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Napoleon - an Enlightened Despot

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Essay title: Napoleon - an Enlightened Despot

Enlightened despotism is when there is an absolute ruler, in some cases a tyrant, who follows the principles of the Enlightenment through reforms. Permitting religious toleration, allowing freedom of the press and speech, and expanding education are a few main guidelines to being and enlightened despot. Napoleon I is often referred to as one of the greatest enlightened despots. Although, he did not follow the ideas of the enlightenment entirely, he managed his country in a way that he maintained complete authority as well as many of the gains of the French Revolution. Yes, Napoleon did want to do a few things for himself, but he also ruled for the majority in most cases, promote government-funded education, and supported many other enlightened ideas. But, most importantly, Napoleon did what he thought would make his country stronger.

One of Napoleon's first areas of concern was in the strengthening of the French government. He created a strong centralized government and pretty much got rid of the hundreds of localized law codes that had existed during under the control of the monarchy. He also created an army of government officials. He had the entire country linked under a rational administration. He also was able to get an easy supply of taxes and soldiers under his new and improved French government. Before he could get very far, however, he had to gain public favor and shape the public opinion. To do this he used reforms of propaganda and thus caused people to think that they were getting the better end of the deal, but were actually, subconsciously giving Napoleon their approval for his actions. Among some of the methods he used for propaganda included getting all of the printers and book sellers to swear an oath to Napoleon and all newspapers fell under state control, so Napoleon gained access to almost everything that the citizens of France were able to read. Many of the gains from the French Revolution were kept, such as equality before the law, and careers open to talent. Some anti-revolution actions that Napoleon took included repressing liberty, restoring absolutism, and ending political liberty. He believed that allowing political freedom would end with a state of anarchy. He believed that he could solve these problems by acting in favor of the people's interests as an enlightened despot.

In the field of law, Napoleon heavily borrowed from the ideas of the philosophes and kept many of the gains from the revolution. In 1804, he implemented Code Napoleon, officially know as the civil code of 1804. This code provided for a single legal system for France, equality before the law and careers open to talent. It also granted freedom of religion, abolished serfdom and secularized the state. However, on the less liberal side of the spectrum, workers were denied collective bargaining (Negotiation between workers and their employers to determine wages, hours, rules, and working conditions.), trade unions were outlawed and a system of labor passports was instituted. His incentive for this side of the code was probably to limit political freedom. The code also robbed the women of many of their social and legal gains accomplished during the French Revolution. Women now had to ask for the approval of a man (most likely their husband) before they could do just about anything and divorce was much harder for a woman to get. In other words, they were treated like dirt again.

Education was another of Napoleon's sights. Napoleon definitely wanted to establish a state system of public education. This would mean that schools would be managed and run by the state instead of the church and the education would be paid for by the state. This would allow him a better selection of future officials to choose from; the secular curriculum would make sure of that. Education would also teach the young obedience and

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