Saturday, October 15, 2005

The Napoleonic Revolution

The Napoleonic Revolution - This lecture describes the Revolution instituted by Napoleon. Dr. Rempel of New England College provides this information at his web site on the Western Civilization.

I always like it when professors put their lectures online. It is such a great counter to much of the nonsense which passes as history online. It is true that some profs have axes to grind and their sites are nonsense as well but most are good.

From the site:

A key to his entire policy is contained in the proclamation of the three consuls on December 15, 1799, slightly more than a month after they had taken office: "Citizens, the Revolution is stabilized on the principles which began it." With the exception of fathering the Civil Code, Napoleon perhaps gloried more in his reputation as consolidator of the Revolution than in any other one title. Undoubtedly he realized his debt to the Revolution. As one historian has said, the Consulate and Empire accepted without benefit of inventory the main results of the Revolution, and in this spirit established the foundations of a new order. Even while Napoleon reconciled the ideas of the Revolution with some from the Bourbon monarchy, he consolidated the work of the Revolution in putting an end to the complex of institutions which constituted the ancien regime.

This task of consolidation made Napoleon a conservative in France, desirous of keeping the gains of the Revolution, but a revolutionary in ancien-regime areas abroad. In France it meant that he retained the semblance of universal suffrage and of a constitution. Although he had an enlightened despot's mentality with respect to economic activities, he maintained a facade of economic liberalism: keeping the Le Chapelier law in force, he did not permit the formation of associations, and he did not permit the re-establishment of internal customs. The educational system he established fulfilled the idea of the Revolutionaries for a national system-while also serving Napoleon's purpose of indoctrination. He consolidated the gains of the Revolution in equality (at least initially), in legal and administrative unity, and in having careers open to talent.

Napoleon's revolution had several phases. Napoleon carried on these differing aspects in varying degrees. But in one respect in which they were consistent, he strayed from the norm: The Revolutionaries of every phase from National Assembly to Directory believed in and advocated representative institutions; although Napoleon retained such organs of government, he never allowed them much latitude, and from time to time he restricted their role. He could not reconcile Revolutionary thought with the re-establishment of an autocracy.

No comments: