The Rise of Napoleon Bonaparte
At just 30 years old, Napoleon Bonaparte became the highest political figure in France in November of 1799.
After a successful coup of the French Directory, which at the time was the government that was put in place after the Revolution, Napoleon and two other individuals formed the Consulate with Napoleon acting as first consul.
Napoleon would later become the Emperor of France and use his military expertise to conquer much of Europe. What he is perhaps best remembered for, however, is his restoration of order to France after a violent and disorderly ten years of Revolution. Specifically, he was able to bring order back in the areas of the economy, society, law, and religion.
In terms of economic order, Napoleon was successful in slowing inflation, which is when the price of goods increases and the value of money decreases.
King Louis XVI had done significant damage to France’s budget, having thrust the country into tremendous debt. Napoleon took on the task of balancing the budget and paying off that debt. He also created a National Bank and sold the Louisiana Territory to the United States, who was very eager to expand its borders.
From a social aspect, Napoleon welcomed the nobles, who comprised the higher-ranking Estates of the country, back on an agreement of good behavior.
Officials were also promoted based on their merit as opposed to being promoted based on being members of the nobility. Finally, he set up a series of Lycées, which were public schools created for preparing students for college.
By way of religious order, Napoleon and Pope Pius VII signed an agreement in 1801 known as the Concordat. This agreement established two major principles.
The first principle established a reconciliation between the Catholics and the French revolutionaries, who had grown wary of each other throughout the Revolution. The second provision also maintained that the Roman Catholic Church would be the predominant church of France but allowed for freedom of religion. The Concordat also stipulated that the Pope would lose any and all political control.
To help reinstate legal order, Napoleon established the Napoleonic Code of Laws. This new set of laws distinguished between various forms of law, such as civil, criminal, family, and property, etc. The Napoleonic Code also promoted equality under the law and also made it so that no “secret” laws could be enforced.
The public had to know about what was legal and what was not legal, encouraging transparency. Although this Code was adopted in 1804, many of the laws are still in use today.