Napoleon

Napoleon
Napoleon was born on August 15, 1769 in Ajaccio, Corsica, and was given
the name Napoleone Buonaperte.He was the second of eight children of Carlo and
Letizia Buonaperte, both of the Corsican-Italian gentry.Before Napoleone, no
Buonaparte had ever been a professional soldier.His father Carlo, was a lawyer
who had fought for Corsican independence, but after the French occupied the
island in 1768, he served as a prosecutor and a judge and entered the French
aristocracy as a count.Through his father’s influence, Napoleone was educated
at the expense of King Louis XVI, at Brienne and the Ecole Militaire, in Paris.

Napoleone graduated in 1785, at the age of 16, and joined the artillery as a
second lieutenant. After the revolution began in France, he became a
lieutenant colonel (1791) in the Corsican National Guard.However, when
Corsica declared independence in 1793, Buonaperte, a Republican, and a French
patriot, fled to France with his family.He was assigned, as captain, to an
army besieging Toulon, a naval base that was aided by a British fleet, while in
revolt against the republic.It was here that Napoleone Buonaperte officially
changed his name to Napoleon Bonaparte, feeling that it looked “more French”.
It was here too that Napoleon replaced a wounded artillery general, and seized
ground where his guns could drive the British fleet from the harbor, and Toulon
fell.As a result of his accomplishments, Bonapatre was promoted to brigadier
general at the age of 24.In 1795, he saved the revolutionary government by
dispersing an insurgent mob in Paris.Then in 1796 he married Josephine de
Beauharnais, the mother of two children and the widow of an aristocrat
guillotined in the Revolution.Early in his life Napoleon was showing signs of
militaristic geniuses and knowledge for formidable strategy.It was through
the application of his skills, and a revolutionary style of spontaneous
fighting styles than gave Napoleon the opportunities, which he jumped at, making
his the great military leader he is known as today.

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Latter in1796, Napoleon became commander of the French army in Italy.
He defeated four Austrian generals in succession, each at impossible odds, and
forced Austria and it’s allies to make peace.The Treaty of Campo Formio
provided that France keep most of its conquests.In northern Italy he founded
the Cisalpine Republic, and straightened his position in France by sending
millions of francs worth of treasure to the government.In 1798, to strike at
British trade with the East, he led an expedition to Turkish-ruled Egypt, which
he conquered.His fleet, however, was destroyed by the British admiral Horatio
Nelson, leaving him stranded.Undaunted, he reformed the Egyptian government
and law, abolishing serfdom and feudalism and guaranteeing basic rights.The
French scholars he had brought with him began the scientific study of ancient
Egyptian history.In 1799 he failed to capture Syria, but won a smashing
victory over the Turks at Abu Qir. France, meanwhile, faced a new threat, the
coalition of Austria, Russia, and the lesser powers allied with Britain.
Bonaparte, being no modest soul, decided to leave his army and return to save
France.In Paris, he joined a conspiracy against the government.In the coup
d’etat of November 9th -10th , 1799, he and his colleagues seized power and
established a new regime-the Consulate.Under its construction, Bonaparte, as
his first consul, had almost dictatorial powers.The constitution was revised
in 1802 to make Napoleon consul for life and in 1804, it made him emperor.
Each of these changes received overwhelming assent of the electorate.In 1800,
he assured his power by crossing the Alps and defeating the Austrians at
Marengo.He also concluded an agreement with the pope, which contributed to
French domestic tranquillity and ended the quarrel with the Roman Catholic
church that had arisen during the Revolution.In France, the administration
was reorganized, the court system was simplified, and all schools were put
under centralized control.French law was standardized in the Code Napoleon,
(the civil code) and six other codes.They all guaranteed the rights and
liberties won in the Revolution, which included equality before the law and
freedom of religion.


Considering Napoleon, being the greatest general of his time, with the
intentions of France in mind it is clear how the French people respected him,
held him in high regard, and even praised him.With that same clarity that we
can see how those “enemies of the state”, and others not living in France
feared Napoleon, and saw him as a power hungry mad man.Opposing generals
fueled by hate attempted on many occasion to stop the momentum that Bonaparte
and his French empire was gaining.The view by others that he was a ruthless
and sadistic leader, who created war for his personal gain was well expressed
by Guillamme de Prosper-Barante, “He never wished to be justified.He killed,
he killed according to Corsican traditions, and if he sometimes regretted this
mistake, he never understood this as a crime” (I, pg.38).Another feeling of
resentment towards Bonaparte was that he was unorganized, sloppy, and basically
lucky.Finally, many people felt that Napoleon was only interested in his own
image and power, and essentially used France and its resources as an outlet to
achieve this.Napoleon himself would prove all this wrong.By taking the
position which France was in at the time, re-vamping the entire political
system, and giving equality and freedom to all of France he quickly showed his
loyalties.As for being unorganized, sloppy and very lucky, time after time,
Napoleon would prove his military superiority in all aspects. Lastly, if
Napoleon had used France to gain his personal goals he would not have taken the
time to change the politics, to protect the rights of the citizens, or to make
sure France was a good place to live, “France has more need for Napoleon, then
he for France” (II, pg.243).


In April 1803 Britain, provoked by Napoleon’s aggressive behavior, resumed
war with France on the seas.Two years after this Russia and Austria joined the
British in a second coalition.Napoleon then abandoned plans to invade England
and turned his armies against the Austro-Rusian forces, defeating them at the
battle of Austerlitz on December 2nd, 1805.In 1806 he seized the kingdom of
Naples and made his elder brother Joseph king, converted the Dutch Republic
into the kingdom of Holland for his brother Louis, and established the
Confederation of the Rhine of which he was the protector.Prussia then allied
itself with Russia and attacked the confederation.Napoleon destroyed the
Prussian army at Jena and Auerstadt (1806) and the Russian army at Friedland.
At Tilsit in July of 1807, Napoleon made an ally of Czar Alexander I and
greatly reduced the size of Prussia. He also added new states to the empire:
the kingdom of Westphalia, under his brother Jerome, the duchy of Warsaw, and
others.Through Napoleon experience through these battles he became more of a
leader, and was becoming more effective in motivating his soldiers, “There are
but two lever for moving men, interest and fear” (II pg. 67)
Outside of his military life Napoleon characterized his regime above all
with a strong executive under the control of a single charismatic figure who
appointed and dismissed ministers, generals, prefects, and bishops, commanded
armies, directed foreign policy, saw to the codification of laws, and
reorganized the systems of education, worship, and administration.Meanwhile
Napoleon had established the Continental System (a French-imposed blockade of
Europe against British goods, designed to force bankruptcy what he called “the
nation of shopkeepers”).In 1807, Bonaparte seized Portugal.In 1808, he made
his brother Joseph, the king of Spain. Napoleon thenawarded Naples to his
brother-in-law, Joachim Murat.Joseph’s arrival in Spain touched off a
rebellion there, which became known as the Peninsular W…..ar.Napoleon appeared
briefly and scored victories, but after his departure the fighting continued
for five years, with the British backing the Spanish armies and guerrillas.
The Peninsular War cost France 300,000 casualties and incredible sums of money
and contributed to the eventual weakening of the Napoleonic empire.In 1809,
Napoleon defeated the Austrians again at Wagram, annexed the Illyrian Provinces
(modern day Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia, and
Montenegro), and abolished the Papel States.He also divorced Josephine (who
was his current wife) and in 1810 he married Habsburg archduchess, Marie Louise,
who was the daughter of the Austrian emperor.By this linking his dynasty with
the oldest ruling house in Europe, he hoped that his son, born in 1811, would
be the more readily accepted by established monarchs.Also in 1810, the empire
reached its widest extension with the annexation of Bremen, Lubeck, and other
parts of north Germany, together with the entire kingdom of Holland, followed
the forced abdication of Louis Bonaparte.


The impact of Napoleon on the political and social structure of Europe was
not everywhere the same.It was greater in territories that were annexed than
in satellite states, and greater in satellite states than in those which were
occupied only with difficulty and by force of arms.Where French Revolutionary
armies had passed before, overturning feudal and ecclesiastical institutions,
there Napoleonic rule had a firmer grip.French military support for local
rulers enabled them to undertake by ‘revolution from above’ what as minor
enlightened despots in the eighteenth century they had failed to achive.But
Napoleon was above all a dynast and conqueror:what he required from subject
territories was men and money.If they could be provided without
administrative reforms, so much the better.Some states which remained
sovereign imitated Napoleon’s methods in order to weaken traditional elites or
to strengthen state-power.Far more common however was resistance to Napoleon,
whether blind peasanthostility to taxes and conscription, the defence of
aristocratic, ecclesiastical, and corporative privileges, or liberal opposition
to arbitrary, bureaucratic, and foreign rule.


In all the new kingdoms created by the emperor, the Code Napoleon was
established as law.Feudalism and serfdom were abolished, and freedom of
religion established (excluding Spain).Each state was granted a constitution,
providing for universal male-suffrage and a parliament and containing a bill of
rights.Napoleon who felt that constitutions were the mark of a great society
said “Constitution’s should be short and obscure” (III pg. 124).French-style
administration, and free public schools were envisioned.Higher education was
opened to all who qualified, regardless of class or religion.Every state had
an academy or institute for the promotion of the arts and sciences.Incomes
were provided for eminent scholars, specifically scientists.Constitutional
government remained only a promise, but progress and increased efficiency were
widely realized.Not until after Napoleon’s fall did the common people of
Europe, alienated from his governments by war taxes and military conscription,
fully appreciate the benefits that he had given them.It was evident through
these actions of Napoleon that he not only wanted the land for France but he
wanted to spread a common lifestyle throughout Europe.


In 1812, Napoleon, whose alliance with Alexader I had begin to
disintegrate, launched an invasion of Russia that ended in a disastrous retreat
from Moscow. (Thereafter all of Europe united against him,although he fought
on brilliantly, the odds were impossible.)In April 1814, his marshals refused
to continue the struggle.They had felt Napoleon disrespected his army, and
said they were not given the privileges they desired. Napoleon, although he
lived his life with one theory regarding his men, (“When soldiers have been
baptized in the fire of the battlefield, they have all one rank in my eyes…”)
(IV pg.15) therefore felt that his marshals shall be given no special
treatment.Latter allies had rejected his stepping down in favor of his son,
Napoleon was abdicated unconditionally and was exiled to the Mediterranean
island of Elba.Marie Louise and his son were put into custody of her father,
the emperor of Austria.Napoleon never was to see either one of them again,
but he himself soon made a dramatic comeback.In March 1815, he escaped from
Elba, reached France, and marched on Paris winning over the troops sent to
capture him.In Paris, he promulgated a new and more democratic constitution,
and veterans of his old campaigns flocked to his support. Napoleon asked peace
of the allies, but they outlawed him, and he decided to strike first.The
result was a campaign into Belgium, which ended in a defeat in the Battle of
Waterloo on June 8th, 1815.In Paris crowds begged him to fight on, but the
politicians withdrew their support.Napoleon then fled to Rochefort, where he
surrendered to the captain of the British battleship Bellerophon.He was then
exiled to Saint Helena, a remote island in the south Atlantic Ocean, where he
remained until he died from stomach cancer on May 5th, 1821.


The cult of Napoleon as the “man of destiny” began during his lifetime.
In fact, he has begun to cultivate it during his first Italian campaign by
systematically publicizing his victories.As first consul and emperor, he had
engaged the best writers and artists of France and Europe to glorify his deeds
and had contributed to the cult himself by the elaborate ceremonies with which
he celebrated his rule, picturing himself as the architect of France’s greatest
glory.He maintained that he had preserved the achievements of the Revolution
in France and offered their benefits to Europe.His goal, he said, was to
found a European state- a “federation of free peoples” (V pg. 15).Whatever
the truth of this, he became the arch-hero of the French and a martyr to the
world.In 1840 his remains were returned to Paris at the request of King
Louis-Philippe and interred with great pomp and ceremony on the Invalides,
where they still lie.


Napoleon’s influence is evident even in France today.Reminders of him
dot Paris-the most obvious being the Arc de Triomphe, the centerpiece of the
city, which was built to commemorate his victories.His spirit pervades the
constitution of the Fifth Republic; the country’s basic law is still the Code
Napoleon, and the administrative and judicial systems are essentially
Napoleonic.A uniform state-regulated system of education persists.
Napoleon’s radical reforms in all parts of Europe cultivated the ground for the
revolutions of the 19th century.Today, the impact of the Code Napoleon is
apparent in the law of all European countries. Napoleon was a driven man,
never secure, never satisfied.”Power is my mistress” (VI pg. 176), he said.
His life was work-centered; even his social activities had a purpose.He could
bear amusements or vacations only briefly.His tastes were for coarse food,
bad wine, and for cheap tobacco.He could be hypnotically charming for a
needed purpose of course.He had intense loyalties to his family and old
associates.Even so, nothing or nobody, were allowed to interfere with his work.

Napoleon was sometimes a tyrant and always an authorian.But one who believed,
however in ruling by mandate of the people, expressed on plebiscites.He was
also a great enlightened monarch-a civil executive of enormous capacity who
changed French institutions and tried to reform the intuitions of Europe and
give the Continent a common law.Few historians deny that he was a military
genius.At St. Helena, he said “Waterloo will erase the memory of all my
victories.” (VII pg.345) he was wrong; for better or worse, he is best
remembered as a general, not for his enlightened government, but surely the
latter must be counted if he is justly to be called “Napoleon the Great”.

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