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Napoleon S Reforms Essay Help

Reforms in Law:

In 1804, Napoleon took on the legal system of France. The system of laws was in a state of chaos. Laws were not codified and were based on Roman law, ancient custom or monarchial paternalism. During  the revolution, many laws were changed. It was difficult to determine what law applied in any given situation, and laws were not equally applied to everyone.

The mishmash of laws were codified and written clearly so that the people could determine what law applied. It incorporated much of the Roman law. For the first time in history, the law was based on reason and founded on the notion  that all men were equal before the law. It guaranteed individual rights (except for women and blacks) and the security of property. In short it codified many of the ideals of the revolution. The Napoleonic Code became profoundly influential to other European countries in the 19th century.

Reforms in Government:

Napoleon centralized the government, putting control firmly in the hands of the national government. It became more efficient. Advancement in the civil service and the military was based on merit rather than rank. The tax system was applied equally to all.

Reforms in Education:

Napoleon built many new lycees, schools for boys age 10 to 16. He recognized the importance of education in producing citizens capable of filling positions in his bureaucracy and military. Although he did not create a system of mass education, education was more available to the middle class than it ever had been before. At a meeting in 1807 he declared:

Of all our institutions public education is the most important. Everything depends on it, the present and the future. It is essential that the morals and political ideas of the generation which is now growing up should no longer be dependent upon the news of the day or the circumstances of the moment. Above all we must secure unity: we must be able to cast a whole generation in the same mould.

He saw education as a way of indoctrinating "right-thinking" citizens from an early age. He didn't see the need to educate girls, since they could learn everything they needed from their mothers. They were not to be active citizens.

Napoleon used to name himself the child of Revolution and he was a supporter of the principles of Revolution, viz., liberty, equality and fraternity, but he laid greater stress on equality than liberty.

Napoleon used to say that the people of France demanded equality, for many people had been massacred in France due to liberty. Hence after becoming the first consul, he worked in such a way that all the powers were concentrated at one point.

He also tried to establish the ancient regime in France.- With this aim in view he handed over all the powers of administration of the departments to the Prefects of Arrondisement, to the sub-Prefects and of the Communes to the Mayors but he himself had the power of appointing all these officials.

Thus he captured the real powers of the provincial government by placing all these officials under the central government.

In fact, he reestablished the ancient regime of Louis XIII's time, and with all the rights of Judiciary and Executive vested in him, he used to live in the palace of Tuileries like the absolute Bourbon kings.


Napoleon took away the liberty of the people but provided then equality. He completely abolished the distinction between the lower class and the upper class. Anybody could get the highest post in the government on the basis of merit.

Napoleon used to appoint his servants from all sections like Cromwell. He got the cooperation of Jacobins Girondists both and pardoned the emigres. Consequently forty thousand families came back to France.

Beautification and Art

Napoleon was a great lover of art and he encouraged it a lot. H wanted to beautify the city of Paris and for this purpose he had se several artistic objects to Paris from Italy. Napoleon asked the crafts of France to make beautiful articles, and thus hundreds of unemployed craftsmen could get work. He also encouraged literature. Once remarked in this context:

"People complain that we have no literature that is the fault of Minister of the Interior."

Seeing the need of the country, Napoleon carried out m constructive works. He built many wide roads in Paris and shady trees were planted on both sides of these roads. The Royal palace of Versailleslooked much more beautiful than ever during the regime of Napoleon.

The royal palaces of St. Cloud, Fontainbleau and Rambouillet were renovated and their grandeur and splendour was enhanced. Thus he made every effort for the beautification of Paris.

The Legion of Honour

Napoleon established the Legion of Honour in order to inject feeling of honour among the French people. The people were ad to it on the basis of their merit and not on that of hereditariness.

Those who influenced Napoleon by their ability, courage or by any other work of outstanding quality were given the title of Legion of Honour.

He also developed a new kind of nobility by awarding pieces of land to his well wishers. In fact, both these were against the principles of Revolution because it gave birth to new classes.

But Napoleon thought that the instituting of the Legion of Honour was necessary to encourage his supporters.

Economic Reforms

The economic condition of France had deteriorated rapidly during the course of Revolution. The taxes were not realised properly. The trade and commerce and agriculture were badly affected.

The assignats were being devalued rapidly. The government of France was almost on the verge of bankruptcy. Napoleon paid his earnest attention to reforming the ailing economy. First of all, he cut down the state expenditure and the responsibility for collecting taxes was made over to the central govern­ment.

It proved to be beneficial for the government as well as for the tax-payers. To increase the credit of France he established a Bank of France. Hayes writes about it, "It is one of the soundest financial institutions in the world."

He abolished the guild system and prohibited the merchants from making fresh guilds, because according to Napoleon Bonaparte these guilds were the centres of corruption and indiscipline.

In order to settle the disputes between the merchants and the labourers, an Industrial Committee was formed by Napoleon, but the merchants had their majority in this committee.

Napoleon never endeavoured to bring about economic equality in France. He used to say that the principle of equality in every sphere was not practicable.

Educational Reforms

Napoleon carried out several reforms in the field of education but he was of the opinion that the educational institutions should be under the control of the state. He used to say:

"There will never be a fixed political state of things in this country until we have a body of teachers instructed on established principles. So long as the people are not taught from their earliest years, whether they ought to be Republicans or Royalists, Christians or infidels, the state cannot properly be called a nation."

During the consulate period, education was nationalised by Napoleon. The payment of the salaries of the trained teachers in various schools was made by the government but the teachers and the students had to swear fidelity towards the country.

The courses of Paris University and the affiliated colleges were decided by the government. Some limitations were placed on the study of politics, philosophy and history.

Napoleon used to think that the study of these subjects raised several problems in the smooth way of life. The following schools were flourishing in France during the reign of Consuls:

(i) Primary Schools:

These schools were under public control and the communes looked after their management through prefects and sub-prefects, but the state had no control over them.

(ii) Grammar Schools:

The Secondary or the Grammar Schools were under the supervision of the Central Government; and Latin, Greek and French were taught in these schools.

(iii) High Schools:

They were meant for higher education. They were established in big towns, and the courses in these schools were decided by the government and appointments of the teachers were also made the government.

(iv) Vocational Schools:

Vocational schools were established vocational training, and military schools were also opened to imp military training to the students. A Normal School was also started the training of the teachers.

(v) Paris University:

All the educational institutions controlled by the University of Paris. It was essential to pass the Higher Secondary Examination to get admission in the University.

Religious Reforms (Concordat)

Napoleon used to say that "a state without a religion is like a without a compass." He explained his religious policy in these words a attaining power:

"The people must have a religion and that religion must be under the control of the government people say that I am a Papist. I am nothing. I was a Mohammedan in Egypt; I shall be a Catholic France for the good of the people. I do not believe in religion the Idea of God."

The National Assembly of France had framed a civil constitution for the clergy who had created a breach with the Pope but Napoleon wanted to narrow down these differences due to the following reason

1. The clergy and the vast majority of the French people were dissatisfied. Not only France but most of the European countries had a great reverence for the Pope; hence, Napoleon wanted to befriend the Pope.

2. There were a number of Bishops in France who propagating against the Revolution in the country. They getting honorarium from the British Government. Napoleon wanted to patronise them for the safety of the country but could not be done without the active cooperation of the Pope.

After a prolonged discussion he succeeded in arriving at agreement on 15th July, 1801 which is known as the Concordat in the history of Europe. The following were the terms of this agreement

(i) The Pope agreed to the decision of the revolutionary period that the property of the Church which was confiscated during the course of Revolution would not be given back.

(ii) The educational institutions would be controlled by the state. No official of the Church was to be allowed to open educational institution without the prior permission of state.

(iii) No clergyman was to be allowed to leave his parish.

(iv) All the Bishops would be appointed by the Pope from the proposed list of the state. The lower clergy were to be appointed by the Bishops.

(v) All the officials of the Church would receive their salary and take an oath of loyalty to the government.

(vi) The clergymen who were imprisoned during the course of Revolution were to be released; and those who had fled France, were to be permitted to return to France.

(vii) Catholicism was declared the state religion and the right of public worship was granted to the Catholic Church.

Thus the Church became a part of the state due to the Concordat, and Napoleon received the favours of his opponent Church. He did never approve the atrocities perpetrated by the miscreants in the name of liberty.

Napoleon held the view that the French Revolution was an outcome of social maladjustment and economic inequality. He, therefore, curtailed liberty and chose equality.