napoleon-bonaparteThe main political principle that France gave up under Napoleon’s rule was freedom on the individual, regional, and religious levels.

On the individual level, first there was no freedom of education.  No women or poor men could attend the lycees because there was a high tuition and an entrance examination.  The schools were also centralized in Paris.  Second, in business, a person did have the freedom to change jobs, but all power lay in the hands of the employers, not the employees.  Third, the people were not socially equal anymore, because the elite bourgeoisie rose in prominence and a different elite group of aristocrats returned.  Fourth, the freedom of speech for the intellectuals was sacrificed.  If someone didn’t agree with Napoleon’s ideas, then he was exiled.  No intellectia allowed.  Fifth, the people suffered politically. There was no bill of rights or habeas corpus.  While universal manhood suffrage existed, there were no direct elections.  There were plebiscites but Napoleon manipulated the timing of them.

On the regional level, the biggest freedom given up concerned the issue of local autonomy.  The provinces had always governed themselves, but under Napoleon’s rule, the entire government was centralized around Paris.  The Civil Code made laws equal throughout the land.

And finally, the Catholic Church suffered, because Napoleon made all religions equal and he placed the state over the church.  Bishops no longer had as much power over the people.  Marriages were made issues of the state and not so much the church’s.

Yet despite all these freedoms which were sacrificed, France was politically and economically stable under Napoleon’s reign.  It would only be after Napoleon’s fall that the French people determined whether it was worth it or not.

– Hannah S. Bowers