To What Extent Were Napoleon’s Domestic Policies Based Upon The Principles Of The French Revolution?

1581 words - 6 pages

Napoleon Bonaparte remains one of the most prominent figures in the history of France, and his impacts on the courses of the history of his nation are so evident and outstanding. Ever since he seized power, there have been many debates and discussions as whether he was the “savoir” and the defender of the French Revolution or was he a tyrant who destroyed the ideals of the revolution in search of his own personal ambitious glory. In this respect, Napoleon is considered as a complex and ambiguous character who is portrayed as an heir to the revolution and at the same time its betrayer.
The French Revolution principles focused on three pillars: equality, liberty and fraternity. When the French people revolted against the old system, they yearned for having a completely different political system that looked after the interests and welfare of the French citizens (Ellis, Elisabeth Gaynor). Unlike under the feudal system, people demanded equality on the political, economic, and social levels. The principle of equality guaranteed that French citizens are equal before the law irrespective of their social, religious, or ethnical belonging (Markham, David J). Likewise, liberty was another principle of the Revolution. People than had the freedom to express themselves as they liked and they were free to practice whichever religion they embraced. Lastly, fraternity was the care of the Revolution; In order to insure freedom and equality, there should be some fraternity between all the components of the French society. Thus, leading to the question: to what extent did Napoleon’s domestic policies respond to these principles?
Some historians see that Napoleon respected and preserved some aspects of the revolution. In fact, when he took power after the Brumaire coup in 1793, he declared that the important principles to him were to defend the ideals of the French Revolution (Dean, Peter J). First, as far as equality is concerned, the Civil Code, known as the Napoleonic Code, assured this equality of all the citizens before the law. This can be seen in the concept of opening government careers to more people, since careers were then given according to one’s talent and competence and not from family backgrounds. Napoleon appointed ministers, prefects, and deputies of the Turbinate of different political and social backgrounds. This same thing can be said about religious appointments (Holmberg, Tom). Equality was also evident in his taxation system as all citizens were liable to pay taxes regardless of their social status. Moreover, Napoleon resorted to his belief in social equality to attack the privilege and the power of the church. Furthermore, Napoleon’s domestic policies didn’t seem to neglect fraternity. In fact, his policy of “ralliément”, is a significant evidence of his desire to establish fraternity (Markham, David J). This policy consisted of forgiving what people had done in the past solely if they became loyal to the new regime. Thus, he permitted...

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