December 18, 1793, cannons of the Revolutionary army under
the command of twenty-four year-old Major Napoleon Bonaparte
destroyed ten English ships anchored in Toulon's harbor. He
bravely led his men in the assault on the fort guarding the
city, suffering a wound in the thigh from an enemy bayonet.
Bonaparte's first victory made him the hero of the day throughout
for greater advancement, Brigadier General Bonaparte
headed for Paris. Political turmoil in the city's street soon
gave him his chance. On October 5, 1795, mobs of Parisians
joined national guardsmen bent on toppling the Republic, and
the government called on Bonaparte to repel the attack.
put the matter in my hands," Napoleon recalled, "and then
set to discussing whether or not I had the right to repel
force by force. 'Do you intent to wait,' said I, 'until the
people give you permission to fire at them? You have appointed
me, and I am compromised. It is only fair that I should do
the business my own way.' On that I left the lawyers to drown
themselves in their own flood of words, and got the troops
on the move."
Napoleon was not one to pussyfoot around. He would
use all his weapons. Nobody had really used cannon on the
Paris mobs before. He was gonna shoot. He waited 'til he
could see the whites of their eyes. Almost in one blast
the whole thing was over. He probably killed a hundred people.
He was not a very popular man with the rank and file, the
man on the street in Paris after that.
enemy attacked us," Bonaparte wrote his brother. "We
killed a great many of them. Now all is quiet... I could not
be happier." Three weeks later he was made a full general,
commander of the Army of the Interior. He was twenty-six.
the end of 1797, twenty-eight year-old Napoleon Bonaparte
returned to Paris, and handed the government a treaty signed
by the Austrians which brought a fragile peace to the continent
of Europe. In just one and one-half years, he had taken his
dispirited, tattered solders, marched them hundreds of miles,
and defeated the army of the Empire of Austria without ever
losing a battle.
built upon his image as an enlightened military leader with
each increase in his power. Twenty days after returning from
Italy, he was elected to the prestigious Institut de France.
After conquering Egypt, he founded the Institut d'Égypte,
through which mathematicians, mapmakers, and engineers studied
mummies, surveyed temples and discovered the Rosetta
Stone, which proved to be the key to deciphering Egyptian
true conquests," Bonaparte wrote, "the only ones that leave
no regret, are those that have been wrested from ignorance."
But it was Bonaparte alone who would later dictate what knowledge
was permissible. "Education," he said, "must impart the same
knowledge and the same principals to all individuals living
in the same society, in order to create a single, uniform
body, informed with one and the same understanding, and working
for the common good on the basis of uniformity of views."
who personified the ideals expressed by Bonaparte were generously
rewarded. He created a special mark of esteem, the Legion
of Honor. He believed in equality: a man should have the chance
to rise on the basis of his ability just as he had
motto has always been," he said, "a career open
to all talents, without distinctions of birth."
those who deified him were crushed under his iron hand. Joseph
Fouche, the head of the secret police, extending Emperor Napoleon's
reach into every aspect of French society through a vast network
You go to a salon, theres a spy. You go a brothel,
there is a spy. You go to a restaurant, there is a spy.
Everywhere there are spies of the police. Everyone listens
to what you say. Its impossible to express yourself
unless Napoleon wants you to.
personally oversaw the productions of plays in the theaters
of France. If Napoleon disapproved of a playwright's work,
his career was over. Napoleon also controlled the press, dropping
the number of newspapers in Paris from over sixty in 1799
to four by 1814.
Napoleon's power waned, his censorship was no longer able
to hide his failures. He needed victories on the battlefield
in order to maintain control of his empire. After his eventual
defeat, his soldiers still considered him their true leader
and helped him regain control of France. Under Napoleon's
command, he promised to raise them and make them all heroes
In my exile I have heard your voice," Napoleon said upon his
return to France in 1815. "Your general, called to the throne
by the voice of the people and raised by your shields, is
back among you. Put on the tricolor cockade; you wore it in
our great days. Rally around the standard of your chief! Then
will you be able to claim the credit for your deeds, as the
liberators of your country."