Essay: Napoleon is a Hero?

Napoleon who was borned in 1769 at Ajaccio became the most important leader in France after the French Revolution. Napoleon is often described as being ruled by his ego. Largely it was because he did not inherit his position, but achieved it by aggressively pursuing. He considered himself as the man who had completed the Revolution. By this he meant that the revolution reached to its basic goal and it was time to consolidate the gains from it.

‘We have finished the romance of the Revolution, we must now begin its history only seeking for what is real and practicable in the application of its principles, and not what is speculative and hypothetical’ (http://www.napoleonseries.org/faq/revolution2.cfm)

As he stated in the quote the new regime was both a break from the past and part of the continuing past. He indicated that the ideas, which could be applied, should be taken into account whereas the hypothetical ones should be left. In this sense he can be seen as having ‘saved’ the revolution by ending it. It may well be argued that Napoleon was a hero by considering the innovations he brought to the education system and religion his accomplishments in the warfare as it was written in the Napoleonic Code, on the other hand many would think that Napoleon used the Revolution’s ideas, which were not accord with his domestic policies to manipulate society to believe that he was the great.

First of all, it is argued that Napoleon’s interest in education was not solely based on providing means for the improvement of the army officers but he also wanted well-trained civilian officials and administrators due to the lack of trained personal in the empire. (http://www.napoleonseries.org/faq/revolution2.cfm) This was a considerable reason indicating the importance of education by Napoleon. Moreover, he viewed education as a means of indoctrinating the masses with the right principles. (Stiles, 1993) This meant removing education from the control of the church and replaces it under state control. His aim was to create liberal level of education, which included medicine, law and liberal arts. However, before, the Catholic Church maintained its control be teaching only subjects related to religion. Therefore the given education was not secular and people were forced to think under the influence of religion. Napoleon also added that ‘Equality must be the first element in education.’(http://www.napoleonseries.org/faq/revolution2.cfm) He said that everyone irrespective of birth or wealth had equal opportunities, which he called ‘careers open to talents’. (Stiles, 1993,p.89) However, it is argued that Napoleon used this idea to leave an impression on the French people that he was a just emperor. On the account of the fact he failed to ensure that his statement was right. The education was restricted to the sons of nobles who had the money and women were not allowed to take an education.

‘Girls should not be regarded as the equals of men; they are in fact mere machines to make children. I do not think we need bother about the education of girls… Marriage is their destiny’ (Stiles, 1993,p.89)

As it is clear Napoleon did not protect the rights of women, which contradicts, to his first statement concerning equality in education. This was one of the reasons why he was considered the destroyer of the French Revolution ideas.

Furthermore, the approach considering Napoleon as a hero claims that his most important contribution given to French people was the Napoleonic Code. It introduced the concept of a unified, logical system based on general principles of law by exploring the ideas o the French Revolution beyond French borders. Napoleon was determined to unify France into a modern nation by equally applying these laws. The laws included arrangements in the religion sphere. Napoleon used the ideas promoted in the French Revolution (equality, liberty, fraternity) to liberate Jews, Protestants and other religions. (http://www.napoleonseries.org/faq/revolution2.cfm). Since people were under pressure about their religious preferences Napoleon reduced this by opening all the churches, which were closed. He allowed the freedom of religion all over France. He claimed that ‘ Religion had nothing to do with me being the emperor’. (http://www.napoleonseries.org/faq/revolution2.cfm). Whereas according to the counter approach Napoleon did not liberate religion in order to unify the nation however he used it to economically benefit from the other nations

‘It is my wish that the Jews be treated like brothers because I thought that this would bring France many riches because Jews are numerous and they would come in large numbers to our country where they would enjoy more privileges then in any other nation.’(http://www.napoleonseries.org/faq/revolution2.cfm)

As it is stated he was not concerned with the national unification rather he sought the economic outcome.

In addition, it was defended that the Napoleonic Codes changed the entire nations life. Each state was granted a constitution, male French citizens were provided equality and they had the right to choose their own work. (Stiles, 1993) However, although the Code began on an entirely rational basis, under Napoleon’s direction it became more of a compromise between rationalism and tradition while he was depending on the principles of Enlightment, he also harbored a personal dislike of feminine influence on society and rejected family as the basic unit of French society. (http://www.napoleonseries.org/faq/leader.cfm) For instance the new Code permitted divorce but made it very difficult to perform. Therefore, Napoleon was viewed as using the Codes to better the life of men not women. Moreover, it was thought that this was related with his desire to conquer all Europe by giving the military officers what they wanted.

Napoleon’s use of strategic warfare throughout many battles allowed him to be seen as a hero not only in France but all around Europe. Although his army was out numbered he used his military experience and tactics to anticipate his opponents attacks and defeat them. (Ellis, 1991,p.) As he explains this ‘ My great talent the one that distinguishes me the most, is to see the entire picture distinctly’. (Ellis, 1991,p.) Therefore he had a gift from God, which enabled him to expand the boundaries of France and carry his ideals to the imperial areas. He threatened them like he wanted and soon spread all over Europe. On the other hand it was defended that Napoleon is not a hero as his foreign policy killed many people due to the wars. He was frequently held responsible for the ‘Napoleonic’ wars seen as a prime cause of them. It is argued that he should have prevented those wars and convinced the rest of Europe that France’s new and ideologically threatening government was not an enemy. (http://www.napoleonseries.org/faq/leader.cfm) However, he used war to defend and enrich the state of France and failed to create a durable peace. His success in war made him rely on wars as an instrument of policy and he was insensitive to its human cost. But it is known that, in the course of history no leader became successful without fighting for it. Many had to use propaganda to gain the trust of people. That’s why this approach is not realistic rather Napoleon’s military intelligence cannot be denied when his accomplishments and contributions to the French Republic is all known.

In conclusion, although there have been others like Napoleon (Alexander The Great, Caesar) they were not as successful and historically respected. Today still some people are ‘for’ and some are ‘against’ Napoleon’s accomplishments and reputation. He is different from the leaders we encounter recently. For instance, Bush has proved that he is a dictator by the Iraq War, which started without any true evidence. It is clear that Bush sought an economic outcome from the war he was not concern with the future and peace of the Iraq people. However Napoleon differed from Bush by using the ideas of equality, liberty and fraternity in order to expand the area of France and influence Europe. His policy was war but he had to use it otherwise he might have not find opportunity to spread French Revolutions ideals. But Bush could have solved his problems without applying to the war. One important point Napoleon failed was the equality of women within the society. However, finally Napoleon’s method of using the revolutionary ideas, his intelligence in war strategies proves that he is not just a military dictator rather he changed the course of history.

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