French Revolution and the role of Napoleon Bonaparte

French Revolution and the role of Napoleon Bonaparte

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The French Revolution has been closely associated with the Age of Enlightenment. This is inevitable. The reasoning and scepticism that pervaded during this particular period in history compelled a sizeable number of French to revolt against the prevailing standards and norms in the French society.

During the aforementioned period, military and political leader Napoleon Bonaparte had risen to prominence, specifically by taking control of France after the success of the French Revolution. He was also partly instrumental in promoting the ideals of the Enlightenment elsewhere in Europe.

Beginning 1789 and lasting until 1799, the French Revolution was a chaotic period in the history of France. Of course, before the onset of the revolt, the general members of the French populace had become increasingly disappointed with their rulers. Fiscal reforms due to a weakening economy resulted in an increase in taxation. Members of the nobility had become exploitative of ordinary citizens.

A growing discontent eventually resulted in the staging of a wide scale revolution that was specifically intended to overthrow the monarchy. It also resulted in the de-Christening of France by removing the authority of the Roman Catholic Church.

French Revolution and the role of Napoleon Bonaparte

The Coronation of Napoleon by Jacques-Louis David in 1804. Napoleon and the Grande Armée receive the surrender of Austrian General Mack after the Battle of Ulm in October 1805. The decisive finale of the Ulm Campaign raised the tally of captured Austrian soldiers to 60,000. With the Austrian army destroyed, Vienna would fall to the French in November.

The revolution ended following the return of Napoleon to France in 1799. Take note that he initially served as the commander of a French army based in Italy from 1796 until his French homecoming in 1799. When he came back, Napoleon witnessed a destabilised French government. He immediately considered this as an opportunity to launch a coup d’état in November 1799 that subsequently made him the first consul of France. His consulate position was granted with perpetuity in 1802. By 1804, he was officially named as the new French Emperor.

Some may consider Napoleon as a mere opportunist. After all, he was not directly responsible for brewing and spearheading the French Revolution. He even served a high-ranking position in the government, particularly in the French army. When France was at the brink of collapse, he was wise enough to cease the opportunity to build his power and position himself as the ruler of the country.

Although it appeared that Napoleon merely capitalised on the progress made by the people responsible for the French Revolution, it cannot be denied that when he assumed leadership, he had demonstrated his strong submission to the ideals of the revolution.

Napoleon was instrumental in rebuilding France from the remnants of the revolution. In addition, his ascension to the throne was a result of the collective clamour of the revolutionists. He was also the most qualified person to lead France because of his military background. Remember that apart from internal sociopolitical conflict, the country needed to deal with foreign threats, especially considering its long warring history with Britain.

In 1805 for instance, Britain, together with the Austrian Empire and the Russian Empire formed the so-called Third Coalition with a goal to take control of France. Napoleon was, however, a brilliant general and military strategist. After a military clash in Austerity in December 1805 that lasted for an hour, the French emerged victorious.

French Revolution and the role of Napoleon Bonaparte

The Coronation of Napoleon by Jacques-Louis David in 1804. The crowning and the coronation took place at Notre-Dame de Paris, a way for Napoleon to make it clear that he was a son of the Revolution.

The victory of Napoleon over the supposed conquerors re-established the military prowess of France. After the battle at Austerity, France gained new territories that subsequently gave Napoleon a considerable control over the rest of Europe. The Holy Roman Empire was removed and Napoleon positioned his men, especially his relatives and loyalists to control Holland, Italy, Naples, Spain, and Sweden.

More than these political and military achievements, Napoleon was deeply committed to promote the achievements of the French Revolution. During his reign, France became the model for a novel sociopolitical system and Napoleon was the ideal leader. He worked hard to rebuild France, specifically through extensive public constructions as well as civil reforms. Napoleon without a doubt was a child of the French Revolution and the Age Enlightenment. His leadership was a breath of fresh air.

But the reign of Napoleon had several setbacks. Although he promoted the dissemination of ideals that emerged from the French Revolution, he had gone overboard. The French emperor became too predisposed to wars. The extensive military campaign of France in addition to several failed armed operations exhausted the resources of the government.

Napoleon attempted to invade Russia in 1812 but such ended disastrous. In 1814, France fell under the hands of the Allies. Although he was able to recapture France after escaping from exile, launching a counter offensive, and emerging victorious during the Battle of Waterloo in June 1815, such however was short-lived. He was captured and imprisoned by Britain.

The tragic turn of events undeniably resulted from Napoleon overestimating his capacity, including the capacity of France. Thus, instead of becoming a true reformer, he was reduced to a mere warlord who was willing to sacrifice thousands of men and other military resources in order to wage war against other nations.

Despite the failure of Napoleon, it cannot be denied that he remains a remarkable historical figure due to his accomplishments. His feats made him a true child of the French Revolution and the Enlightenment although his warmongering-inclination and tragic defeat somehow discredited his accomplishments.