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The Bloodless Guillotine:Napoleons Revolution in Egypt - Essay Example

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Most people associate the French Revolution with bloodthirsty images:the thousands of heads chopped off by the guillotine after the most summary of trials;the swift conversion of the stones of the Bastille,a former political prison used by the Bourbon monarchs,into a bridge…
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The Bloodless Guillotine:Napoleons Revolution in Egypt

Download file to see previous pages... Most people associate the French Revolution with bloodthirsty images:the thousands of heads chopped off by the guillotine after the most summary of trials;the swift conversion of the stones of the Bastille,a former political prison used by the Bourbon monarchs,into a bridge. Perhaps Charles Dickens' images from A Tale of Two Cities are the most gripping: poor men, women and children greedily scooping red wine off the filthy streets, even from the gaps between cobblestones, when a cask falls off a cart and bursts; the semiconscious, primeval rapture of the Carmagnole, as it rolled through the streets of Paris; the feeble voices of children starving to death, while their parents leave them to watch executions. However, the French Revolution did not begin this way. It began with ideals, and it began peacefully. King Louis XVI yielded to many of the initial demands of the Third Estate, and before the name of Robespierre became associated with such dark terrors, there was a time when peaceful transition to democracy seemed possible.However, by 1791, and especially 1792, the country had spilled into chaos. This violence would rage for almost a decade, before Napoleon Bonaparte emerged, promising to restore order to a tired France, if he could only be endowed with enough power. And so, barely ten years after the French deposed their last monarch, they installed another. In 1806, Napoleon caused a religious document to be produced, entitled The Imperial Catechism. Written in the same question-and-answer style as the catechism used by the Roman Catholic Church, the Imperial Catechism taught its readers how (and why) to venerate their new emperor, who had been "raised up in trying times to re-establish the public worship of the holy religion of our fathers[and to re-establish]public order by his profound and active wisdom" ("The Imperial Catechism"). After the years of uncontrolled bloodletting known as the Reign of Terror, though, the French were happy to accept just about any regime as long as it would provide order. The memoirs of Madame de Rmusat demonstrate just how easily Napoleon found it to take control of the exhausted country. From the beginning, he held an almost magical power over those under him. His soldiers became "rapturous" when he came to review them. His uncanny ability to memorize soldiers' names, and even personal details about their respective battles, or injuries they had suffered, made him especially beloved. According to Madame de Rmusat, Napoleon would "[pore] over the list of what are called the cadres of the army at night before he slept" ("Madame de Rmusat"). And while Napoleon would later be known for his attempted conquest of all of Europe, one of his most influential expeditions occurred even before he ruled France, when he led an expedition to conquer Egypt.
Once in power, Napoleon would work to consolidate his own authority, which would often work at odds with the erstwhile goals of the Revolution. He would utilize a band of collaborators, spread throughout the major French political and social institutions, to make the entire country organizationally accountable to him, which made it simple for him to move from consul to emperor, as Julius Caesar did so many centuries before (Woloch, p. 118).
But just like the French Revolution was not always bloodthirsty and tyrannical, neither was Napoleon always dictatorially minded. In 1798, the Directory of the French Republic decided to send a military expedition to Egypt under Napoleon's command. While this might seem a foolhardy campaign in our own time, the consequences of losing a war like this were significantly less in the 1800's. The weaponry was less sophisticated; the logistics of the Egyptians returning to France and adding insult to injury would have been difficult to surmount. For those who mock the American motives for the invasion of Iraq, the French motives for invading Egypt ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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