High School History: Napoleon
- born in 1768 in Corsica, an island off the coast of Italy
(a French possession when he was born)
-strong-willed, stubborn, and often disagreeable child
-sent to a Jesuit school, which he seemed to enjoy
-read all kinds of books
-received scholarship to a French military academy
-later attended the Military College of France
-his love of reading allowed him to stay near the top of his class
-short (slightly below average height) but stocky and hearty
-had unfailing energy and set a pace which was often exhausting to others
-his intense eyes were said to command respect
-supported the French Revolution (as a young man)
-fought against the foreign enemies of France as an officer in the army
-gained attention when he held back a Parisian mob from attacking the National Convention
-as a reward for his bravery and loyalty, he was made a general and given command of the French armies in northern Italy, where he defeated the Austrians who controlled the region
-later sent to Egypt, where he unsuccessfully attempted to destroy the British trade route to the Middle East and India
-returned to France and eventually gained control of the country
-forced the Directory from power (with the help of his brother and two Directory members)
* Coup d'etat - a revolution in which the government is suddenly changed or overthrown by a small group of people.
-issued a new constitution in which power was given to the first consul of a three-person consulate
-due to Napoleon's popularity, the people accepted the new constitution
-Napoleon became first consul and ruler of France
By 1802, Napoleon had brought victory to France and peace to Europe. During this interval of peace, he made a number of lasting reforms in France.
1. He established a strong central government, centred mainly in Paris.
2. He established the Napoleonic code of law to help centralize power and establish a uniform legal code. The Civil Code, which included many democratic principles, such as religious tolerance, trial by jury, the abolition of serfdom and fair legal methods; is generally recognized as Napoleon's most solid and lasting accomplishment.
3. He established the University of France to further strengthen the government. This was an office responsible for overseeing the schools in France, so that Napoleon could make sure that the schools taught what he wanted.
4. He organized the Bank of France, which provided a basis for an economic system that could help France to prosper.
5. He collected taxes efficiently and controlled government spending. Business and trade were encouraged.
6. He made an agreement with the Pope which made Catholicism the official religion of France again in order to regain the confidence and support of church leaders. In exchange, the Pope gave up all claims to the lands taken from the Catholic Church by the National Assembly.
7. He undertook many public works to make France more beautiful. He improved the roads, dug canals, and deepened harbours. He tried to get the support of prominent people for these jobs.
8. He established the Legion of Honour, which, to this day, honours people who have made outstanding contributions to France.
* Dictator - ruler who reigns with absolute power and authority, especially one whose rule is harsh and cruel.
* Plebiscite - vote of the people by direct ballot on a political issue.
* Dictatorship - government ruled by a dictator.
Because of his successes at home and abroad, the people were ready to give Napoleon whatever he wanted. He wanted to be the first consul for life, and the French agreed by plebiscite. When he later wanted to name himself emperor, the people again agreed. In a magnificent ceremony at Notre Dame Cathedral, Napoleon took the crowns from the Pope's hand and placed the crowns upon his own and Josephine's head himself, signifying that he owed his new position to his own ability.
Napoleon now thought that he needed more victories abroad to continue to remind the people of his greatness.
Napoleon began a war with Great Britain; later, most of the nations of Europe, as well as Russia and the United States, became involved.
On land, Napoleon was usually successful against the British. He won key victories on land at Austerlitz and Wagram in Austria, and at Jena and Friedland in Prussia. Over time, Napoleon became the most feared person in Europe, and France became the most powerful nation on the continent.
On the water, the brilliant strategy of the British admiral Horatio Nelson defeated Napoleon. Admiral Nelson's naval victory over the combined French and Spanish fleets at Cape Trafalgar is one of history's most famous battles. It proved that Great Britain controlled the seas.
To keep France in its powerful position, Napoleon tried to reorganize Europe, uniting German states into the Confederation of the Rhine (with his relatives on many European thrones) and making an alliance for mutual protection with Alexander I of Russia.
To try to gain power over Great Britain, Napoleon made two decrees (Berlin Decree and Milan Decree) in which he ordered the countries under his control to stop trading with Britain. This move isolated Britain economically from the European continent and was called the Continental System. Great Britain countered witht he Orders in Council, which ordered neutral nations not to trade with France (This was more effective because Great Britain controlled the seas, which were crucial to commerce.)
Napoleon decided to go to war with Russia, when Alexander I decided to break his allegiance with France. However, when Napolean invaded Russia, his troops had to fight in the bitter cold, as well as ice and snow, which they had not had to do before. Russia's vast size also helped to defeat the French. At the start of the war, the Russians forced the French to chase them for 1800 kilometres before a battle occurred near Moscow. The French won the battle, but they could not stay long in Moscow. Rather than surrender it to the French, Alexander had decided to burn the city. Napoleon was forced to head back to Paris. The distance and bitter weather, however, were too great for the weakened French troops. Many froze, starved to death, or were killed. (Out of his army of 550, 000 only 20, 000 survived the Russian campaign.)
The defeat of Napoleon's army in Russia encouraged other countries under his control to take a stand. In 1813 at the battle of Leipzig in eastern Germany, these nations combined to finally defeat Napoleon. After this battle, he was forced to give up his title of emperor and was sent to live on the tiny island of Elba in the Mediterranean Sea.
Once Napoleon was defeated, the monarchs of Europe were restored to power and peace was established. Louis XVIII became King of France. A gathering of foreign ministers met at the Congress of Vienna for the purpose of restoring order throughout Europe.
For many French citizens, it seemed like the revolution had been in vain. As a result, when Napoleon secretly landed at Cannes in March 1815, both the army and citizenry rallied around him. For 100 days Napoleon reigned supreme once again. Finally, Austria, Prussia, Russia and Britain combined forces once again. Led by the Duke of Wellington, they defeated the Grand Army at Waterloo in Belgium on June 18, 1815. This time Napoleon was sent as a prisoner of war to the lonely British island of St. Helena in the southern Atlantic Ocean off the western coast of Africa. He died there in 1821.