Napoleon: Dictator or Liberator?

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Dictator. Napoleon was born into a noble family in 1769, and showed an interest in the military at an early age. In 1785, Napoleon set out to become a lieutenant in the French artillery. Napoleon was unsuccessful in fighting for Corsican independence, however he returned to France and was seen as a patriot. Napoleon was given leadership over French forces in Italy and won great victories there in 1796 and 1797. Although his next campaign, Egypt, was a failure, Napoleon managed to travel back to France before the truth was uncovered, keeping his reputation unaffected.

On November 9, 1799 the insecure Directory was easily taken over by members of the Legislative and Napoleon. In December 1799, Napoleon became the first consul of the republic and a new constitution was formed. Napoleon and Pope Pius VII signed the Concordat of 1801, which allowed the French Catholics to study their religion freely, but Napoleon gained political power.

Napoleon's government now had great influence over the church.

The constitution of 1802 officially made Napoleon dictator for life. Many people were not satisfied with this outcome. There were numerous plots against Napoleon's life--plots he used to his advantage, which allowed him to move against his opponents with a cruelly. In 1804, Napoleon announced that he intended to be crowned Emperor of France; by this move, his position would become hereditary, making him even more of a dictator. Doing this made all plots against his life. Napoleon said, "You may kill me, he was saying, but you won't kill the institution."