With the terror over, the National Convention reduced the power of the Committee of Public Safety.
Churches were allowed to reopen for public worship.
In addition, a new constitution was created in August 1795 that reflected the desire for more stability.
The Constitution of 1795 established a national legislative assembly consisting of two chambers: a lower house, known as the council of 500, which initiated legislation; and upper house, the council of elders, which accepted or rejected the proposed laws.
The council of Elders elected five directors to act as the executive committee or Directory.
The Directory, together with the legislature, ruled.
The Directory (1791-1799) was an era of corruption and graft.
Increasingly, the Directory relied on the military to maintain its power.
In 1799, a coup d’état, a sudden overthrow of the government, led by the successful and popular general Napoleon Bonaparte, toppled the Directory.
Napoleon seizes power.
Sec. 3 The Age of Napoleon
The Rise of Napoleon
Napoleon Bonaparte dominated French and European history from 1799 to 1815. In a sense, he brought the French Revolution to an end in 1799, but he was also a child of the Revolution.
The French Revolution made possible his rise, first in the military and then to supreme power in France.
Napoleon won the confidence of his men with his energy, charm, and ability to make quick decisions. These qualities, combined with his keen intelligence, ease with words, and supreme confidence in him, enabled him to influence people and win their firm support.
In Paris, Napoleon took part in the coup d’état that overthrow the government of the Directory.
He was only 30 years old at the time.
With the coup d’état of 1799. A new government-called the consulate was proclaimed.
Napoleon himself had no personal religious faith. He was an eighteenth-century believer in reason who regarded religion at most as a convenience.
In 1801, Napoleon made an agreement with the pope.
The agreement recognized Catholicism as the religion of a majority of French people. In return, the pope agreed not to ask for the return of the church lands seized in the revolution.
With this agreement, the Catholic Church was no longer an enemy of the French government.
Napoleon’s most famous domestic achievement was his codification of the laws.
The Civil Code or Napoleonic Code preserved most of the gains of the revolution by recognizing the principle of the equality of all citizens before the law, the right of the individual to choose a profession, religious toleration, and the abolition of serfdom and feudalism.
Property rights continue to be carefully protected, and the interests of employers were safeguarded by outlawing trade unions and strikes.
The Civil Code made it more difficult for women to obtain divorces. Women were now “less equal than men” in other ways as well.
When they married, their property was brought under the control of their husbands. In lawsuits, they were treated as minors, and their testimony was regarded as less reliable than that of men.
Promotions, whether in civil or military offices, was to be not on rank or birth but on ability only. Opening government careers to individuals based on their ability was one change the middle class had wanted before the revolution.
The Civil Code preserved the equality of all citizens before the law. The concept of opening government careers to more people was another gain of the revolution that he retained.
When Napoleon became consul in 1799, France was at war with a European coalition of Russia, Great Britain, and Austria
Napoleon realized the need for a pause in the war.
Napoleon achieved a peace treaty in 1802, but it did not last long. War was renewed in 1803 with Britain.
Gradually, Britain was joined by Austria, Russia, Sweden, and Prussia. In a series of battles at Ulm, Austerlitz, Jena, and Eylau form 1805 to 1807, Napoleon’s Grand Army defeated the Austrian, Prussian, and Russian armies.
From 1807 to 1812, Napoleon was the master of Europe.
His Grand Empire was composed of three major parts: the French Empire, Dependent States, and Allied States.
Within his empire, Napoleon sought to spread some of the principles of the French Revolution, including legal equality, religious toleration, and economic freedom.
The nobility and clergy everywhere in these states lost their privileges.
Napoleon decreed equality of opportunity with offices open to talents, equality before the law, and religious toleration.
The spread of French revolutionary principles was an important factor in the development of liberal traditions in these countries.
The European Response
Napoleon hoped that his Grand Empire would last centuries. However, it collapsed almost as rapidly as it had formed. Two major reasons help to explain this: A) the survival of Great Britain and B) The force of nationalism.
Britain’s survival was due primarily to its sea power.
As long as Britain ruled the waves, it was almost invulnerable to military attack.
Napoleon turned to his Continental System to defeat Britain.
The aim of the Continental System was to stop British goods from reaching the European continent to be sold there.
By weakening Britain economically, Napoleon would destroy its ability to wage war.
The Continental System failed because allied states resented being told by Napoleon that they could not trade with the British.
Furthermore, new markets in the Middle East and in Latin America gave Britain new outlets for its goods.
A second important factor in the defeat of Napoleon was nationalism.
Napoleon’s spread of principles of the French Revolution beyond France indirectly brought a spread of nationalism as well.
The French aroused nationalism in two ways. A) First they were hated as oppressors. This hatred stirred the patriotism of others in opposition to the French. B) Second, the French showed the people of Europe what nationalism was and what a nation in arms could do.
The fall of Napoleon
The beginning of Napoleon’s downfall came in 1812 with his invasion of Russia.
The Russians had refused to remain in the continental system, leaving Napoleon with little choice but to invade.
Napoleon’s hopes for victory depended on a quick defeat of the Russian armies.
The Russian forces retreated for hundreds of miles. As they retreated, they burned their own villages and countryside to keep Napoleon’s army from finding food.
When the Russians did stop to fight at Borodino, Napoleon’s forces won an indecisive and costly victory.
When the remaining Grand Army arrived in Moscow, they found the city ablaze.
Lacking food and supplies, Napoleon abandoned Moscow late in October and began the “Great Retreat” across Russia.
The retreat proceeded in terrible winter conditions.
This military disaster led other European states to rise up and attack the crippled French army.