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Thread: The French Revolution and Nepoleon

  1. #1 The French Revolution and Nepoleon 
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    What were the main ideas behind the French Revolution. What were Napoleons ideas on government and society at the time?


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    Quote Originally Posted by mmatt9876 View Post
    What were the main ideas behind the French Revolution. What were Napoleons ideas on government and society at the time?
    There are many books on these subjects. It is hard to answer in a forum.


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    Not sure what relevance his ideas might have had. The Storming of the Bastille was in 1789, a month before Bonaparte turned 20 years old. He was a second lieutenant on garrison duty at the time, hardly a position of power or influence.

    Have a look at the wiki page on Napoleon and you get the general picture. Or spend the next year of your life reading dozens of histories and biographies to get right on top of the subject.
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    Quote Originally Posted by mmatt9876 View Post
    What were the main ideas behind the French Revolution. What were Napoleons ideas on government and society at the time?
    Not really sure why you connecting the two. Napoleon wasn't a leader during the French Revolution and didn't play any real role in shaping it. After the revolution, one of the more bloody ones, there was a huge power vacuum and desperation to return to some form of normalcy; Napoleon, already a popular chap for a few military victories by commoners and the remaining leaders, and arguably the smartest man in Europe at the time, took advantage of the chance to toss out the new government. He did adopt at least some ideas out of the revolution as he brought much equality for many groups in the eyes of the law.

    There's a whole range of other major changes to government that you can research...education, military, legal, tax collection, religious tolerance etc. Probably the best civil administrator Europe has ever had.

    I regard him as an underachiever though -- authentic genius of the type probably seen once a century who squandered far too much energy and thought on military campaigns.
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    Are you actually asking "How were Napoleon's ideas on government and society shaped by being a young man at the time of the French Revolution?" If so, that is an interesting question, but one I am unable to answer.
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    That is certainly a question I would like to see answered.
    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt View Post
    Are you actually asking "How were Napoleon's ideas on government and society shaped by being a young man at the time of the French Revolution?" If so, that is an interesting question, but one I am unable to answer.
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    Quote Originally Posted by mmatt9876 View Post
    That is certainly a question I would like to see answered.
    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt View Post
    Are you actually asking "How were Napoleon's ideas on government and society shaped by being a young man at the time of the French Revolution?" If so, that is an interesting question, but one I am unable to answer.
    Was Napolean not an Artillery Officer during some clashes in Paris in the early onset of the Revolution?

    I recall reading somewhere (a book I think I have at home here somewhere), he at some point was in a people uprise and had to defend something,... he turned the canons on the population of Paris and fired the canons.

    Not sure about the details I would have to look it up.

    But... if these people, he let his artillery unit fire their canons at, where revolutionaries in the early uprising of the revolution,... then you may conclude perhaps, though with much assumptions,... he initially had no mind for revolution and prefered to be with the ruling power. Though ofcourse if he had an official position as an officer, he might still have revolutionary thoughts, but may simply have followed discipline and do what he was told too.

    However, as I do not recall when it was when he let his Artillery Unit fire their canons on the Parisians,... this is all pure speculation from my side.

    I'd have to look up the details,... to prevent me stacking assumptions on assumptions without validation by facts.

    But perhaps someone else knows the incident I am talking about and the details.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Estheria Quintessimo View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by mmatt9876 View Post
    That is certainly a question I would like to see answered.
    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt View Post
    Are you actually asking "How were Napoleon's ideas on government and society shaped by being a young man at the time of the French Revolution?" If so, that is an interesting question, but one I am unable to answer.
    Was Napolean not an Artillery Officer during some clashes in Paris in the early onset of the Revolution?

    I recall reading somewhere (a book I think I have at home here somewhere), he at some point was in a people uprise and had to defend something,... he turned the canons on the population of Paris and fired the canons.

    Not sure about the details I would have to look it up.

    But... if these people, he let his artillery unit fire their canons at, where revolutionaries in the early uprising of the revolution,... then you may conclude perhaps, though with much assumptions,... he initially had no mind for revolution and prefered to be with the ruling power. Though ofcourse if he had an official position as an officer, he might still have revolutionary thoughts, but may simply have followed discipline and do what he was told too.

    However, as I do not recall when it was when he let his Artillery Unit fire their canons on the Parisians,... this is all pure speculation from my side.

    I'd have to look up the details,... to prevent me stacking assumptions on assumptions without validation by facts.

    But perhaps someone else knows the incident I am talking about and the details.
    The incident you are referring to took place in 1794. Not what I would call the early revolution, the government set up by the original revolutionaries was a patchwork affair usually referred to as the National Assembly, which proved too weak and indecisive to last. In 1794, after a horrific bloodbath phase called the terror, a new organization called the Directory took over, consisting of a much smaller core group of generally politically astute men. The royalist faction found itself excluded from the directory and launched a revolt. Napoleon organized the defense of the Directory from the attack by the royalists, and decimated the attackers with artillery fire.

    It is perhaps worth noting that it was no accident that Napoleon was an artillery officer. In armies of this era, there were three basic arms, infantry, cavalry, and artillery. Cavalry was the province of the nobility, as upkeep of a horse and the leisure time to learn to ride well were something only wealthy men could afford. Infantry was the province of the common man, as the entry requirements were relatively low. Artillery was the province of the intellectual, at least for officers. Artillery officers were expected to understand arcane subjects such as ballistics and trigonometry and chemistry and siegecraft that were simply beyond the education level of infantry and cavalry officers. Napoleon graduated from the prestigious Ecole Militaire military institute, the first Corsican ever to do so, and was immediately commissioned a second lieutenant in an artillery regiment.
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    I think the main idea of the french revolution was to change the society. And we musn't forget that different protagonists had different aims.
    I guess most of the ordinary people who fought in the revolution hoped for better living conditions...affordable food, less suppression, more say, more equality. The idea that the king was put there by divine powers and had therefor the right to rule wasn't generally accepted anymore...and the idea that noble people should have special right was also strongly questioned.
    And not to forget...these people where very very angry. (Maybe it is just a generalization and a simplification and a bunch of prejudices but I would say that french people are hard to rule, which means...its unwise for every government to piss of the french people...they fight back way faster than others and they tend to choose drastic methods. Allow me a little anecdote to describe french people.
    In Germany and in France you have to pay taxes for dogs. The laws are the same. But in france almost NOBODY ever paid that tax, while it is quiet usual to pay it in Germany. Another example are the unions in both countries. French workers strike almost every year, much more than in most other countries)
    I know that this has not much to do with the french revolution but...I think it might help why it was french who got rid of its nobility first.

    I think this reason can't be underestimated. For years the king and the elite was more and more seen as a suppressor, and as a dishonest person who wasn't able to keep promises.
    Because the french society was about to be reformed already...and many nobles and politicians understood the necessity of change...but the progress was slow and half hearted and the result (better living conditions, more rights etc) weren't what people expected.

    Other people, Philosophers, Writers, Political Activists had more detailed plans for chancing society. Thats the stuff you usually read in books...equality, brotherhood, the principles of enlightenment, rationality.
    Some nobles hoped to overtrhrow the government to become king themselves some where probably just powerhungry or bloodthirsty people who enjoyed killing others.

    About Napoleon....it is my humble opinion that his interest in the idea of the french revolution was...lets say limited.
    He wanted to become an emperor. That was his priority I think.
    In some cases he used the modern ideas of the revolution but whenever he personally disliked one of the ideas (woman rights) or it wasn't suitable for him in a special situation (terror reign in Spain)...he totally ignored ideals of the revolution. Best example...the revolution was against monarchy...Napoleon crowned himself as a monarch. Another example would be that he never cared about executing or replacing monarchs in the conquered countries as long as they stayed loyal.
    I believe that he was a pragmatist but that didn't kept him from spreading the ideas of the revolution.

    I think the best way to show it is to show what changed in a country if Napoleon conquered it.
    The press gained more freedom, the church lost much of its property, minorities like the jews have been given more rights, privileges of the nobel where reduced. But on the other side Napoleon was also a ruthless dictator and warlord who suppressed the people and was about conquering as much land as possible.


    But...(from a German perspective) most people didn't wanted to get rid of the new ideas but get rid of Napoleon.
    After Napoleon the old nobles weren't able to totally restore the old system...some of the new things stayed there and were later used again. So...I would say...the basic ideas of the french revolution are the fundament of the modern world. You can find them in any constitution, in the declaration of human rights and in every aspect of what is usually considered as the "values of the western world".
    Last edited by Headdresser; October 30th, 2013 at 11:12 AM.
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  11. #10  
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    Quote Originally Posted by danhanegan View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Estheria Quintessimo View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by mmatt9876 View Post
    That is certainly a question I would like to see answered.
    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt View Post
    Are you actually asking "How were Napoleon's ideas on government and society shaped by being a young man at the time of the French Revolution?" If so, that is an interesting question, but one I am unable to answer.
    Was Napolean not an Artillery Officer during some clashes in Paris in the early onset of the Revolution?

    I recall reading somewhere (a book I think I have at home here somewhere), he at some point was in a people uprise and had to defend something,... he turned the canons on the population of Paris and fired the canons.

    Not sure about the details I would have to look it up.

    But... if these people, he let his artillery unit fire their canons at, where revolutionaries in the early uprising of the revolution,... then you may conclude perhaps, though with much assumptions,... he initially had no mind for revolution and prefered to be with the ruling power. Though ofcourse if he had an official position as an officer, he might still have revolutionary thoughts, but may simply have followed discipline and do what he was told too.

    However, as I do not recall when it was when he let his Artillery Unit fire their canons on the Parisians,... this is all pure speculation from my side.

    I'd have to look up the details,... to prevent me stacking assumptions on assumptions without validation by facts.

    But perhaps someone else knows the incident I am talking about and the details.
    The incident you are referring to took place in 1794. Not what I would call the early revolution, the government set up by the original revolutionaries was a patchwork affair usually referred to as the National Assembly, which proved too weak and indecisive to last. In 1794, after a horrific bloodbath phase called the terror, a new organization called the Directory took over, consisting of a much smaller core group of generally politically astute men. The royalist faction found itself excluded from the directory and launched a revolt. Napoleon organized the defense of the Directory from the attack by the royalists, and decimated the attackers with artillery fire.

    It is perhaps worth noting that it was no accident that Napoleon was an artillery officer. In armies of this era, there were three basic arms, infantry, cavalry, and artillery. Cavalry was the province of the nobility, as upkeep of a horse and the leisure time to learn to ride well were something only wealthy men could afford. Infantry was the province of the common man, as the entry requirements were relatively low. Artillery was the province of the intellectual, at least for officers. Artillery officers were expected to understand arcane subjects such as ballistics and trigonometry and chemistry and siegecraft that were simply beyond the education level of infantry and cavalry officers. Napoleon graduated from the prestigious Ecole Militaire military institute, the first Corsican ever to do so, and was immediately commissioned a second lieutenant in an artillery regiment.
    Thank you filling in the details which I did not remember, forum member danhanegan. But from your knowledge, as I lacked on it for details, what does this say for the OP question? From this incident can one say, though it was early in his career, what flavor Napoleon had?

    So he gunned the royalists to shreds,... but was he doing this simply because he was an artillery officer and it was his duty to his commanding officer(s), or was he a revolutionary from the get go? Or only busy with his own career?

    Do you know anything about that concerning this topic?
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    A quick request to the OP mmatt9876 of this thread, or a moderator able too change to thread-title....

    Could you please, please, please, please... change the thread title "The French Revolution and Nepoleon" to: "The French Revolution and Napoleon"

    It really irritates me seeing the name "Napoleon"spelled wrong.
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    Well in that time France had lost some wars recently in America (french colonies). Therefore the economical situation of the country was extremely deficient before the revolution. Apart from this, the lack of inteligence of the last french kings and an high incremation of population contributed.
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    Quote Originally Posted by quelus View Post
    Well in that time France had lost some wars recently in America (french colonies). Therefore the economical situation of the country was extremely deficient before the revolution. Apart from this, the lack of inteligence of the last french kings and an high incremation of population contributed.
    The French treasury was indeed in dire straights, but much of the deficiency came from the support France gave to the American revolutionaries, which was considerable. The American revolution also served as an example of free people throwing off tyranny, and caught the imagination of the French people. The government tried to raise taxes to rebuild the treasury, and primed by the American example, the French lower classes (who paid most of the taxes) exploded in revolt.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Estheria Quintessimo View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by danhanegan View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Estheria Quintessimo View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by mmatt9876 View Post
    That is certainly a question I would like to see answered.
    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt View Post
    Are you actually asking "How were Napoleon's ideas on government and society shaped by being a young man at the time of the French Revolution?" If so, that is an interesting question, but one I am unable to answer.
    Was Napolean not an Artillery Officer during some clashes in Paris in the early onset of the Revolution?

    I recall reading somewhere (a book I think I have at home here somewhere), he at some point was in a people uprise and had to defend something,... he turned the canons on the population of Paris and fired the canons.

    Not sure about the details I would have to look it up.

    But... if these people, he let his artillery unit fire their canons at, where revolutionaries in the early uprising of the revolution,... then you may conclude perhaps, though with much assumptions,... he initially had no mind for revolution and prefered to be with the ruling power. Though ofcourse if he had an official position as an officer, he might still have revolutionary thoughts, but may simply have followed discipline and do what he was told too.

    However, as I do not recall when it was when he let his Artillery Unit fire their canons on the Parisians,... this is all pure speculation from my side.

    I'd have to look up the details,... to prevent me stacking assumptions on assumptions without validation by facts.

    But perhaps someone else knows the incident I am talking about and the details.
    The incident you are referring to took place in 1794. Not what I would call the early revolution, the government set up by the original revolutionaries was a patchwork affair usually referred to as the National Assembly, which proved too weak and indecisive to last. In 1794, after a horrific bloodbath phase called the terror, a new organization called the Directory took over, consisting of a much smaller core group of generally politically astute men. The royalist faction found itself excluded from the directory and launched a revolt. Napoleon organized the defense of the Directory from the attack by the royalists, and decimated the attackers with artillery fire.

    It is perhaps worth noting that it was no accident that Napoleon was an artillery officer. In armies of this era, there were three basic arms, infantry, cavalry, and artillery. Cavalry was the province of the nobility, as upkeep of a horse and the leisure time to learn to ride well were something only wealthy men could afford. Infantry was the province of the common man, as the entry requirements were relatively low. Artillery was the province of the intellectual, at least for officers. Artillery officers were expected to understand arcane subjects such as ballistics and trigonometry and chemistry and siegecraft that were simply beyond the education level of infantry and cavalry officers. Napoleon graduated from the prestigious Ecole Militaire military institute, the first Corsican ever to do so, and was immediately commissioned a second lieutenant in an artillery regiment.
    Thank you filling in the details which I did not remember, forum member danhanegan. But from your knowledge, as I lacked on it for details, what does this say for the OP question? From this incident can one say, though it was early in his career, what flavor Napoleon had?

    So he gunned the royalists to shreds,... but was he doing this simply because he was an artillery officer and it was his duty to his commanding officer(s), or was he a revolutionary from the get go? Or only busy with his own career?

    Do you know anything about that concerning this topic?
    I don't think there is much documentary evidence of what Napoleon's motivations were at this point in his life. All I can offer is my opinion. It seems to me Napoleon was primarily interested in furthering his career, giving those in power reason to be grateful to him and getting himself in the public eye.

    By all accounts, the Directory was an organization that ruled primarily by fear and did not inspire loyalty in anyone.
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