The Phase of Dictatorial Government and Imperialism in the Name of Democracy (1799-1815)

Phase of Dictatorial Government and Imperialism:

The rise of Napoleon in French politics gave a new direction to the revolution. Napoleon was an inhabitant of Corsica Island. Fortunately, he became a citizen of France when Corsica Island fell under French control. He got an education in the military academy of France. So he developed some new techniques in modern warfare and later he applied this technique as a French military officer. He was appointed as a second lieutenant in the French militray service. He became famous in 1795 when he successfully repulsed a British attack at Tulaon. Then he was made the commander of the army fighting against Italy and Austria. In 1796-97 he defeated Italy, then gave Austria a crushing defeat. After that, he concluded the Treaty of Campo Formio with Austria. Then Napoleon made an expedition to Egypt in 1798 but his expedition turned out to be a fiasco. In 1799, Napoleon ended the rule of the Directory. On the basis of a new constitution, he constituted a legislative assembly with three chambers. The executive power was vested in three consuls. Napoleon himself became the first consul in 1799 for 10 years. In 1802 he became the first consul for life long and in 1804, he declared himself to be the emperor of France. So in the age of the industrial revolution which produced a self-made man, Napoleon became a self-made monarch.

Under Napoleon, the period between 1801-03 was marked by relative peace. So it was during this period Napoleon carried out reforms in France. In fact, the revolution created a vacuum in France as it destroyed the old order. So the objective behind Napoleonic reforms was to bring stability and order to France. But it was in this context that Napoleon made a compromise with some basic ideals of revolution itself. That’s why it is said that Napoleon was the child of revolution but he himself reversed some of the ideals of the revolution.

We can not deny the fact that Napoleon was the child of revolution. In fact, it was the revolution itself that created the path for the rise of a common man like Napoleon Bonaparte. In other words, we can say that it was the revolution that removed the barrier of the privilege of birth and made the way for the privilege of talent. Likewise, it was on the basis of the preservation of the ideal of revolution that Napoleonic rule got its legitimacy. Furthermore, in the political, economic, and social fields, she carried certain reforms which remained to be associated with basic spirit of the revolution. For example, even the government of the national convention emphasized the centralization of power and the government of the Directory carried this policy further on. Then even Napoleon continued it. Under the national convention, the executive power was vested in different committees. Under directory government, the same power i.e. executive was vested in five directors. Likewise, under Napoleon, the executive power was vested in three counsels.

Furthermore, one of the declared objectives of the revolution was to ensure equality. Even Napoleon preserved this ideal through a specific emphasis on the concept of equality. In the economic field as well Napoleon continued the old policy of revolution. For example, he reorganized the taxation system, he established strong supervision of Departments associated with the collection of tax. Likewise, he restored the metallic currency. He carried out a survey of the property of the people all over France. He encouraged industrialization by arranging the exhibition of industrial products in France.

In a social field as well he continued the policy of revolution. For example, the Revolution uprooted the aristocratic class, and Napoleon continued this policy.

But when we observe minutely we find that some of his reforms proved antithetical to the basic spirit of the revolution. In the political field, Napoleon restored the old monarchy. He tried to give a very respected position to his own dynasty. His brothers like Louis Bonaparte, Jerome Bonaparte, and Joseph Bonaparte were ruling in different regions of Europe. In order to lend extra respectability to his pedigree (parental legacy). He consciously tried to link himself with the Bourbon dynasty. For example, he called Louis XIV “Mononcle” (my uncle). In one sense Napoleon Bonaparte laid the foundation of the first modern totalitarian government in Europe. So he became an ideal model for future dictators like Mussolini and Hitler. For example, he depoliticized the administration. He successfully used the method of referendum to justify his rules. In an economic field as well he reversed some of the ideals of the revolution. In other words, we can say the specific emphasis of the revolution had been on direct tax but Napoleon, who founded an excise bureau in 1804, emphasized indirect tax. Even some social reforms by Napoleon appeared to be a bit regressive. He suppressed liberty. Although he gave emphasis over equality but for him equality meant only equal opportunity but not social and economic equality. Likewise, based on the Napoleonic code, which was influenced by the Roman Code, Napoleon brought women under the subordinated position in the family. Even outside of France, Napoleon represented the distorted ideals of the revolution. Initially European middle class welcomed him as a Crowned Jacobian (revolutionary) but very soon the reality of his despotic rule and imperialist policy became clear to European people.

Napoleonic Imperialism
Napoleonic War
Short Note on Napoleon Bonaparte
Decline of the Napoleonic Empire
Spread of Revolutionary Principles
Popular Movement
Metternich and the Vienna Peace Settlement
The Phase of Constitutional Monarchy (1789-92)
The Phase of Radical Republicanism (1792-94)
The Phase of Liberal Republicanism (1794-99)
The United States and the French Revolution, 1789–1799