One of the primary goals of the French Revolution that Napoleon eventually achieved was civil reform. Although he imposed his tyrannical will upon his subjects, he was also responsible for the unification and codification of French laws.
The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen of 1789 called for natural, imprescriptible and inalienable rights. The cahiers de doleances, or lists or grievances, of the Estates-General desired the reform and codification of French law. However, despite many attempts, the Revolutionary governments did not achieve this goal. It was not until 1800 that the consular ruler of France, Napoleon Bonaparte, commissioned a national uniform civil code.
Napoleon claimed that this new code would be one that every man could read and understand and would enable every citizen to know the principles of his conduct. Finally, in 1804, the French Code Civil, or Code Napoleon, became law. That same year, Napoleon proclaimed himself Emperor of France.
The code was moderate and incorporated a number of legislative sources, including couotumes, royal ordinances, Roman law, canon law and other previously established French laws. Although Napoleon was Emperor for only 11 years, the code became a foundation of French life for over 150 years before its revision.