Napoléon Buonaparte (later changed to Bonaparte) was born on Corsica, August 15, 1769, a year after it became French. For the purpose of focusing on the finest in French culture, which is, after all, the mandate of this blog, I’m going to put aside his military career and focus on his social reforms.
Napoléon instituted sweeping and lasting changes such as a tax code, new roads, including the Rue de Rivoli that runs alongside the Louvre, a modern sewer system, the adoption of metric system, and educational reforms, including the Baccalauréat exam. He established a centralized Bank of France, negotiated the Concordat de Rome to bring religious harmony, founded the Légion d’Honneur, and the Académie Française. His legal reforms, the Civil Code and the Criminal Code, enshrined the concepts of due process and clearly written laws that were accessible for review. He liberated both Jews and Protestants from their ghettos and expanded their rights to own property, engage in the careers of their choice, and worship freely. As we all know, he died in exile on Saint Helena on May 5, 1821 and is buried in an immense tomb in Les Invalides in Paris.
Today’s phrase is a Napoleon quotation, l’impossible est le refuge des poltrons (lamb-poseebluh eah luh refooj day paultrohn) that means “impossible is the refuge of cowards.” It’s often loosely translated as “impossible is only in the dictionary of fools.” Napoleon’s flaws were immense, but so was the long-lasting good that he accomplished in just one brief lifetime.
- Changes napoleon did (slideshare.net)
- Les grands artists non pas de patrie (onequalitythefinest.com)
- Classic of the month: Les Miserables in historical context (themodernmanuscript.wordpress.com)