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“I govern not as a general, but because the nation believes that I have the civilian qualities necessary to govern,”” to heal the wounds, to correct the extravagances, to secure the conquests, “Napoleon Bonaparte.
Was he really such a person – a man of strength, determination and complete domination of Europe, or was he an over rated character, over – exaggerated by the press and historians. Those are the questions, which I am going to answer in this composition.
I acknowledge this question as asking the actual proportion of Napoleon’s domination over Europe, during his reign of France’s Emperor. He was well-renowned for the major reforms he made to France.
During the revolution, Napoleon strongly supported the Jacobins, a debating society, which consisted of a committed group, dedicated to solving the Republican problems. They believed in establishing a strong centralised government and supported in maintaining peace in France while winning the war against his enemies.
Napoleon did not change his opinions even when he came to power. He still maintained the practical ideas and logic during and after his reign.
When Napoleon came to power, he changed the lives of many in France. He made many reforms, which before the revolution restricted civilians of doing such activities.
He first established a centralised government, and worked on the peace and consolidation of France as this was what the people of France were aiming for before the revolution. He wanted stability.
“We have finished the romance of the Revolution we must now begin its history, only seeking for what is real and practicable in the application of its principles, and not what is speculative and hypothetical.”
He also declared other philosophical quotes.
“The Revolution is made fast on the principles on which it began; the Revolution is finished.”
These statements support the argument that the new regime was a break and the continuality of the past. He decided in order to dominate Europe he would have to permit stability and order in his France itself. He did exactly that.
Once he came to power it was Napoleon’s leadership to combine the old France with the new. Religion was a huge factor in France’s daily troubles. Therefore Napoleon decided to reconcile the differences between the religions. The main reason for such a rivalry between the religions was that, during the revolution, France was “de-Christianised.” Millions of Catholic’s were outraged at such a move. In western France, where Catholics were strong in many, formed rebel groups and tried to overthrow the government at that time, and stop the revolution before any other outrageous reforms were made. On the 15 July 1801, Napoleon signed the Concordat, permitting Catholicism, as the main religion is France.
They did not hurry to make it an established religion, as Britain had done. In doing so, the Concordat also allowed protestants and Jews to practice their religion and retain their civil rights and freedoms. This settled the argument between the religions and once again, people of different backgrounds were allowed to walk out of their house without getting hard glares or insults flung onto them. Not only did this restore peace in France, but it also made Napoleon very popular among the priest. All were allowed to believe in what they wanted to believe in without the government or politics interfering in their way.
After promoted ‘Consul for life’ by the senates, with increased confidence, Napoleon started making reforms in the way France should be run. In secondary schools, he created the lycee. The environment of these schools would be run with strict military disciplined. The students in these schools learnt everything that was programmed by the government and took the Baccalaureate to enter university. Science and mathematics increased in importance in secondary schools. The school were extremely selective and it was difficult to get in.
Napoleon’s greatest achievement was probably the Napoleon’s code, which was a Civil law, produced in 1804. Throughout history, these laws have always been a spectacle to read, as it showed the equality Napoleon tried to share among his people. Those of the most complex codes, existing for centuries, had been simplified in this code. The main codes were that the suspected would be guaranteed a trial, there were no special rights among the people, privileges and feudal rights ended, and parents had control over their children. One could call Napoleon a bit sexist to woman. In this code he included that wives were not permitted to sell anything away, and wives could not own their own property without the consent of their husband.
This once again showed Napoleon, as not only just a military general, but also a strategist, improving France to its potential. This truly showed his leadership in his own country, but also a person to be feared of, throughout the leaders of Europe, striking fear into countries like Britain, Austria and Germany.
The other side of the argument is Napoleon’s soon domination when becoming king. He seems to be a bit similar to Macbeth, in the way that he is a bit paranoid in others competing for his place: “To be thus is nothing, But to be safely thus.”
Napoleon began to censor newspaper articles concerning the government’s actions. From 32 newspapers he reduced the number to 4 in five years. Ironically it seemed contrary to what his leadership was all about when he censored the newspapers. Napoleon having complete control over the publics’ opinion controlled the newspapers, which remained in France. It was sort of a restriction of liberty and free-say in the world, the individual’s opinion on an issue would not be published.
Certainly, Napoleon was highly distinguished as the best of the best war generals existed in this world. Was he really a brilliant war general or was he just general picking easy fights against weak opponents?
The Siege of Toulon was a battle against the British soldiers who had captured the town. Napoleon was not at his height yet and was only in command of the French army gunnders, bombarding the French. He was quickly promoted for his victory. This shows that Napoleon was not just a good strategist, but also a person ideal for weaponry combat.
After being victorious in Egypt, Napoleon got the agreement from the Directory to an expedition in Egypt. It was hoped to threaten the English power and trade in Egypt. It was going to be an easy victory against the weak Egyptians. It was therefore called the Battle of the Pyramids and, then there was a sudden craze for Egyptian fashions.
In fact in Egypt, their expedition was going down the other way. Due to the conditions and the inadequate supply of food and water, Napoleon’s army was getting into sickness and plague. In August 1789 Nelson, the British general defeated the French navy at the Battle of Aboukir Bay. His expedition was so close to failure. Napoleon left his soldiers, and went back to France, in defeat.
The most famous battle in history could be said of the Battle of Trafalgar. It all started when the French army refused to leave Holland. The British were afraid that Napoleon would conquer Holland and capture a great trading spot. Napoleon decided to start an invasion with Britain. Britain had the famous, large navy, whereas Napoleon had the large soldiers. Napoleon was the completely controller of this campaign. He built a new port, ordered the navigations for the ships and even wrote a song to go along with it! The Spanish joined in the alliance with France but both countries lost the battle at Trafalgar. In the end this was a failure since Napoleon realised that his navy will never be a strong as the British, so he rescinded the idea to the Directory of declaring war. A lot of money was wasted in the end since, the French civilians had to pay higher taxes, due to the fact that the war was extremely expensive.
The battle of Marengo was a victorious battle that Napoleon won against the Austrians. Napoleon withheld his “peace and honour. ” He beat the Austrians, all through strategy. He tricked the Austrians into chasing a small group of French soldiers. While the Austrians chased them, Napoleon’s army attacked from the rear, creating a huge surprise for the Austrians. During this surprise attack he spread his generals out, so the Austrians could not escape them. Desaix, the Austrian’s general came in to save the day. There was a certain amount of confusion that actually won the battle, but many historians says that Napoleon came out victorious. The French defeated the Austrians later that year and the Austrians made peace with France that year. During 1802, Napoleon made peace with Britain.
The peace made him even more popular when he came back to France, as it had been the first time in 10 years, Europe had been in peace.
The peace eventually did not last and practically the whole of Europe formed another Coalition in 1805. Through a series of battles, Napoleon beat the whole coalition – beating Britain, Russia, and Austria at the same time. A few battles against the Austrian armies were at Ulm and Austerlitz, which as I will not elaborate on these battles, proved to be a great victory. Soon Napoleon began controlling mostly of entire Europe. By ruling smaller villages, they provided him food, money and resources in return for protection under his reign. There was too much land that he spread it all among his brothers. This truly also depicts of his domination in Europe, to be able to share land among four brothers. The Bonaparte’s reformed Europe to a kind of France itself. They followed French ways to rule and organise a country.
Obviously there were some disadvantages with their rule. The conquered country had to supply troops to the French. The German states contributed 560 million francs.
People around Europe began hating the French. Their domination was proven to control Europe and, they were beginning to become too powerful. All of the powerful countries were beginning to fear the French so much since they were growing in such size. Many painters, especially Spanish, depicted the French soldiers as being cruel and ruthless.
This just displays how much Napoleon had dominated Europe that people were beginning to fear his mighty presence, and were jealous of his victories.
The continental system was a order forbidding states under his control to trade with Britain. He wanted to make Britain yield to his power since he quoted:
“Britain is a nation of shopkeepers”
Bonaparte though that Britain could not survive with trade. The continental system was simply a failure.
Bonaparte was greedy and wanted Spain under his liege. They were friends with the British and he really wanted to stop trading. Portugal turned against the invasion of the French and fought for several years using the Guerrilla tactic. “The Peninsular War” it was called where failure was inevitable. The Spanish people did not welcome the French’s intrusion and wanted them out. They ended up leaving Spain, damaged by the attacks. Russia left the system as it was loosing too much money.
Napoleon wanted to force Tsar, Russian Emporer to go along with this system, since Russia were big traders, so Bonaparte force a war upon the Russians.
The problem with Napoleon, which led him to failure was that he was overly ambitious and egotistical. As time went on, and he became victorious, he became too confident in himself as a leader. He did not know when to stop his domination spree and once he kept on winning, he wanted to achieve more, and if it weren’t for his failure in the Russian campaign, he would have been spurred onto greater heights, probably next going after Asia or so.
Right before the war had started Napoleon boasted that the war against Russia would not take until winter to complete. In fact he was wrong, very, very wrong.
He entered Russia presuming that Russia was like any other country he beat. He presumed that they will leave food, resources on the lands for them to use. He thought that the winter will come early and affects his armies’ progress. They were fighting two wars at that time. Four problems severely affected his army. Napoleon lost 400,000 men in two months.
In the end, as he was forced to leave France due to his failure of the Russian campaign, Napoleon fled to Elba. He came back to France for his combat. The British and Prussian forces were collaborating further to erase France’s domination in Europe and they needed his leadership to guide them through the war against Europe. Europe was coming in for the kill. In addition to this France’s economy was collapsing. They needed Napoleon back.
He was greeted with much respect when he re-entered France to regain his title as Emperor. He stood in a crowd of thousands, tens of thousands to proclaim to the: “If anyone wishes to kill me, they can do so now.” Instead, the confluence of people stood on their feet and chanted “Long live the Emperor, long live the Emperor,” several times.
He was back to work. Napoleon concluded the only way to stop the war against Europe, was to stop the troops from Britain and Prussia from coming into France. He decided that he needed to attack them before they entered France and it was too late.
The Duke of Wellington was his enemy. He was renowned for having the best defences in Europe alone. Describes as having “nerves of steel,” the Duke brought 68,000 men. Another 52.300 were expected to come from the Prussian’s army. The Prussian’s general was Blï¿½cher. Napoleon’s chances were slim. He only had 72,000 men. Before he entered the battle he quoted “I thought fortune was leaving me, already displaying his distrust of his luck and the outcome of this battle.
The night before the battle, it rained. The Duke of Wellington positioned his men on the bridge. It was Napoleon’s time to attack. Risking everything, he ordered all of his troops to attack through one frontal attack. The British formed squares and waited for the French army to come.
“Napoleon was living in a dream world.” He ordered his cavalry to attack from the British soldiers. It was a massacre. With 74 guns in the front line, the British just gave the French a barrage of fire, on and on and on. Napoleon did not stand a chance. His cavalry were destroyed. The English soldiers were fairly battered up, and the Prussian troops just came in to time to settle the score. Napoleon sent in the National Guard – the most feared of his troops. Again and again he soldiers were shot down with the arm’s of the alliance forces. In less than 12 hours Napoleon was defeated at the battle of Waterloo.
On June 22nd 1815, 4 days after the battle. Napoleon begged for mercy from the triumphant English, wishing to reside in a country house in Britain.” The British just answered “St Helena.” St Helena was an island situated in the middle of nowhere. It was an island 10 miles far, 6 miles wide. He was a prisoner in this island with 2 ships and 2000 soldiers guarding it.
He was assigned a wooden bungalow, with no communications outside this island. He got fairly depressed on this island without anyone to speak to. “To die is not a problem, but to be defeated, it is like to die everyday.” Bonaparte decided that his last campaign in life will be one devoted to the use of language. He wrote articles, read all the books he could find, and expressed his downfalls and his glistening heights. Napoleon decided to leave a legacy behind for the world in the future, present and past upon.
As you can see above, I conclude that after all Napoleon was a great leader, but with the egotistical and over-confidence, he never eventually was the Master of Europe for a long period of time. He won a lot and lost a lot in a few years, which in my consideration, he was the master of Europe throughout his lifespan of domination. Although one can see from what I have said and described above, Napoleon lived a life to be admired by, brought France together and increased France’s land and domination. Quoting “My business is to succeed, and I’m good at it. I create my Iliad by my actions, create it day by day,” Napoleon will always be considerate throughout future as a fierce master of Europe, even through a limited amount of time, he will be a person to be forever admired by historians and people alike.