|Europe and the
Superior Being: Napoleon
by Steven Kreis
Visit his page, the History Guide
There is no denying the fact that the French Revolution created Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821). It was this man who, in 1799, combined a passion for power with his genius for leadership. Although much of what Napoleon accomplished over fifteen years seemed to undermine the principles of 1789, the end result was that many of the achievements of the Revolution were made French realities. Indeed, these realities were also made manifest across Europe.
Napoleon was born August 15, 1769, on the island of Corsica, the son of a petty or low noble. He trained at a military school and so the wars of the French Revolution gave him the opportunity to test his skills. In 1793, when he was only 24 years old, Napoleon's artillery pushed the British out of Toulon. In 1795, he saved the Convention from a Royalist insurrection. In 1796, he was given command of the French Army of Italy. It was during his Italian campaigns against the Austrians that Napoleon's talent for military strategy was first demonstrated. He tasted glory - he could never do without it. He knew he was headed for greatness. He was aware, that he was a "world-historical figure," a "great man," "a hero in history." He later confided that
In November 1797, Napoleon was ordered to plan an invasion of England. Aware that France had a weak navy compared to that of England, Napoleon decided to strike the British by attacking British commerce in Egypt and India (which supplied cotton for British mills). He left France with 35,000 men and took Cairo. Napoleon's meager fleet, however, was destroyed at the Battle of the Nile by Nelson's navy. Meanwhile, Napoleon sent glowing reports back to France.
While all this was going on, things were not that peaceful back in France. Political unrest, financial disaster, and war with Europe compelled Napoleon to return. France needed a savior and Napoleon recognized himself as that savior. In October 1799, and without informing his troops in Egypt, Napoleon landed in France. A conspiracy was already underway against the lame five-man Directory. Some politicians realized the need to seize power and establish a strong executive. Perhaps a tyrant was needed.
In November 1799 - the 18th of Brumaire of the Year VIII - the Directory was overthrown by a coup d'etat and Napoleon became a military dictator. The French Revolution had entered yet another stage of its history. The French people welcomed Napoleon - the bourgeoisie, in particular, expected Napoleon to protect the wealth and influence they had gained as a result of 1789.