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Different Factors Led To Napoleon

’s Success. Which Of Factors Dealt With Napoleon’s Personality Which Of These Factors Were Outside His Control Essay, Research Paper

There are many factors that were part of Napoleon’s success. Some of these were because of his personality, and others were completely out of his control. Napoleon Bonaparte was born in 1796 on the island of Corsica in the Mediterranean Sea. In that same year French troops invaded Corsica and crushed a movement for independence. According to Larry S. Krieger, the first factor that influenced Napoleon was completely out of his control. When he was ten years old, his parents sent him to a military school outside of Paris were his French schoolmates snubbed him as a foreigner. Since Bonaparte was cut off from the other students and a social life, he devoted all of his time to mastering military tactics. When he finished school at sixteen, he was already a lieutenant in the artillery.

Now, the second factor outside of his control occurred. The French Revolution broke out and Bonaparte, as a lieutenant, went to fight in the war. In October 1795, fate handed the young officer a chance for glory. An army of royalists threatened the palace where the National Convention was being held and a government official told Bonaparte to defend the palace. When thousands of royalists attacked and were sent into retreat by Napoleon’s troops, he became an instant hero and was dubbed the “Savior of the French Republic.” As a result, in 1769, Napoleon was given command as general of the French army against Austria and the Kingdom of Sardonia. Within a little while, Napoleon had taken control of most of Italy, and allowed France to make it a republic dominated by France. My research said that after this great feat, Napoleon was the most well known general in Europe.

Napoleon, using his political mastery, won control of the government on November 9 1799. He sent five hundred of his troops to drive out the elected members of the first chamber of the national legislature; the second chamber was so frightened that they signed over control to three consuls with Napoleon being one of them.

After this, Napoleon went to fend off Britain, Austria, and Russia. Once again he was victorious. Russia and Austria signed peace treaties under Napoleon’s guidelines. And in 1802 Britain also agreed to Napoleon’s terms. According to Irving L. Gordan these victories were due to Napoleon’s military genius and ability to keep his army fighting even in a dark hour.

France had a desperate need for strong leadership. This was a factor outside of Napoleon’s control, and it did make it easier for him to gain success in what he was about to do. In 1800 Bonaparte held a plebiscite, which is an election in which all citizens vote yes or no on an issue. This issue was a constitution drawn up by Napoleon. The people overwhelmingly voted for the constitution, which gave all real power to the third consul, who was Napoleon. Two years later, the people voted Napoleon consul for life. After this Napoleon wanted to be emperor, and on December 2, 1804, he took the crown from the Pope at his coronation and placed it on his head. Napoleon’s rise to power was now complete. So far it sounds like Napoleon’s rise to power was mostly attributed to the fate of getting command of the France army, and France’s need for a strong leader, but Napoleon’s personality also played a big role to his rise to power.

Napoleon possessed a brilliant mind. At the military school, he ended up graduating at the top in his class, not just in military tactics, but also in math. “Napoleon used his mind to learn and gain a deep insight into human nature.”1 This allowed him to win over troops as well as the people of France. Napoleon also possessed tireless energy. In my research I found that when he was campaigning, he would go days without sleep while the generals on the other side rested. I think this was an important personality trait that allowed Napoleon to be successful. This allowed him to stay ahead of the opposition and be more aware of their movements. Napoleon also had great ambitions. During those hard lonely military school years, Napoleon swore that those who laughed and treated him as a foreigner would soon be under his power. The final aspect of his personality that allowed him to gain control, was his ruthlessness to attain his goals and the refusal to let anything stand in his way. This part of his personality coined the phrase “Napoleon Complex”, which is used to day to describe anyone who lets nothing stand in their way to gain power. These same factors also would lead to Napoleon’s downfall. His ambition caused him to overreach himself. In conquering most of Europe, he created an empire too complex to be ruled efficiently by on person. His lust for territory and power was limitless and as he grew older he became stubborn and unwilling to accept advice.

I have to conclude, based on these facts, that Napoleon’s rise to power and success was mainly attributed to his personality. It is true that fate is what sent him to military school which later lead to his advancing in the French army, but I have to believe that since Napoleon was so ambitious, that he would have joined the army and attained his goals just the same. Also in my research, numerous authors said, yes he was a brilliant tactician, but his charisma is what won over the troops. Had Napoleon not had this charisma, he would never have won over his troops. Without his troop’s support, he could have never won government control.

The battles Napoleon won were because of his personality and military genius, not the factors outside his control. For Example when he fought the battle of Ulm, Napoleon set up a deadly trap that caught 50,000 Austrian soldiers. This loss forced them to surrender. It wasn’t luck that allowed Napoleon to win this battle, it was his skill and personality.

In 1814, after loosing a series of important battles, Napoleon was exiled to Elba by Alexander I. While he was on Elba, Alexander I allowed Napoleon a small pension and land. After losing the battles Napoleon did, you would think that he would give up, but his personality was not that of a quitter, and on March 1, 1815 Napoleon escaped from Elba and returned to France. When he returned he showed his determination and ability to make things happen when he made a proclamation that won the French people over to his side again. He said, “Victory will march at full speed.” “You will be the liberators of your country.”

After a few days, Napoleon was again emperor of France. Even though he lost the battle that followed (Waterloo) and was exiled this time to a prison, he did prove that the people would follow him still, even after exile. I believe, that although Napoleon lost The Battle of Waterloo proves my point, that it was Napoleon who made himself successful, and not the circumstances out of his control. The people followed Napoleon not because of the times, or because of his victories, they followed him because of his personality. “A French writer named Alexander de Tocqueville summed up Napoleon’s personality best by saying, ‘He was as great as a man can be without virtue.’”2 Larry S. Krieger also believes it was Napoleon’s personality that allowed him to succeed, in his book he said, “Napoleon was a small man (five feet six inches tall) who’s personality and ambition allowed him to cast a long shadow over the history of modern times. It can be compared to that of Alexander the Great of Macedonia, Hannibal of Carthage, and Julius Caesar of Rome.”


1. Lachouque, Henery. The Last Days of Napoleon’s Empire. New York: Orion

Press, 1967, Pg. 151.

2. Krieger, Larry S. World History Perspectives on the Past. “The Napoleonic

Era” Massachusetts: D. C. Heath and Company, 1990, Pg. 492.


Gordan, Irving l. World History. “The Napoleonic Era”. New York: Amsco School

Publications, inc, 1993, Pg. 193-199.

Krieger, Larry S. World History Perspectives on the Past. “The Napoleonic Era”

Massachusetts: D. C. Heath and Company, 1990, Pg. 492-499.

Lachouque, Henery. The Last Days of Napoleon’s Empire. New York: Orion Press,

1967, Pg. 151.

Lefebvre, Georges. The French Revolution. New York: Columbia University Press,

1965, Pg. 163, 237, 277.

McKay, John P. A History of Western Society. New York: Houghton Mifflin

Company, 1999. Pg. 712-718.