domestic and foreign policies of Napoleon Bonaparte

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Nancy Tomka

Napoleon’s Domestic and Foreign Policies
Prior to the 1700s, King Louis XVI got in power. He married Maria Antoinette. She is the daughter of Katherine the Great from Russia. While the king and the queen were enjoying their life in the palace of Versailles, people outside the palace had difficulties finding bread. The French Revolution took place with the lead of Robespierre. During the French Revolution, the French got fed up with outrageous taxes the monarchy made. It was so bad that the peasant could barely pay for a loaf of bread, so they started to break into stores and steal, burning places down and going against the king's orders. They ended up killing the king and queen, and that is when Napoleon Bonaparte eventually came into the picture as a new leader after assassinating Maximilien Robespierre. In 1797, by the help of Pope Pius VII, Napoleon Bonaparte became first consul after overthrowing the Directory and establishing the Consulate. During his time as a leader of France, Napoleon appeared in some respects to be an enlightened ruler like his Civil Code, him ending feudalism, centralizing the government, his religious policies, improving schools, and creating nationalism, but some of his actions contradicted that appearance, just like many other enlightened rulers like Catherine the Great of Russia. For example shutting down newspapers, controlled prices, his secret police, and the national education system were not enlightened actions. The same action were made outside France, he made some actions that were enlightened, like conquering the Austrian Empire, the Treaty of Amiens, and expansion of the colonial empire, but he also had unenlightened thinking as well like the continental system, invading Egypt, and many wars, but the most destructive was the Peninsular war.

Napoleon created the Napoleonic code in France in 1804. It is also known as The Civil Code. It was a unified legal code. It is Napoleon’s single most significant accomplishment, which abolished feudalism and allowed religious tolerance. This confirmed the rights of individual property. This reassured the bourgeois who had gained land during the revolution, which used to belong to the nobles. It gave Napoleon greater support and paved the way for him to allow the emigres back into the country. This Civil Code also gave equal inheritance to all offspring should a parent die. Marriage became a civil rather than a religious act. Napoleon stopped a proposal for girls to marry at thirteen and for boys to marry at fifteen. Instead, he increased the marital age to eighteen for girls and twenty for boys. The civil code also permitted divorce. It was effective in reducing internal conflict. He also improved school system as well, which was in line with the thinking of Voltaire. Voltaire believed people were born basically good but needed to be educated, and Napoleon may have shared that belief.

Napoleon believed in many ideas and policies that were for the good of the country and made many people happy with the reforms that he carried out, but he was also a dictator who undertook actions detrimental to the well-being of the state and the people. Voltaire battled corruption, injustice and inequality and strongly defended freedom of speech, but Napoleon shut down 60 of the 75 domestic newspapers because he did not agree with what they were saying about him. He also helped relations achieve positions of power in Europe, ignoring the principles of the meritocracy which he had earlier supported. He disagreed with Adam smith and the policy of Laissez Faire. He controlled prices which contradicted many principles of economics that came out of the Enlightenment. Despite seeking popular approval, he ultimately agreed with Hobbes' endorsement of absolute sovereignty as against the more democratic and enlightened principles advanced by John Locke. Early in Napoleons’ campaign he stated that he supported the equality of citizens in...
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