Main > Biography > First Consul > Detailed Biography
France was in turmoil. Poverty was everywhere and corruption was widespread.
The government was worthless. According to the constitution, the Council of Elder and the Assembly of Five Hundred made laws that the Directory upholds. The members were greedy and unable to cooperate. Some politicians knew a coup díÉtat, a sudden overthrow of the government, would serve their purpose. However, they needed a general to lead.
The people saw Napoleon as a shining star in a dark sky. His victories overshadowed his defeats. Napoleon worked with Emmanuel Sieyes to overthrow the Directory, succeeding on 9 November 1799 -- 18 Brumaire, by the Revolutionary calendar.
On November 9, 1799, the plotters convinced the government to move to a palace outside Paris. They agreed and walked right into a trap.
The next day, Napoleon walked into the Council of Elders and told threatened them to hand over their power. After ranting for minutes, Napoleon walked out disappointed. He had gained nothing.
The Assembly of Five Hundred knew about Napoleonís plot. As soon as he walked in, they ganged up on him. Napoleon's fear of mobs (from the Tuileries massacre in 1792) got the better of him and Napoleon started shaking and had to be dragged out.
Once outside, Napoleon regained his sanity.
The Coup díÉtat of Eighteenth Brumaire worked.
A new constitution was put forth by Napoleon. The French people overwhelmingly approved it.
The Directory was replaced by a three-member Consulate, and Napoleon became First Consul. The other two consuls merely gave advice to Napoleon. France now had a strong leader, a dictator.
Napoleon's response to the threat facing France was to reorganize his armies and restructure his defense.
In May 1800, Napoleon led his famous march across the Alps. Going through the Great St. Bernard Pass, he entered the Po Valley of northern Italy. In June, Napoleon defeated the Austrians at the Battle of Marengo. In 1801, the Austrians signed the Treaty of Lunéville, which reaffirmed the Treaty of Campoformio.
Russia had dropped out of the Second Coalition in 1799, and now Austria surrendered. Great Britain was left alone and was weary of war. The Treaty of Amiens was signed between the British and French in 1802. The Second Coalition was destroyed. For the first and only time in Napoleonís reign, France was at peace with the world.
At the same time, he saw to his political stability. Establishing the Concordat of 1801 with Pope Pius VII, Napoleon gave the Catholics the right of free practice and Napoleon got control of the church in France.
Napoleon also established the Bank of France to help economic recovery along.
In 1800 and 1802, Napoleon granted amnesty to 100,000 banished political enemies, on the condition that them would come and take a loyalty oath.
As time went on, Napoleonís thoughts turned back to conquest. In 1800, Spain was forced to cede the Louisiana Territory to France. Hoping to make a western sphere of influence, Napoleon sent troops to the newly gained territory. However, the French forces sent were destroyed in Haiti by disease and slave revolts. A frustrated Napoleon abandoned his plans for the Western Hemisphere. Selling the Louisiana Territory to America, Napoleon turned his attention back to Europe.
This is the detailed biography.
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