To What Extent Are Napoleon's Reforms In France Under The Consulate (1799 1804) Explained By His Need To Secure Himself In Power?

1199 words - 5 pages

After the French Revolution and before, France was a chaotic place. During Napoleon's reign as first consul France's situation Internationally and domestically improved dramatically; however great this may sound some Historians argue that the restoration of France was only a secondary part of Napoleon's policy, they argue that his main policy was in securing his power. At the time Napoleon was called the 'child of the revolution' however his own policies were far removed from the romanticism of the Revolution, they had more to do with despotism. His policies were far harsher and he shared a gloomy view of humanity akin to that of the philosopher Voltaire and of the 'ancien régime' from which the revolution had tried to brake away. However Napoleon had none of the obstacles the 'ancien régime' had to contend with, all he had to worry about was keeping on the right side of any revolutionary ideas.Napoleon's longest standing reforms were his changes to the legal system; most of his civil code reforms are still active in present day France. His reforms involved solving the problems with the unification of France, before Napoleon the laws were confusing and differed depending on the department or town. Inside this new legal system Napoleon introduced the plebiscites as a form of democratic decision-making, which was corrupted by propaganda. His new laws unified all laws in France and were called the Napoleonic codes or code Napoleon. These laws were mainly used to make France more efficient, and didn't specifically aid him in securing power; apart from the plebiscites, which were specifically designed to secure power and incorporated the new legal codes into this deception. The laws were largely the product of Napoleon's work, he sat down with a committee of legal experts for 100's of sessions, and they represented a compromise between old and new legislation. The effect of these laws on the people was mainly popular which helped him secure power, but it is doubtful it was purely intended to, and, just as the other policies covered throughout this essay, these reforms supported other reforms, which helped him secure power.Napoleon had a reform he called Ralliément; it was less of a reform and more just simply an action. It meant that he would adopt a policy of forgive and forget as long as the people he forgave bestowed him with their full support. It was mainly aimed at the émigrés who had been exiled during the revolution for greed and persecution. With the émigrés gone there had been a wide gap where the upper classes (the bourgeoisies) had been. Napoleon reinstated them and their wealth so long as they stayed loyal to him; Napoleon was, seemingly, recreating the aristocracy. Napoleon also appointed many new Ministers and a whole new Clergy; he mixed old and new men, nobles, royalist and regicides. It seems that this mixture in itself meant Ralliément was always going to be successful....

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