He was a son of a pastor and became a merchant, working at Erfurt and Leipzig. As a strictly religious young man he saw Napoleon's occupation as the sole reason for the misery of the German people and thus became his opponent.
He set out to assassinate Napoleon and went first to Vienna and from there, on 13 October, to Schönbrunn where Napoleon was to observe a military parade. One of Napoleons aides, General Rapp, became suspicious of the young man approaching the emperor after previously being refused an audience, and had him arrested. A knife was found and Staps then admitted his plans to kill the emperor. Napoleon asked if Staps would thank him if he was pardoned, to which Staps replied: "I would kill you no less."
He was executed by firing squad on 17 October.
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- August Fournier: Napoleon I., eine Biographie. Drei Bände, 4. Aufl. Wien/Leipzig 1922; hier Bd. 2, S. 307.