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Current time:0:00Total duration:16:48

French Revolution (part 4) - The Rise of Napoleon Bonaparte

Video transcript

We finished the last video with the Reign of Terror, which lasted essentially from April of 1793 to July of 1794, where Robespierre himself got the losing end of the guillotine. So it looks like France was done with the low point of the Revolution. And that is true, especially from the point of view of the French people. Then we go into 1795. France is doing well in its wars with essentially the rest of Europe. And peace is declared with Prussia and Spain. So the only two major enemies left are Great Britain and Austria. So slowly, France is dealing with its enemies. And this was essentially a victory for France. So France victorious with this huge citizen army that it created. And then this was in April of 1795. And then in August of 1795-- let me do that in a different color-- in August of 1795, the new republic constitution gets approved. And it gets ratified through a vote of the people, which makes France officially a republic. They don't need kings anymore. And it set up a governing structure where the executive was essentially this group five directors. So the executive is called the Directory. So you don't have one president, you had five directors. And then the legislature, and this was significant because this was the first bicameral legislature for France, it had two houses. It had the Council of 500, which is analogous to the U.S. House of Representatives. It had 500 members in it, 500 representatives. Let me write that down. It was by bicameral. It had two houses, just like the U.S. Congress. So it's Council of 500. And then you had your Counsel of Elders, which had 250 representatives. And that, if you want to view it from a U.S. point of view, that was analogous to the U.S. Senate. And the Directory, the directors, the candidates were submitted by the Council of 500 to of the Council of Elders, who then picked the five directors-- the five people who would essentially be the executive in France. Already, things are looking really well. But, even though they had the military victories, there was still a lot of unrest. You still had Royalist out there. You still had Great Britain causing trouble. Great Britain was attacking the western regions of France. There were Royalists throughout Paris. And then, in October of 1795, there was a Royalist uprising. And Royalists are the people who wanted to bring back the crown. Or they were against the revolutionary government. And to a large degree, they weren't just upset about the fact that the royalty is gone. There were also upset that they were excluded from the Directory. So it excluded the Royalists. So before the Directory could even form in any major way, you had a Royalist uprising in Paris. And they stormed the Tuileries. This is the same place that you might remember earlier on, a couple of videos ago, where the king and queen were in house arrest. And later, they were assaulted by the revolutionary government. That was this painting right here. This was only three years ago. This was in 1792 and this is when they actually took the king and queen prisoner. And then they executed Louis XVI only a few months after that. So now it was on the other way. Instead of the royalty being in the Tuileries, and being sieged by the revolutionaries, the revolutionary government was in the Tuileries and it was being sieged by Royalists. And actually, the situation did not look good for the revolutionary government. They were out numbered. It looked like the Royalists had better numbers. But lucky for the revolutionary government, there was a young, very ambitious, very egotistical, military captain at this point, who had observed the Siege of the Tuileries when Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette were captured. And back then, he made a mental note. He said, they would have been able to stop the siege if only they had good artillery. Remember, he was an artillery captain. That's where he first became famous. In the Siege of Toulon he was able to use artillery effectively to suppress a rebellion. So he was actually observing this scene three years later. And now, in 1795, as the revolutionary government is in the Tuileries and the Royalists are about to essentially take it over, Napoleon, using what he learned when he observed the first time, he was able to place cannons and artillery in such a way. And he shot what they call grapeshot. And it's essentially like a shotgun coming out of a canon. And even though they were significantly outnumbered by the Royalists, he was essentially able to mow them down with the canons. So even though you had more numbers, you had all these cannons. Let me draw one. You had a canon and the actual ammunition would have these little pellets. That's why it was called grapeshot, it looked like a bundle of grapes. And when you shot it out, it would go in every direction. So you could imagine, it would just mow down whoever is in the way of the canon. And so essentially, Napoleon was able to save the revolutionary government. And allow the actual Directory to come to power. So this once again, Napoleon was in the right place at the right time. And he was very competent in military tactics. By all measure he was egotistical, he narcisistic, but the dude knew what he was doing. And so Napoleon becomes even more famous. This event, October 5, 1795 where Napoleon is able to defend the revolutionary government, this is know as 13 Vendemiaire. I know I'm saying it wrong. But once again, this was the month of October in the new French Revolutionary Calendar. But it made Napoleon even more of a national hero, or even revolutionary hero. People are starting to realize that this guy, he definitely knows what he's doing. But you could imagine at the same time, the Directory really didn't like this dude hanging around too close to the seats of power. He was obviously ambitious. He was obviously competent. And at some point, he might be a threat himself to the Directory. So they gave him power. But they made sure that he was far away from France. So he was essentially put in charge of the campaign into Italy. Remember, we're still fighting Austria and Great Britain. So we're fighting Austria in Italy. And Napoleon is made a Commander in Chief of the Italian forces. And he's tremendously successful. This was kind of the least important front of the war with Austria at this point. But out of all of the generals of the different fronts, Napoleon is the one that proves himself to be tremendously innovative and tactical and an all-route good general. So this Napoleon kicking butt in Italy. So once again, he becomes even more famous, even more well known. Eventually, Austria admits that hey gee, we're not going to beat the French anymore. They're really taking care of us quite well. And they make peace with the French in October of 1797. The Italian campaign occurred in 1796. So he defended the revolutionary government in 1795. He kicks butt in 1796 in Italy. In 1797 there's peace with Austria. So you only have Great Britain left. But this peace with Austria is actually going to be very temporary. This is from the Treaty of Campo-Formio. Let me write that down. And once again, this was peace with Austria. But France was the victor. So this is another French victory. And the only real enemy left was Great Britain. But the main problem was that Great Britain had the dominant navy in the world at the time. So France, and especially Napoleon, wasn't in a position to confront Great Britain on the water. And this was kind of a controversial decision. In 1798-- and remember, the Directory really didn't want Napoleon hanging around France. They're like OK, you're hugely popular, you're a good general, you're a great general. You go do what you want. Whatever you think is proper. So Napoleon gets it into his head to attack Egypt. And people aren't 100% sure what was the main strategic goal of attacking Egypt. So in 1798, he leaves from Toulon. Remember Toulon was the port that he helped suppress. He leaves from Toulon, he takes Malta along the way. And then eventually, he arrives in Egypt to essentially take over Egypt. And people believe that his desire to take over Egypt was essentially to, at some point, undermine the British in India. He'd maybe make some Muslim allies in Egypt and then maybe befriend some of the Muslim insurgents, if you will. Especially they were talking about Tipu Sultan, who he wanted to meet up with and maybe help undermine the British in India. But people aren't quite sure. It might have been just Napoleon having some visions of grandeur. And he wanted to go to Egypt because Egypt was a formerly great empire. So in 1798, Napoleon goes to Egypt. These are paintings of him in Egypt. And once again, he was able to kind of route the Mamluk forces who are in power at the time in Egypt. This is the Battle of the Pyramids. Once again, Napoleon is hugely successful. Except for one problem. He brings his 20,000 troops into Egypt, obviously by ship. They're sitting here, they're kicking butt in Egypt. But they're still at war with the British. So what the British do, with their dominant Navy, they send Horatio Nelson in charge of a fleet. And he comes here where the French navy was parked. And he just destroys them. So Horatio Nelson destroys the French fleet in the Battle of the Nile. And this is a depiction. This is Horatio Nelson right here. This is a depiction of the Battle of the Nile, which essentially strands Napoleon's 20,000-person army. They're stuck in Egypt. So not knowing what else to do-- they can't leave with all of their forces-- Napoleon then goes into Damascus and Syria. And then he causes all sorts of havoc in raping and pillaging and whatnot. But still that kind of begs the question of, how are they going to get back? And you could imagine, for someone as ambitious and egotistical as Napoleon, he didn't really care a lot about what happened to his troops. And so when an opportunity arose in 1799, he left. He left his entire army. This gives you a lot of view into Napoleon's character, that he was willing to leave his entire army in Egypt and in Syria to essentially be left to die at the hands of the Ottomans. And then he sneaks his way back to France. So in 1799, Napoleon goes back to France. Let me write this down. And once he gets back there, he sees that the Directory is unbelievably unpopular. And the main reason is the reason that every government in France throughout this whole series of videos has been unpopular. People are still hungry. France is still poor. Notice in everything I've talked about, in all of these videos, we still haven't addressed the issue that France is essentially broke and that people are still going hungry. So throughout all of the violence, all of the wars, the Directory is hugely unpopular. And then a few of the directors, two in particular, actually three of the directors, want to plot with Napoleon, who was hugely popular. And they essentially plan a coup. And the way that they allow themselves to come to power is they resign. And then they tell the legislature that's meeting at the Tuileries, hey, there's a Jacobian revolt and you're in danger. Why don't you go to this estate west of Paris. So that's Paris, where they normally meet. They tell them to go to an estate west of Paris. So the legislature goes here to this estate. And you'll be protected by Napoleon. And they're protected by Napoleon and his army. Now once they're there, Napoleon goes in and starts making these speeches about you guys being essentially illegitimate. And he looks like he really wants to take power. And they just jostle him out of the room. But once he gets jostled out of the room, his brother points to the bruises on Napoleon. He tells the guards outside of where the legislature is meeting, hey those guys in there, they're becoming violent. You have to go in there and take order. So that convinces the military. And they go in and they essentially dissolve the Council of 500. So essentially, you've dissolved the legislature, Napoleon is in charge of the military that dissolved the legislature. And so that allowed Napoleon and two of the plotting directors to take power. They became the three consuls of France. They form the Consulate, or the new executive of France. And very shortly they'll have their own constitution. But this really marks the point where Napoleon takes power of France. Because even though he took power with these other two dudes, he eventually is able to scheme his way to be called First Consul. At which point he is the authoritarian ruler of France. So we've gone from, over the course of the French Revolution, from 1789 where we had an absolute monarch in Louis XVI, now we go all the way to 1799, 10 years later, after all of this bloodshed, after multiple revolutions and counter revolutions. We end up with Napoleon, essentially being in charge of France.