Napoleon's Gain To Power; How He Sustained It And The Effects

1301 words - 6 pages

One of America's greatest patriots, George Washington, had once stated, "Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action." Following the years of the French Revolution and the respective Reign of Terror, France was left in disarray, or moreover the irresponsible action the first president had spoken against was ever-present. But, as the mythical phoenix rose up from its own burnt ashes, likewise did the nation of France. Following the hypothesis of Arnold Toynbee in his expository entitled Study of History, the moral conflicts that plagued the nation would likewise yield a final solution; being a direct resolution to the initial conflict. Thus, the child of the enlightenment and "keen-minded military dictator of exceptional ability" (McKay, 712), Napoleon Bonaparte, took the shape of this great rectifier. Analogous to Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan's (D., N.Y.) coined alliteration "defining deviancy down," in which moral absolutes are succumbed to situational morality, the French populous had lost its moral code and it took a, in some ways, totalitarian ruler to return the nation to its once stable state.
In the landmark 1781 legislation, the enlightened Habsburg Emperor, Joseph II abolished serfdom and feudal dues. In addition, he allowed the acquisition of lands by peasantry. In effort to end civil strife and maintain order, the great emperor created edicts rooted in these enlightened ideals. Napoleon's orders appealed to the peasantry who had now gained both land and status from these changes. A case-in-point is Napoleon's bargain with the middle class in the famous Civil Code of 1804. Not only was this set of laws based on enlightened ideals but also maintained the revolutionary principles of equality of male citizens before the law and the right to security of wealth and property; the latter a direct representation of the earlier Joseph's enactments. Through this code of laws and his conquest of foreign land, he is described by Rude as "'liberalizing' the constitutions of many European countries," another enlightened ideal of the spread of knowledge. In another enlightened effort, Napoleon formed the privately owned Bank of France. Rather than a governmental reservoir of funds, this institution created a stable foundry for the funds of the state and financial oligarchy. While fair and just legislation is a prevalent necessity of a nation, it is only possible and successful when implemented via a supported ruler.
The Enlightenment marked the end of Divine Right rulers; a time period in which sovereignty in one form or another was in the hands of the people. Either by representation or a revolutionary coup movement a ruler could be placed in power or removed, such as the 1642 execution of the English king. Extending and creating this definitive popular right, Napoleon had an actual election, in wh...

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