Was Napoleon a threat to international system? Did he change international rules of behavior and transformed the European order? These questions are open to much debate, discussion and argument. In my essay, I will determine what international order was at the beginning of the French Revolution and analyse Napoleon as a military and political threat to international system. International system of the 18th century was different from the one that was established after French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars (1791-1815).
To understand how Napoleon has challenged the existing international order we have to grasp what the international order actually looked like when Napoleon came to power in 1799. “Have courage to use your own reason! ” – That is how Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) defined the essence of the mentality of 18th century, which was called the century of the Enlightenment. After the Renaissance and Reformation it was the third spiritual revolution, almost entirely broke the medieval system of values.
However, Anthony Padgen (2013, p. 33) claims that ? Unlike either the Renaissance or the Reformation, the Enlightenment had begun not as an attempt to rescue some hallowed past but as an assault on the past to the name of future?. Enlightenment was the main content of the inner life of Western Europe in the first three quarters of the XVIII century. It is a necessary step in the cultural development of any country in order to do away with the feudal system.
It was a major phenomenon of European life, and its influence is reflected not only in the intellectual development of European society, but also to the comprehensive coverage and criticism of the obsolete, extant life forms from the middle Ages. Enlightenment came to grips with the parties of the former regime, which did not meet the requirements of modernity. In the second half of 18th century, European states had growing awareness about the need to modernize economic and political system.
This pan-European political phenomenon is traditionally called enlightened absolutism. The essence of the policy of enlightened absolutism was that, without changing the essence of the forms of absolute monarchy, carry out reforms in the economic, political and cultural fields, to modernize the outdated feudal order. In my view, the Prussian King Frederick II the Great (1712-? 1786) has given the most profoundly monarchical concept of enlightened absolutism in 18th century.
Influenced by the ideas of the Enlightenment, Frederick II issued a set of laws – “Prussian Civil Code”, which introduced equal judiciary laws for all Prussians, established full freedom of religion and abolished torture. However, he was not supporting all revolutionary ideas and beliefs, as can be judged by his practical actions – the whole social structure of Prussia have stayed the same, Frederick II have not tried to change the predominance of the nobility over other social classes. Overall, international system, where people were tired of inequality and poverty, was suffering from the outdated political structures and laws.
European states were mostly absolute monarchies (England arguably was an absolute monarchy in 18th century because Parliament was not completely subservient to the king; monarch could gain full power only in cooperation with Parliament and Parliament retained control over taxes), where actions of monarchs were not limited by any rules or restrictions. In the end of the century, it led to a politicized public consciousness and contributed to the growth of revolutionary sentiment in the society.
Napoleon Bonaparte was a great general who climbed all the steps of military hierarchy from second lieutenant (1785) to Emperor of the French (1804), who had control over ? The Grande Armee?. It is claimed that Napoleon was an amazing leader and his military campaigns threatened everyone in the world in the beginning of 19th century. Napoleon Bonaparte became the head of the army in 1796. 1796-1797 was the time of the Italian campaign, which ended with the signing of Treaty of Campo Formino. For General Bonaparte? treaty of Campo Formino had brought France three great treasures: hegemony in Italy, the further opportunity to turn the Mediterranean into a French lake and the potentially ever more rewarding role of arbiter in the reconstruction of Germany? (T C W Blanning, 1996, p. 179). Because of a treaty, France had greatly expanded its territory ? Belgium, Italy, Switzerland and the Netherlands were under French control ? check info. Afterwards, Napoleon offered an expansion in Egypt (1798-1799) because his main aim was historical rival of France – England.
It was necessary to undermine British colonial power that is why gaining territory in Egypt was an important decision of Napoleon. On his way to Egypt, he captured the island of Malta. As a result, actions of Napoleon threatened other European countries; Austria, England, Russia and Turkey united against growing France. Napoleon had captured Egypt, destroying the Turkish army at the Battle of Alexandria, then Mameluke army at the Battle of Cairo. However, Napoleon? s further movement in the direction of India was pointless. Napoleon was stacked at the walls of the Saint-Jean-d’Acre fortress in September, where he was defeated.
Meanwhile, Admiral Nelson and his fleet destroyed the entire French fleet. The Army was cut off from France. Napoleon received a letter that Suvorov (Russian general) fought back many of his conquests in Italy, and that French treasury is almost empty. Napoleon came back to France to continue the revolution. Napoleon had concentrated all the power in his hands by creating a ? dictatorship regime?. There is an opinion that authoritarian regimes are more efficient at the time of deep economic crises and big wars. That was proven by Napoleon, who managed to achieve a quick stabilization of the whole country.
By the beginning of the XIX century. French had already hosted on the territory of a number of states – Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Switzerland and parts of Germany and Italy. Continuing the policy of occupation, in 1800, Napoleon defeated Austria and forced her to admit all the French conquest and withdraw from the war. Among the great powers, only England was able to continue the war with France. England had the most developed industry and the most powerful fleet, but the British land army was weaker than the French. Therefore, it needs allies to continue the struggle against Napoleon.
In 1805, an alliance with Russia and England went to Austria, has a large ground forces and concerned plans of conquest of France. Active hostilities resumed on land and sea. In October 1805, the British fleet under Admiral Nelson destroyed the French fleet at Trafalgar. However, in the land of Napoleon succeeded. He won a major victory over the Russian-Austrian army at Austerlitz (now Slavkov in Czech Republic). Bonaparte considered it the most brilliant of them won forty battles. Austria was forced to make peace and give France Venice and some other possessions.
Prussia, concerned about the victories of Napoleon, went to war against France. Nevertheless, the Prussian suffered a crushing defeat, and in October 1806 the French troops entered Berlin. Here, Napoleon decreed the continental blockade, which prohibited France and allied countries dependent on trade with Britain. He tried to strangle his opponent economic isolation, but by the termination of the importation of British goods was not beneficial for French economy as well. Afterwards, military theater had moved to East Prussia.
Here Napoleon won several victories over the Russian troops, inherited with great effort. The French army was weakened. Therefore, in 1807 in Tilsit (now the city of Sovetsk in the Kaliningrad region) France and Russia signed a treaty of peace and alliance. In Prussia, Napoleon took more than half of its territory. After the signing of the treaty of Tilsit, French troops entered Spain and Portugal. In Spain, for the first time they have faced national resistance – a wide partisan movement – guerrilla. The national liberation movement intensified as Portugal and Germany.
The conquest of the Iberian Peninsula and has not been completed due to the new war with Austria. Franco-Austrian war of 1809 proved to be short-lived. In July, Napoleon won a decisive victory at Wagram and Austria took away a significant part of its territory. French Empire reached the peak of its power and glory. Its borders stretched from the Elbe to the Tiber River, it is home to 70 million people. Moreover, a number of States was in a vassal dependency from France. The next task Napoleon considered the subordination of the Russian Empire. Going to Russia in 1812 ended a disaster for him.
It is occasionally argued by Western historians that Napoleon had lost his Russian campaign because of the weather conditions and cowardice of the Russian tactics. ?Muscovite vanity was reluctant to acknowledge that the weather had had a large share of the victory; though it was a general remark among the common people in Russia that it was not General Kutuzov, but General frost, who had destroyed the French army? (M. Junot, 1901). Nevertheless, deeper analysis shows that other factors were more important and the main one was the miscalculation of Napoleon and the failure of his Blitzkrieg strategy.
The most basic reason why Russia won this campaign was that the top Russian leadership out-thought Napoleon? and ? They (Alexander I and generals) also knew that he intended to end the war within a few weeks by a series of crushing battlefield victories? (Dominic Lieven, 2006). Almost the entire French army was killed, the Emperor himself barely escaped. Weakened France could not stop its opponents (Prussia, Russia, Austria) and it march 1814 they entered Paris. In 1815, Napoleon entered Paris, and restored the empire. However, he has been formed a military alliance, which included England, Prussia, Holland and Hanover.
In June 1815, British and Prussian troops inflicted the final defeat of Napoleon’s army at Waterloo in Belgium. To sum up, I would like to state that Napoleon definitely was a huge military threat of international system. He greatly reshaped the physical map of Europe and was the first in many years of European history, who managed to take control over so many territories in Europe. At the rise of the Napoleons Empire (before Russian campaign) France was controlling Egypt, Belgium, Poland, Holland, Spain, Austria, Italy (except Sicily and Sardinia) and much of ? today? ? Germany.
France was also controlling the kingdom of Norway, the kingdom of Denmark and the kingdom of Prussia through alliance. It is worth mentioning that his ambitions went further than just getting control in Europe. His main aim was to create a global Empire, which would be comparable to Roman. ?Napoleon strategy aimed not just at establishing a stable limit to his Empire in Europe, but at global domination? (Jonathon Riley, 2007). Napoleon was not just trying to conquer the whole world; he also wanted to change the fundamental principles of the international order.
He believed that the world requires a new international system, which would be fairer and was fighting for the changes in the existing system. Napoleon was a supporter of the main ideas of the Revolution, adopted a new set of laws, which was the essence of equality of all citizens. French civil code, known as the Napoleonic Code, had outlived the Empire of Napoleon and had a great impact on the legal systems of many other countries. Napoleon has done a lot to improve the education system, he had established high schools, a bachelor’s degree and the Higher Pedagogical Institute – all remained in the French education to the present day.
Another group of long-term reforms aimed at creating an effective, essentially centralized state apparatus, allowing Paris to exercise strict control over the rest of the state, even in a greater degree than was the case under Louis XIV. ?In Holland, Bavaria, Westphalia or any other of the states where administration was modernised, there was a corresponding creation of career posts? (Stuart Woolf, 1991, p. 110). These modernisations happened because of the Napoleon? s creation of a ? new? political system with functioning bureaucracy, which rapidly spread among controlled territories in Europe.
Napoleon? s greatest civil achievement was a creation of Napoleonic Code ? a symbol of revolution. It has represented the idea of social equality in practice, where rich and poor had the same rights and equal opportunities. Napoleonic Code had a huge influence on the law reforms in Europe and Americas. Napoleonic Code is still functioning in Quebec and Louisiana ? former French colonies. Napoleon needed a lot of money to maintain his military campaigns and he was successfully using the resources of conquered states to continue financing his invasions. French taxation could not provide sufficient revenue to support the Napoleonic regime and the Emperor needed to exact money and supplies from satellite states and vanquished enemies? (Philip G. Dwyer, 2014, p. 169). Napoleon needed a large financial support from the states that he conquered, Italy was one of the first (1796) of the invaded countries and in order to meet Napoleon? s high demand for the Italian money, Italy had to reform its taxation system to a similar that France already had, in order to pay off.
However, taxation reform that was followed by other political changes that Napoleon had brought (equality, bureaucracy and judiciary), had a very positive impact on Italian economic and political future. In my view, the main political change that Napoleon has done is the idea of meritocracy, which was very new to international system. French people were the first who had an opportunity to get a job or a high place in government in accordance to their skills and talents. ?This meant the opening of administrative, judicial, and military posts to non-nobles who demonstrated competence? Alexander Grab, 2003, p. 206). Moreover, the idea of meritocracy has later spread in the kingdom of Italy and in the Netherlands so it was not only a domestic change but also the change that most of the European states will later establish. Another crucial change that in the international order, which Napoleon is responsible for, is the decrease of the power of the Church.
Before the French Revolution Church had a lot of influence. It owned a huge amount of land, which was not beneficial for France because of the economic reasons. The Napoleonic Empire was particularly successful in undermining Church power, thus contributing to the long-term secularization of European societies? (Alexander Grab, 2003, p. 207). We can also see the direct cause of this policy of Napoleon in neighboring states: the kingdom of Italy, where the same policy was proposed and in Spain, where king of Spain abolished the Inquisition. In addition, the French revolution and the reforms of Napoleon was a political threat to international order because it had influenced many revolutions in Europe and overseas in 19th century, where people were fighting for similar rights.
Haitian revolution (1804) is one of the examples, where people (slaves) successfully rose against the existing system, where social equality were not yet established and exploitation was a common practice of great powers. It had also influenced Spanish American Wars of Independence (Peru, Colombia, Mexico, Venezuela and Chili) in 1833, Brazilian War of Independence in 1821, Greek War on Independence in 1832, Belgian revolution in 1831 and Portuguese Civil War in 1828.
At the time, when absolute monarchies were established in most of the European states, political ? inventions? were dangerous for elites and monarchs themselves, who did not want to lose their positions. However, most of them were unable to protect themselves from Napoleon and the spread of the ideas of French Revolution because of the disadvantages of old, feudal system, which remained in the European states. Their political system was outdated and could not function as well as Napoleon? s France.
Moreover, people have realized that they could fight for their own rights and social equality because they were inspired by the example of France. In my view, Napoleon had a huge influence on the development of the whole Europe and not only France. His ideas and beliefs were transformed into policies in many European states, which was a big step towards modern and democratic governments and prosperous economic systems, which replaced feudal system that have shown their inefficiency and retardation in the beginning of 19th century.
In the end, we have to understand why Napoleon was so successful in many of his military campaigns, which surely made him a political and military threat to European states. Firstly, Napoleon was very popular among French people – an ideal symbol of the French Revolution – he was from ordinary family (famous but not influential or wealthy Corsican family), which was very important for the French People, who were fighting for social equality in France.
Furthermore, Napoleon restored order in France and fulfilled many of the ideals of the French Revolution (education, civil infrastructure, etc). Secondly, he knew the problems of French army from inside and was able to provide necessary military reforms for the increasing the efficiency of ground troops and cavalry. ?Of all tactical changes brought by the French wars, the most important might be described as organizational, affecting infantry divisions, regiments and battalions, the cavalry brigades, the companies of artillery and of engineers alike, along with medical and service units? Geoffrey Ellis, 2003, p. 74).
Army was organised in divisions and cores so it was easy to maneuver in battles and generals were generals because they deserved it in battlefields while in other European states monarchs often put them in accordance to their social status. Thirdly, Napoleon was undeniably talented commander, which he demonstrated in many battles (Jena, Austerlitz and Ulm).