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As the leader of France after the revolution, Napoleon was able to raise the status of France to highest it had ever been. Napoleon was one of the most controversial leaders in history because as much as he helped France flourish he also went against many ideas that were stated in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen that was put into place after the revolution. The French people did not gain what they had hoped for with their Revolution but when Napoleon came to power he created a revolutionary form of government that combined his own personal ideas with the goals of the French people, which established civil equality and lasting reforms that would remain in Europe for decades.
Napoleon preserved the ideals of the French Revolution conveyed in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen, such as economic freedom, freedom of expression, religious toleration, strong military protection and popular sovereignty. One important part of Napoleon’s reign was the Napoleonic Codes. “Napoleon fulfilled the revolutionaries’ desire to create a complete set of laws—the Napoleonic Code—that applied equally to all adult men, although it treated women as second class citizens” (Berenson 192). With the Napoleonic codes he established a uniform legal system and a centralized state of power, which were unsuccessful in France prior to him. The code allowed for equal treatment of adult males and they were allowed to choose their professions rather than being forced to work whatever they were born into. He showed this specifically by giving men who were not from noble backgrounds jobs in government based on merit. Examples of this are Joachim Murat whose father was an innkeeper, Michel Ney whose father was a barrel maker and Charles Pierre François Augereau whose father was a fruit seller (Lecture 7). The third estate was everything in France as it made up 95% of the population. The people of the third estate threw the revolution and Napoleon knew that keeping the people of France happy was going to be key to a successful leadership. Napoleon was also able to sign a Concordat with the pope in 1801. This agreement ended all restrictions on Catholic worship imposed during the revolution, reopened shuttered churches and erased the distinction between constitutional and non-constitutional clergy (Berenson 193). There was a redistribution of land from the Church and nobility hereby ending feudalism in France, which was one of the main problems for the people of the third estate. In exchange for this Catholic restoration, the pope officially accepted the confiscation and sale of Church lands and agreed to the revolutionary precedent of making priests and bishops salaried officials of the state (Berenson 193). This agreement gave the people of France the religious freedom that they did not have before the revolution. With Napoleon fighting for this his popular opinion increased and he was able to control the masses because they were starting to realize that he was truly going to try and live out the revolution. The codes also included the secondary schools that the revolution was looking for. The people of the third estate were now able to receive the education that was out of their reach before the revolution.
However, part of Napoleons reign was against what the Declaration of Rights of Man and Citizen was all about. Napoleon completed the revolutions work when it came to the law, geographical organization, education, and land redistribution. But failed when he replaced the basic principle of “liberty, equality, and fraternity” with order, hierarchy, and property (Berenson 193). Napoleon truly believed that by becoming a supreme leader he was fulfilling the role that the revolution asked for. For him, by spreading the Napoleonic Law Code into his newly conquered areas this was spreading what the new France was all about. However, by expanding France he was enforcing absolutism and wanted the control over as many people as possible and institute a regime similar to the Roman Empire. “In this gigantic struggle between the present and past, I am the neutral arbiter and mediator. I tried to be its supreme judge. My whole internal administration, my whole foreign policy were determined by that great aim” (Bonaparte 21). He had complete control over society and this was further shown by his police state that he instituted to monitor censorship, arbitrary arrest, and tight surveillance of all opponents (Berenson 193). With this repression of public opposition Napoleon’s public opinion was extremely positive because the people of France were not allowed to say otherwise. Because he was an all-powerful leader the idea of quality was no longer there. There was equality when it came to all of the people that could not threaten Napoleon but if these people tried to act out against him they were immediately shut down. Napoleon also instituted a hereditary dynasty, which did not give other people a chance to rule. He did this because of the great success he had in France and wanted to ensure that his hard work continued and that he was able to still have his say even after he was no longer in control.
The revolution in France and Napoleon coming to power was transformative for Europe because they were able to show how a government can run without the likes of nobility running the government. Although some of Napoleon’s action went against the principles embodied in the French declaration. He overall left a positive impact on the country and Europe as a whole. He made changes for the working class that improved their quality life immensely than before the revolution. France needed a strong leader to bring them out of a dark time in their history and Napoleon was the perfect person to bring this country out of the revolution.


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