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What Is Tall Napoleon?

Many may think of the French revolution as bloody and uncivilized, others may think of it as a major turning point in the development of western ideals, however; objectively, both views are valid and transition to the heir of the French empire after the revolution. Napoleon. This man, like the revolution he helped in creating, ending and succession, is seen too as a bloody uncivilized man, as well as a perpetuator of true western ideals.

No matter what point of view one may have of this man, one thing is a fact: the world we all live in today would be but a shadow of its current self if this man had not come to power in the way he did or if he did not do the things he had to in order to save his people and culture. Many things can be attributed to Napoleon, but mainly the three things this world could not, under any circumstances, be the same with are: the metric system, modern warfare, and liberal democratic ideals.

The most common fact one may think of Napoleon is not a fact at all, his height was not small by any means, in fact, it was more of propaganda during the following Napoleonic wars by the British that solidified the mockery of this man. What many may have not know is that the metric system was first adopted by the French empire following the french revolution and perpetuated across Europe through the now infamous Napoleonic wars. Here is a fact that many actually do know well, perhaps too well for some people.

The wars fought constantly throughout the world can be sadly attributed to Napoleon, the amount of casualties that came from this new and improved warfare are horrific, however; the claim if this new style for war never came about casts a darker shadow than what is known in the world today. Now for a mostly unknown, or at the very least, underappreciated. The modern democracy the world knows and prospers from today can be attributed to the rise of power of the people’s’ hero, Napoleon.

In short, many of these modern wonders, battlefields, and countries we as humanity live in and share together, can be all linked back to the aspirations of one man, struggling to hold his country off from the brink of another revolution and invasions from their neighbors. Five feet and six inches, this is how tall Napoleon was. The most misunderstood part of this fact is the units. The question then asked is ‘aren’t the units standard imperial? ’ And the answer is simply no.

The units here may resemble the American preferred system, but in reality are the French’s own imperial units perpetuated by the French revolution for the differentiation of the new country from the rest of Europe. “The toise (fathom) was defined as two metres and was divided into 6 pieds, or ‘feet’” (William p. 66-69) from the previous description of the french imperial units imposed by the oligarchy directly after the French revolution, one can envision how tall the man (Napoleon) was.

Two meters was divided into six feet! The current metric system has two meters equal to six and a half feet. These measurements were approximately 9% larger than their British counterparts, so it is no surprise why the British made a large deal out of Napleons ‘small’ stature making the simple mistake of not converting units. With the myth of how small Napoleon really was now dispelled, one can now focus on the real world implication of such a measurement system.

Every step taken on the Moon, every plane flying country to country, every single person living right now is and has been scientifically measured to better their lives and others. Mesures usuelles were a system of measurement introduced by Napoleon I to compromise between the metric system and traditional measurements that were implemented directly after the french revolution took place. This would be the modern day equivalent of converting every road sign in the United States today into kilometers.

Such an undertaking was done in order to ease the transition of the constantly changing world especially after the bloody French revolution. Even more so to unite the world, not under the French flag that Napoleon has so dearly hoped to accomplish, but in the common pursuit of human knowledge. No significant research has to be undertaken in order to fully understand how hard it would be for the world to function without the metric system that was forcefully employed by Napoleon.

This forceful nature was of course the Napoleonic wars that followed the French revolution. Specifically the second coup d’etap of the French government on the small group of lawyers who rose to power during the revolution. Napoleon knew that “The state finances were in total disarray, if peace were made, armies would return home and the directors would have to face the exasperation of the rank-and-file… ” (Doyel 322-323). The government at the time made money through the plundering of enemy advances onto the new French state.

The storming of the keep in which these lawyers were holding, desperately trying to hold onto the ‘Directory’ as it was called (the new french state). After the overthrow of this corrupt government, the people afraid of more unnecessary bloodshed between themselves, accepted Napoleon as their leader and later formed a constitutional-like monarchy. Through this newly formed government, Napoleon now had to go onto the defensive. As many countries began to encroach around the slowly bleeding out French shell of a nation, he mobilized the armies that he had at his disposal and moved out to neighboring countries.

The ideas of the metric system helped supply lines reach where they needed to efficiently and spread its ideas, but more importantly allowed for the development of brand new cannons that ultimately helped win many wars were Napoleon was a belligerent in. Such new cannon warfare is the reason many military operations are now held remotely and with high explosive ordinances. During the Napoleonic wars however; these new cannons and tactics in which they were implemented caused massive destruction to enemy infantry and supply lines.

The ideal Napoleonic battle was to manipulate the enemy into an unfavourable position through manoeuvre and deception, force him to commit his main forces and reserve to the main battle and then undertake an enveloping attack with uncommitted or reserve troops on the flank or rear. Such a surprise attack would either produce a devastating effect on morale, or force him to weaken his main battle line. Either way, the enemy’s own impulsiveness began the process by which even a smaller French army could defeat the enemy’s forces one by one” (Sutherland p. 356)

These tactics that caused mass hysteria and eventually ending in an ambush, were adopted all around the world, friend or foe. Clearly the face of battle has been sculpted in Napoleons liking. The American revolution, after its success, clearly needed a sturdy groundwork to build its new county upon, and with the help of an extremely influential general and future emperor, Napoleons guiding light helped the infant U. S. grow into the superpower it is today. It is important not to underestimate the power of democracy especially in a world changing event such as this.

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