, Research Paper
In 1513, Niccolo Machiavelli wrote a piece of work called, “The Prince”. It was written to all principalities, and that which is parallel to what Machiavelli suggests is often referred to as being “Machiavellian”. The purpose of this essay is to ask the question “Is Napoleon Bonaparte Machiavellian in Nature?” By the evidence found from Napoleon’s life and accomplishments it can said that he was not Machiavellian in nature, which can be demonstrated by numerous accounts as well as some suggested characteristics given by Machiavelli, to support this theory. This essay will take a look at Napoleon’s leadership skills, his beliefs and ideals, as well as his personality that made him a great political figure. These aspects of Napoleon’s persona give a description of how his character was different from that in Machiavelli’s “The Prince”.
In the area of leadership, Napoleon had many qualities that set him apart from the rest. Napoleon was a great leader but at times his people hated him. Machiavelli believed that, “? one cannot call it virtue to kill one’s citizens, betray one’s friends, to he without faith, without mercy, without religion; these modes can enable one to acquire an empire, but not glory.” Napoleon’s goal was to seize power for himself, and the cry’s of his people were drowned out for his own pursuit of power. Napoleon sought after glorification for himself, an example of this is when Napoleon was first exiled he returned to France and betrayed his country just so he could gain back his power, although he did not succeed. Another example of his leadership and how it is different from being Machiavellian is how his whole life he had no friends and how he was never close to his subjects. Machiavelli said, ” It remains now to see what the modes and government of a prince should be with subjects and with friends.” Apparently Napoleon was not a good friend considering when he was exiled the second time his friends that had been with him since the beginning were said to have killed him. Based on this it can be said that Napoleon does not display characteristics of being Machiavellian.
The area of Napoleon’s beliefs and ideals also has insight into what kind of leader and person he was. Napoleon believed that he would be a much more successful leader if the people liked him. This is thought so because when he was trying to get political support by the people he did not user fear, he found something they all wanted to hear and he said them. Even though Machiavelli said, “? it is much safer to be feared, then loved, if one has to lack one of the two.” Napoleon also tried to make the people like him by setting up the Napoleonic Code, which was a set of laws that gave religious freedom and equality. Another illustration of Napoleon’s beliefs and, or ideals was, instead of appearing to have Machiavellian characteristics, Napoleon actually had them. “Thus it is not necessary for a prince to have all the above mentioned qualities in fact, but it is indeed necessary to appear to have them.” Napoleon was actually a feared leader and thought of people as disposable but Machiavelli only said to appear to have these traits.
The final area of Napoleon’s behavior is his personality. Machiavelli stated, “? it is very natural and ordinary to desire to acquire, and always, when men do it who can, they will be praised and not blamed; but when they cannot, and want to do it anyway, here lie the error and the blame.” Napoleon could acquire what he wanted most of the time, but sometimes he would get greedy and fail a task and therefore would be blamed for it. For example, when Napoleon was done attacking Portugal for refusing to go along with the Continental System, he thought since he was there he might as well take over Spain as well. Because of his greediness and his enemy using guerilla warfare he was defeated. Another aspect of his personality not being parallel to what Machiavelli said was his lack of hunting during times of peace, when he was not in war. Machiavelli suggested, “? he should always be out hunting, and through this accustom the body to hardships; and meanwhile he should learn the nature of sites, and recognize how mountains rise, how valley’s open up, how plains lie, and understand the nature of rivers and marshes?” Nowhere does it ever say that Napoleon practiced this exercise of hunting or of studying the nature around him. Because of this, it cost him several losses like in Egypt, Spain, and Russia.
In conclusion, Napoleon halfway succeeded in his take over of France. Maybe if he had these Machiavellian qualities he would have fully succeeded. These three aspects of Napoleons life prove that he was not Machiavellian by nature. The aspects of leadership, beliefs and ideals, as well as personality are all important for a leader to have. Although Napoleon was a great leader his qualities contradicted to what Machiavelli was trying to say.