Early Life Napoleon Bonaparte was born in 1769 in Corsica. He was the son of a lawyer whose family came from Florentine nobility. Napoleon received a royal scholarship and studied in French military schools, which led him to become a lieutenant in the French army in 1785. He was not like by his officers because he was short, had an Italian accent, and had little money. For the next 7 years, he educated himself in military matters by studying about campaigns of great military leaders of the past.
Military Success Napoleon became a captain in 1792. By 1794, at the age of 24, he was made a brigadier general by the Committee of Public Safety. Two years later, he became commander of the French armies in Italy and eventually won firm support from his men with his intelligence and abilities. In 1797, Napoleon returned to France as a conquering hero and invaded Egypt with an army in training. Facing certain defeat, he abandoned his army and returned to Paris.
Consul and the Emperor Napoleon , at 30 years, took a part in the coup d'état of 1799 that overthrew the Directory. A new government called the consulate emerged with Napoleon as the consul and holding absolute power. He appointed members of the bureaucracy, controlled the army conducted foreign affairs, and influenced the legislature. In 1802, Napoleon was made consul for life. Two years later he crowned himself Emperor Napoleon I.
Peace with the Church Napoleon established peace with the Catholic Church to restore France’s stability. He reached an agreement with the pope in 1801. The agreement made Catholicism as the religion of a majority of the French people. In return, the pope did not ask for the returns of the church’s lands seized during the revolution.
Codification of the Laws Napoleon’s most famous domestic achievement was his codification of laws. He made seven codes of laws and the most important of them was called the Civil Code or Napoleonic Code. The code preserved many of the gains of the revolution such as the equality of citizens before the law. However, the code strictly curtailed some people like women. It made women “less equal than men.”
A New Bureaucracy Napoleon worked hard to develop a bureaucracy of capable officials. Promotion, whether in military or civil offices, was based on ability only. Napoleon also created a new aristocracy based on merit in the state service. He created 3,263 nobles between 1808 and 1814.
Preserver of the Revolution? Although Napoleon did preserve some aspects of the revolution and once said “ I am the revolution,” he did destroy some revolutionary ideas. For example, liberty was replaced by despotism that continued to grow, in spite of the protestants such as Anne-Louise-Germaine de Stael. Napoleon shut down 60 of France’s 73 newspapers, and had all manuscripts and letters checked by the government.