The French Revolution had proceeded in the name of liberty, yet successive forms of repression had been mounted to defend it.
No support among liberals, those who fought to bring about success in the French Revolution.
– Napoleon drifted away from his own ideals. He became more interested in his own. His domestic and foreign policies forced on France were designed to support his imperial ambitions. His government concentrated on recruiting soldiers and funds for his armies. Revolutionary liberties did not matter much to him.
– In a way, the Napoleonic regime promoted unlimited expansion and continual warfare. That surely went against the principles of the French revolution that he was supposed to espouse.
– Napoleon saw elections as ‘useless’. To him the elections only brought about political instability. Very soon he had buried popular democracy. Popular sovereignty caved in and in its place was raw authority of the Napoleonic regime
– There could be no durable peace in the country with wars being fought continuously
Support for Napoleon
– Napoleon had been considered as ‘son of the Revolution’ by the revolutionaries of 1789
– Among the reasons were the following:
– He was against the unjust and ineffective institutions of the ancien regime such as: Seigneurialism, the cumbersome institutions of Bourbon absolutism; the aristocratic privilege
– Above all Napoleon valued principles of the Revolution which stressed equality of opportunity
– The French wanted a strong and stable government; an assurance of basic revolutionary gains, and settlement of the religious conflict.
– Napoleon gave them some of that, on the whole I would think French citizens were disappointed
Napoleon’s repressive political reforms that resulted in “no support”
– Bonaparte gave France a constitution which was to give himself unchecked authority for ten years as First Consul
– His constitutional revisions increased his own executive power and reduced that of the legislative branch until it became no more than a rubber stamp. In 1802, Napoleon converted the consulship into a lifetime post. In 1804 he was proclaimed a hereditary emperor.
– Elected representatives could not pass new laws. Instead appointed experts in the Council of State took on this task. The Council advised the ruler, drafted legislation under his direction, and monitored public officials. This was certainly undemocratic
– Napoleon’s form of local government was not much different from the royal absolutism of power that French Revolutionaries had been up against in 1789.
– Next, Napoleon removed local elections which the Revolution had emphasized. Instead a prefect appointed by him, governed each department.
– Subprefects and mayors of France’s communes were appointed, not elected
– The use of police-state methods, the suppression of independent political activity shows the extent to which France was depoliticized.
– No organized opposition was tolerated. The number of newspapers was reduced drastically. The ones remaining were heavily censored. Free journalism of the kind that existed in 1789 gave way to government press releases. By 1811 only four newspapers remained in Paris, all toed the official line.
– Political clubs were prohibited, outspoken dissidents deported, and others placed under police surveillance. All these restrictions silenced liberal intellectuals as well as former political activists.
Obviously what Napoleon did above gave him no support among the liberals and the intellectuals.
Individuals supported Napoleon and who were promoted to high positions by him would support him. Check each of the reforms below and ask yourself if they enjoyed support and from whom.
* Napoleon believed in and hence encouraged an orderly hierarchical society. This was to prevent excessive individualism of revolution. He reasserted the authority of the state, the elites, and, in family life, the father. (So family men supported him)
* He used the state’s appointive powers to confer status on prominent local individuals, or notables. These local dignitaries were usually chosen from prosperous landowners, former nobles, businessmen, and professionals. (The professionals and the wealthy supported him)
* The talented who served the regime with distinction were honoured by induction into the Legion of Honour most of whom came from the ranks of the military. “It is with trinkets that mankind is governed,” Napoleon once said. The Legion of Honour awards and appointments to prestigious local bodies were such trinkets. (Military leaders supported him?)
* Tangible rewards were given leading bankers with the charter of a national bank that enjoyed the credit power derived from official ties to the state.
* In education, Napoleon created elite secondary schools, or lycees to train future government officials, engineers, and officers. The lycees embodied the concept of careers open to talent and became part of a highly centralized French academic system called the University, which survived into the twentieth century. (The academics supported him)
* Are you able to do the rest of the analysis by yourself? Can you see how basically this questions is not much different from “Assess if Napoleon betrayed the French Revolution” ?
Civil Code: Which groups would support him?
* The Civil Code Napoleon’s most important legacy was a civil code which regulated social relations and property rights. The Napoleonic Code was in some measure a revolutionary law code that progressives throughout Europe embraced. The Civil Code swept away feudal property relations and gave legal sanction to modern contractual notions of property. The code established the right to choose one’s occupation, to receive equal treatment under the law, and to enjoy religious freedom. Liberals would support him here.
* At the same time, it gave employers much control over their workers by prohibiting strikes and trade unions. The code did not match property rights with popular rights like the right to basic subsistence. ( Workers who know their rights would not support him)
* Revolutionary legislation had emancipated women and children by establishing their civil rights. Napoleon undid most of this by restoring the father’s absolute authority in the family. ” A wife owes obedience to her husband,” said the code, which proceeded to deprive wives of property and juridical rights establised during the 1790s and to curtail the rIght to divorce while establishing a kind of double standard in the dissolution of a marriage. The code expanded the husband’s options in disposing of his estate, although each child was still guaranteed a portion. (The question here is would the women support Napoleon. Hard to say here, that being the 18th century)
* The prefectorial system of local government, the Civil Code, the Concordat, the University, their Legion of Honour, and the local bodies of notables proved to be durable institutions. They helped Napoleon to create a series of “granite masses” on which to reconstruct French society. These institutions contributed to social stability amid France’s period of political unrest. In a sense, they were shrewd compromises between revolutionary liberalism and an older belief in hierarchy and central authority.
* Detractors (those who did not support Napoleon) point out that these institutions were class oriented and excessively patriarchal. Moreover, they fostered over centralized, rigid structures that might have sapped the vitality of French institutions. Whatever their merits or defects, these institutions took root, unlike Napoleon’s attempt to dominate all of Europe.
Extent of support for Napoleon outside of France
Napoleonic Hegemony in Europe
* After helping to give France a new government, Bonaparte turned to do battle against the second anti-French coalition in northern Italy.
* In the arena of international relations his ambitions lost all semblance of restraint. Bonaparte evolved from a winning general of the Republic to an imperial conqueror. After defeating his continental opponents on the battlefield in a series of ever more murderous campaigns, he still faced an implacable enemy in Britain. Unable to invade Britain, he resorted to economic ‘warfare and blockade
* (Obviously his enemies did not support him)
* Napoleon’s chief satellites included the Kingdom of Holland, with brother Louis on the throne; the Kingdom of Italy, with Napoleon himself as king and his stepson Eugene de Beauharnais as viceroy; the Confederation of the Rhine, including brother Jerome’s Kingdom of Westphalia; the Kingdom of Naples, covering southern Italy, with brother Joseph the ruler until Napoleon transferred him to Spain and installed his brother-in-law Murat; and the Duchy of Warsaw.
* Belgium, the Rhineland, Tuscany, Piedmont, Genoa, and the Illyrian provinces had been annexed to France. Switzerland did not become a kingdom, but the Helvetic Republic (as it was now called) received a new constitution dictated by France.
* In 1810, a marriage was arranged between the house of Bonaparte and the house of Habsburg.
* Would Napoleon’s conscription machine give him support in Europe?
* Napoleon ambitions in Europe were unrestrained. He created an efficient administrative state in France and its annexed territories. Napoleon created a veritable conscription machine, to continually replenish the imperial army. Such was the extent of state authority in the countryside
* Many French youths found military service repugnant. However after much trial and error with the details, the system began to operate efficiently. About a third of French, youths managed to military service for medical reasons. The wealthy could purchase a replacement and the poor could flee.
Groups who supported Napoleon
– He was a brilliant propagandist for himself, and a man of great personal appeal, he soothed a divided France.
– Ultraroyalists and dedicated Jacobins warmed to his regime, but most citizens fell between those positions
– Authority was not ideology, was his great concern, and he justified his actions by their results. Unlike the Directory, he made no pretense about it.
– He preserved the social gains of the Revolution through political centralization and authoritarian control.
– The Concordat Napoleon initiated with the Pope could have some support among the Catholics although on the whole the Concordat did not solve all problems with the palpacy
– The Concordat promoted tranquillity at home and a good image abroad. But it is doubtful if all Catholics supported it.
– Before Brumaire the French Republic had tolerated Catholic worship in theory but severely restricted it in practice. Continued proscription of the refractory clergy; insistence on the republican calendar, with its ten-day weeks that made Sunday a workday; and a drive to keep religious instruction out of elementary schools curtailed the free and familiar exercise of Catholicism. These policies provoked wide resentment among the mass of citizens whose commitment to Catholicism remained intact throughout the Revolution.
– Though not a believer himself, Napoleon felt that it was time to give major concessions to Catholic sentiment. Napoleon however made sure the Church mained under the control of the state.
– In 1801 he negotiated a Concordat, or agreement, with Pope: Pius VII. It stipulated that Catholicism was the “preferred” religion of France but protected religious freedom for non-Catholics. The Church was again free to operate in full public view and to restore the refractory priests. Primary education would espouse Catholic values and use Catholic texts, as it had before the Revolution, and clerical salaries would be paid by the state. Though nominated by the ruler, bishops would again be consecrated by the pope.
– As a major concession to the Revolution, the Concordat stipulated that land confiscated from the Church and sold during the Revolution would be retained by its purchasers.
– On the other hand, the government dropped the ten-day week and restored the Gregorian calendar.
– The balance of church-state relations tilted in the state’s favour.
– Napoleon intended to use the clergy as a major prop of his regime only.
– The pulpit and the primary school became instruments of social control, to be used, as a new catechism stated, “to bind the religious conscience of the people to the august person of the Emperor.” As Napoleon put it, the clergy would be his “moral prefects.”
– Devout Catholics resented this subordination of the Church.
– Eventually Pope Pius renounced the Concordat, to which Napoleon responded by removing the pontiff to France and placing him under house arrest.