The rise and fall of Napoleon Bonaparte

Topics: Napoleon I of France, Leadership, Louis Bonaparte Pages: 9 (2416 words) Published: April 21, 2015


The Great Conqueror, Napoleon Bonaparte

Alexander Tat

History 4B
Professor Swanson
April 09, 2015
When I ask you who the greatest conquerors in history, who do you think about? Is it Alexander the Great? Alternatively, is it the infamous Adolf Hitler? How about Napoleon Bonaparte? Who are these people? They were all very influential in their lifetime, but how did Napoleon stand out from the rest? We sometimes wonder what made this man a great conqueror. All great leaders have different traits that set them apart, but what made Napoleon “great”? First, how did Napoleon rise up and embrace his conquering persona? Second, how did Napoleon's greatest flaws lead him to crash and burn towards the end of his life, but what does a great leader truly consist of? The definition of a good leader can go on and on, but there were specific details that made Napoleon rise as a conqueror, and also things that led to his inevitable downfall.

In his life, Napoleon proved that he was not a person to be made an enemy of. There are many qualities that Napoleon held that made him the leader we know from history books. Many people argue that Napoleon’s quality as a commander led him to both his success and his downfall. Early in Napoleon's career, he gained trust and support from many people by showing that he was for the people. Bonaparte made a display of republican virtues; cautiously avoiding all ostentation, and in this respect, put himself on a footing of perfect quality with persons of ordinary standards in society.1 Napoleon created a reputation for himself and gained support of the pope. A smart man like Bonaparte knew that he needed to have the support of the people. In his career, whether it was just a normal citizen, or a soldier, Napoleon had a way with his words to gain supporters. Bonaparte played the role of what politicians do today, which is to say what the people want to hear. For example, Napoleon preached about equality and liberty constantly so the hopes of the people and soldiers are constantly renewed.2 Some people even thought of him as a military genius. 3 He made smart and spontaneous decisions on a battlefield. In addition, Napoleon also was adept at organizing and rounding up his troops. He built moral for his troops by constantly encouraging them, and gave the soldiers medals as a positive reinforcement for their work. “He proposed that a medal should be given to him, with a sum of money, and in his honor he established a prize of sixty thousand francs, to be awarded to anyone who should make a discovery….”4 This example shows that Bonaparte not only gave medals to his soldiers, but also gifts of francs. Besides the anticipation of rewards, his charisma made him a leader people could willingly follow. These are one of the successful traits Napoleon had that led him to become a leader that was admired. He was well respected, because he constantly rewarded people for hard work, and he constantly raised people up. This is what a good successful leader holds on to. One Napoleonic scholar calculated that Napoleon had only lost 6 out of 34 battles between 1792 and 1815, during which he became a very powerful man. Carl von Clausewitz even hailed Napoleon as,” the God of War.”5 With a record of accomplishment that fearsome, it is easy to see why many people were afraid of Napoleon, other than the sheer size of his army. With that name, Napoleon became well known and feared among the nations in Europe. Whenever a battle would break out, Napoleon would focus not on conquering the land, but on how to destroy the opposing army. “There are no precise or definite rules,” Napoleon also stated, “the art of war is simple, everything is a matter of execution.”6 Napoleon always had a clear goal, he believed that good timing and improvisation was all that was necessary. In this nature, Napoleon was successful. He always led in smart tactical ways, but also made adjustments according to...

Bibliography: O 'Meara, Barry Edward. Memoirs of the Military and Political Life of Napoleon Bonaparte. Hartford: C. Goodrich, 1822.
Secondary Sources:
Bourrienne, Louis Antoine Fauvelet De, and Ramsay Weston Phipps. Memoirs of Napoleon Bonaparte. New York: Charles Scribner 's Sons, 1891.
Lualdi, Katharine J
McLynn, Frank. Napoleon: A Biography. New York: Arcade Pub., 2002.
Tarbell, Ida M. A Short Life of Napoleon Bonaparte. New York: S.S. McClure, 1895.
Wilde, Robert
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