Napoleon and Protestants

Napoleon's policy towards Protestants was similar to Jews or Catholics in Protestant majority regions. He emancipated Protestant minorities throughout Catholic regions of Europe which came under his empire.

Napoleon's attitude

Perhaps one of the most important and lasting contributions that Napoleon gave to the French people was the Civil Code or most widely known as the Napoleonic Code. This was written at a time in history when discrimination was rampant. It was then that Napoleon decided to liberate and offer Liberty, Equality and Fraternity to the Jews, Protestants, and other religions as well. He also opened the churches that were closed for years.

In a private conversation Napoleon had with his physician, Barry O'Meara, during his exile in St. Helena the doctor asked why he was supporting the Jews:

My primary desire was to liberate the Jews and make them full citizens. I wanted to confer upon them all the legal rights of equality, liberty and fraternity as was enjoyed by the Catholics and Protestants. It is my wish that the Jews be treated like brothers as if we were all part of Judaism. As an added benefit, I thought that this would bring to France many riches because the Jews are numerous and they would come in large numbers to our country where they would enjoy more privileges than in any other nation. Without the events of 1814, most of the Jews of Europe would have come to France where equality, fraternity and liberty awaited them and where they can serve the country like everyone else." (Napoleonic Scholarship: The Journal of the International Napoleonic Society, Volume 1, Number 2, December 1998.)


Although there was really no Huguenot minority to speak of since Louis XIV of France and his dragonnades, some remained in the Cavennes region (see Camisards) and Alsace, parts of Lorraine, and also around Monbeliard. They were emancipated by Napoleon.

German territories

Napoleon created the Confederation of the Rhine out of the German-speaking territories in and around the Holy Roman Empire. The region included sizeable Protestant populations, especially around Palatinate, Baden, W├╝rttemberg, as well as northern and eastern parts of present-day Germany. In Cologne and Bavaria, which were heavily Roman Catholic states, the situation of Protestants became better under the French rule than under their former rulers.

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