Although Napoleon was in practice very much a despot, he was still a product of the Enlightenment. Growing up in Corsica, Napoleon was exposed to the enlightened ideals of the Corsican nationalist leader Pasqua Paoli, who instituted numerous progressive reforms to the island's legal code. Napoleon's father was also a writer of numerous essays that espoused the notions of Voltaire and Rousseau. This must have had a lasting effect on Napoleon.
As a young man, Napoleon attended the Royal military school of Brienne-le-Château. While there, he became familiar with many Enlightenment works, such as those of Diderot, Dulaure, and Voltaire. When in command of French forces in Egypt and Syria in 1798 and 1799, Napoleon brought with him 167 scholars. In accordance with Enlightenment ideals that a better understanding of people and the world is the noblest of pursuits, Napoleon saw his expedition as an academic as well as a military adventure.
Napoleon was also influenced by the Enlightenment to implement progressive reforms. When he arrived in Cairo, Napolean reformed the tax code to be fairer to the lower classes and helped establish local governmental councils called diwans.
When he gained control of France, Napoleon instituted the Napoleonic Code in 1804. These new laws were ripe with Enlightenment ideals that had been further developed by the French Revolution. These laws promoted freedom of religion and protections for those accused of crimes.