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Napoleon Betrayed the Principles of the French Revolution

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Napoleon betrayed the principles of the French Revolution?

Napoleon did betray the principles of the French Revolution, this is due several things that Napoleon did in his time such as his dictatorship, and here Napoleon would control France undermining the principles of the revolution with the executive having absolute power and no separation of powers between braches of government. However, there is evidence that suggest Napoleon did not betray the principles of the French Revolution. These include spreading the ideas of the revolution, whatever country Napoleon conquered he made sure that his regime was current there; this included the application of the Napoleonic codes to all satellite sates.

Napoleon did betray the revolution in several ways; one is shown by his dictatorship of France. Napoleon dictated his people in many ways however; the first came after his appointment to first consul. After appointed to first consul from the coup of 18 brumaire, on 7 February 1800, a public referendum confirmed the new constitution. It vested all of the real power in the hands of the First Consul, leaving only a nominal role for the other two consuls. Napoleon seemed to be returning to a pre revolutionary absolute monarchy with unlimited powers. Napoleon betrayed the revolution and became a dictator as he took away the freedoms that the revolution had granted to the people of France, taking away freedoms that had been intended in the Declaration of the Rights of Men and the Citizen such as freedom of speech. Napoleon also implicated censorship among his people further limiting freedom of speech and expression as newspaper etc were regularly checked and edited, going against the freedoms and expression that the Revolution had intended to put in place. This showed Napoleon did betray the ideas of the revolution as he had complete sovereignty of France. He had the supreme power and the principles of the revolution suggested the ruling of a country should be ran the opposite to this.

Another way Napoleon did betray the revolution was by creating new nobility. Napoleon was portrayed to be returning to the ideas of the ancient regime. These were in the form of creating privileged elite such as the Legion of Honour, titles. From the creation of this it went against the Revolutions ideals of equality for all as if you earned this honour you were granted social above those who did not achieve it. From the Legion of Honour, new nobility was rewarded with property, money and status all of these seemed to resemble feudalism. Napoleon did this as he believe that it will keep high moral in his army, the French would know that their actions would be rewarded encouraging greatness, Napoleon would also argue that it wasn’t a return to the ancient regime since awards were based on service to the State and not royalty.

By creating a hereditary head of head Napoleon betrayed the revolution. This completely went against the revolution and the ideals that an elected head of state should be chosen by the people of France. Napoleon appointed himself emperor and in many ways had more power then Louis XII did, an example is he had complete control of the government, control of the army and control of elections as there were none. This returned to the way in which a head of state/monarch was chosen before 1789. It also seemed to betray the Enlightenment idea of meritocracy which he himself created along with democracy as position based on family rather than merit, not chosen by people. This is also since in Napoleon satellite states which he appointed his family members to monarchs of foreign country such as Joseph King of Naples and King of Spain, betraying the ideas of meritocracy.

Another way that Napoleon did betray the revolution was by governing France with a lack of democracy, appointed officials rather than elected and ignoring the idea of an elected parliament. This moved away from the Revolution’s idea of elected officials being democratically accountable to the people. It moved away not only the original idea of a constitutional monarchy but moved back to the ideals before 1789 of an absolute one. It moved away the ideals of the revolution as prefects were chosen by Napoleon only. Laws in France were no longer really made by elected representatives and instead were created and suggested by Napoleon. Instead of laws created by elected representatives they were created by a dictatorship in which all laws were man by one man. Napoleon also purged the Tribunate and Legislative body removing the democratically elected politician to making all laws on his ideals solely.

Napoleon also betrayed the revolution with reintroducing slavery in France’s colonies. The Revolution had abolished slavery due to the principles of equality suggested by the Enlightenment and the people of France. As slavery was brought back this clearly undid one of the achievement of the Revolution by bring it back. Not to mention that it undermine one of the key principles of the revolution being equality. Napoleon did this to economically better France however, this does prove betray of the revolution as people were not treated equally, to the extent that they were even stripped of their rights.

However, there are many ways in which Napoleon didn’t betray the revolution. One of the greatest reasons is he spread the ideas of the revolution. Napoleon's conquests spread the new ideas and new institutions of the French Revolution throughout Europe. The countries he occupied had versions of the Napoleonic Code imposed on them, forming the legal basis for much of Continental European law today. The liberal ideals of legal equality codified in his law system spread to his opponents to. Every satellite state Napoleon created he made show that French influence was the number one thing to be opposed onto that country. Napoleon even sacked his younger brother Jerome Bonaparte king of Westphalia for taking the needs of the people of Westphalia ore then the French. Thus, Napoleon spread the ideas of the French Revolution even beyond the boundaries of his vast empire. Napoleon did this because he wanted to make the French empire the greatest empire that ever lived; he looked up to and wanted to surpass the Roman Empire lead by Julius Caesar, Napoleon had a vision of a European association, one European united by French common values and ideas.



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