Sunday, January 11, 2009

Napoleon: Enlightened or not?

It's hard to answer this question since others have already said pretty much what I wanted to but I guess I will just try to further explain why Napoleon was in fact enlightened. One must put into perspective what it was like to be him. He felt like he could do great things for his country, all of Europe, and what lead to his demise, himself. He wasn't all for himself and that is apparent in the reforms that he constituted throughout France and Europe. However, Napoleon was ambitious for himself and saw that he could do great things. That is where his fault came in. He just went too far in his idea of basically taking over Europe. People weren't going to let that happen. Now, when one looks at the good things that he did do there can be much enlightenment to be seen. Napoleon abolished feudalism in France, something that no other despot could do or even tried to do. He promoted religious toleration with great success. Most importantly, he abolished slavery in France. if this can't be seen as enlightened I don't know what can. As seen in the last DBQ that was done about slavery, many of the people opposed to slavery were enlightened scholars. Napoleon held these values as well. There is no question that Bonaparte went too far in his dream of expansion, but to say that he wasn't enlightened is just plain ridiculous.


Cote Laramie said...

Everyone says Napoleon went too far, too far, too farrrrrr! And I'm not saying that is untruthful but perhaps it was not much of a flaw so much as it was a lack of research that lead to his demise or shall I say his Упадок. I am of course talking about Russia. It is quite clear that it was Russia that did Napoleon in, as Machiavelli said, "... there are two ways of contesting the one by law, the other by force..." and Napoleon certainly wasn't going to unify Europe, which was a more than resonable goal at the time, by simply talking people into it. Although he did boast the cosmopolitics of the enlightenment, the dream of unity, and the whole "Continental System", he resorted to force when it came down to getting what he wanted, as was necessary. Napoleon's army was magnificent and strong, there was no doubt about that. He had one numeorus battles up until then and aside from having a strong army he was a brilliant commander. It would have been extremely difficult to assume that Napoleon would undoubtedly fail in his Russian campaign. If Napoleon had been at all prepared for his invasion on Russia there is probably a good chance he would've won. It was not the superiority of the Russian army by any means, even in the horrid conditions Napoleon lost less men in battle than the Russians. Instead he was not just fighting the Russians (his sole focus) but the weather. He had not fought the weather so much as he had fought people. If he had fought in Russia before with a smaller force he would've no doubt went in prepared but sadly although experience is the best teacher it is also the cruelest, he was an unbelievably prepared enemy of the Russians but a child when it came to the chill of mother earth. This explains the reasons why he was so ill-prepared only a fool would've done what he did and he was no fool. He was simply too unaccustomed to the northern climate and the scorched earth policy of the Russians, and too accuostomed to the semi-constant climate of Western Europe. While though, for such a hard-working intellectually gifted man, a lack of research or preparedness would seem very strange, this is where the foolhardiness came in, but of cousrse the long line of recent victories resulted in an overconfidence in Napoleon. Napoleon was more than capable of preparing his men for victory but he reacted so fast that he didn't have enough time to thoroughly consider where it was and what it was he was going to do. So all in all, in my opinion it was not simply that Napoleon was an egomaniacal control-freak (and Ben, I'm not saying that you are) and in fact I admire the way you described Napoleon as ambitious and saw that he could do great things, which made him over-confident. I think generally though peole see Napoleon's down fall as caused by a strong sense of "push-it-to-the-limit-ism" but I think that at the time and without the advent of Russian failure in our baggage we might describe Napoleon, in the end, as an excited ruler who simply forgot to bring a new battle plan to a new battle field and with an enormous army payed an enormous price. Because the more power you gain by doing the right thing the more power you exercise and the more power you exercise the more a mistake costs you.

Sarah Hayes said...

Your comment is sooo loong Cote!
Anyway. Thanks Ben for agreeing with me, Elise, Brittany... Did I forget anyone. I'll say it again: Napoleon would have been an AMAZING ruler had he stuck to France.

Cote Laramie said...

My bad, sorry for embarassing you/taking time out of your day?