Napoleon Bonaparte Essay Research Paper From the

Napoleon Bonaparte Essay, Research Paper From the moment of his birth, something in the stars said that Napoleon Bonaparte would one day emerge as the leading power of the French. He was a man of many talents. His

Napoleon Bonaparte Essay, Research Paper

From the moment of his birth, something in the stars said that Napoleon Bonaparte would

one day emerge as the leading power of the French. He was a man of many talents. His

distinctive personality was a clear indicator of his glory and fame to come. He tended to

appeal to other’s senses in order to gain for himself. ” His rule was to mark the close of

the revolution, a return to order and stability, a rejoining of the history of France with the

first stage of the Revolution, but only the first stage ” 1. As a strong willed man,

Napoleon quickly rose to power in France and was able to subdue most of Europe for

roughly twenty years by strategically mending the turmoil caused by the French revolution

simply by preserving some its reforms, such as religious tolerance, while also destroying

some of its aspects, for example, abolishing political freedom.

An individual’s personality and upbringing are two major contributors to their actions.

Why was Napoleon able to rule with the rigidness and authority that he did? Napoleon

Bonaparte was born in 1769 just before the wake of the French Revolution in 1789 into

the nobility of Corsican society, one that was very simple 2. Corsicans were strong

believers in defense and respect of the family, and a violation of this would mean death 3.

Napoleon as well as his brothers and sisters were often spanked by their mother, but ” . . .

they knew punishment was given in love, and they took it in that spirit ” 4. This suggests

why Napoleon ruled with such a strong fist when he had an unconditional love for his

country. Those who speak of him as a young child remember him very distinctly: ” . . . he

had a quick temper and a mind of his own. His needs always came first. His wishes

always had to be satisfied—now. If not, he’d throw a tantrum that neighbors compared to

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that of a snarling little beast ” 5. Could it be justified that Napoleon was a ” beast ” living

in a human’s body? As a boy, he decided that he wanted to become a soldier 6. He was

taught to speak French at a school taught by Catholic priests where he skirmished to be

accepted 7. To follow his dream, he eventually transferred to a military school which he

thoroughly enjoyed 8. He graduated as a second lieutenant and climbed his way up to

achieve the ranks of an officer. Napoleon and Hitler are often compared to each other

because just like Napoleon, Hitler also had to struggle to be accepted into society and then

found his comfort in a group although a political one 9. They were also both ambitious

and patriotic men.

Before France fell into the hands of Napoleon, the nation had been in a complete state

of chaos and instability. France, around 1790, had created a constitutional monarchy but

was undoubtedly moving toward corruption. The revolutions main objectives were clearly

stated with three words: Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity, all of which Napoleon

supported 10. The revolution, as time passed, took a turn for the worst. During the most

radical phase of this era, the National Convention attempted to dechristianize France

around 1793. They did so by taking actions, one of which was the creation of a new

calendar by the National Convention that numbered the years based on the date that the

French Republic was declared in 1792 rather than the birth of Christ 11. Since most of

the French people remained Catholic, these actions did not go over well with the majority.

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For example, as supporters of the king, ” Nothing, royalists believed, justified abolishing

their God-given privileges ” 12. Many of the people refused to conform to this irrational

idea. Their disagreement in turn led to the spread of war against the Revolution: ” The

revolutionary army was a popular army fueled by patriotism ” 13. Because of the turmoil

in France, it was not prepared for war and was in desperate need of military control.

Steady protests yielded religious freedom and Catholicism was no longer the universal

religion. In time, the monarchy was overthrown, and France rose as a republic toward

the end of 1793 and was headed by Maximilien Robespierre, a lawyer by profession. He

” . . .believed that people were naturally good — except when they became selfish and

corrupt ” 14. His attempt to purify France by eliminating the traitors for the good of

society was known as the Reign of Terror 15. Many were executed, and at this point all

social classes were in an uproar. In an attempt to protect France from crumbling, the

National Convention came to a unanimous decision to overthrow the man that so many

feared: Robespierre, and a moderate force was created: the Directory 16.

At this point, Napoleon’s rank as an officer along and his reputation as an accomplished

military leader, made him a perfect candidate for the desperate France in need. The

present Directory in power became jealous of the giant steps that Napoleon was taking.

He had negotiated many treaties, such as with the Austrian Empire in 1797, without the

Directory’s permission 17. Napoleon had in one case even gone against their will and went

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face to face with Italy in hopes of a negotiation which he did get 18. They had not wanted

France to become entangled with Italian affairs, but Napoleon wanted to aid them with

their present revolutionary movements. Napoleon had a way with his army as he did with

all of those under him. He often gave them speeches of enthusiasm and praise to help

them build their ambition with a justifiable cause:

” ‘ Up to this time you have fought for nothing better than barren rocks. . . Lacking

everything, you have made up for everything you lacked. You have won battles

without cannons, crossed rivers without bridges, made forced marches without

boots, and bivouacked without brandy and often without bread. Only the soldiers

of liberty could have endured what you have endured! For all this, my thanks ‘ ” 19.

The Directory’s division into two branches that were constantly in disagreement weakened

their status and strengthened Napoleon’s. In the mean time, politicians had a scheme, one

in which Napoleon was not a part of, to overthrow the Directory with a coup d’ etat 20.

Once the plot had become a reality and the Directory was at last demolished, all was

handed over to a committee of three divisions: First, Second, and Third Consul 21.

Napoleon was immediately called on to fill the top position; that of First Consul 22. This

basically placed all of the power in the hands of a former military leader which he would

remain. A part of Napoleon was saying peace and calm after the Revolution while the

other was screaming complete control and restraint 23. Because Napoleon had an appetite

for power and had a spoiled disposition, he would not be satisfied until he took his ranks

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to the farthest step possible: emperor. He did so by appealing to peoples senses ;

” ‘ Clever policy consists in making nations believe they are free ‘ ” 24.

During the time of Napoleon’s transition from Consul to Emperor of France between

1800 and 1804, his achievements both on and off of the battlefield were numerous. First

and formost Napoleon thought it imperative to mend relations with the catholic church

that had been ruptured during the Revolution 25. Napoleon was a believer in God but not

in what religion taught of him. he felt that a society without religion was lacking: ”

Religion dulled the pains of overwork and poverty with promises of happiness in the next

world. Without it there’d be no morality, no way for society to exist ” 26. Under the

terms of agreement set by Napoleon in 1801, both sides would gain from the Concordant

with the Papacy.

The conditions of the Concordant were very defined. The Pope accepted that although

Catholicism was not established as the state religion, it was assumed to be the religion of

the majority of France which reopened churches and proclaimed religious freedom 27. In

exchange for demanding the Pope to give up the lands that he had detained during the

Revolution, Napoleon issued salaries to priests that would be paid by the government 28.

These provisions appeased both Napoleon and the Pope, while also bringing him the

people’s support.

The next line of duty for him was to attend to administrative problems and propose

solutions. Napoleon’s greatest achievement in administrative reform was creating a

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centralized government 29. During the revolution, France had been divided into

departments that Napoleon was in favor of keeping, because in his eyes, these divisions

could only promote unification and centralization of France 30. What he did not agree

with was the way in which they were governed, and so he took it upon himself to elect

new officials called prefects, who were nominated by First Consul but chosen by the

notables 31. Their designated duty was to supervise all that went on under their own

division 32. If these forms of government failed to do their job, Napoleon would turn to

his action-taking helpers : the soldiers and policemen, and so he had created a police

state 33. Napoleon was never forced to turn to his ” helpers ” but simply used this idea as

initiative for the prefects to do their jobs and do them well.

Napoleon also sought financial reform of the government. One of the ideas of the

Revolution had been equality, and he aimed at withholding this by creating equal tax while

also beginning the Bank of France 34. Equal tax meant that no one could be exempted

from taxes based on ethnic or social standing . During the time of the Directory,

government members were allowed to take money from the treasury as they pleased 35.

The bank of France helped to control the flow of money to where it was needed not to

where it was wanted 36. Napoleon himself was very money conscious and even kept a

close eye on the money circulation of his own faithful court 37. Also, running parallel to

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Napoleon’s preservation of equality, government promotion was not determined by ethnic

or social standing but simply ability. Fundamentally, those who were known for their loyal

service and accomplishments were those considered for advancement. Napoleon’s theory

of government ” is summarized in two sayings: men are moved by two levers only: fear

and self-interest ” 38.

If France was to survive under Napoleon, legal reform was a necessity. The

Revolution had left France with an entanglement of random and contradictory laws: One

area might be guided by Church law, another by feudal law, and yet another by ancient

customs. Something that was legal in one town might be illegal a few miles away 39.

During the Revolution, a total of 14,400 laws had been passed, and not one of them useful

to Napoleon 40. Napoleon once again saw equality as a desire of the French people and

so he took action. Although Napoleon sat in on every meeting, he asked a group of

trusted men to create a new set of laws for the French in 1804; the product was called the

Civil Code 41. A large number of citizens benefited from the new code while some were

at a great disadvantage. First, the document reiterated the separation of church and state

and also freedom of religion which had already been established 42. Other benefits

included the abolition of serfdom and the protection of property rights that had been given

to the peasants during the Revolution 43. Laws against trade unions and strikes were a

way to reassure the owners of their position above the workers 44. At this point,

Napoleon had cleverly appealed to all levels of society in one form or another. Very

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similar to the means of government promotion, the Code disregarded a man’s background

to determine his profession: he was free to choose 45. While men benefited the most from

the Civil Code, women and children, in contrast, got the bad end of the deal. If children

were disobedient, they could be sent to prison 46. In Napoleon’s eyes, women had forever

been inferior to men in every way except for their God-given gift to bear children: ”

Women are our property, mere machines to make children ” 47. Napoleon had clearly

denied the equality between men and women unlike he had given to those of different

religions. Because the Civil Code yielded far more gains than losses, it served as a

foundation for many other countries worldwide such as Japan and the Dominican Republic


Becoming Consul and then Emperor did not deplete his ambitions as a military leader.

When it came to war, Napoleon was a man of tactic. He believed that through fear, he

could slowly but surely gain control of Europe. Napoleon had great respect for what his

soldiers did in order to pacify him, but he did not care at all for their individual being. He

was constantly giving awards and promotions, and never refused to hear a soldiers

complaints and requests although they probably meant nothing to him 49. It is recorded

that his soldiers were stunned when Napoleon offered his headquarters to them during a

storm 50. Like the strategy he used to assume the position of Emperor, Napoleon made

his soldiers think that he cared for them but deep inside he could care less: ” Like anyone

else in his empire soldiers were merely tools to be used-and used up-in achieving his aims

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” 51. Napoleon had his eye set on Italy. The purpose of this direct attack was to indirectly

attack Austria because it owned most of the Italian land 52. The Austrian Army was taken

from behind by Napoleon’s troops and ultimately defeated in 1801 53. This was a major

win for Napoleon but of course he was not satisfied. He defeated Austria again four

years later but this time he was up against the Third Coalition: Britain, Russia, Austria,

Sweden, and Naples 54. During this time, Napoleon was planning to take on Britain but

he had already gotten on the bad side of those countries that were loyal to the British

which would give him little foundation 55. When Napoleon gained yet another victory

against the Third Coalition, Russia remained at war with France 56. The Prussians were

concerned about the recent defeat of Austria and so they declared war on France, unlike

the other battles had been prompted 57. This was a major defeat for the Prussians, and

Napoleon had gained again in 1806 58. The Russian’s, realizing Napoleon’s strength,

decided to make peace 59. The plan that Napoleon had been drawing up against Britain

would now be taken into action. Napoleon’s plan failed. Britain refused to make peace

which infuriated Napoleon 60. He figured that because Britain’s power lay in their trade,

he would impose economic warfare 61. Napoleon literally blocked off their trade with

what was called the Continental System 62. Many other powers bought from and relied on

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Britain; Napoleon’s system not only imposed on Britain but also other countries. Next,

Napoleon collapsed the Spanish government and put his brother on the throne 63.

Napoleon had made it thus far, but his decision to invade Russia in 1812 turned the tide of

his power 64. The main reason for this defeat was the lack of food supplied to the

soldiers as well as the freezing weather conditions 65. Napoleon knew that his army had

lost many men as well as hope, but because of his ambition, he did not stop here. Around

1814, another coalition formed against Napoleon that included Britain, Russia, Austria,

and Prussia 66. They invaded Paris and immediately Louis XVIII took over as emperor

67. With him he brought back many emigres, supporters of the Revolution, whom the

French people mistrusted 68. Napoleon was forced to exile to Elba but only too soon did

he return to Paris by escape 69. He was determined not to give up all that he had worked

so viciously for. After he pushed Louis XVIII off of the throne, his people accepted him

back with open arms. He even promised to make more reform: freedom of press and

lowering the voting standards 70. Not only Napoleon’s supporters awaited his return but

also the allies prepared to take him on one last time. During what was called the Hundred

Days, at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, Napoleon came close but not clear of defeating

the Prussians 71. This would be the end result of Napoleon Bonaparte who was ironically

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known for his extraordinary army skill. This time, the British made sure that he would be

unable to return. He was taken to and remained for the rest of his life on an island in the

middle of the Atlantic 72. And so this was the end of Napoleon and his militaristic


After further research on Napoleon’s death, it was suspected that the Bourbons had

him slowly and unsuspectingly poisoned with arsenic out of their fear that he would rise

up again 73. Napoleon’s main tactic was fear and so he had ultimately won. Napoleon

wanted other powers to know his strength and superiority. Starting off in a small town as

a young man with willpower and manipulation, Napoleon climbed to the top and created

what he had lacked before: an enormous empire that he could truly call his own. He gave

hope to many who had lost it during the Revolution. Many of the ideas and reforms that

he proposed and created are still in use today. ” Some stress his magnetism, his charm, his

enormous energy and industry; others emphasize his arrogance, egotism, and contempt for

human life ” 74. Even so, the legend of Napoleon Bonaparte lives