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Napoleon

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The French Revolution was a time of great change that had a lasting effect on all of Europe for many years to come. Through the Enlightenment, a new school of thought had emerged that is best summarized in the Declaration of the Rights of Man by the National Assembly during the French Revolution. Greatly influenced by such ideas was a young, brilliant military officer named Napoleon Bonaparte. Under his regime, France entered a time of "Enlightened Despotism", or absolutist rule by one ruler who was brilliant, wise, and cared about the wellbeing of his subjects. Often called the greatest of the Enlightened Despots, Napoleon helped heal France and lead them out of the radical end of the French Revolution through his lasting domestic reforms and policies that were extremely advanced and liberal for the early nineteenth century.

As an Enlightened Despot, Napoleon’s primary focus was to make France a powerful state. His greatest reform was the first complete codification of French law, which had been started by the Declaration of the Rights of Man. This codification known as the Napoleonic Code made many of the revolutionary ideas of the French Revolution become permanent. After the French Revolution’s many governmental systems had left France in total chaos, the Napoleonic Code created one efficient government whose laws were based on the reforms of the revolution. Some of its most important components were equality before the law, which meant that all citizens were given a trial by jury, all men of a certain age could vote, and the right to a fair trial to prevent unjust imprisonment. Also, freedom of conscience was established, which meant that there was freedom of religion, as well as property rights that stated that private property was a sacred right. However, although France was one of the most liberal countries in the world at the time, women were denied equal status with men in topics such as voting. This civil code, often identified as Napoleon’s greatest achievement, that Napoleon implemented in France in 1804 laid the foundation for many of the current legal systems of Europe as well as making permanent the innovative ideas and reforms of the French Revolution.

Another important aspect of Napoleon’s domestic policy was to attempt to heal the wounds in France that had been created by the French Revolution. His first challenge was to mend the division that the Civil Constitution of the Clergy had created because Napoleon did not want the Catholic Church to be in opposition to his regime. He successfully did so by making a settlement with the Catholic Church in his reform in 1801 called the Concordat, which reconciled the relationship the unreligious National Convention had created with the Catholic Church. This reform helped to improve the relations between church and state in France because it brought back religious unity. Catholicism was declared the majority religion, however this did not mean that it was the official religion because France had religious toleration as declared in the Napoleonic Code and was a fundamental aspect to French life during his rule as an Enlightened Despot. Also, the spiritual leadership of the Catholic Church would be welcomed to any major ceremony. The Church was able to accept that it would not get its land back, and the pope and the government agree that they both will have influence over who will be appointed to church official positions. The tithe was made an optional tax, and France goes back to the old calendar to help heal the wounds that the National Convention had created with its new calendar and de-Christianization. Through this reform, Napoleon did what all enlightened rulers strive to do which is to strengthen their state in any way possible so that their country can be a powerful nation.

Napoleon’s next task was to make an effort to centralize the French government so that his regime would have a strong foundation that would not be easily destroyed. First, Napoleon needed to create a strong national French bank, which would help boost the economy of France and strengthen France. This bank would be a national bank that would work with the French government to provide it with discounted loan rates and money in times of need, but it would be privately owned. This bank was a part of the emerging capitalistic

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