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, going first to Vienna, and, from there, on 13 October, to Schönbrunn, where Napoleon was to observe a military parade. One of Napoleon's aides, General Rapp, became suspicious of the young man approaching the emperor despite having previously been 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 1809.
- August Fournier: Napoleon I., eine Biographie. Drei Bände, 4. Aufl. Wien/Leipzig 1922; hier Bd. 2, S. 307.
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