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, or an overthrow, 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. He 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 the increase in the price of goods and when it takes more money to purchase a product than it did before.

King Louis XVI had done quite a number on France’s budget, having thrust the country into tremendous debt, so Napoleon also took on the task of balancing the budget and paying off that debt. He also created a National Bank and sold Louisiana territory to the United States, who was more than happy 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, meaning whether or not they deserved it by the acts they performed or the skills they demonstrated, versus because of their nobility. Finally, he set up a series of Lycees, which today would be considered public schools.

By way of religious order, Napoleon and then-Pope Pius VII signed an agreement in 1801 known as the Concordat, which established two major principles: one, that there would be a reconciliation between the Catholics and the French revolutionaries, who had grown wary of each other throughout the Revolution. It also maintained that the Roman Catholic church would be the predominant one of France, but allowed for freedom of religion. The Concordat also stipulated that the Pope would lose any and all political control.

Regarding legal order, Napoleon established the Napoleonic Code of Laws, many of which are still in use today. This new code distinguished between various forms of law, such as civil, criminal, family, and property, to name just a few. 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, so transparency was something that he encouraged. This Code was adopted in 1804.

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