There are never ending inquiries on the nature of Napoleon’s power. But reason can prove to one that the Age of Napoleon was in fact a time of democratic rule. Through political, social, and economical reforms, Napoleon Bonaparte did not only transcend France, but he changed the course of history for Europe and the World today, in a positive way.
To begin, Napoleon helped France and Europe thorough many political reforms.
He created a new constitution. It consisted of three consuls. Napoleon worked really hard to put France back together after the revolution. He allowed all types of political refugees back into France, and also appointed both radical republicans and royalist aristocrats to his government. “A major obstacle to internal peace was the steady hostility of French Catholics” (Kagan, Ozment, Turner 688). His most peerless act was to allow the Catholic Church back into to France through the concordat with Pope Pius VII. While in rule, he also created The Napoleonic Code.It was a complete revamp of the French law. It was based on two ideas: that all men are equal under the law and all people have a right to property. The code stamped out all privileges from the law including tax laws. The code spelled out various contractual laws to ensure the inviolability of private property. Many people think that what Napoleon was doing was wrong, yet they voted him Napoleon I, Emperor of France in 1804. Napoleon also in all he did abolished feudalism, which was part of the Code. Many countries used a similar code within their own governments.
Next, Napoleon helped show the Age of Napoleon as being positive through many economic reforms. To begin, Napoleon reformed the tax structure. The new format exempted no person or persons from paying their taxes because of birth or privilege. Amazingly, people willingly, began to pay their taxes. Napoleon also authorized a central banking system. Because of the new reforms, French industries flourished under the protection of the state. Also, the blockade forced the evolvement of new crops, such as sugar beets and indigo. Napoleon also extended the infrastructure of roads, which were essential for the expansion of national and European markets.
Last, Napoleon made his biggest positive impact through his social reforms. As already stated, Napoleon signed The Concordat of 1801 with the Catholic Church, thus disarming the threat of counter-revolution among the catholic peasants. Catholicism did become the “preferred” religion of France, but most importantly, Napoleon did tolerate other religions. “The Catholic Church was no longer established- the sole official one” (Connelly 41).Next, one of Napoleon’s greatest achievements, perhaps, was the Napoleonic Code. United with economic reforms, the Napoleonic Code simplified trade and the expansion of commerce by regularizing contractual relations and preserving property rights and equality before law. Last, Napoleon began to recognize the importance of education in French society. Soon, with educational reforms, Napoleon began to be a patron of the sciences. With the newly developed uniform system of weights and measures, Napoleon felt the need to go further. He founded a system of national education from primary schools through college. Soon, higher education became available in all major cities, and French life began to prosper.
Consequently, the political, social, and economical reforms made by Napoleon Bonaparte clearly point to a positive impact on France and Europe. These ambiguities have helped many other countries in Europe be established. They sought the similar effects that Napoleon’s changes had on France. Many of the programs that he started are still very apparent in the lives of French and Europeans alike.
Donald Kagen et al., The Western Heritage, vol.2, 6th ed., Prentice Hall, Inc.
Owen Connelly, The Epoch of Napoleon, Krieger Publishing Co., Malabar, FL.