Napoleon was the child of the revolution, but in many ways he reversed the aims and principles of the movement from which he sprang. Comment.

Published: June 29, 2020

Napoleon was the child of the Revolution, but in many ways he reversed the aims and principles of the movement from which he sprang. This was particularly true of the Napoleonic codes.

The Revolution had not only swept away what remained of feudalism and ecclesiastical control of the State, but it had attacked the cherished traditions of the lawyers of France.

It had striven, above all things, for equality. It had insisted that the inheritance should be divided in equal shares among the children; it had limited very strictly the power of testamentary bequest; it had offended Catholic sentiment by introducing divorce; it had removed all control over questions arising out of births, deaths, and marriages from the Church.

However, many of them were not approved in the Napoleonic code.

He was strongly in favour of the subjection of women. ‘The angel told Eve to obey her husband, he said. ‘Morality has written this article in all languages.  A fortiori should it be written in French in our code.*

The code allowed the father even to imprison his children by what was nearly a return to the practice of the old regime.

It allowed divorce, but surrounded it with restrictions.

The Napoleonic code secured many of the victories that had been won by the Revolution;   but Napoleon’s personal influence was responsible for the hardening of many provisions and the disappearance of others.  {The above statement comes from “Europe in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (1789-1939) ” by A. J. Grant}

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