Napoleon I.

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Napoleon I. [1]

Emperor of the French, born at Ajaccio, Corsica, the second son of Charles Bonaparte and Lætitia Ramolino; trained at the military schools of Brienne and Paris; distinguished first as a captain of artillery at the siege of Toulon in 1793; elected general of brigade in the Italian campaign of 1794; he fell under suspicion, but was soon after invested with the supreme command of the army there and the conduct of the war, which was rendered memorable by the victories of Montenotte, Lodi, Rivoli, Arcole, &c.; on his return to Paris he was received with an enthusiasm which excited in him the ambition to render himself indispensable to the country; to utilise his services in their own interest the Directory determined to strike a blow at England, and Egypt being the point of attack selected, he sailed in command of an expedition for that destination in 1797, and conducted it with successes and reverses till, in 1799, the unpopularity and threatened fall of the Directory called him back; it was the occasion for a coup d'état which he had meditated, and which he accomplished on the henceforward celebrated 18th Brumaire (9th Nov. 1799), when a consulship of three was established, himself First Consul, and eventually in 1802Consul for life; his administration in this capacity, while disgraced by several despotic acts, was in the main of a nature for the public benefit, and distinguished by its regard for the interest of law and good order, but his personal ambition the while was not asleep, for, by a Concordat with the Pope he so attached the Catholic Church to the state as to secure the clerical support to his ambitious projects, and was able on the 18th May 1804, to get himself invested with the imperial dignity, only Carnot in the Tribunate and Grégoire in the Senate protesting against the step as a violation of liberty; Napoleon owed it to his victories in the field that he attained this elevation, and the sword must maintain what the sword had won; from this date accordingly began that long array of wars against the rest of Europe, distinguished by the victories of Austerlitz, and Jena, and Eylau, and Friedland, and Eckmühl, and Wagram, and which contributed to inspire all the nations around with a sense of the terror of his name; but with the unfortunate expedition into Russia, in 1812, Napoleon's glory began to wane and the tide to turn; after the battles of Lützen and Bautzen, he might perhaps have signed an honourable peace, but he declined the terms offered, and was defeated at Lützen by the Allies, who invaded France, and entered Paris in 1814 in spite of all his efforts to keep them at bay, upon which he was compelled to abdicate at Fontainebleau and retire to Elba, 20th April 1814; it was in vain for him to return from his retreat and re-enter Paris on the 20th March following, for the Powers, with England and Prussia at their head, leagued against him and crushed him at Waterloo; by this defeat he had forfeited the throne, and was compelled to abdicate, but unable to escape from France, delivered himself up to Captain Maitland of the Bellerophon , and was shipped off to St. Helena, where, after some six years of misery, he died 5th May 1821, whence his body was disinterred and buried with great pomp under the dome of the church of St. Louis, 15th December 1840; "he believed," says Carlyle, "too much in the dupeability of men, saw no fact deeper in man than hunger and thirst; he was mistaken; like a man that should build upon clouds, his house and he fell down a confused wreck, and departed out of the world"; the one article of his faith being "the tools to him that can handle them" (1769-1821).