Ferrick 3256 words Table of ContentsIntroduction…………………………………………………pg.3-4Napoleon’searly life and rise to power……………………. pg.4-5NapoleonicCode…………………………………………….pgNapoleonand “egalite”……………………………………..
. pg.7-Napoleonand “libertè”……………………………………..
. pg.7-9Napoleonand “fraternitè”……………………………………pg. Did Napoleon fail in fulfilling thebasis of the French revolution: Liberté,Égalité, Fraternitè?When the French Revolution began onJuly 14th, 1789, throughout the streets of France, revolutionariescould be heard crying “Liberté, Égalité,Fraternité”, liberty, equality and brotherhood. These same words have become anintegral aspect of French culture.
They can be found inscribed in buildings, onpostal stamps, coins, and even the 1958 Constitution. This slogan has becomesynonymous with the idea of freedom in France, and is the central idealism thatled to democracy. Yet, until 1792 France was ruled by an absolute monarchy.
Thefirst son born into the royal family would be King, despite his wishes orqualfications. Societally, there was no unification. There were threedistinct classes, known “estates”. The first was the clergy since religionplayed a central role in the monarchy in France, by establishing the clergy asthe top class, they were allowed to escape taxation. Religion played a centralrole in post-revolutionary France, making the church an integral part ofsociety. Catholicism was the only permitted religion in France, which gave thechurch significant power over the government, and allowed them to often actedas government advisors. The second estate was the nobility, comprised of thosewho possessed aristocratic titles.
The second estate was split between thosewho earned their titles by military service, and those who earned it by beingborn into a noble family. The third estate made up 98 percent of the populationand was comprised of peasant farmers. Many were feudal tenants, in debt with theirlandlords and left with virtually nomoney to pay for anything additional.
In the post-revolutionary era of France,the first and second estates were not taxed by the government, despite that theywere the classes that had enough income to pay them. The third estate receivedthe burden of paying taxes even though they had no representation in thegovernment.The French Revolution is widely acknowledged as thecatalyst of the French government. France had been ruled by an absolutemonarchy and the peasantry, known as the third estate, was struggling to paythe increasingly high taxes and be able to afford necessities like food andshelter.
Though there were many factors that contributed to the start of theFrench revolution, most notably, the success of the American Revolution whichhad ended in 1783 and the unjust taxation the peasantry faced. The Frenchrevolution officially began on July14, 1789 when the Parisianthird estate seized the Bastille. This ignited the revolution in France andbegan the “Reign of Terror” which lasted from September5, 1793, to July 27, 1794. Though the revolutionary era had manycharismatic leaders none were as well-known as Napoleon Bonaparte. Bonaparte’shumble origins set him apart from other generals and leaders. He was not borninto royalty or nobility, but rather into an average family on a small island.Although his family was Tuscan nobility in the 16th century, theylost a great deal of their wealth over time.
They were lawyers by heredity andwere simple, just wealthy enough to own a modest home. Napoleon was born onAugust 15th in 1769, the second child of Carlo Mario da Bonaparteand Letizia Ramolino. As a boy, he wanted to serve in the British navy, but hewas dissuaded by his parents from perusing this. Bonaparte was a talentedmathematician, which was an invaluable gift, and served him well in hismilitaristic pursuits. Napoleons life began to change when he was awarded aplace at a high-class French academy. On December 31st, 1778, atonly age nine, Bonaparte was given a place at the royal military school, aswell as at a preparatory school at Autun. He spent a year schooling at Autun, and thenfive years at the military college at Brienne, culminating with one year at theacademy for offices in Paris. Napoleons years of schooling marked histransition to a professional French soldier.
The climate of revolution era Franceprovided to be the perfect place for a young, pragmatic leader such as Napoleonto rise to power. Yet Napoleon did not want revolution. He believed in change,the rapid evolution of a country. “He wanted things to work better, or morefairly and faster.
” The success of the American revolution was fresh in theminds of the down trodden peasantry, as they clung to the belief that they couldfree themselves from the oppressive upper estates. When the revolution began onJuly 14th, 1789 with the storming of the Bastille, a militaryfortress that symbolized the “ancien regime”, it was led by the third estate.This began a period known as the Reign of Terror in France, which was marked bymass executions by guillotine and betrayal in all layers of society.
This iswhen Napoleon took power. During the beginning of the Reign of Terror, Napoleonwas working in Egypt. Napoleon returned to France where, in one month after hisarrival, he and a group of politicians overthrew the current government knownas the Directory and established the Consulate.Despite the political turmoil inrevolutionary France, the same principals that began the revolution, theacquisition of liberte egalite and fraternite was still the driving forcebehind the revolutionaries. Napoleon is without doubt one of the maincharacters of the revolution, yet his personal ideology did not match up withthat of the initial revolutionaries.
Throughout his rise to power and time asleader, his disregard for all three major principals of the revolution raisesthe question of if Napoleon failed in achieving the initial goals of therevolution. The Napoleonic Code, sometimesreferred to as the “French Code Napoléon” was written on March 21st1804 by the consulate led by Napoleon Bonaparte during his time as emperor ofFrance. The code was a necessary creation, as each of the different regions in Francewas governed by different sets of laws, which varied greatly with each other.Religion, specifically Roman Catholicism played a large role in the creation oflaws prior to the revolution. Unlike previous codes and sets of laws prior, theNapoleonic code was created with the intent to be free from past prejudices,whether they be religious or feudal.
The Code regulated societal aspects thatwere unclear or simply unregulated prior to its creation. By creating apowerful and succinct code of laws, Napoleon solidified his position as theleader of the country.Napoleon’s religious beliefs were inpart what made him such a successful ruler. In 18th century France,the majority of the population was Catholic. Prior to the French revolution,the catholic church played a significant role in the government. Priests andother church officials made up the first estate, paying no taxes and wereconsidered almost like royalty.
When the French revolution began in 1789, manycitizens who were once catholic abandoned their religious beliefs, likelybecause the revolutionaries considered anyone who sympathized with the churchto be an enemy of the revolution, and would possibly face the guillotine. Cominginto office, it was clear that Napoleon did not hold religion to a high regard,and stated that “Religion is whatkeeps the poor from murdering the rich.”, to emphasize his beliefs thatreligion is a man made concept used for control. While Napoleon might haveregarded the ideology of using religion as a means for control as morally wrong,it is one he adopted when he came into power.
Though the Napoleonic code hecreated allowed for freedom of religion it is regarded as a political tacticcreated to help him gain more power over the individual. Because Napoleon didnot require for the citizens of the lands he conquered to change theirreligion, he won the favor of the people there. This was politically successfulbecause it insured that they were less likely to rebel. Napoleon once saidthat, “It is by making myself Catholic that I brought peace to Brittany andVendée. It is by making myself Italian that I won minds in Italy.
It is bymaking myself a Moslem that I established myself in Egypt. If I governed anation of Jews, I should reestablish the Temple of Solomon.” (Napoleon) . Sincehis religious beleifs at the time he assumed a role of power were not strong, Napoleonwas able to use religion to his advantage.
This made him more powerful inachieving his goals of conquering other lands, as well as controlling France.Since Napoleon allowed for freedom of religion in his Napoleonic code, it canbe surmised that religious liberty was achieved during his time as leader.Although this liberty was only achieved because of Napoleons desire to gain morepower over the people, he provided them with a freedom they didn’t have whilethe monarchy was in power.
EgaliteAlthough one of the founding ideals ofthe French revolution was equality, Napoleon’s personal actions point to thefact that perhaps he did not believe in equality for all. Prior to the installationof the Napoleonic code, nearly all aspects of family life was mandated by theCatholic church. This made actions like divorce or annulment uncommon, onlybeing allowed if there was physical abuse or defamation (Napoleon series). Whenthe “Declaration of the Rights of Man” was written during the revolution, itdid not grant equal rights to women. They were denied many political rightslike voting, owning a home or business or initiating a lawsuit.
Because of thisin 1791 feminist Olympe de Gouges to create the “Declaration of the Rights ofWoman”, where she argued that womenshould be viewed as equal to men. However, under the radical rule of theJacobins, her act was considered treasons and she was killed. Even prior toNapoleons ascent to power during the revolutionary time, the entirety of TheFrench revolution proved to be a major setback for women’s rights, despite many other groups being granted more politicalfreedoms and rights. As a ruler, Napoleon continued to hold women to the sameregard that they had been held to in the centuries prior. Napoleon stated that, “Women ought to obey us. Nature has made women ourslaves!”.
This radical viewpoint held by Napoleon wasfurthered in his Napoleonic code, which did not advance the movements of women’s rights inFrance. As shown in the Napoleonic code, spousal abuse was not considered acrime despite the fact that it was considered a crime during the Frenchrevolution. This was a major setback on the front of gender equality, as itfurthered the predisposed gender roles. The code also declared that women weresubject to the control of their fathers or husbands, and could not own propertywithout their consent. Napoleon was able to continue the patriarichal societyin France together through these laws by refusing to give women any powers thatcould allow them to become successful. The success of women during theNapoleonic regieme was dependant on the men in their lives.
Another setback towomen’s equality caused by the Napoleonic code was that according to the Code awife “could not inherit her dead husband’sland because the “blood family” would then no longer own it.” (CRF). This lawwas once an old feudal law, which Napoleon reinstated, which exemplifies hisantiquated position on the front of women’s suffrage. Through theimplementation of these regulations in the Napoleonic code, Napoleon failed inachieving the goal of equality as women were greatly marginalized and silencedby the laws instated in the Napoleonic code. Napoleon promoted the idea of viewing women not as men’s equals, butsomething they could control. Napoleons regieme was marked by his desire andambitious plan to expand France’s colonial sphere. Napoleon planned toestablish colonies in America, India, and Australia to establish his power as aworld leader. Napoleons ambitious plan to expand France’s colonies included there-establishment of slavery although it was abolished during the FrenchRevolution.
During the revolution, slavery was abolished, likely in the pursuitof achieving “egalitè” for all, not only the French. However Napoleon did notcontinue with the liberal minded thinking brought about during the revolution.By re-establishing slavery in Frances colonies.
Napoleoncreated and organized legion of honor, which was military that anyone couldjoin as long as they promised to uphold he principals of the French revolution,liberty and equality. (Pallardy). In the rules of the Legion of Honor it was stated that “The trade in the blacks and theirimportation into the said colonies shall take place in conformity with the lawsand regulations existing prior to the said date of 1789” (Costly). Although theLegion of Honor was created to promote the re-instatement of slavery, one ofthe requirements for joining was to honor equality.
This in itself depictsNapoleons disregard for equality in its truest form, and shows that Napoleonused equality as a political excuse and a way to gain public support.The re-instation of slavery in the French colony of Saint-Domingue wasmet with much resistance. Napoleon planned to reinforce France’s dominance inSaint-Domingue by sending the commander in chief of a twenty-thousand-manexpeditionary army, Leclerc to Saint-Domingue. Napoleons instructions to Leclercwere split into three portions; to convince the residents of Saint-Dominguethat France only had peaceful intentions while establishing control of majorports, to leave the masses leaderless, and to reinstate slavery, and return allblacks to plantations. The Haitian troops rebelled against Leclerc led by revolutionaryToussaint Overture an used the tropicalclimate to their advantage since many of the French soldiers became immediatelyill upon arrival. the rebel troops continued to fight against the French, usingtheir tropical climate to their advantage as many of the French immediately gotsick upon arrival.
On April 27th, 1802, Napoleon issued a decree thatreestablishes slavery in other French colonies, but promised that slavery wouldnot be reinstated in Saint-Domingue. However, Napoleon went back on his wordand slavery was established again in Saint-Domingue.Napoleon’s acquisition of colonies After Napoleons return from hisexile to the Mediterranean island of Elba he begins to look at slavery with amore “liberal” approach. He decided to finally abolish the slave trade in all ports of France as well as French colonies, any breach of theselaws will result in trial by jury.
While the Napoleonic regime had many negative aspectson the front of equality, there were some successes. Revolutionary France wasthe first European country to grant the Jewish civil rights. There wereulterior motives to this though. The French hoped that by removing restrictionson Jewish employment they would integrate into society and become a part of theFrench culture. Even after achieving political rights, there were complaintsabout the lack of integration of the Jewish in the French culture.
Frustratedby this, Napoleon asked a council of Jewish leaders 12 questions, all of whichwere ignorant, and condescending, such as “Are Jews allowed to have more thanone wife?”. An imperial decree issued one year later stated that Jews mustapply yearly for a business license and they must take a French name. Another one of the principals of the Frenchrevolution was liberté. Liberty is defined as the “freedom from an arbitrary ordespotic government or control” and based off this definition alone, Napoleon did not promote the liberty of the citizens ofFrance during his time in power. Napoleon seized his power in 1799 during acoup d’etat, and established a new government, the consulate. To legitimatizehis reign and assert his power on may 18th 1804 Napoleon curated aSenate who he knew would proclaim that he was the “hereditary emperor of theFrench” (Shannon Selin) ,thus assuring that if he died while he was on thethrone, his legacy would live on. This also would reassure those who hadacquired assets from the revolution that their assets were secure. There was also a national survey held toconfirm that the citizens approved of Napoleons change in status, over threemillion people voted and “99.
93% in favour and 2,569 against.” (Shannon Selin).Over half of the potential voters in the country refused to vote and it can beassumed that the results were doctored based off the sheer unfathomability ofover 99% of the population approving of the change in title. However, Napoleonscoronation was being planned regardless of the results of the vote. Napoleonrequested the Pope attend his coronation ceremony. The Pope attendedtraditional coronations for French monarchs, and they had been treated aslegitimate and powerful rulers for centuries up until the revolution.
Napoleon’sreplication of the ceremonies of previous monarchs, was done on purpose, andwas his way of establishing himself as a legitimate and powerful ruler. However,in this act, he showed his blatant disregard for the causes of the revolutionitself. The French citizens did not want another monarchy, but a moredemocratic and representative approach to government.
At the ceremony, the Popeanointed Napoleons head in accordance with tradition but Napoleon crownedhimself rather than letting the pope do it. This revealed Napoleons desire tobe viewed as powerful, even more so than the highest religious leader in theworld. This was the first in a series of many occurrences in his life whereNapoleon’s actions have appeared tyrannical. Heaggressively pursued his own objectives to seize power or win battles,sometimes at the cost of individual liberties or even civilian lives. (Libertyor Death) When Bonaparte’s troops were in Italy in 1796 and 1797, if civiliansresisted the occupying troops, Bonaparte responded ruthlessly. In the south ofMilan he ordered killings and allowed pillaging and looting that enriched bothhe and his soldiers and the army in Italy had the benefit of receiving theirpay in cash. In Verona, 10,000 civilians were killed and his troops slaughteredmassive numbers in Nice.
He appeared notto care about the cost of individual lives during his quest for success. Bonaparteessential seized power of the Council of Five Hundred with the help and supportof his brother, who was President of the Council. In November 1799, Bonaparte and his troopsessentially attempted to enter the Council to take over by force. His brother ultimately needed to help but inthe end the members were driven out and this ended what had been 10 years of aparliamentary rule. A few months later,his brother would again help as he altered the number of supposed “yes” votesby the millions when less than 2000 had voted with the result that power waslimited within a few consuls that would pass legislation. In addition, Bonaparte limited the powers oflocal governments and made all the local mayors essentially be appointed eitherby the Consul or his own department. Power, once again was being concentrated to a few and throughappointments, not free elections. Thewill of the local people governed by appointed.
In conclusion, Napoleonfailed to bring “egalité, liberté, and fraternité”, the driving principals ofthe French revolution to the country. In many ways, his reign brought upon moresocial constraints, and pushed the French further from achieving these goalsthan they were under the monarchy.Something that must be considered isthat throughout the span of the revolution and Napoleons time in power is thatliberte egalite fraternite may have lost their influence. While these pointswere major points of contention during the monarchy, once the peasantry stoppedbeing obliged to pay such high taxes without representation, therevolutionaries desire for liberte egalite fraternite may have decreased.
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