NAPOLEON BONAPARTE

 

Napoleon Bonaparte was considered by most the be the savior of the French Revolution by ending it and putting in place a government that brought equality and stability to a torn country.  The French Revolution was actually a series of wars that would fail because the governments put in place after the fighting would fail.  The most notorious was the Jacobins whose Reign of Terror created great upheaval in France. The Bourbons were the rulers before the revolution and were the cause of everything that had transpired.  Napoleons seizure of power made sure that neither of these parties would control France.  Napoleon instead united France, no longer would jobs be given to those merely because of social status.  The French under Napoleon would become united, strong, and most important equal.  Napoleon brought stability and direction to a country without a course.  His unification of France would have a profound impact on not only Europe, but the entire world.


 

Napoleon was born August 15, 1769 in Ajaccio Corsica.  His father, a lawyer, and his mother were Carlo and Marie-Letizia Bounaparte.  They were a well of family of Corsican nobility but this was nothing compared to that of the French Aristocracy which made them seem poor.  Because of this, it seemed that Napoleon would never have the chance to rise to distinction let alone become the ruler of France.  However, because of his mothers affairs and his own natural ability and intelligence, Napoleon was enrolled in the Military Academy of Brienne at age ten.  Napoleon excelled there and transferred to the Royal Military Academy in Paris.  At age fifteen Napoleon completed his course and graduated from the academy.  In one year he had finished what normally took three and graduated as a second Lieutenant in the Artillery Corps.  Napoleon then went back to Corsica, but because of a fallout with rebel leader Pasquela Paoli he was forced to move back to France and adopted he French version of his name, Bonaparte.  The revolution was taking its toll on the militarys officer corps and this created a chance for quick promotion.  Napoleon rose quickly in the ranks and after his victory at Toulon over the British he was promoted to the rank of General at age twenty four.  France was in social turmoil however and soon after Napoleon was charged with treason.  Thanks to the fact he stood in good favor with some in very high positions Napoleon narrowly escaped the charges and continued his rise to power.  On March 3rd, 1796 Napoleon married his first wife, Josephine de Beauharnais and was well on his way to greatness.  He secured several more key military victories for France and by the time he returned home was a hero to most of the country.  He maintained political neutrality and being the great self promoter that he was, built up massive support.  In 1799 he played a crucial role in the Broumaire Coup and was named Frances first Consul (although he was basically a dictator)  by 1800.  France had been united but it still was at war with several other European states.  Within a year Napoleon ended these wars and brought about treaties that would give Europe peace.  It was now that he would set France on its course to a new identity and a new society.                      

  

                                       The Napoleonic Code            

Of Napoleons many great accomplishments his Code Napoleon is the longest lasting legacy that he has left on the Atlantic World.  Since the end of Feudalism France had been without one single body of laws that were standard around the country.  This caused many problems in different parts of the country and created some very unfair legal situations especially for the poor.  The Napoleonic Code was mostly based off of Justinians Code which was Roman Law.  The code divided Civil Law into three categories; Personal Status, Property, and Acquisition of Property.  These were the main ideals of the French Revolution.  They wanted the entire country to be on equal footing despite whether one was rich or poor.  The Napoleonic Code ensured that one would have a chance to gain wealth and status.  Other than Great Britain, Russia, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, every country in Europe has based some aspect of their body of laws on the Napoleonic Code.  The Code itself is still in use today in former French colonies such as Quebec and Louisiana.  The Napoleonic Code was Napoleons greatest civil achievement.  Its basic principles represented that of the entire revolution.  Napoleons institution of the code secured Frances many accomplishments through the revolution and influenced many countries around the Atlantic World to add the same fair body of laws.

 

                                          
 

Napoleon was not well liked by other European leaders because many of the changes he made threatened their countries stability.  His reforms made even the poor feel equal.  The mainstays of the French Revolution that carried over into Napoleons changes in government were Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.  This worried other leaders because it put the idea of equality in the minds of the poor in other countries.  Napoleon was responsible for many new programs in France that made what he did possible.  He created the Bank of France which he backed with a great quantity of silver and gold.  This ensured a strong economy for France and helped finance many of Napoleons conquests.  Napoleon also realized that sometimes he had to do things to appease the people to make sure that he could maintain favor in the public eye.  In 1801 Napoleon signed the Concordat with the Pope.  The Concordat officially recognized Catholicism as the main religion of France but at the same time gave religious freedom to those who were not Catholic.  The genius behind this was that Napoleon still had control over the Catholic Church and it would not have the power it once yielded in Europe.   Napoleon also put maximum prices on basic foods like bread and flour.  This made sure that no one would go hungry, if people are well fed they are much less likely to revolt.  Napoleon also instituted educational reforms which were based on the ideals of the enlightenment and greatly benefited France.  Napoleon understood that in order to keep peace he had to keep the entire country content in their situations.  By giving religious freedom to all, keeping food prices within the reach of the poor, and solidifying the economy Napoleon ensured that France would maintain stability for many years. 

 

       

 

        Napoleon is still considered to be one of the greatest Generals to ever live. He conquered much of Europe in a relatively short time.  He did this because he wanted to see a unified Europe that held the principles of freedom and equality.  Although Napoleon went about this unification through violence, the countries he conquered would be treated fair.  He instituted the same programs in these countries that he did in France.  Feudalism was abolished and replaced with new governments.  They received constitutions, educational reforms, and mot importantly basic freedom.  Napoleons desire to unite Europe however would be his downfall.  It started with his blackade on Great Britain. Napoleon instituted a blockade of Great Britain in an attempt to destroy its economy by ruining trade.  However this backfired because Great Britain was producing materials much cheaper than the rest of Europe.  This severely hurt the continental European economy and created more capitol for Great Britain rather than destroying it. Napoleon blamed Great Britains economic stability despite the blockade on Russia and decided to invade.  Napoleon raised an army of 600,000 troops and set out for Russia.  The Russians seemed to be in retreat until September when Napoleon attacked a Russian stronghold at Borodino.  Napoleons force was unable to breakthrough the Russian lines and suffered immense numbers of casualties.  They were forced to retreat and the once seemingly unstoppable Napoleon now looked capable of defeat.  Napoleons pride however was unable to see this and he decided to continue through Russia despite the onset of winter.  His forces were unable to take Moscow and because of great quantities of casualties, and little supplies due to the harsh Russian winter, Napoleon was forced to retreat with a devastated army.  The rest of Europe, seeing Napoleon in this weakened state saw their chance to defeat him and , did not hesitate to attack.  Napoleon suffered several more defeats at the hands of the Russians, Austrians, and Prussians, Napoleon looked like he was close to defeat.  On June 18, 1815 Napoleon attacked the Prussians and British at Waterloo.  Because of poor decisions by his commanders and himself Napoleons forces were completely defeated.  Napoleon himself was able to escape but was soon captured and his reign ended.  The Bourbons were placed back in power in France and Napoleon lived the rest of his life in exile on the island of St. Helena.

 

Despite his defeat and the end of his empire one cannot discount the many great affects Napoleon had on the Atlantic World.  His institution of Laws that ensured freedom and equality would set a trend throughout the world.  Many revolutions that occurred after the French would model their constitutions and beliefs on those first set by Napoleon.  Freedom of religion, equality, centralized government, and strong economies were the new goals for those who wanted new regimes.  Napoleon gave not only the French, but all who fought for revolution a direction to follow.  The systems he put in place ended the tumultuous years of the reign of terror and solidified equality for the poor in France.  His military conquests are still studied today at the best military academies in the world.  His contributions the Atlantic World are just as numerous as they are important.  Despite his fall at Waterloo, Napoleons legacy moved on and still impacts our world today.   

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