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Napoleon Bonaparte 2 Essay, Research Paper
Napoleon I was born in 1769 and lived until 1821. He was a French emperor, and, being one of the greatest military leaders of all time, subjugated a very large part of Europe and modernized the nations he ruled.
Napoleon was born on August 15, 1769, in Ajaccio, Corsica, and was originally named Napoleone (in French his name became Napoleon Bonaparte). He was the second of eight children of Carlo Buonaparte and Letizia Ramolino Buonaparte. No Buonaparte had ever been a professional soldier. Carlo was a lawyer, and had entered the French aristocracy as a count while serving as a prosecutor and judge following the French occupation of the island in 1768. Through his father s influence, Napoleon was educated at the expenditure of King Louis XVI, at Brienne and the +cole Militaire, in Paris. Napoleon graduated in 1785, when he was 16, and joined the artillery as a second lieutenant.
In 1791 after the Revolution began, he became a lieutenant colonel in the Corsican National Guard. However, in 1793, Corsica declared independence and the French patriot and Republican Napoleon fled to France with his family. There he was assigned as a captain to a naval base that was in revolt against the republic. Bonaparte was promoted to brigadier general at the age of 24 when he replaced a wounded artillery general and seized ground where his guns could drive the British fleet from the harbor. Two years later he saved the revolutionary government by disposing of an rebel mob in Paris. The next year he married Jos phine de Beauharnais, the widow of an aristocrat guillotined in the Revolution and the mother of two children.
Also in 1796, Napoleon Bonaparte was given the rank of the commander of the French army in Italy. He defeated four Austrian generals consecutively, each with superior numbers, and forced Austria and its allies to make peace. In northern Italy he founded the Cisalpine (Italian) Republic, later known as the kingdom of Italy, and intensified his position in France by sending millions of francs worth of treasure to the government. In 1798 he led an expedition to Turkish-ruled Egypt, which he conquered. However, his fleet was destroyed by a British admiral, leaving him stranded. Still fearless, he reformed the Egyptian government and law, ceasing serfdom and feudalism and promising basic rights. In 1799 he was unsuccessful in capturing Syria, but won a glorious victory over the Turks at Abukir. Meanwhile, France faced a new alliance; Austria, Russia, and lesser powers had allied with Britain.
Bonaparte, no humble person, decided to leave his army and return to save France. In Paris, he joined a conspiracy against the government. In the plot of etat of November 9-10, 1799, he and his associates seized power and established a new government the Consulate. Under its constitution, Bonaparte, as first consul, had almost dictatorial powers. The constitution was revised in 1802 to make Bonaparte consul for life and again in 1804 to make him emperor. Each change received enormous agreement from the voters.
In 1800, he assured his power by crossing the Alps and defeating the Austrians at Marengo. He then negotiated a general European peace that established the Rhine River as the eastern border of France. In France the administration was reorganized, the court system was simplified, and all schools were put under centralized control. French law was standardized in the Code Napol on or civil code, and six other codes. They guaranteed the rights and liberties won in the Revolution, including equality before the law and freedom of religion.
In April 1803 Britain, annoyed by Napoleon s aggressive behavior, resumed war with France on the seas; two years later Russia and Austria joined the British in a new alliance. Napoleon then rejected plans to invade England and turned his armies against the Austro-Russian forces, defeating them at the Battle of Austerlitz on December 2, 1805. In 1806 he seized Naples and made his older brother Joseph king, converted the Dutch Republic into the kingdom of Holland for his brother Louis, and created the Confederation of the Rhine of which he was protector. Prussia then allied itself with Russia and attacked the confederation. Napoleon destroyed the Prussian army at Jena and Auerst dt in 1806 and the Russian army at Friedland. At Tilsit in 1807, Napoleon made an ally of Czar Alexander I and greatly reduced the size of Prussia.
Napoleon had meanwhile instituted the Continental System, a French-imposed boycott of Europe against British goods, designed to bankrupt what he called the “nation of shopkeepers.” Britain retaliated with the Order in Council, which prevented all neutral nations from carrying on commerce with any and all French nations. In 1807 Napoleon seized Portugal. In 1808, he made his brother Joseph king of Spain, giving Naples to his brother-in-law, Joachim Murat. Joseph s arrival in Spain touched off a rebellion there, which became known as the Peninsular War. Napoleon appeared briefly and scored victories, but after his departure the fighting continued for five years, with the British backing Spanish armies and guerrillas. The Peninsular War cost France 300,000 casualties and untold sums of money and contributed to the eventual weakening of the Napoleonic empire.
In 1809 Napoleon divorced Jos phine, and in 1810 he married the Habsburg archduchess Marie Louise, daughter of the Austrian emperor. By thus linking his dynasty with the oldest ruling house in Europe, he hoped that his son, who was born in 1811, would be more readily accepted by established monarchs. In 1810 also, the empire reached its widest extension with the annexation of Bremen, L beck, and other parts of north Germany, together with the entire kingdom of Holland, following the forced surrender of Louis Bonaparte.
In all the new kingdoms created by the emperor, the Code Napol on was established as law. Feudalism and serfdom were abolished, and everywhere except Spain freedom of religion was established. Each state was granted a constitution, providing for universal male suffrage and a parliament and containing a bill of rights. French-style administrative and judicial systems were required. Schools were put under centralized administration, and free public schools were anticipated. Higher education was opened to all who qualified, regardless of class or religion. Every state had an academy or institute for the promotion of the arts and sciences. Incomes were provided for distinguished scholars, especially scientists. Constitutional government remained only a promise, but progress and increased efficiency were widely realized. Not until after Napoleon s fall did the common people of Europe, alienated from his governments by war taxes and military drafts, fully appreciate the benefits he had given them.
In 1812 Napoleon, whose alliance with Alexander I had dissipated, launched an invasion of Russia that ended in a disastrous retreat from Moscow. Thereafter all Europe united against him, and although he fought on, and brilliantly, the odds were impossible. In April 1814, his marshals refused to continue the struggle. After the allies had rejected his stepping down in favor of his son, Napoleon quit unconditionally and was exiled to the Mediterranean island of Elba. Marie Louise and his son were put in the custody of her father, the emperor of Austria. Napoleon never saw either of them again. Napoleon himself, however, soon made a dramatic comeback. In March 1815, he escaped from Elba, reached France, and marched on Paris, winning over the troops sent to capture him. In Paris, he declared a new and more democratic constitution, and veterans of his old campaigns flocked to his support. Napoleon asked peace of the allies, but they outlawed him, and he decided to strike first. The result was a campaign into Belgium, which ended in defeat at the Battle of Waterloo on June 18, 1815. In Paris, crowds begged him to fight on, but the politicians withdrew their support. Napoleon fled to Rochefort, where he surrendered to the captain of the British battleship Bellerophon. He was then exiled to Saint Helena, a remote island in the south Atlantic Ocean, where he remained until his death from stomach cancer on May 5, 1821.
The cult of Napoleon as the “man of destiny” began during his lifetime. In fact, he had begun to cultivate it during his first Italian campaign by systematically publicizing his victories. As first consul and emperor, he had engaged the best writers and artists of France and Europe to glorify his deeds and had contributed to the cult himself by the elaborate ceremonies with which he celebrated his rule, picturing himself as the architect of France s greatest glory. He maintained that he had preserved the achievements of the Revolution in France and offered their benefits to Europe. His goal, he said, was to found a European state a “federation of free peoples.” Whatever the truth of this, he became the arch-hero of the French and a martyr to the world. In 1840 his remains were returned to Paris at the request of King Louis-Philippe and locked in with great splendor and ceremony in the Invalides, where they still lie.
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