a series of whirlwind victories, General Bonaparte led his
victorious army into Milan on May 5, 1796. The Milanese greeted
him as a heroic liberator, the general who freed them from
the rule of the Austrian emperor Francis I.
of Italy, the French army is here to break your chains," Napoleon
proclaimed, "our only quarrel is with the tyrants who have
made himself the head of a provisional Italian government.
Those who resisted his rule were shot. His soldiers sacked
towns and burned villages. The greatest treasures of Italian
art were looted from palaces and shipped to Paris. Italians
quickly turned against Napoleon and the ideals of Revolution
successful campaign in Italy convinced him that he was destined
to be a great leader. He personally negotiated the Treaty
of Campo Formio with the defeated Austrians, bringing vast
new territories under French control.
people of Paris welcomed their returning hero. They looked
to Bonaparte to end the political chaos into which the Revolution
had descended once again.
I have done up to now is nothing," he said privately. "I am
only at the beginning of the course I must run... I can no
longer obey; I have tasted command, and I cannot give it up."
the time was not right for a coup. Not wanting to fade in
the public eye, he sought to sustain his glory by further
conquests. On May 19, 1789 he set sail with an army, headed
he returned to France over a year later, he was greeted by
cheering crowds. The campaign in Egypt, a military disaster,
had been a propaganda triumph.
His genius was to come to France and say, "You need a
savior. Here I am." The French people believed that Napoleon
was destined to do great things.
November 1799, Bonaparte had established a new government,
rewritten the Constitution, and made himself head of state
under the title First Consul. As the year 1800 began, Napoleon
Bonaparte, now 30 years old, was the most powerful man in
Revolution is over," Bonaparte told the French people. "I
am the Revolution."
[Napoleon says] "the Revolution is safe on my watch.
I am the product of the revolution myself. But the chaos
and uncertainty of the Revolution is going to be over. People
should go back to their private interests, their private
concerns. And the new government will provide the order
and the stability and the strength to allow that to happen."
new born government," Bonaparte told his secretary, "must
dazzle and astonish." With the reins of power firmly in his
hands, he set out to convince the French people and the kings
of Europe that could govern as well as he could conquer.