Napoleon - an Enlightened Despot

Topics: Age of Enlightenment, Enlightened absolutism, French Revolution Pages: 3 (1017 words) Published: May 18, 2005
Enlightened despotism is when there is an absolute ruler, in some cases a tyrant, who follows the principles of the Enlightenment through reforms. Permitting religious toleration, allowing freedom of the press and speech, and expanding education are a few main guidelines to being and enlightened despot. Napoleon I is often referred to as one of the greatest enlightened despots. Although, he did not follow the ideas of the enlightenment entirely, he managed his country in a way that he maintained complete authority as well as many of the gains of the French Revolution. Yes, Napoleon did want to do a few things for himself, but he also ruled for the majority in most cases, promote government-funded education, and supported many other enlightened ideas. But, most importantly, Napoleon did what he thought would make his country stronger.

One of Napoleon's first areas of concern was in the strengthening of the French government. He created a strong centralized government and pretty much got rid of the hundreds of localized law codes that had existed during under the control of the monarchy. He also created an army of government officials. He had the entire country linked under a rational administration. He also was able to get an easy supply of taxes and soldiers under his new and improved French government. Before he could get very far, however, he had to gain public favor and shape the public opinion. To do this he used reforms of propaganda and thus caused people to think that they were getting the better end of the deal, but were actually, subconsciously giving Napoleon their approval for his actions. Among some of the methods he used for propaganda included getting all of the printers and book sellers to swear an oath to Napoleon and all newspapers fell under state control, so Napoleon gained access to almost everything that the citizens of France were able to read. Many of the gains from the French Revolution were kept, such as equality before the law, and...
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