Napoleon

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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.

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