Master of Arts (MA)



Document Type



The French Revolution ushered in a period of political unrest in France which appeared never-ending, even when a seemingly stable government rose to power. After a series of failed Republican governments, Napoleon Bonaparte seized control on 18 Brumaire VIII, promising to uphold the revolutionary ideals that had permeated the nation. As time passed, however, it became clear that he aimed at gathering all political power for himself. With his consular and imperial regimes accepted by French citizens, Napoleon effectively returned the country to autocratic rule. Needing talented officials to serve in his military, ministries, and prefectures, Napoleon enlisted the services of men whose ideologies ranged from Republican, to monarchist, to imperialists. Relying on officials whose political beliefs conflicted with those of the current regime engendered instability within his new government, making it possible for any enterprising political hopeful to strike a devastating blow against the Empire. Throughout the Napoleonic era, many dissidents attempted to overthrow Bonaparte’s regimes, but only one man achieved enough success to unsettle the Emperor’s belief that his government was secure. General Claude-François de Malet was a fervent Republican and despite frequent prison breaks and constant denunciations of Napoleon and his government, few people considered him a serious threat. Opinion would change after the night of 22 October 1812. The event, simply known as the Malet Conspiracy, was the single most successful coup attempted against the Napoleonic regime. During this attempt, Malet successfully deceived several high-ranking military officials, prompting them to place their troops under his control. The readiness with which these men followed Malet’s orders without question speaks to the fragility of Napoleon’s Empire, even among those he considered his most trustworthy devotees. Fearing that his Empire was on the verge of collapse, Napoleon chose to return to Paris from Russia only after hearing of the events set into motion by Malet. After the nearly successful attempt, it became clear to Napoleon that running an imperial government required close, personal supervision, especially in the homeland of liberté, égalité, and fraternité.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Benjamin F. Martin



Included in

History Commons