Famous Rulers in History Napoleon Bonaparte Part 5

About the famous French Ruler Napoleon Bonaparte, biography and history, quote and quotations, little-known facts.

Famous and Infamous Rulers in History


Napoleon was a megalomaniacal dictator bent on grabbing and holding on to more and more power. The only element separating Napoleon from Hitler was the latter's extermination of the Jews. Napoleon's national police force, which he used to crush all political opposition, presaged the Gestapo. Any reforms he instituted were hatched merely to strengthen his grip on the empire or to prevent the natives from getting too restless. Although he may have fostered "equality" and "fraternity," he ignored the third ideal of the French Revolution, "liberty." The rights of free speech, press, and assembly were sacrificed to Napoleon's insatiable appetite for power and conquest.

On the other hand, Napoleon instituted political and social reforms which lived long after him. He pulled France from the jaws of bankruptcy, and with the creation of the quasi-national Bank of France, he put the country on such firm fiscal footing that France was one of the last governments to be bumped off the gold standard by the depression of the 1930s. He devised France's first fair system of tax assessment and collection. The Napoleonic Code, promulgated in 1804, combined the basic tenets of old Roman law with modern French statutes. It came to be adopted throughout the empire and served as a precedent for subsequent codification of criminal and commercial laws in France and elsewhere. Law in Quebec and in the massive Louisiana Territory was based on the Napoleonic Code. Napoleon reined in the excesses of the French Revolution, yet managed to translate its spirit into law. He stamped out the last vestiges of feudalism and planted the seeds of the modern middle class. By toppling the royal house in Spain, Napoleon hastened the independence movements of Madrid's South American colonies.

Little-Known Facts: On Apr. 12, 1814, after surrendering for the first time but before being shipped off to Elba, Napoleon attempted suicide by swallowing a vial of poison which he had been carrying with him since Moscow. Instead of killing him, however, the weakened toxin merely gave him the hiccups. He hiccuped so violently that he vomited before the poison had a chance to do any real harm.

Napoleon's one great indulgence was a long bath. During his final exile on St. Helena, with a lot of time on his hands, the former emperor would take as many as three baths a day, some lasting several hours. When he was not lathering up, he would sit soaking with book in hand or lost in thought.

During his exile on St. Helena, Napoleon was very proud and protective of his flower garden. Whenever a neighbor's goat or chicken or cow would stray into his floral patch and begin nibbling his precious petals, Napoleon would reach for his trusty carbine and shoot the unwary animal dead. This did not increase his popularity with his neighbors.

Quotes By: "Power is my mistress. I have worked too hard at her conquest to allow anyone to take her away from me, or even to covet her."--1804

"What is the throne?--a bit of wood gilded and covered with velvet. I am the state--I alone am here the representative of the people. Even if I had done wrong, you should not have reproached me in public; people wash their dirty linen at home. France has more need of me than I of France."--Address to the Senate, 1814

"One never climbs so high as when he knows not where he is going."

Quotes About: "The Corsican ruffian is beyond all doubt a hero in the common acceptance of the word."--John Quincy Adams, U.S. minister to Prussia, 1800

"That devil of a man exercises upon me a fascination that I cannot explain to myself; and in such degree that though I fear neither God nor devil, I am ready to tremble like a child when I am in his presence, and he could make me go through the eye of a needle to throw myself into the fire."--Gen. Dominique Vandamme, commander under Napoleon

"He never in his life had patience for a defensive war."--Duke of Wellington, victor of Waterloo

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