Both policing and censorship of items in France (such as that of the press) played very important roles in how Napoleon was able to rule, as well as control France during the period of his emperorship, as they both allowed him to monitor and crush opposition to his rule, as well as enforce his wishes upon France and her people.Under the leadership of Fouche (minister of police), Napoleon was able to rule France and control her people directly.
Under Napoleons’ system of police, every town of over 5,000 inhabitants was to receive a commissaire de police, which was a commissioner, who was appointed directly by the Ministry of General Police in Paris. Furthermore, he was immediately responsible to the prefect of his department, himself a civilian official who was appointed by the Minister of the Interior and who was in charge of the general running of local government. This meant that policing was enforced and controlled decisively in the form of national police force acting in a hierarchical system.However, alone among local government officials, the commissaire de police had the right to by-pass the prefect and correspond directly with the Ministry of General Police. Thanks to his ‘direct line’ to powerful figures like Fouche and Savary (who answered directly to Napoleon), local officials (for example a commissaire) was often able to outflank not only the prefects and mayors of his department, but even the judiciary, when it came to identifying common criminals, political subversives or wayward, allegedly corrupt local officials. Furthermore, Fouche incorporated the use of spies, informers, and double agents to enforce law in France.In order to make sure Napoleon and his followers maintained rule and control in France and over her people, policing was also used to monitor revolutionary activity. Due to the fact that the legitimacy of Napoleon’s rule of France could be questioned, as well as the fact that there was limited reference of revolution (as revolutionary activity and displays had been widespread throughout the period of the French Revolution, particularly from 1790 – 1799), a secret police force incorporating the use of spies and agents was required in order preserve the rule of Napoleon, and make sure he was to be in charge of the French Empire.
Furthermore, another way in which revolutionary activity was prevented and that the legitimacy of Napoleon’s rule was not questioned, was through the censorship of not only the press, but also of books and art.Under Napoleons’ rule of France, any documents portraying a negative impression of French rule, society, and even Napoleon himself was to be censored, and in cases confiscated or destroyed. Many un-favourable establishments to the absolute rule that Napoleon had acquired by the early eighteenth century were closed, with the number of printing offices after January 1811 being reduced throughout the empire (the number in Paris fell to sixty) and with printers and booksellers being required to produce vouchers of good character to show that they printed and produced loyal material regarding Napoleon and governmental rule in France. Furthermore, it was the censor (acting on behalf of Napoleon and his officials) who decided upon the publication of any work examined, and which items were destroyed, erased, and confiscated.Additionally, a director general of printing was appointed to control publishers and booksellers, with the assistance of many provincial censors (by 1813, there were 30 provincial censors). In addition, no books printed or reprinted out of France were to be imported without a permit, tightening Napoleons’ grip of the French people, and what they knew about issues, strengthening his rule further (as well as prevent any negative feedback of Frances’ allies from reaching the French public).
This also meant that international documents, as well as national and local documents were subject to censorship, meaning that Napoleon and his officials censored a very large part of French information. Napoleon was also allowed to subject his law on censorship to further decree and future dispositions.The task of censorship was also heavily linked to the police force in France. The minister of police, as well as prefects of departments and Printing, was expected to assist in the task of carrying out Napoleon’s campaign of censorship, or as Napoleon himself stated, to “Help put this grand engine of despotism into effect.” Fouche and his police force were expected to work alongside the censors appointed to the various provinces of France regarding book censorship.In conclusion, both policing and censorship played an integral role in how Napoleon was able to rule the French empire, as they allowed him to not only force the public into what action Napoleon wanted them to take and limit opposition to his rule (via policing), but furthermore, allowed Napoleon to be portrayed in the way that he wished every French person to view him (via censorship). Both factors allowed Napoleon to exercise supreme control over his subjects, and helped to cement his position as emperor of France.