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Autor: anton 06 December 2010
Words: 1741 | Pages: 7
Napoleon Bonaparte was born Napoleone di Buonaparte in Corsica, August 15, 1769. His family consisted of his father, a lawyer and member of the Nobility, his mother, his sister and his seven brothers. He was a small child, and often was teased by his classmates when he was enrolled in military college at a very early age in 1777, and it is believed that this influenced the determination he had to win later in life. Later, he went to Ecole Militaire from 1784 to 1785. Also in 1785, his father died. Even so, he graduated with the rank of second lieutenant. At this time, great things were expected of Napoleon. However, no one could have guessed that this 16-year-old would go on to make history.
Napoleon was a rising star in the French military. A general at the age of 27, he had won the admiration of France thanks to his leadership, military talents, and personal talents. While in the military, he won many battles over Austria. In 1795, the people of France, tired of the Reign of Terror, revolted, executing many leaders of the Terror. The Directory took power. Upon Napoleon's return to France, he found that many people were very dissatisfied with the Directory. With the support of his troops, he overthrew them and became France's new dictator at a mere thirty years old, naming himself First Consul for life. The votes of the public approved of this move.
Determined to succeed in life no matter what, he trudged on. His first real military action was a great success. He was captain of artillery during the siege of Toulon, where he captured several important strongholds, and forced the retreat of British naval fleets. He became Brigadier General while campaigning in Italy, but was arrested and jailed there for being an associate of the brother of the executed Maxamillion Robespierre. He managed to get out of this tight spot, and continued on to achieve even more military greatness.
As the dictator, Napoleon made many reforms to French life. He allowed emigrates to return (as long as they followed the new laws), required all citizens to pay taxes, which helped stabilize the economy, and created the Napoleonic Code. France uses the code to this day, and it encompasses equality of man and religious toleration. He also created the French National Bank, bringing inflation under control, as well as lycees, or government controlled schools, and abolished serfdom.
He had many battles with Austria, Prussia, and Britain, and ultimately created the French Empire. Between 1792 and 1815 France was constantly at war, almost always with other European powers. Between 1807 and 1812 he was working on building the Empire. At the height of his power, he had a large amount of the European Continent under his rule, either as satellites, allies, or directly under French control. He had appointed his brother as king of Spain, and had hoodwinked many other countries into following his rule.
One very successful battle of Napoleon's during his creation was the Battle of Austerlitz, in December of 1805. This was also called the battle of three emperors, because Napoleon, Francis I of Austria, and Tsar Alexander I of Russia were all involved. It has often been considered one of Napoleon's greatest, and also cruelest, battles. It pitted the French Empire against the Austrians and the Russians, with the French army 68,000 strong and that of the Austro-Russians having 80,000 men at their service. Even though they were outnumbered by over ten thousand, Napoleon lost less then half as many lives as the twenty thousand lost by Austria and Russia. This caused the third coalition against Napoleon was disbanded.
Another success in the eyes of many was the Battle of Jena, in October of 1806. It was the war to win the fourth association against Napoleon, between France and Prussia. While not as unbelievable as the Battle of Austerlitz, what with the French more than tripling the army of Fredrick William III, it still was a large success because it expanded the Empire that much more. Also, while the losses by Napoleon were doubled by those Austria and Russia in Austerlitz, in the Battle of Jena, Prussia lost five times as many men. This battle took place at the same time as the battle of Auerstadt, which was also counted as another French success.
At the beginning of Napoleon's rule, many people considered him a savior. He had improved their standard of living, and spread the ideas of the revolution and the Enlightenment. However, he was imposing high taxes to help finance his military's efforts, and this lost him much support. During his continuous war with Britain, he stopped trade with Britain, but in return Britain stopped imports from North America from reaching the French Empire, and Napoleon's kingdom ended up suffering far more. This increased opposition to Napoleon in both neutral European countries who were suffering because of it, and in the Empire. The conquered and allied countries were also beginning to feel restricted and over-controlled, and nationalism was starting to grow. They were sick of sending soldiers to Napoleon's army, and wanted to work on rebuilding their own governments and economies.
Rebellion against Napoleon began with Spain, who revolted against Napoleon's brother, as they were loyal to their original king. They began using Ð’â€˜guerrilla warfare' to oppose the French, and gained support from the British. Prussia also began to rebuild it's own army. The Empire was going down a slippery slope, and in 1812 it lost all footing and the fall accelerated when Napoleon made the mistake of invading Russia.
The Russian Invasion was supposed to be a single, quick battle, but the Russians retreated, making sure as they did so that Napoleon could not feed or house his army by burning their crops and homes. When they finally fought, Napoleon did win, but found the capital in flames. He ordered a retreat, and while they withdrew, he lost more than 400,000 soldiers to the Russian winter and starvation.
Then, when the army was sufficiently weak, an alliance of Russia, Britain, Austria, and Prussia ambushed them, easily seizing defeat.
Napoleon returned to France, but the Russian-British alliance soon took Paris, and after realizing that he could not recreate his army, he abdicated and went into exile. King Louis XVI's brother was allowed to rule again as King Louis XVIII.
However, once King Louis XVIII came to power, many emigrates returned and demanded revenge on revolutionaries. Napoleon took this chance to return to France as well, where discontented soldiers welcomed him with open arms. In March 1815, he began to rebuild his army. It took him one hundred days. However, the British allies acted quickly, and he was crushed in June at the Battle of Waterloo.
The Battle of Waterloo was the infamous conflict that marked the official end of Napoleon's reign. It pitted Napoleon's Armee du Nord against an army of British allies commanded by the Duke of Wellington, as well as a Prussian army under Gebhard von BlÐ“Ñ˜cher's command. The French army was easily outnumbered, with their 72,000 men pitted against Britains 68,000 and Prussia's 89,000. However, Wellington sid that "Napoleon was worth 40,000 men on the battlefield," and many believe that Napoleon could have won this battle in his younger years. But, in his age he had lost his unhesitating decisiveness, and it was this, more than anything, that lost him the Battle of Waterloo. After the battle, Napoleon fled to Paris and abdicated his throne a second time, before being exiled to the Atlantic Island of St. Helena.
Napoleon was not only a brilliant leader of the French military, he was a very influencial and successful ruler, winning the hearts of the French people countless times. He saved the people from the unsatisfactory Directory after finding the citizens were unhappy, and gained huge amounts of support. Making himself First Consul for life, he made many improvements and popular reforms to the way of life, economy, and military. Popular vote concurred with Napoleon's decision to rule, and it was clear the people loved and trusted this man. He made several economic policies, such as enforcing taxes and creating the National Bank of France, both of which helped stabilize the previously shabby economy and control inflation. He recognized the importance of education, and created several government sponsored schools known as lycees. While these improvements were good, the greatest achievement he made was the Napoleonic Code, which in turn brought many reforms into a single unified legal system. The Napoleonic code recognized all men as equal, allowed freedom of religion, and gave people the right to work in any occupation. Napoleon also wanted to please his people. To keep support of the Catholics, he ended the election of bishops that was made in the civil constitution of the clergy. But he made it so the Catholic Church could not take back the property they had lost because he also had to keep support of the people that now lived on old church property. All these changes were for the better and the French people knew this and loved him all the more. Even when he made countless errors like the Continental system, taxing French people too much to support his obsession with bringing down Britain, and failures in battles, he had much support. However, his losses, specifically his Russian invasion, created opposition against the Emperor and eventually lead to his downfall. On March 31, 1814, Paris fell, and days later Napoleon abdicated. He was imprisoned on the island of Elba, but the island could not keep him. He landed in France on March 1, 1815, but at the Congress of Vienna, the powers of Europe were dividing up the continent. The people still loved him and he was welcomed in Paris. He took control of the government and army and again went to war. The Quadruple Alliance of Austria, Russia, Prussia and Great Britain defeated Napoleon. But his One-Hundred Days had amazed the Great Powers, and before Paris fell they offered to Napoleon that if he should surrender he would be allowed to stay Emperor, to force France to submit to a stricter peace treaty, and to agree that no Bonaparte should ever again rule France. He would not surrender, and they exiled Napoleon to the island of St. Helena, where he died in 1821. His people, in both failure and flourish, always loved Napoleon, and that's what made him a hero.
"World History: Patterns of Civilization" by Burton F Beers
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