Napoleon as an Elightened Despot

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Napoleon has been described as the last of the “enlightened despots,” or as a “child of the enlightenment.” These statements can be considered accurate because Napoleon Bonaparte reconstructed France during the French Revolution. Even though he became a military dictator, before that he was able to equalize rights, create a new banking system, and build up the government, education system, and churches.

After Napoleon seized power in 1799, he started to win over the French citizens and became to improve the country immediately. He created a new constitution consolidating his position and was approved by the French voters with an overwhelming number for the constitution. The essence of Napoleon’s domestic policy was to use his great and highly personal powers to maintain order and end civil strife. He did so by working with verbal agreements with powerful groups, the agreement was the groups received favors in return for loyal service. His bargain with the middle class codified the Civil Code of 1804, which reasserted the two fundamental principles of the liberal and moderate revolution: equality of all male citizens before the law and absolute security of wealth and private property. He was able to get the bankers of Paris to establish the privately owned Bank of France, which loyally served the interests of both the state and the financial oligarchy. Napoleon’s defense of the new economic order also appealed to the peasants, who had gained both land and status from the changes. Another one of his projects during his reign which was successful like the creation of the Bank of France and the equalization of rights to man was the church reforms.

He completely regarded the church as a convenience to be taken advantage of by any enlightened despot. When he first came to power, the greatest force that could propel counterrevolution was the Catholic Church, so ignoring the infuriated Jacobeans; he signed a concordat with the Vatican. Through the concordat, the...
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