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Napoleon Bonaparte's Rise (Full)

Conquering is a grim business. History looks upon the practice far more favorably than modern society does. Brutal war for the sole purpose of subjugation has fallen out of fashion. This largely due to the rise of the internet, making the reality of war more graphic and immediate.

Social pressure can be a powerful thing. Citizens can only tolerate their leaders' bad behavior for so long before something breaks. This process is helped along with the strategic application of propaganda. The average person's thoughts and opinions are often identical to the last piece of propaganda they were exposed to, whether they realize it or not.

Revolutions are nothing new. People shrug off the yoke of their old leaders, only to replace them with something new. That's exactly what happened during the French Revolution.

Napoleon Bonaparte rose to power during a time when the French were demanding more freedom and liberty for all. His reign would be welcomed with open arms. Though it was just as authoritarian as that of his predecessor, and far more deadly.

Corsica and France

People are inevitably shaped by their heritage. The society and politics that surrounds them lay the framework for future attitudes. Whether they grow to believe in the society that spawned them, or to reject it.

Corsica is the fourth-largest island in the Mediterranean. The island has been inhabited since the 3rd millennium BCE. From 1434 to 1729 the island was mostly under the control of the Genoese Republic.

Genoese rule was characterized by a corrupt justice system, which instilled in the Corsicans the need to assert their own justice. The Vendetta became a common way to deal with those that wronged you.

Vendettas are a personal blood feud. Street justice. They often end only in the death of one or both of the parties involved. So, in short, it's a national institution.

Corsica rebelled against Genoa in 1729. The rebellion was disorganized and lacked leadership. Leading to chaos on the island, until 1755, when Pasquale Paoli returned to Corsica and established the Corsican Republic. Paoli would be one of Napoleon's great heroes.

The Republic was never truly acknowledged by Genoa. So, in 1768, when France made an offer to buy the island from Genoa, the latter was more than happy to agree. Selling something you don't own and getting away with it is the greatest business strategy.

French soldiers invaded Corsica and overcame their resistance with a brutal campaign of suppression. Paoli chose exile, and fled to England. His rebel soldiers continued the fight from bases in the mountains. Their continued resistance was often rewarded with public display of their bodies after death.

His close ally, Carlo Bonaparte, opted to capitulate to the French. Carlo was rewarded with minor nobility from the French. Pasquale Paoli would never forgive him for what he considered treachery.

The Young Napoleon

15 August 1769 was a normal day on the recently captured island of Corsica. The inhabitants of Ajaccio were unaware that a great ruler had been born among them. Nor could they imagine that one of their own would bring Europe to its knees in the decades to come.

Carlo Bonaparte, Corsica's representative in the French court, and his wife Letizia were blessed by the birth of a child. Napoleon was the second son to join the family. They lived a somewhat comfortable life, thanks largely to Letizia's frugality.

Napoleon would later remark that she had the head of a man on the body of a woman (which was supposed to be a compliment, but it reads very differently in the modern era). His stance on women would be made appallingly clear in his later political policies.

Ambition flowed through the veins of the Bonaparte men. Carlo had a hunger for adventure and often partook in risky business ventures and court intrigue. He passed this recklessness to his sons. Lucien Bonaparte, Napoleon's younger brother, would live a politically active life. Often involved in plots, schemes, and small-scale revolutionary activity.

Napoleon spent his early life living on Corsica with his mother. The boy loved reading and writing, and had aspirations of becoming an author. His inability to speak French was unacceptable to his father.

During his early youth, he would undoubtedly be exposed to the violent suppression of Corsican rebels by French soldiers. This childhood trauma would shape Napoleon's early views on France.

Carlo sent Napoleon to learn French on the mainland at the age of 10. The boy spoke French with a heavy Corsican accent, that he would never shake. This would prove to be a thorn in his side when, in 1779, he attended the Military Academy at Brienne-le-Château.

His peers, mainly aristocratic French children, rejected him. They bullied him for his awkward looks and dark skin. He took refuge in his studies, and excelled at math, history, and geography.

All the while, he held onto his strong Corsican Nationalism. France was a heinous occupying force, in his mind. He wrote several essays and stories that all had strong anti-French themes throughout his adolescence.

Excelling at math is a sure way to be assigned to the artillery divisions. Owing to the complexity of calculating trajectories during the heat of battle.

His talent was noticed, by his teachers. Five years later, he graduated and earned his place at Paris' École Militaire, the premier training facility for France's future military officers.

Napoleon found himself thrust into the decadence of the French aristocracy. His peers, being high-born, were treated accordingly. Lavish residences, carousing, and visits with prostitutes were the norm.

He was exposed to the Enlightenment ideals so popular at the time. Also coming into contact with the Jacobin political faction. The ideals of liberty, equality, and democracy appealed to the young officer.

Napoleon's great inner conflict arouse during this time. He wanted desperately to retain his Corsican heritage. Resisting the French was such a big part of his childhood. As he would soon discover, Corsica wasn't what he remembered. He had been away for such a long time, and placed his homeland on such a high pedestal, that a schism was inevitable.

It was during his time there that the ten-year period of the French Revolution would begin. Giving Napoleon the opportunities he needed to rise from military and literary obscurity, to the heights of historical fame.

Soon after the outbreak of revolutionary violence in France, Napoleon would return to his beloved Corsica. There he would try to reconcile his deep-rooted nationalism with the ideals of the revolution.

Debt, Taxes, & Unrest

Napoleon's academic achievement landed him the rank of second-lieutenant in an artillery brigade. Exposed to the growing revolutionary sentiment while stationed with the rest of the soldiers, he found himself resonating with them.

France was standing at the precipice of bankruptcy. King Louis XVI was notoriously bad with money. He heavily invested in the American Revolutionary War, mainly as a way to give the middle finger to England.

Revolutionary sentiment was strong with the French people, who were facing impoverishment.

It turns out that King Louis XVI's policy of taking out international loans and refusing to reform his economy, was bad. His best idea was to increase taxes on the poor, and cut taxes to the rich. Never has there been a more time-honored way to ruin a nation.

Luckily, runaway debt isn't something that any modern nations consider good financial policy. We wouldn't want any revolutions, would we?

Louis called an assembly of the Estates General, les états généraux. Representatives of the clergy, nobility, and middle class were sent out to collect a list of grievances from their constituents. That list would prove to be so long, and the collection of it only served to spread revolutionary urges.

The last time the Estates General were called, was in 1614. Back then, the middle class was tiny in comparison with the clergy and nobility. This had changed by 1789. The middle class now represented 98% of the French people. Unfortunately for them, they would discover that their vote still counted for less in the Estates General.

Middle Class voters wanted their vote to count, considering they were the only estate being taxed. They wanted to have a say in their own lives. Nobles, obviously, didn't want that.

So the Third Estate (middle class), began organizing themselves.

The meeting of the Estates General didn't go well. All three estates became openly hostile, and the public were consumed by the debate. That's when the Third Estate gathered on a tennis court, and announced themselves to be the National Assembly. They took an oath not to disperse until they had reformed the government.

Some nobles and most of the clergy joined them. King Louis XVI had no choice but to accept this new National Assembly into the structure of government. The transition of power turned Paris into a madhouse, as violence and paranoia overtook the citizenry.

Rumors of the military either attacking the king or the people led to riots. None more significant than the Storming of the Bastille.

On June 14, the public stormed the Bastille. They had heard a rumor that the National Assembly was about to be arrested.

900 Parisians charged at the old prison, which was guarded by 82 veterans too old for service, and 32 reinforcements. They demanded the disarmament of the garrison, and for them to hand over their cannons and gunpowder to the mob. The drawbridges were pulled up.

Two men scaled the walls, and cut the chains of the drawbridge. Failing to get out of the way, one man was crushed by the falling bridge. His death spurred the mod to storm across the bridge.

They took the fortress, and lynched several of the guards, as well as the garrison commander. All told, the mob liberated seven inmates. The Bastille, it seems, was no longer the terrible prison of old.

Napoleon had, at this point, come around to the revolutionary rhetoric of the day. Liberty seemed like a good deal. He could not accept the rampant disorder.

Many of his fellow officers fled France after the uprising began. They sought refuge in the surrounding monarchies, where they incited anti-revolutionary movements. France would soon find itself surrounded by enemies who wanted to keep King Louis XVI on the throne.

Napoleon in Corsica

Napoleon went on leave at the start of the Revolution in 1789. He returned to Corsica, where he hoped to spread the ideals of revolution and liberty. There he found allies in his brothers, who were very nationalistic.

Throughout his years training for the military, Napoleon kept on writing. He was working on a history of Corsica. Napoleon also wrote short stories about bloody vengeance against the French during his time in Corsica.

Pasquale Paoli had been invited back to Corsica in the intervening years. His exile was lifted by the rapidly changing government of France. They thought that he would be interested in becoming the governor of a slightly more free Corsica.

Like many avowed 'freedom fighters', Paoli took the appointment begrudgingly. He viewed the idea of Corsica governed by Corsicans under the authority of France as little more than theater to mollify the populace.

The truth was that Paoli had fallen in love with England during his long exile there. He would rather Corsica belonged to them, instead of France.

Corsica was a different place altogether from the one Napoleon had left. Looting of Catholic churches by the French government had left a sour taste in the mouths of the locals.

Napoleon struggled between his fierce Corsican Nationalism, and French Republicanism. He spent his time in on the island spreading Nationalist rhetoric, and espousing the ideal of a free Corsica governed by Corsicans.

He approached Paoli, his childhood hero, to write the dedication for his history of Corsica. Paoli, who associated the Bonaparte children with their turncoat father, rejected him. He never read Napoleon's manuscript, rejecting him simply by writing:

"history is not written in one's youth"

Above all else, Napoleon was shocked by the attitude in Corsica. His people seemed to exist outside the intrigue of the continent. He was expecting them to participate in the revolution, as a way to ensure their own liberty. They seemed paralyzed, stuck in the era of French monarchic domination.

Napoleon took it upon himself to kick Corsica into action. He started a Jacobin political club, handed out the French tricolor cockade on the street, and established a National Guard.

The rulers of Corsica struck back, banning his club and declaring the National Guard as illegitimate. Napoleon countered by starting a riot against the government of the island in 1790.

His brothers joined in, the family hoping to overthrow Paoli's government and rule the island themselves. Napoleonic scholars have struggled to come to a consensus about what exactly happened during the Bonaparte revolution on Corsica. There were violent clashes, Napoleon may have been arrested and rescued in a daring midnight raid.

It was not meant to be. Their hopes were dashed when the insurrection failed, and they were exiled from Corsica.

Paoli sent a letter to the government of France, condemning Napoleon's actions. The letter seems to not have made it, or been missed in all the confusion. France was essentially between governments for an entire decade.

Napoleon fled to France. His Corsican Nationalism firmly replaced by a new belief in the ideals of the French Revolution.

Napoleon the Jacobin

Seals affixed by the Jacobins of Paris atop their manuscripts and publications during the monarchic period.
Seal of the Jacobin Political Faction

Following his failed coup attempt in Corsica, Napoleon returned to active duty in the military. He had essentially taken a violent holiday.

Napoleon's love of writing still had a role to play in his future. He published a pamphlet, “Le Souper de Beaucaire”, which was heavily pro Jacobin. The pamphlet was published, and attracted a lot of attention.

He fell in with the Jacobin crowd. Augustin Robespierre, brother of the Jacobin leader Maximilien Robespierre, took a liking to the young Artillery officer. He saw in him a strong republican, loyal to the cause.

In April 1792, France declared war on Austria. The Jacobins opposed this move, Maximilien Robespierre believed that the ideals of liberty could not be forced upon people. His political opponents called him unpatriotic for it.

The war escalated, and soon France found itself surrounded by deadly enemies. Napoleon would soon get a taste for battle, and thanks to a turn of fate, he would see his star rise exponentially.

The French Revolution Begins

The storming of the Bastille was the first act in the decade long drama that was the French Revolution. It was also the first time that revolutionaries executed an authority figure.

Heavy taxation of the poor was about to be repaid in blood. Nobles began fleeing France en masse. They probably weren't lamenting their reluctance to tax the rich (themselves), although that would have ensured the longevity of their society. It's great that there are no parallels to modern society here.

The National Assembly signed a document declaring the abolition of the feudal system on 4 August 1789. Georges Lefebvre, a historian, describes this as the "death certificate of the old order".

They set out to create a new constitution, based on ideals of the Enlightenment. Free speech, representative government, and popular sovereignty became the basis of the new constitution.

The new constitution proved to not be to the liking of the people. Napoleon, and most of the French subjects, were heavily influenced by Maximilien Robespierre, the president of the Jacobin faction.

Revolution Within a Revolution

The Jacobins weren't fans of the Girondins. Although the Girondins weren't ever a united faction, just a loose affiliation of politicians. Maximilien wanted to avoid war with Prussia and Austria. The Girondins were desperate to spread the ideas of revolution by force.

Jacques-Pierre Brissot, the leader of the Girondins and the government, was a complex figure. He was pro-republic, pro-war, and somehow also pro-monarchy. So in April 1792, his government declared war on Austria and Prussia.

Napoleon was promoted to the rank of Captain in 1792. The Jacobin leadership read his political manifesto disguised as a short story. Power vacuums left by the fleeing nobles left a clear path to promotion open for the young Napoleon Bonaparte.

Robespierre wanted a more radical reform. His Jacobin faction attacked the royal residence and arrested the king and queen on 10 August 1792. The war with Austria and Prussia distracted the Girondin government.

Spurred on by the Jacobin takeover, the public went into a frenzy of murder. Violence swept through Paris like a biblical flood, suspected counterrevolutionaries were executed without trial.

France's government was replaced by the National Convention, and France was declared a republic. The Jacobin faction took over from the Girondins. Maximilien Robespierre was at the helm of the French Revolution, and things would become so much worse.

In January 1794, King Louis XVI was publicly executed for treason. Marie Antoinette followed her husband to the guillotine nine months later. Their deaths marked the beginning of what is known as the Reign of Terror.

Robespierre called for more executions and violence. His reign of Terror saw the execution by guillotine of between 40,000 and 17,000 suspected counterrevolutionaries. France drowned in blood for ten months.

The Siege of Toulon

Southern France revolted against the revolution. Pro-monarchy insurrections, funded by the British, Spanish, Prussians, and Austrians, took over a series of cities. The most important of which was the port of Toulon.

Without Toulon, the French navy was unable to resupply. They were cut off from France and powerless to stand against the British and Spanish naval forces.

Toulon was opened to the British and Spanish, who occupied the fortified city. It wouldn't be an easy nut to crack. In fact, the French commanding officers believed it to be impossible, so they were replaced by General Jacques Dugommier. The six-month siege would end in December 1793.

The newly appointed captain of the artillery, Napoleon, was given the nigh impossible task of capturing forts around the city. Not only did he manage to capture them, but he led the charge personally, even taking a bayonet to the thigh as a memento. He captured an influential British officer, adding to his renown.

Toulon fell, largely thanks to Napoleon's brilliant strategic mind and his bravery. As a reward, he was promoted to Brigadier General at the tender age of 24. He was now an indispensable part of the French army, and the Jacobin government.

Napoleon was given command of the French Army of Italy's artillery.

The fall of Toulon left an indelible mark on the young Bonaparte. He saw the chaos of soldiers let loose on the Royalist population of the city. Civilians flung themselves into the sea to escape the violence on shore, even as the British ships exploded in the dockyard.

Fall of the Jacobins

Napoleon arrived in northern Italy in April 1794. He led his army to a decisive victory at the Second Battle of Saorgio against the Austrian and Sardinian forces. This victory endeared him to the leaders of the military.

The Thermidorians were a faction of the National Convention that were against the warmongering of the Girondins, and the wholesale slaughter of the Jacobins. They rose up to overthrow the Jacobin leadership and to bring an end to the Reign of Terror.

Maximilien Robespierre's behavior earned the ire of the new National Convention, who had him and his allies arrested on 27 July 1794. He managed to escape, and tried taking his life in Paris' Town Hall.

Maximilien failed at suicide, only managing to shoot his jaw off. He was recaptured, and met the guillotine that he so loved. 21 of his allies followed him into death, all executed for their bloodthirsty incitement of violence.

Augustin Robespierre's head rolled as part of the mass execution. He had been Napoleon's most vocal supporter.

This placed Napoleon on a knife's edge. He had built his meteoric rise on the Jacobin cause. He was arrested as a collaborator, but released soon after. It seems that his military successes had bought him a get-out-of-jail-free card.

Crusher of Rebellions - A Whiff of Grapeshot

Napoleon Bonaparte had always despised the chaos of the mob. From his denouncement of the rabble that sacked the King's palace, to the horror of Toulon in the aftermath of the city's fall, he knew the mob well.

The National Convention established a five-person Directory to hold executive power over France. They soon realized that the Parisian public's attitudes had shifted. Several failed governments had led them into nothing but war and suffering.

Attitudes among the people were shifting back to support for the monarchy. Tensions were rising in Paris. Largely due to the Thermidorians' policies that exacerbated the starvation already rampant in France.

The Thermidorians brought in a new law, outlawing Royalist sentiment in the National Convention. As a result, a significant portion of Paris' population rose up against them in revolt on 4 October 1795.

General Jacques-François Menou was given 5,000 soldiers to take on the roughly 20,000 strong revolt. He was reluctant to engage them, and took them at their word that they wouldn't continue the revolt.

The next morning, 25,000 Royalists gathered South of the Seine River. Their plan was to march on the Tuileries Palace to take the National Convention by force. Menou was relieved of his command for being an idiot.

He was replaced by Paul Barras, who hadn't commanded soldiers since 1783. The Thermidorians were in trouble, so they looked to the young general in their prison. Barras had heard about the promising young officer's conduct in Toulon.

Napoleon had no qualms about taking on French citizens. He was summoned in the pre-dawn hours and given command of 6,000 soldiers to defend Tuileries.

Vastly outnumbered, Napoleon set about fortifying his position. He had his artillery outfitted with grapeshot, an ammunition consisting of many small metal balls. Effectively turning his cannons into giant shotguns.

Grapeshot had never been used on civilians before.

He set the infantry up behind the artillery, ready to defend the cannons. Placing his cavalry on the plain where the executions of the Terror had taken place.

Napoleon's attitude to the rabble was clarified when he witnessed the mob storming Tuileries Palace in 1792. Of the event, he wrote:

"why do they not sweep away four or five hundred of them with cannon? The rest would take themselves off very quickly" (Roberts, 39)

The insurrectionists marched to just outside of cannon range, and sent their leaders ahead to parley. Hours passed in fruitless negotiations. By 4pm, the Royalists returned to their, now 30,000 strong, mob.

Napoleon held off firing his cannons until the Royalists had made it clear that their charge wasn't a bluff. The Royalist muskets sounded at 4:15pm, and were met by Bonaparte's artillery.

For just under two hours, the crack of rifles and thunder of cannons rang out in Paris. Royalist bodies lay in a disarray of limbs by the end of the day. The insurrection was put down with brutal efficiency.

He took the fight to the Church of Saint-Roch, where the insurrection had set up its headquarters. They held out until he rolled up the cannons.

The battle of 13 Vendémiaire ended with 300 dead Royalists and hundreds more wounded. Compared with the 30 deaths among Napoleon's men, and the 60 wounded, it was a clear victory.

The French Revolution was over. No more popular uprisings would rise while Napoleon Bonaparte was at the head of France's armies. Which he most certainly was from this point onwards.

He had this to say about his actions on 13 Vendémiaire (5 October):

"Good and upstanding people must be persuaded by gentle means. The rabble must be moved by terror" (Roberts, 66)

The New France

The Thermidorians did away with the National Assembly. It clearly failed, considering the chaos and bloodshed of the past half decade. They were determined not to follow the previous institution into the grave.

Napoleon was appointed as the Commander of the Interior, and given charge of the entire army of Italy. His actions on 13 Vendémiaire gained him fame, and the adoration of the Directory.

The National Assembly was scrapped in favor of a bicameral system. The Council of 500 was charged with creating laws, and the Council of Ancients assessed the proposed laws before they were implemented.

Both councils were subordinate to the Directory, a council of five elected by the Council of Elders. The Directory held executive power in France until 1799. Power that they only wielded because of the actions of Napoleon Bonaparte.

Everyone in Paris knew Napoleon, largely because he spent his time parading through the streets with his most loyal officers. He quickly elevated his greatest supporters, building the structure of his future power around him.

His brother, Lucien Bonaparte, was installed in the Council of 500. He would eventually become the last president of the Council.

Josephine & Napoleon

One of the first things he did, as Commander of the Interior, was to disarm the population of France. He pushed to outlaw owning private weaponry. There was no battle that Napoleon feared more than facing the mob.

According to the legend, a young boy came up to him during the disarming of Paris. He begged Napoleon to allow him to keep his father's sword. The man had been a general, and died by guillotine.

So impressed was Napoleon with the boy's bravery, that he not only allowed him to keep the sword, but endeavored to meet the boy's mother. Marie Josèphe Rose Tascher de La Pagerie was the widow of General Alexandre François Marie, Viscount of Beauharnais.

Alexandre de Beauharnais was imprisoned and executed during the Reign of Terror. His wife, who at the time went by Rose, soon joined him in prison. Their relationship was marked by infidelity going both ways. Even prison couldn't keep them from finding alternative lovers.

Five days after her husband's execution, Rose was released. She had been slated for her turn at the guillotine, but the Jacobins fell just in time to spare her life. Luck saved her, but her guile helped her rise from disgraced widow to the top of the Parisian social scene.

Rose introduced herself as Josephine to Napoleon, who was instantly enamored. She had lost her teeth due to her addiction to sugar, but that didn't stop her from igniting Napoleon's passion.

The pair were soon married, and from the surviving love letters, Napoleon loved her with all his heart.

Napoleon in Italy

Napoleon at the Battle of Rivoli Henri Félix Emmanuel Philippoteaux - [1].
If you must die, do so stylishly

Napoleon was appointed to the head of the French Army of Italy. Two days after his wedding to Josephine, he left France to take on the kingdoms of Sardinia and Austria.

The Italian soldiers welcomed him as their savior. They were badly supplied, and suffered from weak leadership. All of which ended when Bonaparte arrived.

Two weeks into the North Italian campaign, his army had crushed the Kingdom of Sardinia. They swung North, to take on the Habsburgs of Austria. Napoleon's speed and fury shocked the Austrians into suing for peace.

At the same time, he sent a general back to France to purge the remaining Royalists. They were vocal about the threat Napoleon represented to the cause of French Liberty.

Thanks to this purge, the Directory was now firmly in power. The only problem was that their power was fully reliant on Napoleon Bonaparte. He could take it all away, and as we know, he would.

The Treaty of Campo Formio was signed, ceding Northern Italy to France, along with substantial parts of the Low Countries. He turned his sights on Venice, and swiftly ended a 1,100-year independence streak.

The style of warfare that Napoleon employed during this campaign became known as Napoleonic Warfare. He would employ the creative use of mobile artillery throughout his career as a conqueror, to great effect.

His first campaign was marked by rampant looting of priceless art, artifacts, gold, and jewels. The influx of wealth earned him greater popularity in France. He worked to build this reputation by founding a newspaper in France focused on promoting his persona.

He returned to France on 5 December 1797. Napoleon Bonaparte was more than a hero to the people of France, and soon, he would make that a fact. First, he would have to deal with the British, who weren't having any of this.

Power Lies to the East

Like his heroes, Julius Caesar, and Alexander the Great, Napoleon saw his future as a conqueror of the lands East of Europe. The continental powers of Europe proved themselves no match for his skill on the battlefield.

Only one Empire could stop France, Great Britain. The British weren't pleased with French Liberty, as it jeopardized their own monarchy. They also didn't appreciate that there was a new power on the block with expansionist ideas.

The Directory wanted Napoleon to invade Britain itself, but he was no fool. The Royal Navy was the most powerful naval force on Earth at the time. France's navy had no chance of defeating them in open conflict.

Bonaparte ante la Esfinge, por Jean-Léon Gérôme Jean-Léon Gérôme - Fuente
Say what you will, the man looks good on a horse

Instead, he turned his attention to Egypt. If he could cut off England's access to India, he could hamstring the Empire. This would open the avenue for the conquest of the Isles.

The invasion of Egypt landed in Alexandria in 1798. His forces were accompanied by a nearly equal amount of scientists and scholars. While in Egypt, they discovered the Rosetta Stone, which allowed for the translation of Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphics. Thus, Napoleon paved the way for the modern science of Egyptology.

They swiftly defeated the Egyptian Mamluk Army, and seemed set on a quick conquest. Unfortunately for the French, this was not to last. Admiral Horatio Nelson led a massive British Fleet in a hunt for the French ships.

On August 1, Nelson caught the French Fleet unawares in the Bay of Abukir. He managed to surround them, and for three days they tore the French ships apart. Only two ships managed to escape the slaughter. At the end, 5,000 French sailors had lost their lives.

Napoleon turned his attention to the Syrian city of Acre. He besieged the city for three months, before admitting defeat. The combined power of the British navy firing at them from sea, the Syrians' ingenious strategy of building backup defenses, and an outbreak of the Plague among the French soldiers, managed to defeat Napoleon's ambitions.

He returned to Cairo. While there, he fought and won the Battle of Abukir. Then he announced that he and a select group would take a voyage down the Nile. British Naval ships set off in pursuit, giving Napoleon the chance to escape Egypt.

Napoleon returned to France in August 1799. He arrived before the news of his failure, or of him abandoning his army. So, he marched in as a victorious conqueror, to the adoration of the public.

France is Mine - 18 Brumaire

Napoleon arrived in Paris in October 1799. He was met by a weak Directory, and his brother at the head of the Council of 500. Popular consensus was that the Directory was just as corrupt and weak as any of their predecessors. Life in France was harder than ever.

Paul Barras was a legendary fiend. He stood at the top of the Directory, from where he indulged in every excess imaginable. Lovers of every stripe made appearances in his chambers, and he even flaunted his promiscuity in public. This might have been forgiven, if he hadn't also bankrupted France.

The people were sick of the instability of the past decade. Napoleon knew just the guy to fix it. The only problem was that he needed to be the only one in charge. Something akin to an Emperor, but with a different name.

He couldn't do it alone, so he formed an alliance with his brother, Lucien, the Minister of Police, Joseph Fouché, and two members of the Directory. Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès, and Roger Duclos, were sick of Paul Barras' corrupt leadership.

Their plan was to overthrow Barras' Directory with the backing of Napoleon's grenadiers. He would then institute a new system, where Napoleon, Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès, and Roger Duclos would share power as co-Consuls.

Lucien concocted a lie that the Jacobins had returned, and were planning a coup. His agents spread fake pamphlets alleging this around Paris. The Council of Ancients had to flee to Saint-Cloud, and the Council of 500 went to the Palace Orangery for their safety on 9 November 1799 (18 Brumaire, French Revolutionary Calender).

Napoleon Bonaparte burst into the Council chamber at Saint-Cloud, and had his men surround the shocked politicians. He addressed the gathered Council of Ancients with a speech:

"You are on a volcano. The Republic no longer has a government; the Directory has been dissolved, the factions are agitating; the time to make a decision has arrived. You have summoned me and my comrades-in-arms to aid your wisdom, but time is precious…I only want the safety of the Republic." (Roberts, 220)

His men cheered, but the Ancients demanded that he swear an oath of allegiance to the Constitution of the Revolution. Napoleon scoffed at the idea. He argued that the Constitution had been transgressed so often as to be rendered worthless. France needed an entirely new system.

Lucien led the Council in a heated debate the next day, buying time for his brother to arrive. Napoleon and his men marched to Orangery after cowing the Council of Ancients.

The Council of 500 weren't having it, as soon as the soldiers entered, they knew something was up. While Napoleon made his way to the Rostrum, the councilors shouted, "Down with the tyrant! Down with the Dictator!"

Napoleon tried speaking to the Council:

"I want no more of this factionalism; this must finish"

Many of the Council Deputies surrounded him, and began pushing and slapping him. The grenadiers pushed them aside and extracted Napoleon from the council chambers.

The Council of 500 immediately proposed a vote to outlaw the young general. Lucien managed to escape the chambers, and urged the grenadiers to reenter. He claimed that some of the deputies were English agents who had brandished daggers and promised to murder Napoleon.

They hesitated, so Lucien pulled out his own dagger and held it to Napoleon's chest. He cried out:

"I swear that I will stab my own brother to the heart if he ever attempts anything against the liberty of Frenchmen" (Roberts, 224)

The grenadiers, inspired by Lucien's performance, charged into the council chamber and arrested as many deputies as they could. Some deputies leapt from windows to avoid capture.

Later that night, Lucien gathered what few deputies he could muster who were sympathetic to the Bonaparte cause. They voted to dissolve both the Council of 500, and the Council of the Ancients.

Despite Napoleon's failure in the second half of the coup, it was a success. The Directory was no more, the coup d'état was bloodless, and comprehensive. France changed hands for the last time during the Revolutionary period.

Napoleon wrote the new constitution to lend sole executive power to the First Consul, himself. The positions held by Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès, and Roger Duclos were to be advisory in nature.

The Napoleonic Era was at hand, and Europe would soon fall to its knees before the young man from Corsica.



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