He had little interest in equality of outcome, human rights, freedom of the press or parliamentarianism

Saturday, February 10th, 2024

Napoleon by Andrew RobertsBy the time Napoleon had spent five years at Brienne and one at the École Militaire, Andrew Roberts explains (in Napoleon: A Life), he was thoroughly imbued with the military ethos:

His acceptance of the revolutionary principles of equality before the law, rational government, meritocracy, efficiency and aggressive nationalism fit in well with this ethos but he had little interest in equality of outcome, human rights, freedom of the press or parliamentarianism, all of which, to his mind, did not. Napoleon’s upbringing imbued him with a reverence for social hierarchy, law and order, and a strong belief in reward for merit and courage, but also a dislike of politicians, lawyers, journalists and Britain.

As Claude-François de Méneval, the private secretary who succeeded Bourrienne in 1802, was later to write, Napoleon left school with ‘pride, and a sentiment of dignity, a warlike instinct, a genius for form, a love of order and of discipline’. These were all part of the officer’s code, and made him into a profound social conservative. As an army officer, Napoleon believed in centralized control within a recognized hierarchical chain of command and the importance of maintaining high morale. Order in matters of administration and education was vital. He had a deep, instinctive distaste for anything which looked like a mutinous canaille (mob). None of these feelings was to change much during the French Revolution, or, indeed, for the rest of his life.


  1. Bruce says:

    The moral assumptions of Napoleon’s letters are those of the Godfather. Family is everything. Because power.

    You may read straight-faced political theorists saying Napoleon quarrelled with Madame de Stael over political theory. In Napoleon’s letters, no mention of political theory. He mentions Madame de Stael in passing as a rich woman who let her husband be seen poor in public. Not using a minion to make herself more powerful! Amateur.

    Napoleon had no interest in political theory. Power was his priority. Beyond Good and Evil, just a Will to Power? Sort of. He had morals, they just came second unless convenient.

  2. Jim says:

    “Napoleon’s upbringing imbued him with…a dislike of politicians, lawyers, journalists, and Britain.”

    Me, too, mon frère…me, too.

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