Please keep the following in mind:
- He was Corsican, which meant he was a bit of an outsider in France. In fact, in his early career, he was more interested in Corsican nationalism than French independence.
- He attended military school in France. While he could barely read French, he impressed many with his tactical prowess.
- He quickly became the darling of the Committee of Public Safety because of his decisive actions and often remarkable victories (remember that the Committee’s penchant for killing people scared many generals into inaction)
- After military campaigns in Italy and Egypt (which were not particularly successful), Napoleon returned to France. Once again, he endeared himself to political leaders by winning a decisive battle; this time, however, the battle was against royalists in the streets of Paris.
- On 18th Brumaire (remember, the French had created their own calendar), Napoleon orchestrated a coup d”etat and became Consul. Within 5 years, he would declare himself Emperor.
- The several instances of voting that occurred during his early reign showed that Napoleon enjoyed the support of a staggering 98% of the population. This suggests 1) that he was very popular BUT 2) some may have been too scared to vote against him AND 3) he was probably more than willing to rig the vote.
Today, we will examine these defining moments in Napoleon’s career:
- the Napoleonic Code
- tying government and military promotions to merit
- stabilizing the relationship with the Church through the Concordat
- successful military campaigns
- unsuccessful military campaigns