Napoleon: Egyptian Expedition and Refroms

Italian expedition turned Napoleon Hero of the France while Egyptian expedition prepared the ground for Napoleon to be the leader of France.

Egyptian Expedition

Egyptian Expedition

Egypt was then part of the Ottoman Turkish Empire. But this empire had declined. Then the Mamelukes ruled Egypt nominally under the Sultan of Turkey. Napoleon led this expedition to protect the French trade interests and to disrupt British trade with India. From the map geopolitical importance of Egypt is clear. It was located at the heart of the east to west trade. He was fond of dramatic poses. Riding in front of his troops before the Pyramids he addressed them:

Soldiers, forty centuries are looking down upon you!

Napoleon was master of war on land. But at the sea, he seemed to be helpless. He underestimated the naval power of the England which was the best in the world at that point in time. Unfortunately, Napoleon’s luck did not hold.

British admiral Horatio Nelson defeated the naval forces of Napoleon. Nelson came, rather audaciously, right into harbour one day and destroyed the French fleet in the Battle of Nile. Napoleon managed to escape secretly and reached France.

Egypt Expedition of Napoleon
Egypt Expedition of Napoleon

Coup d’État

After Italian expedition, in which British were victorious.  Napoleon came to France people of France were shouting only one name- Napoleon. Actually, France was in trouble when Napoleon came back. By 1799, the Directory was discredited, unpopular and so everybody turned to him. He was willing enough to assume power.

The Abbé Sieyès urged him to seize political power. He organised Sainklu Convention. In November 1799, with the help of his brother Lucien, he forcibly dispersed the Assembly and thus put an end to the constitution as it then existed, under which the Directory had governed. This coup d’état, as such forcible State actions are called, made Napoleon the master of the situation.

At first, he pretended to be the constitutionally chosen leader of a free republic. Later in 1800, in a plebiscite people voted for the new constitution (the fourth in eight years; 1st in 1791, 2nd in 1792, 3rd in 1795). He almost unanimously won by over 3,000,000 votes. Thus the people of France themselves presented all power to Napoleon. With the wish of people, he became the First Consul of France for nest coming 10 years.

Reforms of Napoleon

Peace with Europe

For past 10 years 1789 to 1799 French polity and economy was in trouble the immediate requirement was peace and stability. In this scenario, Napoleon wrote letters to address King George-III of England and Leopold of Austria.

In these letters, he emphasised the importance of peace in that situation. He said what is the utility of war in the era of growth and development. This lead to the treaty of Amiens between England and France. England gave acceptance to Napoleon’s rule and also returned back French colonies taken away during the revolution.

Economic Reforms

Napoleon came into power when the France was suffering from the remnants of revolution. The huge mass supported him to become the First Consul because they were having big aspirations from him. His immediate priority was to give some relax to his people as they all were in very weary condition. To pacify the French people he opted for superficial reforms such as,

  • Primary sector: -He emphasised on agriculture on improving the fertility of soil bringing barren land under cultivation. His officials opted liberal attitude towards farmers in collecting land revenue. His objective was to increase agricultural production to fulfil food requirement of people and to improve the revenue of the state.
  • Public works: -He gave promotion to the public works like infrastructural developments to provide employment to the people.
  • Established Central bank of France to regulate and strengthen currency system with the objective to promote trade and commerce in France.

These steps gave relief to the people of France for some time but in overall structure, French economy remained weak and backwards because he neglected basic land reforms and industrialisation.

Political Reforms

In 1799 Napoleon was political head of the state. But he wanted to be the Emperor of France and was facing a legal trouble i.e. Royalty of Blood. In these circumstances, he organised plebiscite in France in which he got approximately 34 lakhs vote in favour. On this ground respecting the wish of people he became emperor of France in 1804.

On December 2, 1804, dressed in a splendid robe of purple velvet, Napoleon walked down the long aisle of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. The pope waited for him with a glittering crown. As thousands watched, the new emperor took the crown from the pope and placed it on his own head. This was an arrogant gesture, Napoleon signalled that he was more powerful than the church, which had traditionally crowned the rulers of France.

Structure of French Parliament

Now Napoleon established four houses in France. Council of State, Senate, Tribunate and Legislative. He came with Law of 10 percent. Under the 10% law, people of 30 years of age was given voting rights and there was the provision of three lists:

  • District List
  • State List
  • Central List

From the central list, he nominated members of all the four houses. The legislature was basically the court of Napoleon. Bureaucracy in France revived and bureaucrats called as prefects. Appointment and transfer of these officials were at the hand of Napoleon.

These officials were only responsible to the Napoleon. In this way, the political structure of France was like a mirage (illusion) from outside it reflected the picture of democracy and from inside it was autocratic in nature. The entire power was at the hand of Napoleon.

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