The Ambitions of Napoleon

From 1799 to 1814, France was in the hands of a keen military dictator of unheard of ability. Napoleon was one of history’s greatest leaders. He realized he was the only one to end civil dispute in France, in order to create unity. Napoleon saw himself as a man of destiny. The glory of war and the empire he wanted to create was irresistible. For years he went from victory to victory, but in the end of his reign he was destroyed by his own restless ambition to take over Europe.

Napoleon Bonaparte was born on August 15th, 1769. He started school at the age of ten at the College d’Autun. But that didn’t last too long. Four months later he entered the Brienne Military School. Napoleon excelled in this school and he was later recommended to the Military School at Paris.Napoleon as a boy was hot tempered, combative, and aggressive. He was made out to be a military leader. At the Academy of Brienne, when the other students played soldier, he usually became the commander.

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Tragically in 1784, his father died, leaving Napoleon at the age of fifteen without a role model and a guide. But Napoleon was a hard worker and he became self-motivated. After only of one year in the Military School of Paris he graduated instead of the normal two or three years. Napoleon was then assigned as a second lieutenant to an artillery regiment.

A year later he returned home for the first time in eight years. His visit would last two years, leaving him from his regiment in France. While home in Corsica he wrote a reply to the Corsican aristocrats who had attacked the Revolution. He organized a local pro-Revolutionary militia. Then Napoleon got himself elected as second in command of a battalion of Corsican volunteers. The Revolution changed the status of Corsica, giving Corsicans all the rights of Frenchman. This change helped Napoleon think more like a Frenchman.

In 1791, Napoleon was promoted to first lieutenant and sent to another regiment. But he took leave and returned home once more. At home Napoleons former hero, Paoli, became idolized by the Corsicans when he was exiled to England. But when he returned from England he got into politics and the public looked at him like any other politician. The French did not like him from the start because he was conservative. So when war broke out between France and England in 1793, Paoli, who had been warmly accepted in England during his exile, could not even be relied on to side with the country he was now a citizen of.

In 1792 and 1793 a series of events heated relations between the French government and Paoli and Napoleon and Paoli. And when the French government ordered for Paoli’s arrest, the Corsicans against went against their French masters, and Paoli became leader and hero again. Corsican houses were attacked and Napoleon and his family had to go to hiding in France.
Napoleon at the age of 24 became a Frenchman. He spoke, thought, lived, and wore a uniform just as a normal Frenchman. Napoleon was changing in many ways. His allegiance to France was growing stronger and he was more ambitious than ever. He was growing to realize people for who they really were and after watching the Revolutionary bloodshed in Paris in 1792 he made this comment: ” The people are not worth the trouble taken in winning their favor.”
In 1796 Napoleon was named the general of the French army in Italy. With this upgrade in rank he devised the Italian Campaign. This plan proved to be spectacular. Napoleon had twelve victories in only a span of one year. Before these battles he promised the soldiers everything and he fulfilled these promises: ” Soldiers! You are ill fed and almost naked. I shall lead you into the most fertile plains on earth. There you shall find great cities and rich provinces. There you shall find honor, glory, and riches.”
After defeating the Austrians, Napoleon turned to other things. He changed Venice into a French style republic. He was becoming very strong in politics and the Directory of France was starting to dislike Napoleon. He was casting a shadow over the Directory through his growing popularity and his no fear attitude towards them.

The Egyptian Campaign, in which Napoleon captured the British ship Alexandria and won at the Battle of the Pyramids, was looked at as a failure. Napoleon was becoming more cut off from the Directory and he was being looked upon as a romantic figure. He decided to leave Egypt on a ship back to Paris. When he arrived in Paris, the country was in despair. It was in need of new leaders. Napoleon had arrived at the right moment.

Soon Napoleon was the first Counsel and then later named Emperor of France. Napoleon revised everything once he had these powers. He established the Rhine River as the eastern border of France, he ended the dispute with the Roman Catholic Church, the court system was simplified, and all schools were under centralized control.

Napoleon started to get himself into more trouble with his aggressive behavior. Russia, Austria, and the British became one against Napoleon, but Napoleon wanted to stretch his kingdom farther by going into Russia. His attempt at Russia ended in an embarrassing retreat. Napoleon was losing his army. They refused to fight on. Napoleons reign as emperor was diminishing very quickly. He was exiled to an island named Elba but he made an escape back to France. He won over the troops that were supposed to capture him. Napoleon gathered his army and struck first against his allies. But to his dismay he would lose at the Battle of Waterloo and Napoleon was forced to surrender. He was exiled to an island in the south Atlantic Ocean, where he remained until his death from stomach cancer on May 5th, 1821.

Napoleon’s influence on France still lives on today. The country’s basic law is still the Code Napoleon, and the administrative and judicial systems are mostly Napoleons. The most obvious reminder of Napoleon is the centerpiece of Paris, the Arc de Triomphe. This was built to honor all of his victories.
Napoleon was a driven man that was never satisfied. He was very ambitious and sadly his ambition is what brought him down. He once said, “Power is my mistress.” Maybe that’s why he was a military genius. At St. Helena, he said, ” Waterloo will erase the memory of all my victories.” He was wrong. He will always be remembered for his loyalty to France, to end its civil dispute, and revision of a government that still lives on today, not for his loss at Waterloo. Napoleon is one of the best generals the world has ever seen, which’s why he is Napoleon the Great.