal Family, so they could expose them to the conditions of famine and poverty of Paris. Peasants displayed the same acts of terrorism when they broke into the homes of nobles, hoping to find and burn all feudal records. Napoleon mimicked these extreme approaches to obtaining what he wanted. In 1801, he was voted head consul for life. The plebiscite used to achieve his position, supported revolutionary thinking, It allowed the people to vote, therefore establishing democratic ideals in the government, something that was wanted by the workers, peasants and bourgeoisie during various times during the revolution.

In 1789 the Third Estate demanded from the king a vote by “head” method in order to give each person equal
power in the Estates General. In essence they were striving towards a democratic method of voting. Moreover, in 1791, the Jacobins were denied the right to vote in the Constitution of 1791 because they were not property owners. This caused them to become distraught. It was obvious that the right to vote was very important to the Jacobins, they wanted their voice to be heard in France. By using a plebiscite, Napoleon pursued the wills of the peoples of the revolution.

Another example of Napoleon following the path of the French revolution was demonstrated in the
countries he conquered. Napoleon set up republican states with constitutions in areas like Spain, Westphalia, Sicily and Naples. Evidence from the past suggests that the French revolution was very fond of constitutional governments. The Tennis Court Oath directly states that they would not separate until a constitution for the kingdom was established. The National Assembly drew up the Declaration of Rights of Man; the National Convention drew up the Constitution of 1791. The Legislative Assembly felt that revolutionary ideas, like constitution, were so important that other countries should also have them. Consequently they declared war on Austria in an attempt to spread revolutionary ideas. Although they did not accomplish what they were hoping, Napoleon was able to do so in the countries he conquered.

By examining the steps that Napoleon took it is obvious that he was an allie of the French revolution. He countlessly attempted to appease the people’s of the French revolution, especially in the areas of religion, law and in his pursuit of power.

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