SAVIOR OR THIEF?
In 1797, Napoleon led his victorious armies into Italy and drove (pushed) the Austrians out. The Italians greeted (welcomed) him as a savior/liberator. He had freed them from their Austrian rulers. He said, “We come to break your chains. Our only quarrel is with the tyrants (dictators) who have enslaved you”
Napoleon was not only a warrior. He was also a clever propagandist. He said, “Art is a means of propaganda.” So, he ordered paintings after each victory. He told the artists what he wanted. He published his own newspapers for propaganda. In one newspaper he wrote, “Bonaparte flies like lightning and strikes like a thunderbolt” He was growing famous and popular in France. However, Italians began to doubt and dislike him. He was sending convoys of gold and silver back to France. From Italy, he sent 57 million dollars worth of money, gold and silver back to France and priceless works of art.
TREATY WITH THE AUSTRIANS
Napoleon led his army into Austria in April 1797. He was within 75 miles of Vienna. The Austrian Emperor was shocked. He asked for peace. Napoleon talked with the Austrian diplomats. He wanted Belgium, the left bank of the Rhine, and a republic in northern Italy. The Austrian diplomats rejected these demands. Napoleon was furious (very angry). He threw down the porcelain coffee service. It was broken into pieces. He said, “This is what will happen to your [Austrian] empire.” The Austrian diplomats were afraid. (www.bebekce.gen.tr) They reported to their Emperor in Vienna that Bonaparte was a madman. Then they agreed to his terms and signed a treaty.
The French people saw that Napoleon was not only a general but also a statesman. The French were hungry for a hero (they needed a hero). The French Revolution had become a chaos. From 1789 to 1799, they had four different governments. These were weak governments. They didn’t help the French people.
Now people wanted a strong government under a charismatic leader. The French thought Napoleon could be that leader. He could put an end to the chaos.
In 1798 Napoleon landed in Egypt with 35.000 soldiers. He had a plan. He would destroy the British trade route to India. First he captured Alexandria. Then he crossed the desert with his soldiers and moved toward Cairo. On the way, Mamluk cavalry attacked them. The Mamluks had swords and spears. The French had guns and cannons. They were technologically advanced. Napoleon organized his army into five squares and defeated the Mamluks in the battle of the Pyramids. The French lost thirty men. Mamluks lost five thousand. After this victory, Napoleon led his army into Cairo. Soon after this victory, however, the British fleet destroyed the French fleet at the Egyptian coast. Napoleon and his soldiers were trapped in Egypt. They could not go back to France because they didn’t have ships. Napoleon had brought with him 167 scientists from France. These scientists made discoveries and researches in Egypt and wrote a large book, “Description of Egypt”. It consisted of 24 volumes.
In 1799, Napoleon led his soldiers into Syria. He had a quick victory at Jaffa. The French killed thousands of people in the city. Then he attacked Acre. He besieged the city. Napoleon thought it would be a quick victory. However, Cezzar Pasha, a Turkish general, refused to surrender. The British fleet helped Cezzar Pasha. Hundreds of French soldiers died. Many of them were killed in battle. Many others died because of a disease (bubonic plague). Napoleon abandoned the siege, and returned to Egypt. It was a defeat but Napoleon pretended to be victorious. Acre was important for Napoleon. Later he remarked, “If I had been able to take Acre I would have made myself emperor of the East, and I would have returned to Paris by way of Constantinople.”
When he was back in Cairo he learnt that there was chaos in France. People were unhappy with the government. Also, its enemies were attacking France, and taking back its conquests. He knew that French people would welcome him. It was an opportunity. In August 1799, he left Egypt secretly.
What happened to the French army in Egypt? At the battle of Alexandria, the British defeated the French army. The French surrendered. Then the French soldiers were carried back to France by the British fleet. So, the French occupation of Egypt ended in 1802, and Egypt was again an Ottoman territory.
RULER OF FRANCE
In 1799, at the time of Napoleon’s return from Egypt;
- Internationally: France was at war with Austria, Russia, and Great Britain.
- Financially: Long years of war had caused huge debts.
- Nationally: There was civil war.
People believed that Napoleon was a great leader. He could save France from all its problems. So, when he returned from Egypt, they welcomed him like a hero. Napoleon overthrew the Directory by a coup d’état on 9 November 1799. Now he was the Ruler of France. He was 30 years old. He said, “The revolution is over. I am the Revolution”
The more power he had, the more he wanted. In 1804 Napoleon was the emperor of France.
AUSTRIAN CAMPAIGN AND PEACE IN EUROPE
“War had catapulted Napoleon into power. Now it would help him secure it.”
What does that mean?
Napoleon was a powerful man because he had won military victories. Now, in order to keep powerful, he had to win more victories. In 1800, Napoleon led his army against Austria. The Austrians expected Napoleon to come from the West. But Napoleon wanted to surprise the enemy. He crossed the Alps and came from the North. The French army and the Austrians met at the Battle of Morengo. The French were victorious. The Austrians lost 14.000 soldiers, while the French lost 5000. France and Austria signed a peace treaty.
The following year, Great Britain also signed a peace treaty with France.
Now, Europe was at peace.
A NEW FRANCE
Napoleon wanted to be a good ruler. He built new parks, bridges, canals. He said, “I will make Paris the loveliest city that ever was or will be, and France the greatest country on Earth” He improved education in France. He established the Bank of France.
French people were happy because there was peace in the country, and they were getting rich.
Beethoven dedicated his famous third symphony to Napoleon. Napoleonic Civil Code is the basis of modern French law. It abolished feudal privileges. Napoleon believed every man was equal. He was the son of a poor Corsican family but he had become the ruler of France.
He worked hard. He worked seven days a week, 18 hours a day.
END OF PART II