World History 1796

About the history of the world in 1796, new ballet techniques are developed, Napoleon makes more moves, Washington gives his farewell.



At Drury Lane, London, a ballet of Charles Didelot, Zephyr et Flore, first put dancers on the points of their toes. Special machinery also carried them into the air. The new aerial style caught on and with it the reinforced slipper, which did away with the need for mechanical support.

Mar. 9 Gen. Napoleon Bonaparte, 26, married society leader Josephine de Beauharnais, 32, widow of a guillotined general, mother of two, and, briefly, mistress of Barras, Napoleon's patron. The pair listed both their ages as 28 on the marriage certificate. Josephine had married him to pay off her debts. Timid with women, he wanted an older, experienced partner. She was unfaithful to him in the early years of their marriage and made disparaging comments about his lovemaking. He exhibited prominent characteristics of glandular imbalance: hairlessness, feminine body configuration, obesity, and small genitals. Defective masculinity, small stature (5 ft. 6 in. tall), and Corsican birth all engendered feelings of inadequacy for which he was to overcompensate dramatically.

Apr.-May The Directory, impressed with Napoleon's cool-headed competence, sent him to command 30,000 men in Italy. Rapidly moving over Genoese territory, he beat the forces of Austria and Sardinia in a series of engagements in which he was greatly outnumbered. On May 10, when victory over the Austrians under General Beaulieu at Lodi gave him all of Lombardy, he first conceived hopes of an extraordinary destiny: "From that moment I foresaw what I might be."

May 16 After "liberating" Milan and pressing the Milanese for war contributions, Napoleon paid his ragged army in hard cash and sent 20 million gold francs to the impoverished Directory. From Milan he headed south to "liberate" the rest of Italy. In less than a month, various armistice agreements yielded arms, food, ships, and tens of millions of dollars' worth of art treasures, which he sent off to Paris.

Sept. 19 Washington's farewell address, a plea for national unity, was published in one newspaper, Philadelphia's American Daily Advertiser, which ran it under a small heading on pages 2 and 3 (the first page being devoted to advertising). The President, who had no regular publicity channels, expected it to work its own way from Philadelphia to the nation.

Oct. 16 Napoleon declared that the cities of Ferrara, Bologna, Reggio, and Modena would be combined henceforth in the new Cispadane Republic, first of numerous other French satellite republics which would transform the map of Europe within a year.

Nov. 15 Napoleon defeated the Austrians in swampy terrain near the village of Arcole. Needing to cross Arcole Bridge in order to attack the Austrian rear, which was defending it, Napoleon, "indignant at the hesitation of his soldiers," grabbed a flag and planted it on the bridge himself. His troops advancing behind him met a deluge of artillery fire. Deciding to retreat, they didn't want to abandon their general, so they dragged him backwards. As he resisted, he was accidentally thrown into the enemy-infested swamp. Shouts of "Forward to save the general!" were heard, and his troops again advanced to save their half-submerged leader.

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