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In many circles, there exists a paradox which astounds many – the French Paradox. The French, famous for their diets rich in, well, rich foods – foods high In saturated fats and full of butter – have confused and annoyed world observers because of their ability to eat such delicacies and drink fine wines and yet maintain near perfect physiques.
In essence, the French are able to have their cake and eat it, too. During the late sass’s, the French sought to experience a sort of similar paradox during the French Revolution.
While the French Revolution began as somewhat similar to the American Revolution in that it was part of a movement seeking freedom from a ruler that refused to grant concessions regarding representation, the French Revolution soon evolved Into something greater; however, while the French masses sought to achieve greater liberties, they were not interested in being the clown of Europe.
They wanted strong, stable leadership – as long as it wasn’t oppressive of their rights and freedoms.
Herein was the French Paradox of 1789, an internal struggle between two forces that, by their very nature, typically stand at opposite ends of the revolutionary picture – CM liberties and freedom versus strong, central, Internationally respected government. In Napoleon, the French thought they had the right mixture of the two. He was a man who talked like a son of the Revolution.
HIS life story perhaps best exemplified the ideals of the Revolution – a poor boy rising to the top based on qualities, not favoritism or social class. Yet while Napoleon could talk the talk, he would have far greater difficulty practicing what he preached.
An examination of Napoleon’s foreign affairs as well as his domestic suppression of individual liberties and Internal dissent to his authority reveals that this son of a poor nobleman was by no means a son of the Revolution but rather a Dictator. Although Napoleon accomplished several challenges in Europe, he also enforced his rule on the Europeans. Beginning, with the Spanish, Napoleon conquered them and forcefully reduced the number of convents and religious involvement in Spain (Doc 5). Not only did he enact certain despotic policies, he also created a dynasty all over Europe.
He did this by strategically placing family members in power of enquired nations to suppress dissent and to maintain Napoleonic rule. In order for France and the rest of Europe to run properly, Napoleon believed there had to be hereditary power (Doc 6). In many aspects Napoleon was simply just a military despot (Doc 2). He, on some occasions, began war without any reason at all, specifically with the Russians. He was clearly Just power-hungry and looking to better himself, not France. He always portrayed himself as this magnificent ruler, but on the inside, he was no better than Louis XIV (Doc 9).
Being self-conscious of his height, Napoleon always had to be seen as taller and as a powerful warrior (Doc 8). He was not looking out for France In the least bit but rather for himself. With the Berlin Decrees and the Continental System, Napoleon was only looking to hurt his rival, the British. Instead it backfired and hurt his satellites’ economy. Although Napoleon may have had a strong army, he got too involved with fighting and essentially began to fight all of Europe at once. To maintain the balance of power, multiple coalitions were formed against him, but he continued to pursue his policy of military aggressiveness.
His own diminishing France back to its borders of 1792. A true son of the French Revolution would have concerned himself with ensuring the prosperity of the French, not be concerned with expanding an empire, thereby supporting the position the Napoleon is more accurately described and depicted as a dictator than as a son of the Revolution. Many of the civil and domestic liberties that the revolution had promised were swiftly taken away once Napoleon was in power. Although women had few rights before Napoleon, they had even fewer while he was in power.
They occupied marital, mommies, and maternal spaces in society and could not act freely or independently (Doc 3). Napoleon also used propaganda throughout France to establish his dictatorship. He made the people think he was supporting the church and that only he could properly rule France. The French believed it was God’s will for Napoleon to rule even though Napoleon issued the Civil Constitution of 1804 which limited papal power and allowed him to pick bishops (Doc 7). He also used propaganda to make people believe other opinions were wrong and that those who opposed him should ii (Doc 10).
Napoleon said that those who disagree should be prosecuted for their opinion (Doc 11). His greatest tool of all to ensure the throne was the creation of plebiscites. These were votes castes by French people which would give them the option for a new ruler or to continue to have Napoleon. Many people feared to vote against Napoleon due to the consequences of dissent. Whether through covert acts such as that or overt acts such as his inquisitions, Napoleon made it clear that those who stood opposed to his would meet an unfortunate demise, thereby proving to be ore of a dictator than son of the Revolution.
Napoleon also made sure to suppress any form of internal dissent among his people. He began by simply suppressing the most actively opposed minorities and moved from there (Doc 1). He also suppressed women by destroying all liberal revolutionary groups formed (Doc 3). Many people were too scared to even think about a republic or any opinion different than Napoleon’s for that matter (Doc 4). He instilled fear among the people in order to ensure peace. He used propaganda once again to make some people believe that anyone against his ideas should be sent to eternal damnation (Doc 7).
Napoleon even rid any and all signs of uprisings. He made sure that the seed for rebellion wasn’t planted anywhere. Spain became a major example of this process (Doc 12). He also issued the use of a secret police to do his bidding without involvement of the law. He took out his major competition, the Jacobin, quickly and quietly to maintain uninterrupted power. Finally, he really showed the meaning of the phrase “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely'(Doc 13). His power led too corrupt France and a new beginning.
As demonstrated through his constant and continuous effort to suppress enemies to his reign, Napoleon clearly showed himself not to be a son of the Revolution but rather a Dictator hell-bent on preserving his reign. Although his appearance led many to believe he was all for the revolution, Napoleon was a dictator. He took power for himself, rejected it for others, used propaganda, and dominated Europe. He became too engulfed in portraying himself as a brilliant, tough leader rather than focusing on France’s well-being and needs. Absolutely no truth or facts.
A thorough examination of Napoleon’s reign most clearly show a man committed to Revolution not because he believed in its ideals but rather because he saw it as a means to acquire personal power. He reinforced his power through brute force, both internationally through foreign conquests, as well as domestically through suppression of people’s rights and liberties and suppression of dissent to his rule. Napoleon may have once been or at least appeared to be a son of the revolution but he was undoubtedly during his reign a dictator at heart.