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- Recognize the influence of Napoleon
- Discuss and the rise and fall of Napoleon Bonaparte as emperor of France.
- Understand how the wars of Napoleon strengthened and weakened France
- Understand how foreign powers influenced and were influenced by Napoleon’s France
In 1795, a new constitution was written in France. The Republic formed by the National Convention in 1792 was disbanded, with the new French government was called the Directory. The Directory was similar to the Republic, but five men were in control, and the Directory also had a legislature. During the period of the Directory, Napoleon Bonaparte rose to power. Although life in France did not improve under the Directory, the French army was successful, and foreign powers were unable to stop the French Revolution.
Napoleon gained the support of the army and took sole control of the Directory in 1799. Napoleon now controlled France and would now create another constitution. The Constitution of 1799 gave most of the power in France to Napoleon himself. Napoleon achieved this due to the French people were tired of the troubles of the previous years and Napoleon’s control of the army.
Napoleon named himself the Emperor of France in 1804. Under Napoleon’s rule, France became the most powerful country in Europe. The French economy was good improved tremendously. Education was opened to everybody, regardless of class or financial means. Most important, Napoleon “codified” the laws of France, meaning that the laws were written down so that all people could read them. This is known as the Napoleonic Code and is still used in France today. The Napoleonic Code is also part of the state law of Louisiana.
The French army under Napoleon’s command defeated the English, Austrians, Prussians, Italians, Russians, and Spanish. French territory grew as more land was taken from its enemies. Napoleon created the country of Poland. Between 1808 and 1811, Napoleonic France reached the height of its power.
Napoleon would make a serious mistake. Napoleon grew over-confident in his success and began to think his army couldn’t be defeated. Napoleon invaded Russia in 1812. The initial invasion, which began in the summer, was a success. When French troops reached Moscow they found an empty city. The Russians had burned the city and any usable supplies so that the French would be left with nothing. The Russians evaded the French army and led them deeper into Russia. As winter approached, the problems began for the French. Russian winters are harsh and the French army did not have enough clothing or supplies for the severe weather. Small groups of Russian soldiers continually attacked the French army and its supplies before fading back into the Russian winter. These attacks were devastating, and of the 600,000 soldiers invading Russian, only 60,000 made it back to France. Taking advantage of the weakened French army, Prussia, Austria, and Russia declared war on France.
Napoleon was forced to leave France in May of 1814. The armies of Prussia, Russia, England, and Austria restored the monarchy to France. Napoleon defied exile and returned to France in May of 1815 in what would be known as the “100 Days”. Napoleon tried to restore the greatness of the French Empire while King Louis XVIII fled France. Napoleon was defeated at the Battle of Waterloo. King Louis XVIII would return to the throne and Napoleon was taken prisoner and again exiled. Napoleon lived his final years as a prisoner on the island of Saint Helena, where he died in 1821.
The French Revolution proved that an absolute monarchy can be defeated, which was unheard of in Europe. France would now form a parliamentary type of government. The new government would take control of education from the Church. The middle class gained respectability and with this new respect, the feudal system was destroyed. There was a new pride in France and its peoples.
Lesson 20 Review
Directions: For each question, present the answer in complete sentences with supporting information from the Lesson. Do not copy and paste from the Lessons or Internet resources, but answer in your own words to demonstrate understanding of the material.
1. What was the name of the French government in 1795? How was it different than the republic?
2. Who began to rise to power during this period?
3. How was Napoleon able to write and enforce the constitution of 1799? Provide at least two reasons.
4. What was Napoleon’s most important act? Why did Napoleon invade Russia? What was his mistake?
5. What was the message of the French Revolution?