Napoleon and the french revolution

Essay by david630A, November 2004

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Napoleon took power in 1799 in a coup d'etat. This ended the chaos that had engulfed France following the Revolution and the Reign of Terror. Within a few years, Napoleon had declared himself emperor and suspended free speech and political freedoms. These acts went against the goals of the revolution but Napoleon kept other parts of the revolution: including religious toleration, secular education, and access to government jobs based on merit. So therefore, Napoleon embraced some of the concepts in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of Citizens but he also resembled absolute monarchs like Louis XIV.

The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of Citizens was written in 1789 by the National Assembly it expressed the values of the enlightenment. This document declared that men are born free and equal and the purpose of government is to protect the natural rights of the individual (105). Napoleon being a man of the revolution believed in some of these ideals such as religious toleration, access to government based on merit, and secular education.

Other parts of the document though he did not allow such as article 11 which states, "The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man; every citizen can then freely speak, write, and print..." (107). Napoleon was very hostile to the idea of free speech so much so that he shut down most of the newspapers in France. Napoleon therefore respected many of the ideas of The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of Citizens but not all.

Even though Napoleon believed in parts of the Revolutionary ideals, he also acted and resembled a pre-revolutionary monarchy such Louis XIV. The most obvious example of this is that in 1804 Napoleon crowned himself as emperor. Napoleon...