Napoleon Essay, Research Paper
Although he inspired new social, economic, and political ideas, Napoleon Bonaparte is better known for his military tactics. Even today, his battle plans are used and studied by many in the military. Napoleon, who started out as an extremely short and wimpy foreigner who rose to become Emperor of France, died in 1821 at St. Helena, a remote island in the South Atlantic. He was fifty-two years old. Th cause is uncertain: either he was poisoned or he died of a stomach ailment.
Bonaparte was born in 1769 on the island of Corsica just as France conquered it. At age ten, Napoleon was sent to military school outside Paris. At sixteen, he graduated and became a lieutenant in the artillery. When the French revolution broke out, Napoleon sided with the new government. Along with the help of his army, he dissolved the revolutionary government and made himself emperor. Saying he was saving the Revolution, Napoleon established a new government that stressed equality. Through his prowess, Napoleon greatly enlarged the French Empire. Though he ran into many problems and was soon defeated, he came back to fight one more battle before his last defeat, and was then taken to St. Helena as a prisoner.
Of all his accomplishments, Napoleon’s political decisions had the most lasting influence. His guiding principle was that everyone should have an equal chance regardless of their social status at birth. Napoleon believed in a meritocracy, a novel system where people would be placed in positions according to merit and not their birth. Napoleon also established the Napoleonic Code. Through these laws, Napoleon declared all people equal before the law and the three estates of France’s old government abolished. Ironically, though he believed in equality, as emperor, Napoleon stood above his new laws for he loved power.
As a general, Napoleon is ranked beside the greatest military geniuses. He conquered nearly all of Europe creating an empire that had not been seen since Roman times. Through his military strategy prowess, Napoleon was able to come out as the victor in battles even if he was largely outnumbered. He quickly defeated almost every country from Spain to Russia. Although he did not add every country to France, he established many puppet monarchies that were loyal to him. To complement his influence around France, Napoleon also set up a series of alliances that loosely attached Russia, Prussia, and Austria to his empire.
Although Napoleon’s empire was great and powerful, it was extremely unstable due to Napoleon’s lust for power and pride. He had too much power, for all his alliances and puppet governments were held together only by him and would deteriorate once he began to stumble. Napoleon believed that he could no be defeated. When the British decisively defeated his navy, he tried to stop their imports from coming in but only hurt his empire in doing so. Although Napoleon was at last defeated by the Grand Alliance, it was only accomplished because of his army’s weakness after the Russian campaign. Napoleon tried attacking Russia but instead of meeting an army, he met the all-powerful weather of Russia. His army was decimated. Napoleon’s lust for power had caused his downfall.
Overall, Napoleon was one of the greatest men ever to rule a great empire. Both a military and political genius, he conquered most of Europe in only five years. He also introduced the ideas of meritocracy and equality for all before the law. Although Napoleon had a great lust of power that eventually brought his downfall, overall he was one of the greatest conquerors. He was only struck down by two obstacles: the Russian weather and lust for power.