"Did Napoleon Uphold or Betrayed the Ideals of the French Revolution"

Napoleon Bonaparte has been one of the most dynamic military and political leaders of the history. He had a remarkable military career which ultimately paved way for him to take over political leadership at a time when France was at the peak of its power and needed a strong leader to take over the reins so as to make France as a world power. The transformation of Napoleon from a military General to a political leader was smooth and sent a strong signal to other countries who were hitherto, looking at the weaknesses in the French political arena to mount counter offensives. The rise of Napoleon as a military and political icon with strong following, has often been considered by some critics as the most turbulent period of France which saw many bloody wars, being fought with its neighbours and have accused Napoleon of betraying the ideals of French revolution. But I firmly believe that Napoleon not only stood by the ideals of French revolution but it help propagate an entirely new breed of nationalist who were extremely patriotic and took great pride in being French. The ten years of French revolution (1789-1799) had transformed the socio political equation of France. The basic cause of the revolution was that the common people or the bourgeoisie were of the view that nobility and clergy were preventing them to become socially advanced and politically strong. The discontent among the middle class resulted in the revolution and the absolute monarchy was replaced by a republic which believed in social equality and freedom for its people. ‘Liberals also wanted freedom from a state-controlled economy. Property was seen as sacred. These were middle class property owners by and large’ (Halsall). The initiative taken during this period comprised of drafting bill of rights, establishing legal equality, constitution, incorporation of Church into the state, establishment of democracy etc. which made permanent mark on the French history and influenced other countries, making French revolution as one of the most important event in the annals of world history. Napoleon represented bourgeoisie class and his humble beginning were a great motivator for his fellow beings who believed that opportunities must be made for the common man. He was an academically bright with special talent for science and mathematics. He began his military education in Brienne Military 1Academy and later from Military school, Paris. His ascendancy to fame started when he was merely an artillery captain under General Jacques Dugommier and given the chance to retrieve Toulon, major naval base of France, from allies. His strategic brilliance and shrewd tactics helped to recapture Toulon and overnight, he shot to fame. He was promoted to Brigadier-General and thereafter, he never looked back. ‘He is the sort of man of whom nature is sparing and who only appears on earth at intervals of centuries…’ (Markham,1966). Besides being a great strategist and an expert artillery official, Napoleon was also a shrewd politician, a trait that was evident while, he led his troop to success after success in the various battles against the resurgent armies of the neighbouring countries. During the 1785 failed coup which was organised by some discontent republicans and royalist, Napoleon was given the command and he had agreed on the terms that ‘once my sword is drawn, it would not be sheathed until order is restored’ (Dugdale, 2006). Within en hours, he had restored the peace and order, effectively quelling the rebels. His support to his political leaders amply showed that he believed in upholding the new order that was established after the revolution. He was made Major general at the age of twenty six. He had become a hero with a huge following. Napoleon was a staunch nationalist and intrinsically believed in the welfare of his people. When he went to Nice to take over the command, he tried to understand their need and made efforts to alleviate their problems and boost their morale with praise. He motivated his troops to the extent that they became his most loyal followers and helped him to win many battles with Austria, Egypt, Turkey etc. He inspired his soldiers and people and restored their pride for their nation. He also edited his Courrier de lArmée dItalie and other military gazettes from the Journal de Bonaparte et des hommes vertueux and articles–sometimes written by Bonaparte himself–analyzing the current political situation in France were found among the gazettes pages2. When he came back to France, he found that his country lacked a dynamic leader who was able to look after the extended territory of France with he had increased from his various victories in the battlefield. He filled the gap by conferring himself with the title of First Consul3 in 1799 and later became Emperor.  

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