In the Process of Consolidating His Position, Napoleon's Consulate Reforms Betrayed the Principles of the French Revolution" to What Extent Is This True?
Submitted By harrij998
In the process of consolidating his position, Napoleon's Consulate Reforms betrayed the principles of the French Revolution" To what extent is this true?
In napoleons consolidating section "he oversaw the development of a police state that Louis XVI could never had dreamed of" said Francois Furet. this was said to be achieved through a gradual increase in power through the series of reforms in which he would have completely changed the course of French History. Many of the key aspects of the french society which Napoleon reformed were for the Political, electoral systems as well as education, social, religious and financial. these reforms set out his path to his overall power being established, however this question also leads to the debate on wether he upheld the principles of the French Revolution, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity as people like Sutherland believes he has betrayed many of the principles with the majority of his reforms and as a result has betrayed the Revolutionary principles what the new republic were founded upon.
Napoleon reformed key aspects of the French electoral and governmental systems in such a way that it lead many to believe he had betrayed the principles of the Revolution. One way in which people disagreed with that statement was because on the surface level the electoral reforms seemed to be a good thing, six million people were entitled to a vote, unlike the Ancien Regime, this promoted liberty and equality. Also another positive for the Revolutionary principles was the fact that there was a governmental system. This was set in stages, from the 6 million men allowed to vote became the communal list, which then became the departmental list and then the notables. From the notables came the legislature, tribunate. the members of those sectors where chosen by the senate and the council of state. However under the close examination of the reform there were more signs that led people to believe that these reforms actually betrayed the principles of the revolution. The electoral system was set up in a way which is could be deliberately indirect. The electorate actually only had an influence on the outcomes in events right at the bottom of the pyramid. after these stages all the other decisions were made internally. This usually resulted in the rich estate being the only benefactors and having the majority of the power. Napoleon also picked the individual members of the Senate who selects the notables to become house members. So in theory there was an election but in reality it was Napoleon who selected everybody in power throughout the system and not the average voter. This meant that the principle of equality was betrayed as only the very best and the top in society would succeed. this was part of the argument given for Napoleon betraying the principles of the French Revolution.
Napoleons Political reforms played a massive part in enabling him to become Emperor in 1804, this lead to some believing he had again betrayed the principles of the revolution. We can see that Napoleon's first betrayal was the Constitution of 1799 when he was named the First Consul of the French Republic, which essentially gave him the last say on every issue, this meant he had power over everyone as rules had to go through Napoleon before being passed. This act reduced the power of any government body because all of the power would be concentrated upon one individual. This is a direct contrast to the Directory Government where power was spread out amongst the people, this actually created the essentially weak government which the Directory became to be. however this concentration of power was considered a strong betrayal of the revolutionary principle of equality because Napoleon had absolute power over everyone else in France. This effect of a ruling power was strengthened further by Sieyes and Ducos who only achieved consultants to Napoleon. To a historian though such as Vandel, believed that consolidating his power shows that liberty was upheld in the Constitution because the three Consuls would be elected every ten years. Comparisons between Napoleon and Louis XVI's regimes are shown in Napoleons next Constitution of 1802 where he displays the hereditary principle which takes away the argument that he intended to uphold liberty by having Consul Elections every ten years. therefore it seems that Napoleon betrayed the principle of liberty to a rather large extent.
One of the promises of the Coup of Burmire was that there would be a plebiscite for the new Constitution, which would lead to the belief that Napoleon was upholding liberty as people could choose wether they accept Napoleon or not. From a far the plebiscite was a very good thing however under close analysis people can say otherwise. the results cam in at 3,011,007 to 1,562 against which would suggest that the plebiscite was actually not fair. Now we know this is actually the case as Sieyes added at least another 500,000 votes in favour and the military was used asan influencing factor when people voted. This lead to the conclusion that the principles of liberty had been betrayed. Furthermore the supposed 8 million who were allowed to vote only 3 million actually did. this shows us that voter apathy was at a high and there wasn't a big unity behind Napoleon and his new regime. this would go against the principle of fraternity. France as a country was not behind him as they didn't care what happened anymore.
when establishing his power, Napoleon seeks to engrain this anti-revolutionary beliefs into the French society, leading to the conclusion that he betrayed it. one of the prime examples of this was his belief of the interior role of women in all parts of French society and the Civil Code is a key part of establishing this. The code gave authority within the family to the man of the household. This would mean that the woman is 'under his control' this is clearly unfair and undermining the principle of equality. Napoleon obviously wanted to continue this trend n the coming years when he choses to deny the secondary education to girl during his educational reforms, this once again was a betrayal of the principle of equality and also liberty as the were not free to take the education they should have been entitled to. On the other hand we have to consider that during the early 1800's women had a far interior role as to the man all over the world not just in France. for example in England women didn't have what was considered a proper job, they didn't have a good standard of education and couldn't vote or earn a fair wage when working. with these factors taken into account it could be hard to claim that the principles of the revolution were betrayed as the idea of quality was shown between men not women.
The educational reforms that Napoleon established throughout his years at First Consul greatly led to much inequality throughout the various parts of the French Society, this lead to the argument that he had betrayed the principles of the French Revolution again. The academies that Napoleon set up during his educational reforms where known as Lycées where only open to the sons of the people who could afford it, mostly the new elite of France, the Notables. this meant that the opportunities that were open for the rich to have successful careers in the military where far higher were far higher than the average citizen of France, this indicates that equality was not being upheld. Another key point to look at from the lycées was that it was only open to boys not girls and this again links to Napoleon's views of the inferior role of women in France. The belief of the superior role of men is prominent in many of Napoleon's reforms and is possibly because of Napoleons military ambitions of taking over Europe. This primary ambition to rule everything could be used as evidence for the argument that he only acted in his own interests as he needed to satisfy what Furet described as his "domineering character". however on the other hand it could be considered to be an upholding of fraternity because he wanted to spread France's revolutionary messages throughout Europe. The immediate effects of the education reforms are to some extent betraying the revolution, however the evidence that the longer term effects would actually be upholding the revolution is actually more convincing, this means that to the greater extent the principles are upheld.
The Financial reforms that Napoleon brought in were on the whole a great step towards upholding the Fraternity principle of the revolution Under Napoleon the Bank of France was established and as a direct result of this the economy became much more stable. This would be an act for France not for Napoleon's own personal gain, upholding the fraternity aspect of the revolution. One of the more negative aspects of Napoleons Financial reforms was that he monopolised many key industries that the people depended on, such as tobacco. By monopolising the industry Napoleon betrays the principle of liberty because people were no longer free to sell their own goods or buy is at what they consider to be a fair price. On the other hand this could be considered to be stabilising the current market, meaning that the price is consistent for everybody, this in turn upholds the principle of equality. One of the Key financial reforms was the lowering of the direct taxes but the raising of the indirect taxes. The direct taxes such as tax on land were very low meaning the rich lad owning class would benefit and then support Napoleon. The indirect taxes, imposed on goods bought raised by up to 50% meaning essential products became harder for the poorest to obtain, This inequality in the tax system meant the rich benefited whist the poor starved, but it was the rich which had the influence, so as long as they were happy Napoleon stayed in control. This would be an obvious betrayal of the revolutionary principle of equality as people were not treated as equal but were shown and graded by wealth and power.
In conclusion it is clear that to a great extent Napoleon betrayed the revolutionary principles of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. One of the two main reforms of betrayal that he brought in was the Concordat because what it essentially did was reverse the major accomplishment of the French Revolution which was to remove the 1st estate from a high position of power. However it it difficult to find a reform that betrayed as many principle on as many different accounts as the Constitution of 1804, it ha complete disregard for all the positive changes towards democracy that had originally happened due to the French Revolution. The principle that as betrayed on the most accounts by Napoleon was equality. It had slowly built up from the Constitution of 1799 with the creation of the superior Consuls, to the theme of the male inferior ness in the civil code and finally the crowning of emperor in the mist of a betrayal in 1804. However as weak as it is there is still the argument that to a very small extent, Napoleon had to betray some of the principles on one count to uphold many on the other account. This could be shown with the positive and negative impacts of the concordat, however this argument is by far outweighed buy its counter part, meaning that through the process of consolidating all his power over France through his reforms, Napoleon did betray the principles of the revolution in the greatest extent.