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Old November 25th, 2012, 10:38 AM   #151
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Originally Posted by Pacific_Victory View Post
Just a couple of points, I think we are moving towards an agreement here.


I agree with you. I was actually reading about this last night and what I hadn't realized was that a "Continental System" of sorts wasn't a completely new Napoleonic idea. In fact similar concepts had been tried before and so it is no surprise that Napoleon would try the same thing. It seems there was a perception in continental Europe at the time that Britain made all of its wealth through its Empire, by selling foreign goods to Continental Europe. So the theory was (and this was not just Napoleon's theory) that if you simply closed the continental market to the British they would have nowhere to hawk their Imperial goods and their economy would collapse. With hindsight we can see it was a bad idea but I can see how it would have looked quite attractive to Napoleon at the time.
Uhu, and imagine standing in Napoleon's shoes at that time. Closing of the continent may not have been the worst idea at that time. And indeed when he realized it wasn't working as he wanted he blamed it to smugglers not to the fact that the system just didn't work.


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You are absolutely correct here. I have often wondered what would have happened if Paul hadn't been killed. With Paul, Napoleon did everything that I have suggested, including as you said above, offering to help fight the Ottomans. After Alexander came into power Napoleon only had one good chance to get it right and that was at Tilsit.
To bad French situation was to critical at that time. Especially with Austria ready to back stab.

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Well the Russian army was of little danger to the Grandee Armee, but the Russian nation and the Russian winter are a different story.
That's kind of what I meant. But yes Napoleon somewhat underestimated the Russians. Well better said he underestimated Russia as a country. The army itself was ill lead and wasn't of the best quality.

Well he would have been wise to abandon the Continental System, not just in Russia but everywhere.
Regarding the Duchy, we must remember Poland had been dissolved and Napoleon essentially created the Duchy as a buffer state between his Empire and the Russians. This combined with the fact that after 1807 he had a huge amount of troops stationed in Prussia meant that the Russians would never feel comfortable, there were simply too many massed French troops on their border.

Abandon the Continental system then, would be a big blow to his prestige and he still believed if it was 100% efficient it would work.

Couldnt the Russians see this buffer state as positive for them as well. At least they didn't border the French Empire directly in that way.

He needed those troops to keep the discipline in Prussia.

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It is a great book, I'm currently re-reading it.
I know, it's brilliant.

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Yes I agree with you. It all comes down to 1807. Personally I think the biggest problem was that Napoleon didn't understand how tenuous of a position the Russian Tsar occupied. During that time Tsars were constantly being murdered and replaced, and Alexander needed to please his nobles to ensure his own survival. Napoleon was used to the loving adoration he received from the French and probably couldn't really understand how the Russian court operated.
So true, the Tsars were pretty much as powerful as the Russian nobles allowed.

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If we look at Tilsit, we see that Napoleon amazed and psychologically outmaneuvered Alexander. He discussed things like a joint Russo-French attack on British India and joint attacks on the Ottomans and splitting the world between the Emperor of the Occident and that of the Orient. He flattered Alexander and treated him as an equal when he didn't have to. The problem was that none of these musings were written into the actual agreement, and when quill went to paper Napoleonic France came out way ahead in the agreement. But Alexander walked away happy, he actually liked Napoleon and felt that Napoleon like him him in return and would treat him well in the future.
The problem lay in the Russian nobility and the other members of the royal family. It is said that Alexander's own mother refused to embrace him when he returned from Tilsit.
100% agreed here.

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This ties in nicely with what I was saying above. Napoleon must have assumed that Alexander occupied a similar position in Russia as Napoleon did in France, and thus if he could convince Alexander he could secure Russia. The problem was that Alexander had to be far more reliant on pleasing his nobles if he wanted to survive. So while Napoleon was able to dazzle Alexander at Tilsit, the nobles only saw the poor terms that Russia was given and they were angry. They felt humiliated and many were ashamed of Alexander for helping a foreigner destroy Russia. From that moment on, the seeds of 1812 had been planted.
So in fact Napoleon didn't stand a change after 1807 to come to a peaceful solution.

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So the question becomes, what could have been done differently in 1807 to avoid it? My answer as I have said many times is more concessions to the Russians. If Alexander had come back from Tilsit with an agreement by Napoleon promising Polish land and joint campaigns into Turkish land I believe the nobles would have felt that Russia had come out ahead and would have been proud of their young Tsar for convincing the conqueror of Europe to help so much in glorifying Russia; instead they felt ashamed, angry and betrayed.
Well Napoleon won, it my not have been wise, but it is understandable Napoleon demanded certain things. Cause after all Russia joined the 3rd/4th coalition against Napoleon in the first place.
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Old November 25th, 2012, 11:08 AM   #152
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History is never black and white and I think if one shuts his mind to other viewpoints, it takes away alot of the idea behind studying history.
Indeed, to bad not all people look at it with neutral glasses.

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That being said, I will clarify my position. As someone who studies military history, Napoleon is always someone to admire. As a tactician, he was pretty much genius. As a tactician, I admire his abilties. As a strategist, I think he was poor. He was too ambitious with the demands of his navy, despite the inexperience and the inferiority in tactics and mindset to the Royal navy, and he wanted too much, too quickly with his land campaigns, which led to poorly conceived campaigns.
Pretty much genius, but on this point I can honoustly say GENIUS :P. A poor strategist? Well the 1806-1807 and 1812 wars against Russia yes, but look how he organised his Italian campaigns, Austerlitz campaign, against Prussia, Austria in 1809, 1813 and even 1814 in France itself. The way he moved was brilliant to my opinion.

You are right about the navy though. He knew to little about that.

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His best campaign will always be his Italian one, imo. His best battle, Austerlitz.
Ahw then you should really read about his 1814 campaign in France. It's brilliant. With a heavily reduced army, mostly green troops and a moral that had reached the bothem he managed to win the majority of battles against the Austrians, Prussians, Russians etc, it even came to the point that the coalition was willing to negotiate again.


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That is a concept that can only be seen in hindsight though. The threat was very real at the time, and Napoleon did attempt numerous failed campaigns to Ireland, for this cause.
Of course, he tried everything to get Britain to the negotiating table. If Britain had just been a bit more open to a peaceful agreement with France after 1803, it would have spared a lot of bloodshed.

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This point could be argued, but given his highly ambitious nature, I would say no.
One of his major motives was to equal himself to the monarchs of Europe so they would feel more comfortable to undertake diplomatic actions with France. Some might argue was just out of pure pride, but sources say differently and that he indeed had his good reasons to do so.

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Napoleon had backed them into a corner after defeating them at Friedland. Conventional warfare dictates going to the negotiation table after a decisive defeat. Alexander was hardly in a position to gain anything if he continued hostilities at the time. The course of action he took at the time was probably the wisest, from his viewpoint. He was also a highly ambitious man himself, as I noted in my previous post, and Napoleon appealed to his ego by promising help in his own possible expansionist policies. Therefore, cooperation with Napoleon at the time was a positive step fo Alexander.
No, but their war against Sweden had little to do with France. Of course Napoleon proposed it, but in the end it was to Russia to make the terms of peace and I doubt if they hadn't forced trough the system it would have angered Napoleon, but not a reason to go to war.

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Most importantly, I don't think Britain was liked either, because of her own colonial ambitions, and growing dominance in the merchant sea lanes, so going against her wasn't a dificult decision for some european countries to make.
A good point there. I keep finding it rather hilarious how the British government accused Napoleon of empire building while at the same time they set everything on everything to get the world map red.

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He had financial support, confidence and mental capacity to move forward at this time, which he did not have in 1807.
Britain still financilly aided Russia in 1807 as well, furthermore he still had Prussia at his side in 1807. Also the French army in 1807 that advanced into Russia was no more then 200,000 soldiers. While at 1812 600,000 soldiers stood at the banks of the Niemen.

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Also, the point you make about revolution maybe slightly true, but that is again an assessment made in hindsight. As a King, he had a right to worry about such an affair, especially if there was no gain for himself or his country.
If you had said a noble revolt I might have agreed, but still a peasent revolution in Russia at that time.

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Time changes many people
Regrettably yes.

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Indeed so. Also, you only have to look at how ruthlessly he disposed of Prussia itself, which in itself was very real threat to others.
Alexander didn't really protest either how Napoleon enforced his demands of Prussia either.

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If you want to see it like that, then that is your view, but Napoleon didn't help himself by prompting Britain into warfare again, nor did the casual attitude of his brother, given that Britain did very much desire pease at this juncture in the war. When the declration was signed it was greeted with relief in Britain, until the realisms of the treaty were laid bare.
It wasn't that bad for Britain. In fact what did they lose. France intervened in a country where Britain had little to do with. They took care of their own colony, in the treaty stood France had the rights on Malta. France did at least not more then Britain did.

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This is a topic that would probably need its own thread due to the scope of it.
I think so too.

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The difference being that Napoleon was making aggressive movements during a time of peace, that would provoke the war parties in Britain. Hi attitude in response to Britain, was a bit tactless and arrogant. If he was a bit more diplomatic, he would possibly have held the high ground. Threatening Egypt and panicking the world again, was not a sound idea.
I agree that his intervention in Swiss may have upset British politicians, but a reason for war? Wasn't Britain itself fighting wars in India itself at that time. Not really different what France did in Haiti.

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Its the nature of the threat though, Jeroen, especially after a peace treaty was signed. Provoking is not the correct thing to do.
They way Britain treated the Malta part of the treaty wasn't really decent as well.

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That is what I was referring too anyway. He was greeted very well upon his return, but lost support incrementally with his laid out policies.
Not in France at least. His even more liberals views were greeted with enthusiasm.
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Old November 25th, 2012, 12:20 PM   #153

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Originally Posted by Pacific_Victory View Post
True, however let us not forget that until 1805 and 1807 much of the Russian nobility were Francophiles. They spoke French among themselves, read French literature and their children were brought up by French tutors. Alexander once said he prided himself on the fact that his French was better than Napoleon's.

French was the language of nobility and culture and it was what distinguished much of the Russian nobility from the Russian speaking peasantry.

The backlash against French and all things French only came around 1808, when people began to feel that Alexander had betrayed Russia and saw Tilsit as a subjugation rather than an alliance.
The influence of the exiled French aristocracy - many of whom fled to Russia - in the foreign courts cannot be overstated, I feel, and was an important factor in the inability of Napoleon to minimize hostilities towards post-revolutionary France.
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Old November 25th, 2012, 12:26 PM   #154
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Indeed, to bad not all people look at it with neutral glasses.
Yup, just remember the rosy glasses of some radical fans.
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Old November 25th, 2012, 12:54 PM   #155

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Originally Posted by jeroenrottgering View Post
Indeed, to bad not all people look at it with neutral glasses.
Indeed. Although neutrality can also depend upon how evidence and arguments are formed.



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Pretty much genius, but on this point I can honoustly say GENIUS :P. A poor strategist? Well the 1806-1807 and 1812 wars against Russia yes, but look how he organised his Italian campaigns, Austerlitz campaign, against Prussia, Austria in 1809, 1813 and even 1814 in France itself. The way he moved was brilliant to my opinion.
He was too ambitious strategically. Tactically he was a genius, no doubt there.

The corps system was ideal, each corps being self-reliant and through this he was able to adopt a kind of swarm tactic by pinning an army down for a period of time whilst other corps were able to congregate and surround. The key to the effectiveness was speed. Napoleon used the strategy of Bellum se ipsum alet, allowing him shorter supply lines and greater speed of movement than his adversaries.



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Ahw then you should really read about his 1814 campaign in France. It's brilliant. With a heavily reduced army, mostly green troops and a moral that had reached the bothem he managed to win the majority of battles against the Austrians, Prussians, Russians etc, it even came to the point that the coalition was willing to negotiate again
No doubt. Some of his defensive victories were brilliant. But they were just pyrrhic victories. Defeat was inevitable at this juncture, as the continental armies re-adjusted their own tactics and strategies to counter Napoleons.

In that sense, his campaign in Italy will always remain the best imo, because of what he accomplished against established armies, and against more than one opponent. This being before his military reforms later on.




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Of course, he tried everything to get Britain to the negotiating table. If Britain had just been a bit more open to a peaceful agreement with France after 1803, it would have spared a lot of bloodshed.
I think it's a bit vain to believe Napoleon was so "magnanimous". From that perspective he could only offer that if he was in a position of absolute power.

I think from the perspective of the rest of the world, we cannot forget what was at stake. The social order was being threatened. The great terror that followed the revolution caused alot of potential supporters overseas to change their minds.

One such being Edmund Burke, who supported the american revolution and was against British imperialism. He waited to see what would happen with the French revolution but was immediately tirned against it upon seeing the aftermath. If you havent read it already, his paper, "reflections on the revolution in France" is quite interesting.

Incidentally he also saw the rise of a dictatorship afterwards, which Napoleon effectively justified, when he later assumed control of the country and declared himself emperor.



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One of his major motives was to equal himself to the monarchs of Europe so they would feel more comfortable to undertake diplomatic actions with France. Some might argue was just out of pure pride, but sources say differently and that he indeed had his good reasons to do so.
We can talk about this in another thread sometime, as like the Malta question, it has scope. Sadly I haven't got the time to engage in potentially huge discussions like this atm, but I will get around to it



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No, but their war against Sweden had little to do with France. Of course Napoleon proposed it, but in the end it was to Russia to make the terms of peace and I doubt if they hadn't forced trough the system it would have angered Napoleon, but not a reason to go to war.
In order for the continental system to work, he needed all of the continent to turn British goods away. Sweden maintaining an official neutral stance, would not help his strategy.

Then we have the complex issues of Bernadotte to deal with.



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A good point there. I keep finding it rather hilarious how the British government accused Napoleon of empire building while at the same time they set everything on everything to get the world map red.
Regardless of Britains imperialist ambitions, they desired to keep the status quo in Europe. Napoleons hegenomy was the antithesis of this ideal, and enough European countries agreed to ally with Britain over the various coalitions.



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Britain still financilly aided Russia in 1807 as well, furthermore he still had Prussia at his side in 1807. Also the French army in 1807 that advanced into Russia was no more then 200,000 soldiers. While at 1812 600,000 soldiers stood at the banks of the Niemen.
That is true, appeals to ego can change a mans aspect, especially when said mans own imperialistic visions are in question.

By 1812 there was enough general discontent for him to make a decisive stand against Napoleon.




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Alexander didn't really protest either how Napoleon enforced his demands of Prussia either.
But he shared the same potential treatment.



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It wasn't that bad for Britain. In fact what did they lose. France intervened in a country where Britain had little to do with. They took care of their own colony, in the treaty stood France had the rights on Malta. France did at least not more then Britain did.
Its a complex issue to discuss. Suffice to say, its about the motives and the manner in which they were employed.




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I agree that his intervention in Swiss may have upset British politicians, but a reason for war? Wasn't Britain itself fighting wars in India itself at that time. Not really different what France did in Haiti.
But Britian did not want control of Europe, nor were they just in a 20+ year war with the rest of Europe.



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Not in France at least. His even more liberals views were greeted with enthusiasm.
A teppid enthusiasm which seemed to remain with the lower/peasant classes that feared the return of the ancien regime would take away the things they were given by Napoleon. This is natural of course. No blame there.

What I was mainly inferring to was the "additional acts charter of 1815", which seemed to receive only lukewarm approval and was not implemented.
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Old May 14th, 2014, 05:29 PM   #156
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I've never posted in a forum before and came across this after while looking up the very question in the title. I know it's a bit late, but here's my take on the subject.

While I agree that no one country can be totally blamed...I'm leaning towards the UK. Arguments for the "freedom" of the continent aside, the British had adopted a policy of balance of power for everyone else. This was not a noble or selfless policy, it simply suited their global ambitions, and keeping those wars going was in that interest. At the end of the day, England did fund coalition after coalition "Oh yes fight on Francis, fight on Frederick, fight on Alexander, don't let him get away with that!! we're right behind you" nom nom*gobbles up colonies*. To the British press, particularly critical of Francis, I would ask what would you do without the english channel, if the reincarnation of Caeser, Alexander, and Hannibal had just crushed your army and occupied London? So while Napoleonic France wasn't always in the right, let's be honest, things like the attacks on Copenhagen or the capture of american shipping kind of lost Britain any perceived moral high ground.

I know this deviates a bit from the initial question, and takes on a bit of the "what if" but just some thoughts while we're talking about this interesting period. Napoleon was an ambitious man, a conqueror, and not always as moderate as he should have been, his large and rapid expansion of french power(basically realizing the dreams of Francis I and Louis XIV)left his neighbors peeved, and no it can't be called self defense, but at the end of the day they brought it upon themselves, they kept yanking a lion's tail and suffering the consequences. The allies attacked, they lost, and each time France got a little bigger, fair enough, definitely one of the more interesting ways that an empire has come into being. We can say that he caused many deaths, alot of destruction, sought personal glory, definitely, can we not also say the same of the allies who couldn't just "let it go", they who hurled their son's into the grinder against a commander they knew to be superior, which started simply to tell a people who can and cannot rule them, and continued to recover what they'd lost after each defeat? I can't verify this quote but I once heard in a show that a Russian officer had told the Tsar that he may as well give each of his soldiers a pistol and have them blow their own brains out if he was planning to fight again.

Was he a tyrant? Technically, were his peers, yes, were they as enlightened or competent? I think that's a big no, even the UK with it's vaunted constitutional monarchy, all the great powers were conquerors. Let's start with Austria, ancient seat of the hapless Habsburgs(sorry couldn't resist), the union of what was it, croats, czechs, hungarians, italians, serbs, poles, slovakians, slovenians, and just a dash of romania/ukraine, that's alot of completely not german people under the thumb of a german emperor, hmm, was it voluntary, was it fair or well run, doesn't seem that way, but i guess since alot of it was aquired through marriage that makes it ok right? Now the name/concept has always been kind of silly, but by this time the Holy Roman Empire was just a charade, and it's destruction and organization into a bunch of actual countries was no crime. How about the mighty "Russian Bear", spanning 1/6 of the world, enough said. Prussia did it's share of bullying, after all it was "an army that possessed a nation", with a timid king who let his spiteful wife talk him into a war, thinking his uncles ghost would win it for him. Poland changed the course of european history when her king Jan III led his hussars against the ottomans to help break them before the gates of vienna, yes vienna, austria, perhaps a good portion of europe owed their "freedom" to polish valor, but yay partitions. Spain and Portugal, poor, bullied, victimized Iberia, what of the dozens of millions, yes dozens of millions of native peoples who died for gold, royal glory, and "god". The Papacy, well it depends on your personal preference, but I don't feel the pope's should have ever had secular power or ruled land themselves, and it's kind of hard to feel sorry for a corrupt, decadent lazy church. The ottomans...lets be honest screw the ottomans lol, but in all fairness Russia messed with them way more than Napoleon.

Last but not least the UK, conqueror's of 1/4 of the world's surface, 50ish countries? I know most of it was formed after these wars, but here is where the pot finally meets the kettle, and anyone accusing anyone else of world conquest on a forum like this should immediately stop and think of England, also conqueror's of Egypt I might add since that country comes up here with regards to Napoleon's invasion. I don't want to demean any of the sacrifice's or bravery of the British armed forces through the years or insult the britain of today, but I'm gonna start by saying that any empire, that becomes that huge, that confident in itself, should be able omgwtfpwnroflstomp any 1 country or rival alliance, I know there were alot of factors in how the first world wars were handled but damn, if you're gonna claim that much of the world's surface and resources, you should be able to run a train on anyone. The implication is of course that the empire was perhaps not as well run and cared for as it should have been? Perhaps a little "tyrannical", only developing those colonies as much as need be to ship their resources back to the island to enrich it, but otherwise leaving everyone in them to rot, in tactlessly drawn borders where many diverse people who may not have been good friends were shoved together? How many people died, suffered, and were robbed of their goods, but not even really made to feel like true subjects of their monarch? What possible reasoning is there for the famines being so bad in Ireland when food could have been brought from so many other places, there's what, not even 7 million people in Ireland now, much less in the 1800's. Did Wales, Scotland, and Ireland ask to be conquered? No but the English felt it their destiny and a strategic imperative to rule the Island, well maybe the continent was Napoleon's version lol.

Napoleon was not perfect, he made a lot of mistakes, his armies looted to enrich france, stereotypical conqueror stuff. Conscription of course was unpopular but one could say that it, as well as his absolute power were born of the constant threat of war that the allies presented, and arguments about him being a war monger aside they did present it, Britain's stubbornness for example led to the continental system which basically leads to the spanish ulcer and russian debacle. Don't get me wrong he definitely wasn't perfect but europe could, and has done worse and at the end of the day, most of the negative press of him stems from this silly idea that european imperialism is this exclusive vip club, with strict rules, where conquest in europe is ok in moderation, and the people's outside of europe are fair game, but ooo if you whoop up on a fellow european too hard you're the devil. Well not everyone thought he was the devil, I can't think of many leaders in history who returned from exile and were instantly joined by the men sent to arrest them, whose guards had to keep them from being hugged to death when they returned to their capital. After 1815, while everyone was patting themselves on the back, what happened, europe chilled, industrialized, britain expanded, russia, austria, and the ottomans only became more conservative and incompetent, the world wars happened, all of their empires collapsed or morphed into the third world, the west is slipping and people are fixated on how different they are.

I personally like the emperor, he ruled a rather magnificent empire, and made alot of positive reforms, economical, educational, militarily, he was as gifted an administrator as he was a general, we just don't focus on that as much. While not always successful, he also wasn't bad at winning over and organizing people of different ethnic backgrounds and faiths, rather important considering an empire is by definition diverse, and he did it in a far shorter amount of time than some others who had centuries to win their subject peoples over and still never truly did. Were the allies as inspiring or progressive? Frederick William was a good man but meh, Alexander was well meaning and charming, but no less a conqueror(persia, turkey, etc.) and whats worse ruled an undeveloped empire of medieval serfs...serfs?! in the 1800's, just wow, especially with all the wealth available to the aristocracy. The Prince Regent was kind of on the lazy, childish, and indulgent side.

Ultimately as I look around the world, i'm not thrilled, it's a disunited directionless place of cold grey buildings and suits, where the west is weakening and I'm not entirely sure that his defeat was the world's gain. Lets say he was into laying the foundation of an eventual global conquest, he had the idea's, the charisma, the work ethic, for what could have been a pretty cool world empire. It's probably the high fantasy geek in me, but I kind of enjoy picturing an imperial united earth, glorious and secular, roman in appearance with modern european culture, with grand buildings and eagles everywhere, splendid uniforms and clothing, and music, medals and chivalric titles bestowed for meritorious service rather than aristocratic birth. Idealistic I know, but might have been possible...might have been fun.

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Old January 13th, 2017, 06:37 PM   #157

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british fault
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Old January 14th, 2017, 07:46 AM   #158

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None of the above. The true culprit was French politics

Napoleon built his reputation on military glory. A military man was the only man who could hold France together in that time of fractious and divided politics. however, to keep popular support he needed, needed to go to war.

There was also the problem of unemployment in France. Every European country had squalor, but because of mob rule, in France ti was deadly. To keep the mob busy, they had to be pressed into service and live off the land somewhere else. Their loot would also help pay the French treasury. This is why the Directory despite being a generally impotent and stupid government was also belligerent.

Napoleon was in a similar situation to Alexander thousands of years earlier. His country was divided, fractious, bitter. The only way to hold it together was through glorious victories, he had no choice. Late in his rule, Napoleon had plenty of choice, but by that time, the other great powers were so miffed at basically not being great powers due to Napoleon's vicious stripping of their territory that they had to declare war and attempt to regain their losses.
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Old January 14th, 2017, 04:36 PM   #159

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Napoleons fault.
Britain bank rolled many of his enemies but they were all wiling. He had a bad habit of invading his neighbours and installing family members on crowns they don't belong on. Why wouldn't you except money to help you get rid of that?
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Old January 14th, 2017, 05:28 PM   #160

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France was at war with most of those enemies during the time that Napoleon was still consolidating. He really had no choice but to install bonapartes. There was no less offensive thing to do. What was he going to do? Pat Austria and Prussia on the back and say "it's okay little kiddos, you can have all your land back <3"

Then they would have attacked again and again knowing there were no costs to defeat.
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