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Napoleon Was Not A Son Of The Revolution

801 words - 3 pages

At the end of the French Revolution, the hopes of the early stages of the Revolution had been mangled, leading into the Reign of Terror. France had dissolved into anarchy, with internal and international turmoil. It was out of the foreign wars that Napoleon came to power. Napoleon Bonaparte rose to power, victory by victory, eventually making himself Emperor of France, creating a strong central government while continuing the foreign wars, creating a mass French Empire. Although Napoleon was a product of the French Revolution and maintained the image as a “son of the Revolution,” idealism always fell to pragmatism as Napoleon’s main purpose was creating a strong unified France.

Napoleon’s policies reflected some of the ideals of Enlightenment thought and he sought to spread them across Europe as he conquered. One of the core beliefs of the Enlightenment is that the universe is orderly and that there are natural laws that apply to everyone. Although what these rights were was up to debate, the central idea was that everyone should have them. As Napoleon conquered Europe he applied the same laws to everybody, everywhere. This set of laws is known as the Code Napoleon. Some of the laws enforced by the Code Napoleon can be seen in Napoleon’s Imperial Decree at Madrid, where Napoleon abolished feudal rights, such as banalities, as well as seizing church lands to be distributed among the people. Other actions he took were creating “constitutions” that created laws that applied to all people equally and could not be altered on a whim. These are the same actions taken during the French revolution applied to all other areas. In fact, the promises of these reforms gave Napoleon’s forces supporters in the countries he seized. Napoleon certainly wanted to present himself as a champion of Enlightenment ideas as evident in the language he uses, always talking about “nature” and “progress.” Although Napoleon depicted himself as a champion of revolutionary ideas though, many of his actions were against the philosophy behind them.

Despite the imagery he implied, Napoleon cared less about the ideals of the revolution and more about keeping France together while expanding its power, and would go against these ideals in order to ensure his own power. Although Napoleon gave countries “constitutions” he didn’t give them democracies, or even representative...

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