Later, he went to Ecole Militaire (also known as military school) from 1784 to 1785. Also in 1785, he graduated with the rank of second lieutenant. Great things were expected of Napoleon. However, no one could have guessed that he would go on to make history. Napoleon was a rising star in the French military. A general at the age of 27, he had won the admiration of France thanks to his leadership, military talents, and personal talents. Yet his talents lay not in originality but in his stunningly innovative adaptations of military strategies and tactics developed in the eighteenth century and during the Revolution.
While in the military, he won many battles over Austria. In 1795, the people of France tired of the Reign of Terror, revolted, executing many leaders of the Terror. The Directory took power. On Napoleon's return to France, he found that many people were very dissatisfied with the Directory. With the support of his troops, he overthrew them and became France's new dictator, naming himself First Consul for life. The votes of the public approved of this move. He was determined to succeed in life. His first real military action was a great success.
He was captain of artillery during the siege of Toulon, where he captured several important strongholds, and forced the retreat of British naval fleets. He became Brigadier General while campaigning in Italy, but was arrested and jailed there for being an associate of the brother of the executed Maxamillion Robespierre. After getting out of jail, he continued on to achieve even more military greatness. Napoleon strategy in winning wars was brilliant. When he confronted an army stretched out before him, skilled marksmen threw the opponent’s advance forces into disarray and assessed the opposing army’s weakest point.
The concentration of deadly artillery fire- Napoleon once referred to the twelve-pound cannons as his beautiful daughters-prepared the war for the assault of the infantry columns. The speed of his army’s movement was such that he could rapidly attack and defeat part of an enemy army before reinforcements could arrive. Napoleon’s genius was his ability to organize, oversee and assure the supplying of and communication between larger armies than had ever before been effectively assembled, and to move them more rapidly than anyone before him. All of his success earned him a dictator of France.
As a dictator Napoleon made many reforms to France. Napoleon was influenced by the Enlightenment which made him believe that the church should not have an institutional role in the affairs of state. He said that society cannot exist without some being richer than others and this inequality cannot exist without religion. No papal bull could be read in France’s church without permission of the government; the clergy would have to read official government decrees from the pulpit. Under Napoleon, the church gained the freedom of religious practice, but at the expense of some of its independence.
Napoleon also gave freedom of religion. Napoleon granted Protestants and Jews state protection to practice their religion. An article of the concordat guaranteed freedom of worship for people in both religions. Also Napoleon created a new social hierarchy based not on blood but on service to the state, particularly in the army and bureaucracy and on ownership of property. Napoleon also established the Bank of France in 1800 which facilitated the state’s ability to borrow money. He followed the Directory’s policy of abandoning the grossly inflated paper money of the Revolution, which stabilized France’s currency.
He facilitated the assessment and collection of taxes, ordering a land survey of the entire country upon which direct taxes were to be based. And he expanded the number of indirect taxes collected on salt, tobacco, and liquor, as well as on goods brought into any town of over 5,000 inhabitants. Education also became a huge priority for Napoleon because in a country in which about half the population was illiterate, he believed that schools could create patriotic and obedient citizens through teaching secular values that would ultimately link education to nationalism.
In 1802, Napoleon established state secondary schools called lycees, thirty-seven of which were operating six years later, for the relatively few boys who went beyond primary school. Students read only textbooks approved by the emperor and in 1808, he created France’s first public university system. Education became seen as a value in itself, as well as a means of social ascension. After a while, Napoleon created the Napoleonic Code. This code made the rights of property owners sacrosanct. The code, over 2000 articles long, enshrined the equality of all people before the law and the freedom of religion.
The subsequent Penal Code of 1810 proclaimed the freedom to work that forbade associations of workers’ associations. Many of the policies had positive effects on the country however they had negative side effects on the people and the economy. Great Britain alone was one of the strongest forces in the defeat of Napoleon. On land, Napoleon was successful against the British, but on sea the British controlled every estuary. Great Britain also created the Orders of Council, which ordered neutral nations not to trade with France.
This was much more effective than Napoleon’s Continental System because Great Britain controlled the seas. Napoleon had many problems that were unrelated to the Quadruple Alliance. When he issued the Decrees of Berlin and Milan, Portugal was not happy because they wanted to trade with Britain. To subdue Portugal, French troops had to cross Spain. Soon troops were forced to occupy Spain as well as Portugal. When the Spanish revolted, Napoleon appointed his brother Joseph as Monarch. The Spanish found this to be very disrespectful to have a foreign ruler appointed, and thus fought with even greater passion and desire.
Assisting the Spaniards in ultimately freeing themselves from Napoleon’s control was the English army under the command of Arthur. Wellesley was later made the Duke of Wellington, where he would take an even more major role in Napoleon’s defeat. This war with Spain, based on a rise of nationalism, was the beginning of the end for Napoleon. There were also many more problems with rebellions by Austria and Russia. Alexander I of Russia broke his Alliance with Napoleon, due to Russia’s failing economy. This led to Napoleon suffering what is considered to be his worst defeat ever when he went to war with Russia.
This defeat was largely due to the French being pushed by the Russians towards the torched city of Moscow. Here they froze, starved or were killed in battle. This defeat encouraged other countries to try for victory. Although allied nations did combine to inflict another defeat for Napoleon at the battle of Leipzig in 1813, it must be noted that the Quadruple Alliance was not officially established at this time and there were many other influences that led to Napoleon’s decline. Napoleon’s defeat at the Battle of Waterloo was not determined because of he Quadruple Alliance, but rather it was due to tactical mistakes on behalf of Napoleon. Napoleon made the mistake of entrusting his armies to inferior generals such as Ney, who had no real education, and Marshal Emmanuel de Grouchy, who lacked the charismatic spirit that Napoleon’s men needed before battle. He also made the mistake of underestimating his opponents. Napoleon’s health was also to blame for his defeat. At Waterloo he suffered an array of aliments such as stomach pains, and pneumonia. His actions were sluggish; he was slow in issuing commands, and responding to messages.
While Napoleon misjudged his opponents, Wellington did not. Wellington had fought against Napoleon before, and was a master of defensive tactics. Ney made many mistakes in the battle, his worst being sending his cavalry to attack hastily, unsupported by infantry. They were slaughtered within minutes. Despite the surprise attack by the Prussians and organization of the Quadruple Alliance helping defeat Napoleon at Waterloo, the British would still have defeated Napoleon due to his own personal doubts, faults and downfall.
In conclusion, Napoleon’s rise to power was clouded his mind that he failed to realize the possibilities of defeat. Napoleon was lethargic and this was the reason why he fell from power. However, Napoleon can be seen as a great lieutenant. His military talents led him to many victories. His victories led him to become a dictator of France who influenced the French. Napoleon was a strong man and despite his ambiguity, he is considered a man of war.