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Enlightened Despotism - Napoleon

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Enlightened Despotism - Napoleon

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  • December 8, 2006
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Enlightened despotism originated during the European Enlightenment, basically meaning that a ruler should rule with the characteristics of the Enlightenment. The most dominant of these characteristics was humanism, a trait evident in rulers such as Peter the Great and Catherine the Great. These rulers, along with Napoleon Bonaparte, all worked toward the betterment of society, at times using their absolute rule to enforce this system of improvement. Napoleon is the classic example of such a ruler and clearly throughout his rule, exhibits the characteristics of an enlightened despot because of the following reasons: his attempts to broaden religious peace, political centralization, and social reforms. Napoleon Bonaparte followed the typical enlightened despot attitude towards religion, and succeeded in promoting religious peace. Despite his incredible ability to conquer foreign lands, Napoleon recognized that there had been an increase in internal turmoil. This is most likely due to the division between the Church and the State, a division which began during the French Revolution. However, in an attempt to display his enlightened ways, he agreed to the Concordat of 1801, an agreement which recognized the Catholic Church as the favored religion in France. Although this was not established as the state religion, it created a system in which the Church became dependent on the State. Napoleon also granted religious freedom to the Jews and the Protestants, and they were able to practice their religions freely throughout France and the conquered lands. Napoleon can even be viewed as the most successful in this aspect of being a despot. Rulers such as Peter of Russia, who tried to establish this religious toleration, were not as successful as Napoleon. Peter could not exert full control over the religious issue in Russia, and could not ultimately control the religious tensions in his country. Thus, as an enlightened despot, Napoleon was able to successfully...