Which Enlightenment Principle Did Napoleon Adhere To?

The Enlightenment was an intellectual and philosophical movement that swept across Europe in the 18th century. It emphasized the power of reason, individual rights, and the pursuit of knowledge. While Napoleon Bonaparte is often associated with his military conquests and political ambitions, there are aspects of his rule that align with certain Enlightenment principles. Let’s explore the enlightenment principle that Napoleon adhered to:


One of the key Enlightenment principles that Napoleon embraced was meritocracy. Meritocracy is the idea that individuals should be selected for positions of power and authority based on their abilities, skills, and qualifications, rather than their social status or birthright. Napoleon recognized the importance of talent and competence in governance and made efforts to promote merit-based appointments within his administration.

During his reign, Napoleon established educational institutions, such as the renowned École Polytechnique, to provide equal opportunities for education and training. These institutions aimed to nurture talented individuals and prepare them for roles in the military, administration, and other spheres of influence. By prioritizing meritocracy, Napoleon aimed to create a system that rewarded competence and expertise, regardless of social background or privilege.

Napoleon’s adherence to meritocracy was evident in his appointment of capable individuals to positions of power. He surrounded himself with skilled administrators, generals, and advisors who had proven their abilities through their accomplishments. This approach helped him in his efforts to centralize power, modernize institutions, and implement reforms across his empire.

Impact and Legacy

Napoleon’s embrace of meritocracy had a lasting impact on the administrative structures of the countries under his rule. The emphasis on competence and merit-based appointments helped in improving the efficiency and effectiveness of governance. This approach also contributed to the spread of meritocratic principles in subsequent political systems around the world.

However, it is important to note that Napoleon’s adherence to meritocracy was not without its flaws and contradictions. While he recognized the value of talent and skill, he also consolidated power in his own hands and made decisions that prioritized his own ambitions. His rule was marked by a blend of enlightened policies and autocratic tendencies.


In conclusion, Napoleon Bonaparte adhered to the principle of meritocracy, which was a central tenet of the Enlightenment movement. By promoting merit-based appointments and recognizing the value of talent and competence, Napoleon aimed to create a more efficient and effective system of governance. However, it is important to approach Napoleon’s legacy with a critical perspective, acknowledging both his adherence to Enlightenment principles and the complexities of his rule.