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{nuh-poh’-lee-uhn} Napoleon I, known as Napoleon Bonaparte before he became emperor, was probably the most brilliant military figure in history. Rising to command of the French Revolutionary armies, he seized political power as first consul in 1799 and proclaimed himself emperor in 1804. By repeated victories over various European coalitions, he extended French rule over much of Europe. He was finally defeated in 1814-15. Early Life Napoleon was born on Aug. 15, 1769, to Carlo and Letizia Buonaparte (see BONAPARTE family) at Ajaccio, Corsica.

His father secured a scholarship for him to attend French military school at Brienne (1779-84). Ostracized as a foreigner, he devoted himself entirely to his studies and graduated 42d in his class of 58. He then spent a year at the Military Academy in Paris before he was commissioned (1785) a second lieutenant in artillery. Assigned to the Valence garrison, he spent more than half of the next 7 years on furlough in Corsica, often without authorization. He came into conflict with the Corsican nationalist Pasquale PAOLI, and his family was forced to flee to Marseille in 1793. Bonaparte had welcomed the beginning of the FRENCH REVOLUTION in 1789, and in September 1793 he assumed command of an artillery brigade at the siege of Toulon, where royalist leaders had welcomed a British fleet and enemy troops.

The British were driven out (Dec. 17, 1793), and Bonaparte was rewarded with promotion to general of brigade and assigned to the French army in Italy in February 1794. After the overthrow of the revolutionary leader Maximilien ROBESPIERRE in July 1794, Bonaparte was briefly imprisoned because he was identified with Robespierre’s faction. Released in September, he was assigned to fight a rebellion in the Vendee. He refused to go, however, working instead in the topographic section of the army, and eventually his name was stricken (Sept. 15, 1795) from the list of general officers. On Oct.

5, 1795 (13 Vendemiaire under the Revolutionary calendar), a revolt broke out in Paris, protesting the means of implementing the new constitution introduced by the National Convention. Paul BARRAS, who had been given full military powers, ordered Bonaparte to defend the convention, and aided by Joachim MURAT’s cannons, he routed the insurrectionists within four months. Bonaparte was rewarded by the new government, the DIRECTORY, with appointment (March 1796) as commander of the Army of the Interior. Before taking up that post he married (March 9) JOSEPHINE de Beauharnais, the 33-year-old widow of a republican general and erstwhile lover of a series of men, including Barras. Italian and Egyptian Campaigns Late in March 1796, Bonaparte began a series of operations to divide and defeat the Austrian and Sardinian armies in Italy.

He defeated (April 21) the Sardinians at Mondovi (April 21), forcing them to conclude a separate peace by which Savoy and Nice were ceded to France. Then, in a series of brilliant maneuvers and battles, he won Lombardy from the Austrians. Mantua, the last Lombard stronghold, fell in February 1797 after a prolonged siege; Bonaparte had defeated four attempts to relieve the siege. As he crossed the Alps to advance on Vienna, the Austrians sued for an armistice, which was concluded at Leoben on Apr. 18, 1797.

Bonaparte then personally negotiated the Treaty of CAMPO FORMIO (Oct. 17, 1797), ending the war of the First Coalition, the first phase of the FRENCH REVOLUTIONARY WARS. In addition to attending to his military operations in Italy, Bonaparte engaged in political affairs. He reorganized northern Italy to create (1797) the Cisalpine Republic and negotiated treaties with various Italian rulers. He also purloined invaluable Italian works of art and vast quantities of money, which were sent to Paris to enhance French museums and to bolster French finances. On his return to Paris, the Directory proposed that Bonaparte invade England.

Instead he urged the occupation of Egypt in order to threaten British India. On May 19, 1798, he sailed with an army of more than 35,000 troops on 350 vessels for Alexandria, Egypt. After seizing Malta en route, he reached Egypt on July 1, after evading the fleet of the British admiral Horatio NELSON. There he occupied Alexandria and Cairo, guaranteed Islamic law, and began to reorganize the government. On August 1, however, Nelson attacked and annihilated the French fleet at Abukir Bay. Thus cut off from France, Bonaparte continued his administrative reorganization and helped create the Institute of Egypt, a scholarly institution that began the methodical study of ancient Egypt. This study resulted in the publication of the monumental 18-volume Description d’Egypte (1808-25).

In February 1799, Bonaparte learned of the Ottoman Empire’s declaration of war against France. To forestall a Turkish attack on Egypt he invaded Syria but was halted at Acre by Turkish troops under British command. Suffering from the plague, the French army returned to Cairo in June. In the meantime French forces in Europe were being defeated by the armies of the Second Coalition, and Bonaparte resolved to return to France. He sailed on Aug. 24, 1799.

First Consul On Bonaparte’s arrival in Paris on October 14, he joined Emmanuel SIEYES in a conspiracy to overthrow the Directory. On November 9 (18 Brumaire), Bonaparte was appointed commander of the Paris garrison, the legislative assemblies were moved from Paris to Saint Cloud, and the five Directory members resigned. The following day Bonaparte, aided by his brother Lucien, used troops to disperse the assemblies and accepted appointment as one of three consuls, with Sieyes and Pierre Roger Ducos. Despite Sieyes’s plans to dominate the CONSULATE, Bonaparte gained the position of first consul. He appointed the members of the council of state, government officials, and judges of the courts, but he had little control over the Legislative Corps.

The Consulate guaranteed law and order and maintained the political and social accomplishments of the revolution. Behind a democratic facade, however, Bonaparte concentrated power in his own hands. During the rule of the Consulate more formidable legislation was completed than in any other comparable period in French history. Order and regularity were established in every branch of the government. Bonaparte centralized local government, appointing the prefects and mayors and their councils; he pacified the rebellious regions of France and reconciled the royalists; he actively participated in drawing up the NAPOLEONIC CODE, a complete codification of the civil law; he initiated (1801) the CONCORDAT with Pope PIUS VII, which reestablished Roman Catholicism in France; and he created (1802) the order of the Legion of Honor to reward civil and military merit. Bonaparte also consolidated the national debt, restored the value of French bonds, balanced the budget, established the Bank of France, and centralized equitable tax collection. He created the Society for the Encouragement of National Industry and undertook vast public works projects. By creating the Universite de France, in effect a state licensing body for teachers, he brought the entire system of higher education under centralized state control.

His concern with cultural grandeur was also reflected in the enlargement of the LOUVRE, the transformation of the Hotel Soubise into the Archives Nationales, and the construction of neoclassical buildings around Paris. These internal achievements were balanced by the restoration of French supremacy abroad. In June 1800, Bonaparte defeated the Austrians at Marengo, Italy. Peace with Austria was concluded in the Treaty of Luneville (Feb. 9, 1801), and a year later the Treaty of Amiens (Mar. 27, 1802; see AMIENS, TREATY OF) ended war with Britain.

In acknowledgment of his achievements, Bonaparte was recognized by plebiscite as consul for life on Aug. 2, 1802. With peace …