Could it be argued that the democratic reforms of the French Revolution were derailed by the rise of Napoleon as "emperor," or was Napoleon essentially a liberal reformer and heir to the French...

Could it be argued that the democratic reforms of the French Revolution were derailed by the rise of Napoleon as "emperor," or was Napoleon essentially a liberal reformer and heir to the French Revolution's liberal principles?

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gsenviro | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Though Napoleon became a dictator, an emperor and a symbol of many thing he fought against, his liberal reforms are undeniable. The various reforms instituted by Napoleon included improvements to the road and sewer systems, a central bank, higher education, and tax codes. He was a champion of meritocracy, equality before the law, religious tolerance, property rights, and secular education—the very ideas that underpin current democratic societies.

His main achievement was the Napoleonic Code or the Code Civil and is highlighted by prohibition on privileges by birth, freedom of religion and meritocracy in government jobs. This clearly-written and accessible set of laws ensured the demise of feudal laws and was adopted across Europe.

In terms of educational reforms, Napoleon ensured that religion did not dominate the subjects taught at post-primary levels. A number of secondary schools and advanced centers (including the Ecole Polytechnique) were opened, with an emphasis on standardized and secular education to all.  

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