Napoleon and the French Revolution

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  • Topic: Napoleon I, Emperor, Louis Bonaparte
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  • Published : January 30, 2008
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Napoleon's career and policies both destroyed and preserved aspects of the Revolution. Napoleon gave the people rhetoric about liberty, rather than giving it to them. This is best seen through his using of the plebiscite and crowing himself emperor. By taking all of the power for himself, Napoleon went against certain ideals of the Revolution. However, Napoleon did make efforts to preserve some aspects of the Revolution. This is shown through his creation of the lycées, which gave the people equal opportunities in the government.

The first example, which shows how Napoleon destroyed aspects of the Revolution, is Napoleon's use of the plebiscite and his action of crowning himself emperor. When Napoleon used the plebiscite and told the people that they had already voted for him, he gave them a false hope. The people had just gone through more than a decade of Revolution and unrest, and the people were just desperate for a capable ruler who would follow the ideals of the Revolution. After the plebiscite, the people thought they finally had their ruler. But, Napoleon took away this hope when he took all of the power for himself and crowned himself Emperor Napoleon I in 1804. Napoleon then developed a powerful, centralized administrative machine in which, as emperor, he had complete control over everything, and there was nothing to keep his power in check. As a result, Napoleon destroyed the Revolutionary belief in a balanced government.

The second example, which shows how Napoleon preserved aspects of the Revolution, is Napoleon's creation of the lycées. Napoleon needed to reduce government corruption and improve the delivery of government services. He dismissed corrupt officials and, in order to provide his government with trained officials, set up lycées, or government-run public schools. These lycées gave everyone an equal opportunity in government. The students at the lycées included children of the wealthy as well as children of ordinary...
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