'The Legion of Honour was destined to form a distinct and particular class of privileged individuals, whom, by honours and bounties bestowed on them, he resolved to bind to his own interest.
This institution, which attained considerable political importance, originated in the custom which Napoleon had early introduced, of conferring on soldiers, of whatever rank, a sword, fusee, or other military weapon, in the name of the state, as acknowledging and commemorating some act of peculiar gallantry. The influence of such public rewards was of course very great. They encouraged those who had received them to make every effort to preserve the character which they had thus gained, while they awakened the emulation of hundreds and thousands who desired similar marks of distinction. Bonaparte now formed the project of embodying the persons who had merited such rewards into an association, similar in many respects to those orders, or brotherhoods of chivalry, with which, during the middle ages, the feudal sovereigns of Europe surrounded themselves, and which subsist to this day, though in a changed and modified form. These, however, have been uniformly created on the feudal principles, and the honour they confer limited, or supposed to be limited, to persons of some rank and condition: but the scheme of Bonaparte was to extend this species of honourable distinction through all ranks, in the quality proper to each, as medals to be distributed among various classes of the community are struck upon metals of different value, but are all stamped with the same dye...'
As related in Sir Walter Scott's "Life of Napoleon Bonaparte", Napoleon formed his Legion of Honor on May 19, 1802.