Napoleon believed in the principles of the French Revolution and governed accordingly, abolishing serfdom, protecting religious freedom, instituting universal education, establishing the Bank of France and ensuring bread prices were kept low. However, he also restricted women's rights, centralized power into his own hands and outlawed trade unions and organized labor.Continue Reading
Napoleon concentrated French power into a strong central government with a powerful and extensive bureaucracy, focusing on bringing the ideals of the French Revolution into effect. With the Napoleonic Code, he used revolutionary principles to regularize several different systems of law, focusing on freedom and equality – at least for some. Freedom of religion was protected, though freedom of speech was strictly curtailed. Careers were opened to people of talent and serfdom was abolished, but women were heavily restricted and children had no rights at all. Private property was protected as well, and government was divorced from religion.
Whether he was a despotic emperor or not, his Napoleonic Code still provided more freedom for ordinary people than most other European countries. For this reason, Napoleon used domestic reforms based on the ones he instituted in France as a means of conquest. His armies moved into small sections of countries, deposed the regional power and instituted rule based on the Code. Because it provided rights and protections most ordinary people hadn't dreamed of, French rule quickly became popular among the lower classes of these areas. Once rule was cemented in a section, the armies moved on, leaving a bureaucracy answerable to either Napoleon or one of his puppet rulers. Even today, most European countries base laws largely on Napoleonic Code.Learn more about French Revolution