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Free «Napoleon Bonaparte» Essay Sample

Napoleon Bonaparte, a French military leader and an emperor is one of the most celebrated personalities in the history of the West. Napoleon introduced lasting developments that marked the transformation from absolute government to a modern state. Napoleon shaped the public views. This was achieved through crude forms of propaganda but more significantly through the use of arbitrary arrests, secret agents and executions. Just like the other dictators, Napoleon relied on the public views to avoid intimidating criticism. In this case, dissent was almost impossible. All the newspapers, printers and booksellers fell under the government control. He overturned some of the moderate gains of revolution he weakened republicanism and also repressed liberty.

Napoleonic code

This is the French civil code and it was established under Napoleon I in1804. The code forbade privileges based on birth, allowed freedom of religion and also made it clear that government jobs go to the most qualified individual. A commission of four eminent jurists rapidly drafted the code and entered into force in March. The development of the Napoleonic code was a significant transformation in the nature of the civil law system, making laws more accessible and clearer. This code was not the first legal code with a civil legal system to be established in a European country, it was preceded by several other codes. Nonetheless, it was the first modern legal code to be adapted with a Pan European capacity. The code had a significant impact on the law of many countries formed during and after Napoleonic era. The preliminary document of the code established certain important provisions in regard to the rule of law. Laws could only be effective only if they had been duly promulgated and published officially. Therefore, no secret laws were authorized. It prohibited laws that apply to events that happened before their introduction. The code also forbade judges from refusing justice on the basis of insufficient law, therefore encouraging them to interpret the law. Moreover, judges were prohibited from passing general judgments of a legislative value.



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The code established the supremacy of the husband over the wife and children, with regard to the family. This was the common legal situation at the time in Europe. In 1804, divorce through consent was abolished for women. The code was a great success. It was based on the principles of inviolability of property, equality, marriage as a civil act, freedom of choice of one’s own profession and it advocated for an end to the feudal rights and privileges.


I the reign of the late Louis XVI, the value of money had depreciated tremendously. During the revolution, the situation became even worse when the franc piece was replaced with another money paper that was called the assignats. This caused the rate of inflation to shoot even higher. The government was indebted and poorly planned that the civil workers and the military were not paid for a long time. This impacted people in a negative way as they did not even have food. In order to plan on the finances, Napoleon appointed two bodies: the treasury and the Ministry of finance. The franc was reintroduced and the assignats were recalled. This ensured that the people had reliable money.

When Napoleon took charge, the exchequer only had little money and it was heavily indebted. To correct this, he instated a national lottery, this brought in 9 million. He also took out loans worth 3 million from the bankers. Napoleon also fixed the tax collection system. Before, ordinary people collected the taxes and they merely kept records. As a result, these tax collectors kept large amounts of money for themselves. Corrupt moneygrubbers took what was left and what remained for the government was very little.

To combat this, Napoleon ended the old system and established a department of professional tax collectors. Their main job was to levy and collect taxes. They received a fixed salary. This way, the taxes were collected properly and the money was used for the right reasons. Napoleon also instated the Bank of France so as to centralize finances. The banks charged thirty percent interest and Napoleon found out that this was too much. He therefore limited the banks’ yearly dividend to six percent. He also made sure that the budget was balanced for each year the the money spent on each ministry checked. This was to ensure that the money that was collected was recorded and used properly. Over time, indirect taxes were increased on a few items instead of raising the income tax. Consequently, the government did not have to devalue its currency, inflation came to an end, the living cost became stable and the national debts were cleared within an year. For the first time, the government acquired a balanced since 1738. The poverty levels were also highly reduced.

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Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice

Napoleon introduced the prefecture in order to make the law enforcement more efficient and effective. There was a perfect directly in charge for every department. He ran the law enforcement in the area and he a council of local notables supported him. As a result, each department could represent itself in legal matters and also sustain itself. This system greatly enhanced the efficiency of enacting the law. In addition, Napoleon introduced a system of circuit Judges. They were largely based off the British system. Napoleon supported the trial by a jury when it came to a fair trial. Nevertheless, the Council of state did not embrace this view and a s a result, it was later replaced with a chamber of arraignment. in regard to the soldiers, a reform was passed. Previously, the soldiers were only susceptible to military law but under Napoleon, they were also subjected to the civil law as well.


Napoleon government embraced full employment and the opening of large foreign markets. The government subsidized prices, opened research institutes and held exhibitions. This greatly promoted agricultural growth. Grain prices were greatly controlled so as to stabilize the market. The agricultural sector greatly achieved as it was able to export cheese, butter and vegetable oils as opposed to the time before the revolution where the country was only importing.

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A number of industries prospered as well. For instance the wool industry raised its production by 400 percent and for the textile industry; exported silks went up in value. Napoleon would personally intervene in times of economic crisis. He personally sacrificed during the winter crisis in 1806-1807 where he spent his own money to buy silk from Lyon and also to pay the weavers of the city of Amiens.

Workers unions were forbidden and guilds were closely monitored. Workhouses were modernized and this greatly improved the workers conditions. Popular welfare was greatly encouraged despite the absence of unions. Around the city of Liege, a primitive version of health insurance was tried and several independent benefit societies arose as a result. 

Public opinion

Napoleon considered it important to consider peoples’ views. Most people supported Napoleon and this was evident during the public votes that were casted. They approved on the issue of making Napoleon first Consul and also on Napoleon becoming the French emperor. Another issue that won the Napoleon favor among the people was during the Revolution. Land from the Church and nobility had been seized and the people who had just settled on the land after purchasing it feared that the government might take it away from them. Nevertheless, Napoleon assured the people that he would not do that and he actually stood by his word. This enabled the people to settle in fully.

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National development

During Napoleon’s reign, the tax collected was used as it was intended. The government started a number of projects. This went hand in hand with the policy of full employment; as such projects needed enough manpower. A good transportation system was also incorporated. The roads of France were paved and also blasted. This enhanced transportation network as it became easier to pass through Italy, France and Switzerland. A new way of numbering was launched for the houses in France. In regards to trade, three great seaports were constructed. A number of canals were also constructed and this allowed for efficient water transportation.

Familial matters

The wife was to be the subordinate of the husband. The husband is the one who was to take care of the family. A new advantage was given to the married couples; this is the right to divorce. More significantly, the wife was also allowed to register for the divorce. This faced unfriendly opposition from the Church and certain government officials. They felt that this would destabilize the society. However, it was made legal but with one condition: the couple was to be married for more than two years but less than twenty. The marrying age  was also increased significantly: for men, the minimum age changed from 15 years to 20years while for the women it was changed from 13 years to 18years. This was to discourage marriages that last only for a few days and also prevent divorce as a result of getting bored of each other in old age.

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For any nation to succeed, it requires competent and intelligent leaders as well as able citizens. This can only be achieved through learning in schools. To ensure this, Napoleon established better education systems. During the ancient times, priests taught elementary levels free of charge. However, they only focused on religious issues. Under the revolution, a number of public secondary schools were started though there were very few students and even fewer teachers. Unfortunately, this led to the closure of universities due to floundering of secondary education.

Napoleon changed all this as his interest was in secondary education as opposed to the elementary education. In an individual’s education, he had to make a choice between pursuing a civil and a military career. This would decide the focal point of their curriculum. The civil education focused on philosophy, language and rhetoric whereas the military education focused on sciences and the military drills. Any career that a person would choose, he was assured of employment. The central schools of the revolution were split up and a new form of higher education replaced it.

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For the women, limited progress was however, made. They were allowed to school at the elementary level. Their curriculum involved learning how to write and read, History, Botany and domestic arts such as sewing and singing. This was intended to produce women of virtue. Napoleon also established the imperial University. It was the final determinant of centralization. It was a requirement for all teachers to belong to it and it had complete control over all the aspects of education. Teachers were also expected to swear an oath of loyalty to the state and also to Napoleon. They were also to enhance patriotism among the students.

Religious Organizations and Freedom

Before revolution, the sole official religion was catholic. But after the revolution, things completely changed. The revolutionaries renamed all the streets with the name ‘saint’. They also changed the calendar. This created counter-revolutionary in France. Even though feelings from the revolution were still present, people began to yearn for the church and more so for religion. Napoleon realized that something was supposed to be done so as to settle things between the Catholics and the revolutionaries. This was aimed to create stability in France.

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Pope Pius VII wanted Catholicism to be made the only official religion. However, Napoleon intervened as he stood for freedom of religion. Instead, he offered to make Catholicism one of the official religions of France. Napoleon also helped the Jews as the law officially allowed them to exercise their religion just like the other religions. He showed compassion for their plight and he purposed to make them part of the unified France. This would ensure they shared in the principle of equality for all.

In conclusion, Napoleon accomplished a lot for France. However, he also had had his own setbacks, problems; the slowly progressive stand towards women and periodic monitoring of the press. On the other hand, religious freedom was obtained, the nation’s economy became stable and crime was put under control and the education system was improved. Through Napoleons regime, what he achieved outweighs what was not achieved or simply not improved or developed.


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