Napoleon’s Domestic Policies (3-3 b)

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Napoleon’s Domestic Policies

Napoleon once claimed that he had preserved the gains of the . Since he destroyed the republican form of government when he took power, how could Napoleon make this boast? This is an important question. As we look at Napoleon’s domestic policies, it will be possible to judge whether the emperor’s claims had any merit.

Peace with the Church

One of Napoleon’s most important domestic policies was his policy toward the Catholic Church. Very soon after the consulate was established, Napoleon set out to establish with the Church, the oldest enemy of the revolution. In matters of religion, Napoleon himself was a man of the Enlightenment. He believed in reason and felt that religion was at most a social convenience. Since most of France was Catholic, Napoleon felt it was good policy to mend relations with the .

In 1801, Napoleon came to an agreement with the . Catholicism would be recognized as the religion of the majority of the people. In return, the pope would not ask for the return of the church seized in the revolution.

With this agreement, the Catholic Church was no longer a formal of the French government. It also meant that people who had acquired church land in the revolution became avid of Napoleon.

Codification of the Laws

Napoleon’s most famous domestic achievement was to codify the law. Before the revolution, France had almost 300 different systems. During the revolution, efforts were made to them and make them consistent, but the work was not completed until Napoleon’s reign.

Seven law codes were created, but the most important was the Civil Code, or Code. It reflected many of the principles that the revolutionaries had fought for: of all citizens before the law; the right of the individual to choose a ; religious toleration; and the abolition of serfdom and all obligations.

For women and children, the Civil Code was a step back. During the radical stage of the revolution, new laws had made divorce easier and allowed children, even daughters, to property on an equal basis. The Civil Code undid these laws. It became more for a woman to get a divorce. Women were “less than men” in other ways, too. When they married, they lost control over any property they had. They could not testify in court. In general, the code treated women something like , beings who needed protection and who did not have a role.

A New Bureaucracy

Napoleon is also well known because he created a strong, centralized . He focused on developing a bureaucracy of capable officials. Early on, the regime showed that it did not care about rank or birth. Public officials and military officers alike were promoted based on their . Opening careers to men of talent was a reform that the had clamored for before the revolution.

Napoleon also created a new kind of aristocracy, one based on meritorious to the nation. Between 1808 and 1814, Napoleon created about 3,200 nobles. Nearly 60 percent were military officers, while the rest were civil service or state and local officials. Only percent of this new aristocracy were from noble families of the old regime; about percent were middle class.

Preserver of the Revolution?

In his domestic policies, then, Napoleon did keep some major of the French Revolution. Under the Civil Code, all citizens were equal before the law. The concept of opening government careers to more people was another gain of the revolution that he retained.

On the other hand, Napoleon destroyed some ideals of the revolution. He restricted liberty, for example, when he censored the free . Despite protests from prominent writers like Anne-Louise- Germaine de Staël, he shut down 60 of France’s 73 . Even government-approved newspapers had to have all their manuscripts examined before they were published. The government police kept busy censoring private as well.