What Was The Code Napoleon?

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The Code Napoleon, or Napoleonic Code, is a set of French laws that military leader Napoleon Bonaparte (1769–1821) ordered to be published for the governing of French-controlled countries in Europe. After Napoleon came to power in France in 1800, he ordered a group of legal experts to assemble all of French civil law (private cases) into one code, or set of laws. Four years later, the Code Civil was published and went into effect throughout France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and other areas of Europe occupied by France. In December 1804, Napoleon named himself emperor of France, and the code became known as the Code Napoleon or Napoleonic Code. This code combined aspects of Roman law, which had been passed down from the Roman emperor Justinian I (A.D. 483–565), and common law, based on customs or precedents (previous court cases). Laws in the Code Civil pertained to individual liberty, property, the order of inheriting property, loans, and contracts. This code influenced laws in many other countries in Europe and in Latin America, where the legal system is based on civil law. For example, under the Code Civil, an accused person is considered guilty until proven innocent. In the United States, where the legal system is based on a combination of civil law and common law, a person is considered innocent until proven guilty.

Further Information: Chemin, Anne. "Rewriting Napoleon's Code." World Press Review. June, 1994, p. 40; "The Code Napoleon." Napoleon Bonaparte Internet Guide. [Online] Available http://www.iselinge.nl/napoleon/html/body_code_napoleon.htm, October 30, 2000; Napoleon Bonaparte.[Online] Available http://www.english.upenn.edu/~jlynch/FrankDemo/People/napoleon.html, October 30, 2000.