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The French Revolution

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Introduction

The French Revolution: Napoleon Bonaparte Revolutionary Anarchist or True Emperor of France? Sarah Zaidi Mr. Winegarden CHY4U 18/05/2010 During the Hundred Days Napoleon defended his past illiberal actions on political necessity. "I am not an enemy of liberty," he said, "but I set it aside when it obstructed my way." Indeed he did set it aside, altering thoughts and beliefs, and imposing absolute political authority. His selection of individuals for government titles and attempt at recreating a heritable dynasty, were policies much closer to the practice of the Ancien Regime than those of the Revolution. The use of censorship and propaganda and the activities of the police all played a part in the establishment and maintenance of the Napoleonic state. However, it quickly became evident that his actions were undeniably at the expense of liberty and equality. Napoleon was not able to maintain the ideals of the Revolution, as he re-established the aristocracy and his dictatorship mirrored policies that were present during the Ancien Regime. ...read more.

Middle

The Napoleonic Code was enforced by a police system that was a central part of Napoleon's centralized administration. The Codes were an attempt to organize French law and the Criminal and Penal Codes were essentially concerned with punishment such as hard labour and loss of the right hand. A number of changes were also made to the judiciary under Napoleon's rule. Judges, instead of being elected as under the Directory, were appointed by the government indeterminately. Special new courts materialized and there were military courts and tribunals for political offenders. However in 1810, a system of arbitrary imprisonment without trial, similar to the 'lettres caches' used in pre-Revolutionary France, was reintroduced for the people. The 'prefects' acted as agents of the central government and were directly appointed by Napoleon. A system of house arrest was present and run by the prefects for anyone who did not warrant imprisonment but who was considered a danger to state security. A number of extra prisons were built and it is estimated that in 1814 more than three times the number of ordinary convicts occupied them as in 1800. ...read more.

Conclusion

His decision to appoint government officials and recreate a hereditary dynasty does not support Revolutionary ideals, but imitates the policies present during the Ancien Regime. Many historians believe that Napoleon respected the ideals set during the Revolution, however, his own preference was always for an authoritarian rule, "I do not believe that the French love liberty and equality," he told the Council of State in 1802. "Ten years of revolution has not changed them." By establishing himself as the Emperor of the French state, he was showing that sovereignty no longer belonged to the people as in pre-Napoleonic days. He altered the citizens beliefs with his censorship and propaganda and the police system and 'lettres caches' are evident examples of his extreme dictatorship. Furthermore, the establishment of the imperial nobility and the appointment of government officials were decisions made by Napoleon and not elected by the state. The Revolution aimed at having an administration that respected the ideals of 'liberty' and 'equality'. However, it is evident that Napoleon did not abide by them but rather termed himself a Revolutionary activist when in reality he was like any other monarch. ...read more.

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