Napoleon Bonaparte Essay

2459 words - 10 pages

Ch apter 13

Napoleon Bonaparte
French Military and Political Leader

Napoleon Bonaparte was a military leader and eventually emperor of France whose
conquests determined much of the European geopolitical landscape during the late
18th and early 19th centuries. He may be the best example to demonstrate that major
events are determined by the personal drive and leadership of men and women rather
than by environmental forces such as economics and geography. Napoleon was a
highly talented opportunist who took advantage of the French Revolution to propel
himself into a position of great power. He used force and political maneuvering to

expand his power throughout Europe. He also ...view middle of the document...

The next few years he returned to Corsica several times, occasionally engaging in
political wrangling, until his family was forced to flee by the insurgent leader,
Pasquali Paoli, who obtained dictatorial power in Corsica. But Napoleon observed
that Paoli imposed order and passed legislation that benefitted Corsicans—thus giving

a reason for his revolutionary success. Napoleon kept this model in mind during his
career, though his penchant for military campaigns and conquest overshadowed his
role in governance.
In the 1780s, change was thriving in Europe. Legal reforms were instituted,
outdated tariffs eliminated, feudal labor and slave trade was abolished, and commerce
was promoted peaceably in Denmark, the Netherlands, and Germany. But France's
King Louis XVI was slow to respond and was dedicated to its image as "the Great
Nation." The King provided financial support for the Americans in their revolution
and prepared for a war with Britain while severely taxing his own people. Food prices
increased steadily causing major financial hardships and in 1789 an assembly of
representatives from the three classes in French society (commoners, clergy, and
noblemen) was called by the Minister of Finance. From this point, the revolution
gained momentum. The assembly of representatives became the National Assembly to
form a French constitution, the nobility refused to pay more taxes, and the Bastille
(the royal prison in Paris that symbolized the King's tyranny) was attacked by a mob
and its seven prisoners freed. Larger mobs formed, other prisons were stormed to
obtain guns, and Paris became the scene of general insurrection with many French
soldiers joining the revolutionaries. Eventually, King Louis XVI was stripped of his
powers and the National Assembly declared France to be a republic and the end of the

Napoleon watched these developments until it was clear the monarchy was
doomed and then he took the side of those supporting the Republic. France declared
war on Austria and Sardinia in 1792, which delighted Napoleon since war meant
promotion and a larger command. He was promoted to captain and sent to Toulon
where royalists, who supported the King and were joined by British troops, had taken
possession of that important French port. His ingenuity and aggressive nature gave
him control of the assault, which he directed to retake the port. This action propelled
Napoleon to brigadier general, skipping the ranks of major and colonel, and started
his rise to power.
Napoleon's desire for power is reflected throughout his life. He saw his cannons as
a source of power that inspired fear in opponents. He was not patriotic, in fact he
considered himself Corsican. He viewed the French as frivolous and volatile, with
short attention spans, and believed they were easily diverted from major issues by
temporary excitement. He exploited these traits later in his career when he gained
control of the media and...

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