Napoleon I


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Napoleon I

(nəpō`lēən, Fr. näpôlāōN`), 1769–1821, emperor of the French, b. Ajaccio, Corsica, known as "the Little Corporal."

Early Life

The son of Carlo and Letizia Bonaparte (or Buonaparte; see under BonaparteBonaparte
, Ital. Buonaparte , family name of Napoleon I, emperor of the French. Parentage

Napoleon's father, Carlo Buonaparte, 1746–85, a petty Corsican nobleman, was a lawyer in Ajaccio.
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, family), young Napoleon was sent (1779) to French military schools at Brienne and Paris. He received his commission in the artillery in 1785. After the outbreak of the French Revolution he attempted to join the Corsican patriots led by Pasquale PaoliPaoli, Pasquale
, 1725–1807, Corsican patriot. He shared the exile (1739–55) of his father, Giacinto Paoli, who had fought against the Genoese rulers of the island.
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, but his family was thought to be pro-French. His family was condemned for its opposition to Corsican independence from France and fled the island shortly after the outbreak of civil war in Apr., 1793.

Early Campaigns

Returning to military duty in France, Bonaparte was associated with the JacobinsJacobins
, political club of the French Revolution. Formed in 1789 by the Breton deputies to the States-General, it was reconstituted as the Society of Friends of the Constitution after the revolutionary National Assembly moved (Oct., 1789) to Paris.
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 and first attracted notice by his distinguished part in dislodging the British from Toulon (1793); he was promoted to brigadier general and sent to the Italian front. Returning to military duty in France, briefly under arrest in the Thermidorian reaction (1794; see ThermidorThermidor
, 11th month of the French Revolutionary calendar. The coup of 9 Thermidor (July 27, 1794) marked the downfall of Robespierre and the end of the Reign of Terror.
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), he was released but remained out of favor.

A political event was to reopen his career overnight. In Oct., 1795, the Convention was assailed by a royalist Parisian uprising (see VendémiaireVendémiaire
, first month of the French Revolutionary calendar. 13 Vendémiaire of the year iv (Oct. 5, 1795) was the day when Napoleon Bonaparte, until then an obscure general, won fame by putting down a serious insurrection.
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), and Paul BarrasBarras, Paul François Jean Nicolas, vicomte de
, 1755–1829, French revolutionary. Although of a noble family, he joined the Jacobins in the Revolution and was a member of the Convention.
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 persuaded the Convention to place Bonaparte in command of the troops. Napoleon dispersed the mob with what he called "a whiff of grapeshot"—which killed about 100 insurgents. He was given command of the army of the interior. After drawing up a plan for an Italian campaign, he was, again with Barras's help, made commander in chief of the army of Italy.

He left for Italy in Mar., 1796, after marrying Josephine de Beauharnais (see JosephineJosephine,
1763–1814, empress of the French (1804–9) as the consort of Napoleon I. Born Marie Josèphe Rose Tascher de la Pagerie in Martinique, she was married in 1779 to Alexandre de Beauharnais.
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). Assuming command of an ill-supplied army, he succeeded within a short time in transforming it into a first-class fighting force. The brilliant success of his Italian campaign was based on three factors: his supply system, which he made virtually independent of the financially exhausted Directory by allowing the troops to live off the land; his reliance on speed and massed surprise attacks by small but compact units against the Austrian forces; and his influence over the morale of his soldiers.

Napoleon swept across N Italy, forcing Sardinia to sign a separate peace in May, 1796. After his victory at Lodi (May 10), he entered Milan (May 14) and laid siege to Mantua (July, 1796). After the great victories of Arcole (Nov., 1796) and Rivoli (Jan., 1797) and the fall of Mantua (Feb., 1797), Bonaparte began to cross the Alps toward Vienna. However, the slow advance of the northern French armies in Germany and the danger of being cut off in the rear caused him to arrange—without instructions from Paris—the truce of Leoben (Apr., 1797), sealed in October by the Treaty of Campo FormioCampo Formio, Treaty of
, Oct., 1797, peace treaty between France and Austria, signed near Campo Formio, a village near Udine, NE Italy, then in Venetia. It marked the end of the early phases of the French Revolutionary Wars.
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.

Now the idol of half of Europe, Bonaparte returned to France. His plan for an invasion of Britain across the channel was canceled, and he made alternative plans to crush the British Empire by striking at Egypt and, ultimately, at India. The plan was supported by Charles Maurice de TalleyrandTalleyrand or Talleyrand-Périgord, Charles Maurice de
, 1754–1838, French statesman and diplomat.
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 and by the directors. Bonaparte sailed in May, 1798, succeeded in evading Horatio NelsonNelson, Horatio Nelson, Viscount,
1758–1805, British admiral. The most famous of Britain's naval heroes, he is commemorated by the celebrated Nelson Column in Trafalgar Square, London.
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, and took Malta on the way to Egypt. Shortly after landing at Aboukir (Abu Qir), he won a brilliant victory over the Mamluks in the battle of the Pyramids (July, 1798). His successes, however, were made useless when the French fleet was utterly destroyed (Aug. 1–2) by Nelson in Aboukir Bay.

The Ottoman Empire, of which Egypt was a province, declared war on France. A French expedition to Syria was repelled at Acre. Back in Egypt, Napoleon defeated Ottoman forces attempting to land at Aboukir (July, 1799). Meanwhile, in Europe matters were going from bad to worse for the French. They were expelled from Italy by the forces of the Second Coalition (see French Revolutionary WarsFrench Revolutionary Wars,
wars occurring in the era of the French Revolution and the beginning of the Napoleonic era, the decade of 1792–1802. The wars began as an effort to defend the Revolution and developed into wars of conquest under the empire.
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), and at home the Directory faced political ruin. Unannounced, Napoleon returned to France, leaving General Kléber in charge of a hopeless situation in Egypt, and joined a conspiracy already hatched by Emmanuel SieyèsSieyès, Emmanuel Joseph
, 1748–1836, French revolutionary and statesman. He was a clergyman before the Revolution and was known as Abbé Sieyès.
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, one of the directors.

The Consulate

The Directory was overthrown by the coup of 18 BrumaireBrumaire
, second month of the French Revolutionary calendar. The coup of 18 (actually 18–19) Brumaire (Nov. 9–10, 1799), engineered chiefly by Sieyès, overthrew the Directory and established the Consulate under Napoleon.
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 (Nov. 9–10, 1799), and the ConsulateConsulate,
1799–1804, in French history, form of government established after the coup of 18 Brumaire (Nov. 9–10, 1799), which ended the Directory. Three consuls were appointed to rule France—Napoleon Bonaparte (see Napoleon I), Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès,
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 was established with Bonaparte as first consul. The autocratic constitution of the year VIII was accepted by plebiscite. In effect, the constitution established the dictatorship of Bonaparte. As Consul, Napoleon made a point of ruling as a civilian, but he was more authoritarian than Louis XVI. Napoleon declared that France had finished with the "romance of the revolution." He centralized the administration, while giving local prefects considerable power in executing the policies of the central government. Officials and military officers were recruited from several strata of society and from all revolutionary factions, including émigrés. However they were appointed, not elected, and strict obedience was enforced.

Bonaparte's administrative reforms established an efficient modern state that was capable of effectively mobilizing its resources and afforded him vast patronage powers. He established the Bank of France. He also made peace with the Roman Catholic Church by the Concordat of 1801Concordat of 1801,
agreement between Napoleon Bonaparte and Pope Pius VII that reestablished the Roman Catholic Church in France. Napoleon took the initiative in negotiating this agreement; he recognized that reconciliation with the church was politic.
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, which reestablished the church in France, but bound it to the success of his regime. He thereby neutralized the antirevolutionary priests who had encouraged peasant unrest (see ChouansChouans
[Norman Fr.,=owls], peasants of W France who rose against the French Revolutionary government in 1793. One of their first leaders was Jean Cottereau, traditionally nicknamed Jean Chouan, marquis de La Rouerie [John the owl, marquess of Mischief], and the Chouans
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) since 1793. Church property was not restored, but church unity and status were reestablished in return for stricter submission to civil authorities. The legal system was reformed with the Code NapoléonCode Napoléon
or Code Civil
, first modern legal code of France, promulgated by Napoleon I in 1804. The work of J. J. Cambacérès and a commission of four appointed by Napoleon I in 1800 was important in making the final draft.
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, which was begun before Bonaparte's consulate but was marked by his priorities.

While establishing the regime at home, Napoleon also dealt with France's enemies (1800), crossing the St. Bernard pass and defeating (June 14) the Austrians at Marengo, Italy. With the Treaty of Lunéville (1801) with Austria and the Treaty of AmiensAmiens, Treaty of,
1802, peace treaty signed by France, Spain, and the Batavian Republic on the one hand and Great Britain on the other. It is generally regarded as marking the end of the French Revolutionary Wars and setting the stage for the Napoleonic Wars (see Napoleon I).
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 (1802) with Great Britain, the Second Coalition was ended and France became paramount on the Continent. Napoleon's ambition did not rest. In Aug., 1802, a plebiscite approved his becoming first consul for life; a modified constitution, that of the year X, came into force. In the same year he incorporated Piedmont into France.

His continued intervention in Italy, Germany, the Helvetic RepublicHelvetic Republic
, 1798–1803, Swiss state established under French auspices. In Sept., 1797, several exiled Swiss leaders in France (notably Frédéric César de La Harpe) formally urged the French Revolutionary government (the Directory) to help in
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 (Switzerland), and the Netherlands as well as his refusal to arrange a commercial treaty with Great Britain aroused British distrust. Britain failed to restore Malta to the Knights Hospitalers, as the Treaty of Amiens had stipulated. In May, 1803, Britain again declared war on France. Napoleon built up his army, apparently preparing to invade England, but the invasion fleet he assembled (1803–5) was repeatedly struck by storms, and a major part of the French fleet was engaged in the disastrous expedition of Charles LeclercLeclerc, Charles Victor Emmanuel
, 1772–1802, French general. He served under Napoleon Bonaparte in the Italian campaign, married (1797) Pauline Bonaparte, and took part in Napoleon's coup of 18 Brumaire (1799). In 1801 he commanded the French expedition to Portugal.
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 to Haiti.

The Empire

While warfare languished, Napoleon took advantage of the plot of Georges CadoudalCadoudal, Georges
, 1771–1804, French royalist conspirator. A commander of the Chouans, he led the counterrevolutionists in the Vendée. He fled to England in 1801 after the failure of an attempted assassination of Napoleon Bonaparte.
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 against his life, seized and executed the duc d'EnghienEnghien, Louis Antoine Henri de Bourbon-Condé, duc d'
, 1772–1804, French émigré; son of Louis Henri Joseph de Condé (see under Condé, family).
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, and had himself proclaimed emperor of the French by a subservient senate and tribunate (May, 1804). Confirmation by a plebiscite was a foregone conclusion, and on Dec. 2, in the Cathedral of Notre Dame, Napoleon took the crown from the hands of Pope Pius VII and set it on his own head. An imperial court and a nobility were created.

The constitution of the year XII retained the features of the previous two constitutions, but its liberal provisions were gradually restricted. When Napoleon, in 1805, proclaimed himself king of Italy and annexed Genoa to France, a Third Coalition was formed against him by Great Britain, Austria, Russia, and Sweden. Napoleon crushed the Austrians at Ulm, occupied Vienna, and won (Dec. 2, 1805) his most brilliant victory over the combined Russians and Austrians at AusterlitzAusterlitz
, Czech Slavkov u Brna, town, S Czech Republic, in Moravia. An agricultural center, the town has sugar refineries and cotton mills. It became a seat of the Anabaptists in 1528. At Austerlitz, in the "battle of the three emperors," Napoleon I won (Dec.
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.

Austria, with the harsh Treaty of Pressburg (Dec. 26), was forced out of the coalition. Prussia, which entered the coalition late in 1806, was thoroughly defeated (Oct. 14) at Jena, and Napoleon entered Berlin in triumph. British sea power, however, had grown stronger than ever through Nelson's victory at TrafalgarTrafalgar, battle of
, naval engagement fought off Cape Trafalgar on the SW coast of Spain on Oct. 21, 1805, in which the British fleet under Horatio Nelson won a famous victory over the allied French and Spanish fleets under Pierre de Villeneuve.
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 (1805), and Napoleon resolved to defeat Britain by economic warfare. His Continental SystemContinental System,
scheme of action adopted by Napoleon I in his economic warfare with England from 1806 to 1812. Economic warfare had been carried on before 1806, but the system itself was initiated by the Berlin Decree, which claimed that the British blockade of purely
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 was answered by the British orders in councilorders in council,
in British government, orders given by the sovereign on the advice of all or some of the members of the privy council, without the prior consent of Parliament. Orders in council, first so named in the 18th cent.
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.

On land, warfare with Russia continued. The indecisive battle at Eylau (Feb. 8, 1807; now BagrationovskBagrationovsk
, town, NW European Russia, formerly in East Prussia, on the Polish border. Its German name was Eylau or Preussisch Eylau. It is a rail terminus and has meat-processing and dairy industries. The town was founded in 1336. In Feb.
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) was made good by Napoleon at Friedland (June 14), and Russia submitted. By the treaties of Tilsit (July, 1807; see SovetskSovetsk
, formerly Tilsit
, town (1989 pop. 41,900), NW European Russia, on the Neman River at the mouth of the Tilse. It is a rail junction, a river port, and an industrial and commercial center in an agricultural area.
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), King Frederick William III of Prussia lost half of his territories and became a vassal to France; Russia recognized the Grand Duchy of Warsaw, created from Prussian Poland, and other territorial changes. Sweden was defeated in 1808 with the help of Russia.

With only Britain left in the field, Napoleon was now master of the Continent. The whole map of Europe was rearranged. The states of Germany had already been altered by the Confederation of the RhineConfederation of the Rhine,
league of German states formed by Emperor Napoleon I in 1806 after his defeat of the Austrians at Austerlitz. Among its members were the newly created kingdoms of Bavaria and Württenberg (see Pressburg, Treaty of), the grand duchies of Baden,
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; Napoleon's allies, the electors of Bavaria, Württemberg, and Saxony, were made kings; the Holy Roman Empire was dissolved (1806); the kingdoms of Holland and Westphalia were created (1806 and 1807), with Napoleon's brothers Louis and Jérôme Bonaparte (see under BonaparteBonaparte
, Ital. Buonaparte , family name of Napoleon I, emperor of the French. Parentage

Napoleon's father, Carlo Buonaparte, 1746–85, a petty Corsican nobleman, was a lawyer in Ajaccio.
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, family) occupying the thrones.

Napoleon's stepson, Eugène de BeauharnaisBeauharnais, Eugène de
, 1781–1824, French general; son of Alexandre and Josephine de Beauharnais (Empress Josephine). He served ably in the campaigns of his stepfather, Napoleon I, distinguishing himself at Marengo and Lützen, where he rallied the outnumbered
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, was made (1805) viceroy of Italy, and a third brother, Joseph Bonaparte (see under BonaparteBonaparte
, Ital. Buonaparte , family name of Napoleon I, emperor of the French. Parentage

Napoleon's father, Carlo Buonaparte, 1746–85, a petty Corsican nobleman, was a lawyer in Ajaccio.
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, family), became (1806) king of Naples. In 1808 Napoleon made Joseph king of Spain after obtaining the abdication of Charles IV and his son Ferdinand VII; in Naples, Joseph was replaced with Marshal Joachim MuratMurat, Joachim
, 1767–1815, marshal of France, king of Naples (1808–15). He left his theological studies to enter the army and fought in Egypt under Napoleon, whom he helped (1799) in the coup of 18 Brumaire.
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, who was married to Napoleon's sister Caroline. Another Napoleonic marshal, Jean Bernadotte, became heir to the Swedish throne in 1810 (see Charles XIVCharles XIV
(Charles John; Jean Baptiste Jules Bernadotte) , 1763–1844, king of Sweden and Norway (1818–44), French Revolutionary general. Bernadotte rose from the ranks, served brilliantly under Napoleon Bonaparte in the Italian campaign (1796–97), was French
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).

An attempt (1809) by Austria to reopen war against France was defeated at Wagram (July 6, 1809) and resulted in the cession of Illyria to France by the Treaty of Schönbrunn. The Papal States were declared annexed to France (1809), and when Pope Pius VIIPius VII,
1740–1823, pope (1800–1823), an Italian named Barnaba Chiaramonti, b. Cesena; successor of Pius VI, who had created him cardinal in 1785. He conducted himself ably during the period of the French Revolution, showing sympathy for the social aims of the
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 replied with an excommunication, he was imprisoned and later was forced to sign an additional concordat. Napoleon secured an annulment of his marriage with Josephine, who was unable to bear him a child, and was married in Mar., 1810, to Marie LouiseMarie Louise,
1791–1847, empress of the French (1810–15) as consort of Napoleon I and duchess of Parma, Piacenza, and Guastalla (1816–47), daughter of Holy Roman Emperor Francis II (later Emperor of Austria as Francis I.
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, the daughter of the Austrian emperor Francis I (formerly Holy Roman Emperor Francis II). A son was born to them (the "king of Rome," later known as the duke of Reichstadt or Napoleon IINapoleon II,
1811–32, son of Napoleon I and Marie Louise, known as the king of Rome (1811–14), as the prince of Parma (1814–18), and after that as the duke of Reichstadt.
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), thus insuring the imperial succession.

Decline and Fall

Great Britain had never submitted, and the Continental System proved difficult to enforce. Napoleon's first signs of weakness appeared early in the Peninsular WarPeninsular War,
1808–14, fought by France against Great Britain, Portugal, Spanish regulars, and Spanish guerrillas in the Iberian Peninsula. Origin and Occupation
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 (1808–14). The victory of 1809 over Austria had been costly, and the victory of Archduke CharlesCharles,
1771–1847, archduke of Austria; brother of Holy Roman Emperor Francis II. Despite his epilepsy, he was the ablest Austrian commander in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars; however, he was handicapped by unwise decisions imposed on him from Vienna.
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 at Aspern (May, 1809) showed that the emperor was not invincible. Everywhere forces were gathering to cast off the Napoleonic yoke.

Napoleon's decision to invade Russia marked the turning point of his career. His alliance with Czar Alexander IAlexander I,
1777–1825, czar of Russia (1801–25), son of Paul I (in whose murder he may have taken an indirect part). In the first years of his reign the liberalism of his Swiss tutor, Frédéric César de La Harpe, seemed to influence Alexander.
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, dating from the treaties of Tilsit and extended at the Congress of ErfurtErfurt
, city (1994 pop. 200,800), capital of Thuringia, central Germany, on the Gera River. It is an industrial and horticultural center and a rail junction. Industries include metalworking and the manufacture of electrical apparatus, shoes, and clothing.
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 (1808), was tenuous. When the czar rejected the Continental System, which was ruinous to Russia's economy, Napoleon gathered the largest army Europe had ever seen. The Grande Armée, some 500,000 strong, including troops of all the vassal and allied states, entered Russia in June, 1812. The Russian troops, under Mikhail KutuzovKutuzov, Mikhail Ilarionovich
, 1745–1813, Russian field marshal. He fought against the Polish Confederation of Bar (see Bar, Confederation of) and served in the Russo-Turkish Wars of 1768–74 and 1787–92, in which he lost an eye.
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, fell back, systematically devastating the land.

After the indecisive battle of Borodino (Sept. 7), in which both sides suffered terrible losses, Napoleon entered Moscow (Sept. 14), where only a few thousand civilians had stayed behind. On Sept. 15, fires broke out all over Moscow; they ceased only on Sept. 19, leaving the city virtually uninhabitable. With his troops decimated, his prospective winter quarters burned down, his supply line overextended, and the Russian countryside and grain stores empty, Napoleon, after sending an unsuccessful feeler to the czar for peace, began his fateful retreat on Oct. 19. Stalked by hunger, the Grande Armée, now only a fifth of its original strength, reached the Berezina River late in November. After the passage of that river, secured at a terrible sacrifice, the retreat became a rout.

In December Napoleon left his army, returning to Paris to bolster French forces. Of his allies, Prussia was the first to desert; a Prussian truce with the czar (Dec. 30) was followed by an alliance in Feb., 1813. Great Britain and Sweden joined the coalition, followed (Aug., 1813) by Austria, and the "War of Liberation" began. At the Battle of the Nations at LeipzigLeipzig
, city (1994 pop. 490,850), Saxony, E central Germany, at the confluence of the Pleisse, White Elster, and Parthe rivers. Economy

One of Germany's major industrial, commercial, and transportation centers, it has many rail lines and two airports.
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 (Oct. 16–19), Napoleon was forced to retreat. In November the allies offered Napoleon peace if France would return to her natural boundaries, the Rhine and the Alps. Napoleon rejected the offer, and the allies continued their advance. They closed in on Paris, which fell to them on Mar. 31, 1814.

Napoleon abdicated, first in favor of his son and then unconditionally (Apr. 11). He was exiled to Elba, which the allies gave him as a sovereign principality. His victors were still deliberating at the Congress of Vienna (see Vienna, Congress ofVienna, Congress of,
Sept., 1814–June, 1815, one of the most important international conferences in European history, called to remake Europe after the downfall of Napoleon I.
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) when Napoleon, with a handful of followers, landed near Cannes (Mar. 1, 1815). In the course of a triumphant march northward he once more rallied France behind him. King Louis XVIII fled, and Napoleon entered Paris (Mar. 20), beginning his ephemeral rule of the Hundred DaysHundred Days,
name given to the period after the return of the deposed French emperor, Napoleon I, from Elba. The Hundred Days are counted from Mar. 20, 1815, when Napoleon arrived in Paris, to June 28, 1815, when Louis XVIII was restored for the second time as king, following
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.

Attempting to reconstruct the empire, Napoleon liberalized the constitution, but his efforts were cut short when warfare began again. Napoleon was utterly crushed in the Waterloo campaignWaterloo campaign,
last action of the Napoleonic Wars, ending with the battle of Waterloo. Napoleon I, who escaped from Elba in Feb., 1815, and entered Paris on Mar. 20, soon faced a European coalition.
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 (June 12–18). He again abdicated and surrendered himself to a British warship, hoping to find asylum in England. Instead he was shipped as a prisoner of war to the lonely island of Saint HelenaSaint Helena
, island, 47 sq mi (122 sq km), in the S Atlantic Ocean, 1,200 mi (1,931 km) W of Africa. Together with the islands of Ascension and Tristan da Cunha, it comprises the British overseas territory of St. Helena (2005 est. pop. 7,500). The capital and port is Jamestown.
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, where he spent his remaining years quarreling with the British governor, Sir Hudson LoweLowe, Sir Hudson
, 1769–1844, British general. He fought with credit throughout the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, mainly in the Mediterranean region, and served (1815–21) as governor of St. Helena and custodian of Napoleon I.
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, talking with his ever-dwindling group of followers, and dictating his memoirs., He died May 5, 1821, officially from stomach cancer, but the presence of arsenic in samples of his hair have led some modern researchers to suggest he was poisoned. Napoleon's remains were ordered to be returned to France by Louis Philippe in 1840 and were entombed under the dome of the Invalides in Paris.

Napoleon's Legacy

The Napoleonic legend, the picture of a liberal conqueror spreading the French Revolution throughout Europe and of the quintessential Romantic man of action, was a potent factor in French history and helped make Napoleon's nephew French emperor as Napoleon IIINapoleon III
(Louis Napoleon Bonaparte), 1808–73, emperor of the French (1852–70), son of Louis Bonaparte (see under Bonaparte, family), king of Holland. Early Life
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. Estimates of Napoleon's place in history differ widely. He was beyond doubt one of the greatest military leaders in history and dominated his times so completely that European history between 1800 and 1815 is commonly described as the Napoleonic era. But his legacy is mixed.

Napoleon promoted the growth of the modern state through his administrative and legal reforms, and his changes in the map of Europe stimulated movements for national unification. However, his use of such ruthless police chiefs as Joseph FouchéFouché, Joseph
, b. 1759 or 1763, d. 1820, French revolutionary and minister of police. A teacher in the schools of the Oratorian order, he joined the French Revolution and was elected to the Convention (1792).
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 to suppress all opposition, if relatively mild by 20th-century standards, set an ominous precedent. More or less apocryphal sayings and anecdotes illustrating Napoleon's character and manners are as innumerable as the books written about him.

Bibliography

See Napoleon's memoirs, dictated to E. de Las CasesLas Cases, Emmanuel, comte de
, 1766–1842, French historian. He accompanied Napoleon into exile to St. Helena, where the emperor dictated a part of his memoirs to him. His famous Mémorial de Sainte-Hélène (tr. 8 vol.
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 et al., and his correspondence. See also biographies by V. Cronin (1971), F. McLynn (1997), A. Schom (1997), P. Johnson (2002), P. Dwyer (2 vol., 2008–13), and A. Roberts (2014); P. Geyl, Napoleon: For and Against (1949); studies of Napoleon and his era by J. C. Herold (1955), G. Lefebvre (2 vol., tr. 1969), J. Tulard (1971), L. Bergeron (1981), O. Connelly (1985, 1987), R. Asprey (2001), I. Woloch (2001), P. G. Dwyer (2001), and D. Lieven (2010).

Napoleon I

 

(Napoleon Bonaparte). Born Aug. 15, 1769, in Ajaccio, Corsica; died May 5, 1821, on the island of St. Helena. French statesman and general. First consul of the French Republic (1799–1804); emperor (1804–14 and March-June 1815).

Napoleon was the son of Carlo Buonaparte, a Corsican noble and lawyer of modest means. At the age of ten he was sent to the College d’Autun (France) and later in the same year (1779) was transferred to the military school at Brienne, where he was supported by a government stipend. In 1784 he graduated from Brienne and went to the Ecole Militaire in Paris (1784–85). He entered the army in October 1785 as a second lieutenant of artillery. Brought up on the progressive ideas of the French Enlightenment, Bonaparte, a follower of J.-J. Rousseau and G.-T. Raynal, greeted the Great French Revolution with enthusiasm. In 1792 he became a member of the Jacobin club. At this point in his career he was active primarily on Corsica, where he came into conflict with Corsican separatists led by Paoli. In 1793 he was forced to flee from Corsica. During the republican army’s long unsuccessful siege of Toulon, which had been seized by monarchist rebels and British interventionists, Bonaparte proposed a plan for capturing the city. On Dec. 17, 1793, Toulon was taken by storm. The 24-year-old Captain Bonaparte was promoted to the rank of brigadier general for his role in the capture of the city. This marked the beginning of his precipitous rise to power. Because of his friendship with A. de Robespierre, Napoleon fell from grace for a short time and was even arrested during the Thermidorian reaction. But he soon drew attention to himself again, this time in Paris, by his energy and decisiveness in suppressing the monarchist revolt of 13 Vendémiaire (Oct. 5), 1795. Subsequently, he was appointed commander of the Paris garrison and, in 1796, commander in chief of an army that had been created for operations in Italy.

The Italian campaign of 1796–97 revealed Bonaparte’s military talent and his understanding of the social aspect of war, for he attempted to raise antifeudal forces against powerful Austria and to obtain for France an ally in the Italian national liberation movement. Although the first Italian campaign was accompanied by requisitions and the plundering of the countryside, its progressive nature won the French army the support of the Italian people. The Treaty of Campo Formio (1797) revealed Napoleon’s diplomatic capabilities. In Napoleon’s subsequent military campaigns his taste for conquest became stronger.

Returning to Paris in triumph, Napoleon easily persuaded the Directory to pass a resolution organizing a campaign for the conquest of Egypt. Despite Napoleon’s victories in a number of battles, the Egyptian campaign (1798–1801) was doomed to defeat after the British destroyed the French fleet at Aboukir, cutting off the French army in Egypt from France, and after the French undertook an unsuccessful campaign in Syria. On the pretext of news that had reached him concerning the defeat of the Directory’s army and the victories of A. V. Suvorov, Napoleon arbitrarily left the expeditionary army and returned to Paris in October 1799, at the peak of the crisis of the Directory. The weakness of the Directory and its constant vacillations, which impelled the bourgeoisie to seek a “firm authority,” contributed to Napoleon’s success in carrying out his personally ambitious plans. Relying on influential circles of the bourgeoisie, he staged a coup d’etat on Nov. 9–10, 1799 (18–19 Brumaire, Year VIII), establishing a consulate under which he, in fact (although not immediately), held full authority.

This dictatorial power, which was concealed until 1804 by a “screen” of republicanism, was exercised by Napoleon for the defense of the interests of the bourgeoisie and rich peasants and, on the whole, for the strengthening of the bourgeois state. He abolished national representation, even in the restricted form that had survived under the Directory, and he did away with electoral self-government, replacing it with a bureaucratic police system of prefects, mayors, and subordinate officials, all of whom were appointed by the central government. He also eliminated the free press, and he suppressed other vestiges of the Revolution’s democratic conquests. In 1801 he concluded a concordat with the pope, thus guaranteeing himself the support of the Roman Catholic Church. The civil, commercial, and criminal codes drawn up under his supervision established the legal norms for a bourgeois society.

Strengthening and protecting the principal economic gains of the bourgeois revolution, particularly the promulgated redistribution of property, Napoleon decisively suppressed attempts from the left as well as from the right to change the new regime. He dealt blows to both the Jacobins and the militant royalists. His regime’s economic policy concentrated on developing industry and trade. In 1800 the Bank of France was founded. Industry enjoyed Napoleon’s special protection, because he viewed industrial development as a means of strengthening the power of the state. Fearing disturbances by the workers, Napoleon tried to avert them by organizing public works projects to prevent unemployment and by retaining the Le Chapelier Law (1791), which prohibited workers from forming associations. In addition, a decree issued in 1803 obliged the workers to carry passbooks, or labor permits.

In 1802, Napoleon had himself appointed consul for life, and in 1804 he was proclaimed emperor. To strengthen the new bourgeois monarchy and give it superficial splendor, he created a new imperial nobility and a luxurious imperial court. After divorcing his first wife, Josephine, in 1810, he married Marie Louise, the daughter of the Austrian emperor Francis I.

Napoleon I owed his extraordinary fame to his victorious wars against the coalition powers; to his brilliant victories at Marengo (1800), Austerlitz (1805), Jena and Auerstadt (1806), and Wa-gram (1809); to the enormous expansion of the Empire; and to his own transformation from emperor of France into de facto ruler of Central Europe and all of Western Europe, excluding Great Britain. The destiny of Napoleon I, who had achieved unprecedented power in only ten years and who had compelled the monarchs of Europe to reckon with his will, seemed inexplicable to many of his contemporaries and gave rise to various Napoleonic legends. A man of enormous personal endowments, with an exceptional capacity for work, a powerful, sober mind, and an unbending will, he was ruthless in attaining his objectives. Napoleon I was an outstanding representative of the young, rising bourgeoisie, the most complete embodiment of its strong points, as well as of its vices and shortcomings—aggressiveness, profit seeking, and adventurism.

In the art of war Napoleon I developed and perfected the innovations of the armies of revolutionary France. His chief merit was his ability to find the most effective tactical and strategic use for vast armed masses for that time. The emergence of the mass army had been made possible by the Revolution. Napoleon proved himself a master of strategy and of the tactics of maneuver. When fighting against a numerically superior foe, he endeavored to disperse the enemy’s forces and destroy them unit by unit. In such situations his principle was to “compensate for numerical weakness by rapidity of movements.” On the march he led his troops in dispersed order but with such control that they could be assembled at the necessary moment at any point. This was the origin of the principle of “moving separately but fighting together.” Napoleon I perfected a new maneuver using the column in conjunction with an extended order and based on the precise interaction of different types of troops. He made extensive use of the rapid maneuver to establish superiority in decisive axes, and he knew how to make surprise attacks, how to carry out turning and enveloping movements, and how to augment his forces at decisive sectors during a battle. Considering the destruction of the enemy’s forces to be the principal strategic goal, he always tried to take the strategic initiative. His chief method of routing an enemy was to give general battle, and he always endeavored to exploit the success achieved in general battle by organizing a pressing pursuit of the enemy.

Napoleon I gave broad opportunities for initiative to the commanders of units and groups. He knew how to discover and promote capable, talented people. However, the sudden rise of Napoleonic France and the victories of French arms are attributable less to the personal qualities of Napoleon I and his marshals than to the fact that in its clash with feudal absolutist Europe, Napoleonic France represented the historically more progressive bourgeois social system. Militarily, this assertion is supported by the unquestionable superiority of Napoleon I’s generalship to the backward, routine strategy and tactics of the armies of feudal Europe. In addition, the bourgeois system of social relations that was boldly introduced throughout Western Europe by Napoleonic legislation was superior to the backward, feudal patriarchal social relations.

Nevertheless, the Napoleonic wars gradually lost the progressive elements that had characterized them even though they were wars of conquest. They became purely predatory wars. Consequently, Napoleon’s personal qualities and efforts were doomed to failure. His powerlessness against the forces of history was revealed for the first time during the war in Spain (1808), when the people rose up against the French invaders. It was revealed again and fully confirmed by the campaign of 1812 in Russia, the consequences of which were catastrophic for the Napoleonic Empire.

As Napoleon himself acknowledged, the war against Russia was a fatal error. The first French statesman to comprehend the significance for France of an alliance with Russia, he directed his efforts toward attaining this goal. In negotiations with Paul I he came very close to concluding an alliance, but the assassination of the Russian emperor in March 1801 postponed this possibility for a long time. The Tilsit negotiations with Alexander I (1807) led to the creation of a Franco-Russian alliance that was very highly valued by Napoleon. However, at the time of the Erfurt meeting between the French and Russian emperors (1808), Franco-Russian clashes sharpened, particularly over the continental blockade and the Polish question. Napoleon I’s decision to go to war against Russia is evidence that, blinded by his successes and by his attempt to establish his rule over Europe, he had begun to lose the sense of reality that had once been his inherent strength.

The Patriotic War of 1812 destroyed Napoleon I’s Grand Army and gave great impetus to the national liberation struggle against the Napoleonic yoke in Europe. In the campaign of 1813, Napoleon was compelled to fight against the armies of the anti-Napoleonic coalition and against an unbreakable force—the insurgent peoples of Europe. Under these conditions, his defeat was inevitable. It was sealed by the allied entry into Paris in March 1814. Napoleon I was forced to abdicate on Apr. 6, 1814. The victorious allies allowed him to retain the title of “emperor” and gave him the island of Elba as a possession.

Napoleon I’s landing in France (Mar. 1, 1815) and the Hundred Days (Mar. 20-June 22, 1815) of his second reign demonstrated not only his talent but also, to a greater degree than any previous event in his career, the importance of the social forces supporting him. His unparalleled “conquest” of France in three weeks and without a single shot was possible only because the people considered him capable of expelling the Bourbons and other aristocrats from France. Napoleon I’s tragedy lay in his failure to rely fully on the people who supported him. This led to his defeat at Waterloo and to his second abdication (June 22, 1815). Exiled to the island of St. Helena, he died six years later, a prisoner of the British. In 1840 his remains were brought to Paris and entombed at the Hotel des Invalides.

WORKS

Corresponda nee publ. par ordre de L ’Empereur Napoleon III. . . , 32 vols. Paris, 1858–70.
Lettres inédites .... 2 vols. Paris, 1897.
Correspondance inédite. . . , 3 vols. Paris, 1912–13.
In Russian translation:
Izbr. proizv. Moscow, 1956.

REFERENCES

Marx, K., and F. Engels. Soch. 2nd ed., vol. 1, p. 374; vol. 2, p. 563; vol. 3, p. 184; vol. 7, pp. 510–13; vol. 11, pp. 134–37; vol. 14, pp. 38, 309–10, 322–23, 377; vol. 22, p. 30.
Marx, K., and F. Engels. Izbr. pis’ma. Moscow, 1953.
Engels, F. Izbr. voen. proizvedeniia. Moscow, 1956. (See Index of Names.)
Lenin, V. I. Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 30, pp. 5–6; vol. 34, p. 83; vol. 35, pp. 382–83.
Tarle, E. V. “Napoleon.” Soch., vol. 7. Moscow, 1959.
Manfred, A. Z. Napoleon Bonapart. Moscow, 1971.
Levitskii, N. A. Polkovodcheskoe iskusstvo Napoleona. Moscow, 1938.
Sorel, A. Evropa i frantsuzskaia revoliutsiia, vols. 5–8. St. Petersburg, 1906–08. (Translated from French.)
Vandal, A. Vozvyshenie Bonaparta. St. Petersburg, 1905. (Translated from French.)
Lefebvre, G. Napoléon. Paris, 1935.
Madelin, L. Histoire de Consultat et del’Empire, 16 vols. Paris, 1932–54.

A. Z. MANFRED

Napoleon I

full name Napoleon Bonaparte. 1769--1821, Emperor of the French (1804--15). He came to power as the result of a coup in 1799 and established an extensive European empire. A brilliant general, he defeated every European coalition against him until, irreparably weakened by the Peninsular War and the Russian campaign (1812), his armies were defeated at Leipzig (1813). He went into exile but escaped and ruled as emperor during the Hundred Days. He was finally defeated at Waterloo (1815). As an administrator, his achievements were of lasting significance and include the Code Napol?on, which remains the basis of French law
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