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Napoleon Essay Research Paper Napoleon Bonaparte was

Napoleon Essay, Research Paper Napoleon Bonaparte was destined for greatness right from the start. Napoleon himself is quoted as saying, ?I realized I was a superior being and conceived the ambition of performing

Napoleon Essay, Research Paper

Napoleon Bonaparte was destined for greatness right from the start. Napoleon himself is

quoted as saying, ?I realized I was a superior being and conceived the ambition of performing

great things which hitherto had filled my thoughts as only a fantastic dream.? When he was only

24 years old, his own artillery pushed the British out of France. It was only three years later that

he was given command of the French Army in Italy. Napoleon was a great leader both in military

and government rule.

Napoleon?s true forte was his executive military ability. He learned the weaknesses of his

enemies and used those against them. He pushed the limits of his troops, while still managing to

be a humane commander. One such example was shown in November 1797, when he was

ordered to plan an invasion of England. He was aware of the fact that England had a weak navy

compared to that of France, so Napoleon decided to strike the British by attacking British

commerce in Egypt and India (which supplied cotton for British mills). Though his meager fleet

was destroyed at the Battle of the Nile, he still sent glowing reports back to France, assuring them

of his victory. Okay, so not everyone?s perfect. But Napoleon did have some brilliant

strategies that actually worked. Between 1805 and 1807he defeated Austria, Prussia and Russia,

virtually dictating the entire continent. His plans stressed rapid offensive attack over defensive

positions. Surprise and speed were essential ingredients. So too were efforts to confuse his

opponents: he supplied newspapers with incorrect information, he launched secondary offenses

and he sent dense screens of cavalry ahead of his marching columns. Now this was a man that

knew his stuff. It also helped that he had an amazing army- they marched fifty miles in 36 hours

during one campaign in Italy! Napoleon also understood well the necessity of maintaining the

morale of his own troops. His army was based on honor, vanity and personal loyalty. Any

army like this is one heck of a difficulty to overcome. By 1810, Napoleon dominated nearly all of

Europe.

Understand that Napoleon had not left French to simply rot while he was off taking over

other countries. In fact, Napoleon was an admirable ruler. In1799 the Directory was overthrown

and Napoleon became a military dictator. The French people welcomed Napoleon – the

bourgeoisie, in particular. A new constitution was drawn up which specified that three Consuls

would share power as a sort of triumvirate. Napoleon, of course, was one of these Consuls. His

ambition, however, forced him to aspire to much more. In 1802, Napoleon was made first Consul

for life with the right to choose his successor. On December 2, 1804, Napoleon crowned himself

Emperor of the French. So, by 1804, the fate of both France and Europe depended upon this one

man.

Living in a revolutionary age, Napoleon observed firsthand the precariousness of power.

In other words, he knew what happened to Louis XVI, and Napoleon was determined not to

make those same mistakes. He must learn to be a statesman, while also being a tyrant. Napoleon

provided France with a strong centralized government – a government he would himself dominate

as an emperor, much like that of Louis XIV, sans Versailles. Napoleon created an army of

officials which reached into every village, town and city. The entire nation was linked together

under his administration. The result was that Napoleon concentrated power and this provided him

with taxes and soldiers.

Napoleon also relied heavily on public opinion, using crude forms of propaganda, but

more importantly the use of secret agents, arbitrary arrests, and executions, to prevent hostile

criticism. In other words, dissent was nearly impossible. Printers and booksellers swore oaths of

allegiance and all newspapers fell under his control. So, by repressing liberty and restoring

absolutism, Napoleon reversed some of the liberal gains of the Revolution. He favored equality

before the law and careers open to talent BUT he believed that political liberty threatened the

efficiency of the state with anarchy. He would govern in the interests of the people as an

enlightened but absolute ruler. He instituted the Code Napoleon which incorporated the great

principles of 1789: equality before the law, careers open to talent, freedom of religion, protection

of private property, abolition of serfdom, and the secularization of the state. This basically

summed up all Napoleon?s philosophies into one document.

Napoleon’s economic policies were designed to strengthen France and increase his

popularity. He aided industry through tariffs and loans. He built and repaired roads, bridges and

canals. He established the Bank of France. He kept careers open to men of talent and provided

bread at low prices. He stimulated the employment of artisans and did not restore ancient feudal

rights. For this his people loved him.

Napoleon was not a democrat – nor was he a republican. He was the sort of the man

Voltaire might have found appealing. He preserved numerous social gains of the Revolution while

suppressing political liberty. He admired efficiency and strength and hated feudalism, religious

intolerance, and civil inequality. Like most men of power, he had a complex personality. His

intellectual ability was most impressive. He had grand ideas and a philosophic mind. He could

work 18 to 20 hours at a stretch without so much as a single break. He was, as one French

historian put it, “a typical man of the 18th century, a rationalist, a philosophe who placed his trust

in reason, in knowledge and in methodical effort.” He was an artist, a poet of action, for whom

France, and Europe but instruments. He had charisma, he could move men to obedience, to

loyalty and to heroic acts. He was, in short, a glorious man.

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