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Napoleon Bonaparte: Conqueror and Liberator Essay

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Updated: Jun 10th, 2020

There is no use denying the fact that history of any country and the world is comprised of a great number of various events, triggered by the activity of leaders, who are able to inspire people, make them believe in a certain idea and follow them. These personalities change the image of the world forever and lead to the appearance of some unique phenomena which predetermine the further development of society and the whole world. These personalities contribute to the development of social thought and mentality. They are also known by people all over the world due to their unique achievements or ambivalent character. Julius Caesar is known as the founder of the Roman Empire.

Charles the Great are the great Emperor of the Middle Ages and there are a great number of other famous names that changed our world. Napoleon Bonaparte is among them. He became the hero of the French Revolution, a person who was excepted to change the image of France providing liberation and equality for its citizens. Thus, having plunged France into the chain of wars, Napoleon turned into the tyrant, which contradicted to the ideas of revolution. However, he still dreamed of equality and prosperity of France, trying to protect it and guarantee its leading role in the world policy in order to use its influence and spread the ideas of revolution.

Trying to support this statement with the clear evidence, it is necessary to analyze the background of the rise of Napoleon and conditions under which he obtained power. The thing is that before the events of the French Revolution Napoleon was an unimportant and even forgotten military who, though, had some blistering victories and great ambitions. However, the mood of the end of XVIII and beginning of XIX centuries influenced him greatly and he became the great admirer of the French Revolution. Very soon he became one of the most genuine French generals who brought a great number of victories. However, ideas of revolution and processes that took place in France were taken as dangerous by other monarchies and they tried to revive the monarchy. That is why, Napoleon had to protect the new republic. This period of his life can be taken as the time when his vision of the future of France was formed. France was a colonial empire and Napoleon fought in Egypt, surrounded by sick with plague soldiers, having no fear to become ill. Since that time, he was beloved by all people who surrounded him. This fact became very important for his further career.

Having a great power concentrated in his arms, Napoleon, though, did not use it to become the only governor of France until the Coup of 18 Brumaire. There are various points of view on this event and the role that Napoleon played in it. The fact is that he returned to France and, using his power, managed to put to the end this rebellion, promoting creation of the constitution. Under the Napoleons pressure, it was accepted in 10 days. This document could be taken as the very important evidence of Napoleon’s intentions and his vision of the development of situation. The thing is that according to this constitution the legislative branch of power became weak and inefficient, while executive one obtained all the needed levers of influence and remedies to provide various innovations1. Needless to say that the executive power belonged to three councils and two of them had only formal duties, while the third one, Napoleon, obtained almost absolute power which were not limited by any other institution. It should be said that this fact can be taken as the evidence of absolutist Napoleon’s inclinations as de facto, this constitution could be taken as the first step made by Napoleon towards the absolute power. However, while analyzing the rule of Napoleon in general, it should be said that the way he managed his power differed from the reign of monarchs who fought against him greatly.

Nevertheless, to the majority of population Napoleon is known as one of the greatest commanders the history has ever known. However, the wars in which he participated, could hardly be taken as expansionist. The thing is that having become the council with the unlimited power, Napoleon had to respond to the aggression of Britain and Austria, who were not able to accept the results of the French revolution. That is why, he had to fight in order to protect the newborn republic. As the result of the campaign of 1800 – 1802 the France spread its influence over the Italy and Germany2. Thus, it could hardly be taken as occupation. The thing is that at that period of time Germany and Italy were not united states, they were comprised of a great number of small principalities that were weak and not able to resist the influence of other countries and protect their people and mentality. However, being conquered by Napoleon, these lands obtained their own ruler and were united in a state. However, it is a mistake to say that Napoleon wanted to restore these countries. Yet, he needed buffer states that could be loyal to him and which could support his army in a great number of various military campaigns3.

Due to this fact, Italy and Germany obtained at least some vision of freedom and people, who lived there felt, some relief. Moreover, the main pattern of governance was similar to the French one. Napoleon tried to implement all steps and practices which he introduced to the political machinery of his own state. With this in mind, it is possible to say that the lands, that were conquered by Napoleon during his blistering campaigns, did not suffer from the manifestations of totalitarianism or extreme pressure of the conquerors. On the contrary, Napoleon was interested in creation of the positive image of his figure and France, in order to continue his struggle and guarantee his victories. That is why, the idea that he brings freedom and liberty to people was cultivated.

The same pattern was used when Napoleon started the fatal campaign against Russian Empire. It is obvious, that powerful Russian state was a threat to the world dominance of France and the alliance between British and Russian Empires could destroy it. Due to these reasons the war started. However, according to the official statements, the French army were going to bring liberty to millions of Russian serfs4. The idea was quite clear as Napoleon wanted to obtain support of the masses. However, he failed. Overcame by patriotic feelings, Russian people stood against Napoleon and he suffered his most disastrous repulse which resulted in the collapse of his Empire. However, even under these conditions, it is possible to say that his actions influenced the state of Russian serfs greatly. The Patriotic War against invaders fastened this class of people and Russian Emperors understood that they became a great force which interests should be taken into account. Napoleons invasion served as the stimuli for the process of emancipation of serfs and in 1861 Emancipation reform, that gave them freedom, was adopted5. Unknowingly, Napoleon had started the process which liberated millions of people.

It should also be said that having spent the greater part of his life in constant wars and campaigns, Napoleon, though, did not forget about his motherland, trying to promote its development and guaranty its prosperity. Being proclaimed an Emperor, Napoleon obtained the absolute power and strong remedies that helped him to embody his ideas. However, it should be said that the most important amendments to the traditional political system was made by Napoleon in the years of his consulship6 and changed the image of the whole world. Even nowadays his decisions are still topical and very often Napoleons name is associated with them. There is no use denying the fact that Napoleonic code is one of his greatest achievements. This document established the dominance of law and introduced some new rules to civil law. It forbade all privileges based on birth and declared that these laws apply to everyone without discrimination7.

In other words, Napoleon created the basis of meritocracy, when only the most talented people, no matter what social status they belonged to, should rule a state. Due to this policy, Napoleon managed to change the image of France in a very short period of time. The state of millions of people, who suffered from the manifestations of discrimination, improved. They obtained the chance to become really important for their state, no matter what their state was. Moreover, the Napoleon’s banking reform and foundation of the Banque de France promoted the financial stability of France. The fact that this bank still functions and serves as the basis of the whole financial system of France could be taken as the best evidence of the great significance of this step.

With this in mind, having analyzed the main events of the life and activity of Napoleon Bonaparte, it is possible to make a certain conclusion. He came into power in the difficult period of time, when France suffered from a great number of various problems that torn it apart. However, being the brood of revolution, Napoleon managed to found the only possible way to save the state and promote its blistering development. It is obvious, that his main desires were to save his power and guaranty further existence of his dynasty, which is evidenced by the establishment of Empire and a great number of wars that he initiated. However, at the same time. trying to conquer the whole world, he unwillingly liberated millions of people in various states, triggering the processes which changed the whole world. Napoleons influence on the estates system of France and the state of society of countries, conquered by him, could hardly be overestimated. With this in mind, being a great commander, he also could be called a liberator who helped peoples to recognize their authenticity.

Bibliography

Canfora, Luciano. .” Estudos Avançados 22, no. 62. (2008): 119 – 127. Web.

Geyl, Pieter. Napoleon: For and Against. New York: Penguin Books, 1965.

Markham, Felix and Steve Englund. Napoleon. New York: Signet Classics, 2010.

Brown University Library for Digital Scholarship. Web.

Tulard, Jean. Napoleon: The Myth of the Saviour. Faraday Cl: Littlehampton Book Services Ltd, 1984.

Footnotes

  1. “Timeline: Napoleon as First Consul,” Brown University Library for Digital Scholarship. Web.
  2. “Timeline: Napoleon as First Consul,” Brown University Library for Digital Scholarship. Web.
  3. Jean Tulard, Napoleon: The Myth of the Saviour (Faraday Cl: Littlehampton Book Services Ltd, 1984), 134.
  4. Felix Markham and Steve Englund, Napoleon (New York: Signet Classics, 2010), 180.
  5. Luciano Canfora, “Bonaparte, the liberator,” Estudos Avançados 22, no. 62. (2008): 125. Web.
  6. “Timeline: Napoleon as First Consul,” Brown University Library for Digital Scholarship. Web.
  7. Pieter Geyl, Napoleon: For and Against (New York: Penguin Books, 1965), 112.
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