How far can be considered Napoleon a dictator?

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How far did Napoleon maintain the ideals of the French Revolution?
The nature of Napoleon's rule has been an issue for debate ever since he seized power. Some
have seen him, as Napoleon saw himself, as the saviour of France whose enlightened rule brought
benefits to the French people and created institutions and reforms that would endure. Others have
portrayed him as little more than a tyrant motivated by cynical selfinterest who exploited France
in pursuit of his personal ambitions. Few writers of books and articles about him had remained
neutral. Although there has and continue being a debate about his power we can assume that he
did maintain some of the ideals of the French Revolution as he from the start, although not directly
involved in the central events of 1789, welcomed the Revolution and remained loyal to the regime.
Since he came to power he maintained the empire and created a legislative process. The
Legislative process was divided between four bodies: the Council of State which would draw up
legislative proposals, the Tribunate which could vote on legislation but not vote on it, a legislative
body which could vote on legislation but not discuss it, and the Senate which would consider
whether the proposed legislation conformed to the Constitution. The Senate and the Legislative
body could limit Napoleon's freedom. This can be seen as something positive as this means that
he did not wanted to show himself as a dictator but as an enlightened despot. The ideals of the
French Revolution are shown as they said that government and administration should be rational,
something that Napoleon did.
Napoleon introduced the Civil Code, which guaranteed legal rights. In 1804 he published the Civil
Code that still forms the basis of French law. The code, followed by codes for civil procedure,
commerce, criminal procedure and punishment was the product of a committee of legal experts,
whose work was considered in over a hundred sessions of the Council of State, often chaired by
Napoleon personally. The code enshrined many of the achievements of the revolution as it
confirmed the abolition of feudalism, equality before the law and freedom of conscience, and gave
fixed title to those who had bought church and émigré lands during the 1790s.
In addition, he reformed the religion with the population. At the time France saw the Catholic
Church as fundamentally antirevolutionary. Partly to assuage such concerns about the new
religious framework, Napoleon added the "organic Articles" to the Concordat in April 1802. These
guaranteed the revolutionary principle of religious toleration and made the Protestant and Jewish
churches similarly subject to state authority. In the shorter term the Concordat did reconcile the
Catholic Church to the regime, help to pacify unrest in the Vendee and help secure the Napoleonic
Regime. This is seen as an example of how Napoleon maintain the ideals of the French Revolution
Fabiola Marino

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In the area of equality, the Napoleonic regime does in some respect seem to have confirmed the
ideas of the revolution. The principle of the equality of taxation was maintained, all citizens were
liable. This reflected a confirmation of the abolition of feudalism and an expressed belief in "career
open to talent". There was to be both formal legal equality and equality of opportunities, holding
office would depend on ability, loyalty and experience, not accident of birth.…read more

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France and the mayor of larger communes. The first three were appointed from the national list
and the last from the communal lists. At the centre there was no cabinet system, individual
ministers reported directly to Napoleon. All effective decision making was concentrated in his
hands, no minister or prefect, for instance, could take action unless sure that it was authorised by
Napoleon. This was topdown government, centralised and authoritarian.…read more

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Secondary education was largely restricted to the middle classes and sons of officers in the army.
In the 37 schools that were found in France the curriculum was closed supervised. Free thinking
was discouraged. Schools taught a utilitarian curriculum based around France, mathematics,
history, geography and science and inculcated both military values and loyalty to the regime.
Alongside this state system, independent and Catholic schools continued to flourish, despite high
fees.…read more



This essay contains a great deal of factual information to explore the ideology of Napoleon. It considers arguments for and against and is useful for seeing how key information could be used.

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