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Napoleon I Essay, Research Paper

Napoleon Bonaparte I was definitely one of the most influential people in the history of Europe and the rest of the world. He quickly rose through the ranks of being a Corsican National Guard soldier to being the one of the greatest military commanders of all time and the French emperor who would try to conquer the entire world.

On August 15, 1769, Napoleon was born into a family that would have a total of 8 children, him being the second. He was the son of Carlo Buonaparte, a lawyer who fought for Corsican independence and Letizia Ramolino Buonaparte (the name was changed from Buonaparte to Bonaparte when he went to France). His siblings included four brothers: Jerome, Louis, Lucien, and Joseph, and three sisters: Maria Anna Elisa, Pauline, and Maria Carolina. He was born in Ajaccio, on the island of Corsica, in the Mediterranean Sea. He was educated at the expense of King Louis XVI at the schools of Brienne, Champagne and the Royal Military Academy at Paris where he was an outsider.

At the age of sixteen he graduated from the academy and became the first Buonaparte to ever be a professional soldier when he became part of the National Guard in Corsica. Then he joined the artillery as a second lieutenant. Since he was a Frenchman, he fled to France with his family when Corsica declared its independence in 1793. There he was assigned, as a captain, to an army that was besieging the British aided city of Toulon. He replaced the wounded artillery general and seized a hill where he could drive away the English and the French captured the port city. After this he was promoted to brigadier general at the young age of twenty-four. Later he enhanced his reputation and saved the new government by dispersing a riotous mob.

In 1796 he married a widow of a nobleman who had been guillotined and had two children. Later in the year he was put in charge of the French army in Italy. There he defeated four Austrian generals, who had greater numbers, and forced them and their allies to make peace in the Treaty of Campo. In northern Italy he founded the Cisalpine Republic. He also sent an army to Egypt, and defeated the Turks there. The British, under the leadership of Admiral Horatio Nelson crushed his fleet and left him stranded. Napoleon later crossed the Alps and defeated the Austrians to mark the Rhine River as the eastern border of France.

Upon returning from Egypt, Bonaparte joined the Coup d’etat, which overthrew the government and established a new political system. Napoleon was consul and had almost dictatorial powers. Later the constitution was revised to make him consul for life and then the emperor. As leader he reorganized the court system to make it simplified and he put the schools under centralized control. The French law was standardized with the Code Napoleon and 6other codes, which guaranteed the right of equality before the law and other laws for the working class.

In 1805 Napoleon beat the Austro-Russian armies at Austerlitz. He conquered the Kingdom of Naples and his brother Joseph on the throne there. He also captured the Kingdom of Holland for his brother Louis and formed the Confederation of the Rhine for himself. Russia and Prussia chose to attack the Confederation and he destroyed them at the battles of Jena, Auerstadt and Friedland. The Russians under Czar Alexander I allied with the French and greatly reduced the size of the Prussian army. After this he added some new states to his vast empire: the Kingdom of Westphalia, with Jerome as king, the Duchy of Warsaw and others.

In 1807 Napoleon seized Portugal and made his brother Joseph king of Spain. This started rebellions there and the British backed Spanish guerillas cost France about 300,000 casualties and unknown amounts of money.

In 1810 he divorced Josephine and married the Austrian emperor’s daughter, Mary Louise. By doing this he hoped his son (who he had a year later and named King of Rome) would be more accepted by the European monarchs. In the same year his empire reached its greatest extension.

Two years after that Napoleon’s truce with the Czar dissipated and he launched an attack on Russia. This ended in a terrible retreat from Moscow in which he lost almost all of his 500,000 troops that he had invaded with and ending with only 20,000 survivors. All of Europe then united against him in the Grand Coalition. After the allies rejected his plan to step down in favor of his son, he was forced to abdicate and be exiled to Elba.

Napoleon escaped from the island and asked for peace from the allies, but they declared him an outlaw. He attacked Belgium and was defeated at Waterloo on June 18, 1815 by the Duke of Wellington. Although crowds in Paris begged him to fight on, he surrendered to the British and was exiled to the island of Saint Helena, where he remained until he died from stomach cancer on May 5, 1821.

Napoleon’s impact on Europe is unparalleled by any single man with the exception of Hitler. He threw the entire continent of Europe and more into war and chaos. He rearranged the map of the continent and claimed most of it for his family or himself. His impact was felt beyond the continent though. In Egypt he reformed the law and guaranteed basic rights. In the U.S. he doubled the size of the country by selling the Louisiana territory to them when he needed money. He reformed the law in his empire so that each state was guaranteed a constitution and feudalism and serfdom were abolished. His impression on the arts was great too; as he made it so all qualified people could go schools of higher education. Each state had an academy to promote the arts and scholars were paid for their work, especially scientists. Public schools were also thought of, but not introduced. Still today the Arc de Triomphe, which was built to commemorate his many victories, stands in Paris. When he went to Egypt his troops found the Rosetta stone, and the scholars he brought began the scientific study of the Rosetta stone, which deciphered ancient Egyptian writing. He also ended a quarrel from the revolution with the pope and guaranteed the freedom of religion in all of his states except Spain.

Napoleon was also associated with many famous people. Czar Alexander I was his ally for a short period and his enemy for the majority of his life. The invasion of Russia was also the major downfall of Napoleon’s empire. Thomas Jefferson helped Napoleon by buying the territory when he needed money badly. Napoleon’s education was paid at the expense of King Louis XVI. Without the education at the academy he never would have been the military genius he was. The Duke of Wellington defeated him at his final battle and put him away for the rest of his life. Horatio Nelson stranded his fleet at Abukir and left him to fight the Syrians. Napoleon II was the son of Napoleon and Mary Louise. King Louis-Philippe had his remains returned to Paris and held a National burial and a great ceremony for Napoleon in 1840 at the Invalides.

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