Did France need Napoleon?

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Kittiara
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I am going through a phase of reading up on the French Revolution and Napoleon's empire. One thing that strikes me is that the ideals behind the revolution were good ones - liberty, equality, brotherhood. The execution of it, however, was dreadful. So many deaths. Followed, of course, by another round of deaths when the different groups circling the power vacuum turned on the other.

The nation was surrounded by enemies. Its finances were in a dire state. Napoleon made use of the situation and grabbed power. He defeated France's enemies, reorganised the entire country and brought its finances back in line.

I am not being a Napoleon fangirl here. He was a dictator. He was greedy for power. He went beyond France's border and took over other countries. Without Napoleon, though, what would have happened to France? Would it have fared any better under people like Barras, or Robespierre, had he been able to cling onto power?

Just wondering what other people think.
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Gwilym101
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(Original post by Kittiara)
I am going through a phase of reading up on the French Revolution and Napoleon's empire. One thing that strikes me is that the ideals behind the revolution were good ones - liberty, equality, brotherhood. The execution of it, however, was dreadful. So many deaths. Followed, of course, by another round of deaths when the different groups circling the power vacuum turned on the other.

The nation was surrounded by enemies. Its finances were in a dire state. Napoleon made use of the situation and grabbed power. He defeated France's enemies, reorganised the entire country and brought its finances back in line.

I am not being a Napoleon fangirl here. He was a dictator. He was greedy for power. He went beyond France's border and took over other countries. Without Napoleon, though, what would have happened to France? Would it have fared any better under people like Barras, or Robespierre, had he been able to cling onto power?

Just wondering what other people think.
I really doubt that France or indeed Europe would have been better off if Napoleon hadn't risen to power. He introduced a huge amount of at the time ground breaking principles which we now take for granted like equality before the law, hell even just equality in principle given his treatment of religious minorities in countries he took over.

Dictator and power hungry... yes but he's always struck me as someone who regarded power as a means to an end and woe on anyone who stood in his way. Fundamentally how many dictators who were eventually defeated does history consider to have been beneficial for the world for their own actions (as opposed to the alliances that sprung up to defeat them)? Not many.
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Kittiara
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(Original post by Gwilym101)
I really doubt that France or indeed Europe would have been better off if Napoleon hadn't risen to power. He introduced a huge amount of at the time ground breaking principles which we now take for granted like equality before the law, hell even just equality in principle given his treatment of religious minorities in countries he took over.

Dictator and power hungry... yes but he's always struck me as someone who regarded power as a means to an end and woe on anyone who stood in his way. Fundamentally how many dictators who were eventually defeated does history consider to have been beneficial for the world for their own actions (as opposed to the alliances that sprung up to defeat them)? Not many.
True. I do think that he believed in the ideas behind the revolution. Though, of course, he curbed some of them during his rise in power. And he overrode democracy to get to where he felt he needed to be. Some of the principles he introduced, however, are of lasting importance, as you say.

I think that he is a fascinating historical figure. Genius or megalomaniac? Both? Did he just do what he felt needed doing? If he had not been so loyal to his family, and had not promoted them beyond their abilities, would his empire have fared better and lasted for longer?
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That Bearded Man
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The French Revolution stagnated under incompetent leaders and infighting among parties. Pro-Catholic Republican France was ripe for the taking so if not for Napoleon, another military seizure would have happened.

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That Bearded Man
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(Original post by Kittiara)
I am going through a phase of reading up on the French Revolution and Napoleon's empire. One thing that strikes me is that the ideals behind the revolution were good ones - liberty, equality, brotherhood. The execution of it, however, was dreadful. So many deaths. Followed, of course, by another round of deaths when the different groups circling the power vacuum turned on the other.

The nation was surrounded by enemies. Its finances were in a dire state. Napoleon made use of the situation and grabbed power. He defeated France's enemies, reorganised the entire country and brought its finances back in line.

I am not being a Napoleon fangirl here. He was a dictator. He was greedy for power. He went beyond France's border and took over other countries. Without Napoleon, though, what would have happened to France? Would it have fared any better under people like Barras, or Robespierre, had he been able to cling onto power?

Just wondering what other people think.
The Great Terror showed that repression only works in the form of the few, while fear was a part of ruling, there must be a ruler.

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username1854431
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Do Napoleon fan-girls even exist? :confused:

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Cato the Elder
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Only a man with the talent, energy and vision of Napoleon Bonaparte could have ruled France and taken it to heights of glory that it would otherwise have not reached. He restored the order that had been lot as a result of the French Revolution, keeping the passions of the Gallic mob in check, and ensuring that false notions of egalitarianism would be relegated to the fringes of society for a very, very long time. He reformed France's code of law, enshrining it in the Napoleonic Code and ensuring that the writ of the state ran across the entire land. He led his armies to victory time and time again, and he gave France martial glory that she had never attained since the times of Louis XIV, and would never attain again.
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Torquemada
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His biggest mistake (as he admitted later in his life) was being nice to the Jews.
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tpizent
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(Original post by Axel Johann)
Do Napoleon fan-girls even exist? :confused:

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Napoleon never said that sentence. It is misattributed.
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tpizent
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(Original post by Kittiara)
True. I do think that he believed in the ideas behind the revolution. Though, of course, he curbed some of them during his rise in power. And he overrode democracy to get to where he felt he needed to be. Some of the principles he introduced, however, are of lasting importance, as you say.

I think that he is a fascinating historical figure. Genius or megalomaniac? Both? Did he just do what he felt needed doing? If he had not been so loyal to his family, and had not promoted them beyond their abilities, would his empire have fared better and lasted for longer?
Last question. The answer is no.
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Ghostmaster475
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(Original post by Kittiara)
True. I do think that he believed in the ideas behind the revolution. Though, of course, he curbed some of them during his rise in power. And he overrode democracy to get to where he felt he needed to be. Some of the principles he introduced, however, are of lasting importance, as you say.

I think that he is a fascinating historical figure. Genius or megalomaniac? Both? Did he just do what he felt needed doing? If he had not been so loyal to his family, and had not promoted them beyond their abilities, would his empire have fared better and lasted for longer?
Can't really say he overrode democracy. Sure he launched a coup against the seemingly democratic Directory (which might I add wasn't really that democratic since to actually make any changes, appeals took forever to do anything) and when Napoleon came to power, census revealed 80% support from the people so he might as well have been an elected representative of the nation.
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Kallisto
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(Original post by Kittiara)
(...)
I am not being a Napoleon fangirl here. He was a dictator. He was greedy for power. He went beyond France's border and took over other countries. Without Napoleon, though, what would have happened to France? Would it have fared any better under people like Barras, or Robespierre, had he been able to cling onto power?

Just wondering what other people think.
To answer your question: a clear no! Barras and Robespierre and the Jacobins have persecuted and sentenced people to death by guillotine who tought different and not in the sense of the French Republic. And of course conservative powers who wished the monarchy back in France. If Napoleon has not intervened, I think that the death toll went even worse. 17.000 people died under the guillotine, and no one but Napoleon had the power and the will to bring this to an end. The guillotine was not only used to strive against the dissidents, but also to frighten those and thus to prevent a second revolution in established French Republic.

In terms of domestic policy, Napoleon censored the plurality of opinions and the press and arrested people who were against his state of government and his empire. From this point of view liberalism came not into being in that extend the French claimed in times of the revolution, sure. But the other changes he initiated under his reign made French better than in times of absolutism: he freed the people from labour service, abolished the privileges of the nobilities and the clergy and finally the equality before the law. His constitutional monarchy was a little step to more freedom and justice for the ordinary people. Reasons why he was so popular at his lifetime.
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