Created by chelseaface on Nov 11, 2009
Last updated: 11/24/09 at 09:13 PM
Napoleon's enemies were quick to take advantage of his weaknesses. Britain, Russia, Prussia, and Sweden joined forces against him, along with Austria. All the main powers of Europe were now at war with France. Napoleon was temporarily banished from France but later escaped from Elba, the island to which he was isolated on. He took over the power from Louis XVIII and regained control of France. In response, the European allies quickly prepared for battle near the village of Waterloo in Belgium. On June 18, 1815, Napoleon attacked. Napoleon's exhausted troops gave away and the British and Prussian forces chased them from the field. This defeat ended Napoleon's last hopes of power, called the Hundred Days. Taking no chanced this time, the British shipped Napoleon to St. Helena, a remote island in the South Atlantic. There, he lived in lonely exile and eventually died of stomach ailment. Without doubt, Napoleon was a military genius and a brilliant administrator, though all his victories and many achievements must be measured against all those lives lost within his wars.
Other nation's cry for independence influenced Padre Miguel Hidalgo, a priest in the small village of Dolores to take the first step for Mexicans. He was a poor but well-educated man. He firmly believed in the Enlightenment ideas. On September 16, 1810, he rang the bells of his village church and when the peasants came to gather, he announced a rebellion against the Spanish. Today, that all is known as the grito de Dolores (the cry of Dolores). The next day, Hidalgo's Indian and mestizo followers of 80,000 men began a march toward Mexico City. The uprising of the lower classes alarmed the Spanish army and creoles, who feared the loss of their property, control of their land, and their lives. The Spanish army defeated Hidalgo in 1811.
The French colony of Saint Domingue (now known as Haiti) was the first Latin American territory to free itself from European rule. It occupied the western third of the island Hispaniola in the Caribbean Sea. Many slaves populated the island, working endlessly for their white masters. While the French Revolution was taking place, a group of enslaved Africans rose in revolt. A leader soon emerged, Toussaint L'Ouverture. He was a formerly enslaved man, and though he was unfamiliar with military and diplomatic matters, he became a skilled general and diplomat. By 1801, he had taken control of the entire island and freed all the slaves. In 1802, French troops landed in Saint Domingue to remove Toussaint form power. Toussaint agreed to halt the revolt if the French would end slavery. Despite the agreement, the French accused him of planning another uprising and sent him to prison. Toussaint's lieutenant, Jean-Jacques Dessalines took up the fight for freedom. On January 1, 1804, General Dessalines declared the colony an independent country. It was the first black colony to free itself from European control.
In 1804, Napoleon decided to make himself emperor, and the French voters supported him. As thousands watched, the new emperor took the crown from the pope and placed it on this own head. This gesture signaled that he was more powerful than the Church, which had traditionally crowned the rulers of France. Napoleon was not content simply to be emperor. He wanted to control the rest of Europe and reassert French power in the Americas. After failing during his expedition to Saint Domingue, Napoleon decided to cut his losses in America. He sold all of the Louisiana Territory to the United States in effort to gain money to finance operations in Europe and punish the British. He then crushed Austria, Prussia, and Russia in the Battle of Austerlitz. This forced the rules of those countries to sign peace treaties and enabled him to build the largest European empire sine that of the Romans. France's only major enemy left was Britain. In his drive for a European empire, Napoleon only lost one major battle, the Battle of Trafalgar. This war against the British led to supremacy of the British navy and it also forced Napoleon to give up his plans of invading Britain. During the first decade of the 1800s, Napoleon victories had given him mastery over most of Europe. The French Empire was huge but unstable. Napoleon was able to maintain it at its best for only five years. Then it suddenly fell into pieces. Its collapse was caused in part by his actions.
Napoleon Bonaparte was born on the island of Corsica in 1769. When he was nine, his parents sent him to a military school. At the age of 16, he finished school and became a lieutenant in the military. When the French Revolution broke out, Napoleon joined the army of the new government. He quickly became a hero throughout France. By 1799, the Directory had lost control of the political situation of the French. Napoleon's friends urged him to seize political power. He took action in early November 1799. Troops under his command surround the national legislature and drove out most of its members. The lawmakers who remained then voted to dissolve the Directory. In their place, they established a group of three consuls, one of whom was Napoleon. He took the title of first consul and assumed the powers of a dictator. The sudden seizure of power like Napoleon's is known as a coup- from the French phrase coup d'etat or "blow to the state." At the time of Napoleon's coup, France was still at war. Eventually, as a result or war and diplomacy, all three nations signed peace agreements with France. By 1802, Europe was at peace for the first time in ten years. Napoleon could concentrate on restoring order in France.
In the 1700s, France was considered the most advanced country of Europe. it had a large population and a prosperous foreign trade. It was also the center of Enlightenment with their great culture. Though they appeared to be successful, there was really a great unrest in France due to bad harvests, high prices, high taxes, and disturbing questions raised by the Enlightenment ideas. In the 1770s, the social and political system of Frances- the Old Regime- remained in place. Under this system, the people of France were divided into three large social classes, or estates. The Roman Catholic Church formed the first, the rich nobles the second and the third consisted of middle class citizens and peasants. New ideas about government, serious economic troubles, and weak leadership lead to a desire for change. The Third Estate delegates formed a group called the National Assembly and helped pass laws and reforms in the name of the French people. Three days later, the delegates found themselves locked out of their own meeting room and broke down a door to an indoor tennis court, pledging to stay until they had a new constitution. In response, their king, Louis XVI stationed his army around the scene. This caused many rumors to spread and a wave of panic called the Great Fear rolled through France. They thought the nobles were hiring outlaws to terrorize the peasants. Chaos struck and this induced the king and his family to leave their palace forever. Their exit was the start of the change of power and radical reforms about to overtake France. Soon after, the Old Regimen was eliminated and France developed the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. Divisions began to develop and revolts broke out. As a result, some countries such as Austria and Prussia urged the French to restore Louis to his position as an absolute monarch. The Legislative Assembly responded by declaring war in April 1792. The revolution brought reform and terror. In 1795, moderate leaders in the National Convention drafted a new plan of government, the third since 1789. It placed power in the hands of the upper middle class and called for a two-house legislature and an executive body of five men, known as the Directory.
After Britain seized nearly all French land in North America during the French and Indian war, the victory led to growing tensions between Britain and its colonists. In order to fight the war, Great Britain had run up on a huge debt. The hostilities began to emerge with little things such as the Stamp Act and the Boston Tea Party. In September of 1774, representatives from every colony, except for Georgia, gathered in Philadelphia to form the First Continental Congress to protest the treatment of Boston. When the king paid no attention to them, they formed the Second Continental Congress to debate their next move. On April 19, 1775, Congress voted to raise an army and prepared for battle against the British under the command of a man named George Washington. After using Enlightenment ideas to issue a Declaration of Independence, the two sides went to war. At first, the colonists seemed to be heading towards defeat, but in the end, the Americans won their war for independence. Several reasons affected the colonists’ success. First, the Americans had a much stronger motivation than that of the British. Second, the over-confident British generals made several mistakes. Third, with no one supplying taxes to them, the tax weary British citizens called for peace. Finally, the Americans did not fight alone. Along with Britain’s rival, the French, the Americans had shocked the world and won their independence.
Baron de Montesquieu was one of many French influential writers. He was devoted to the study of political liberty. Montesquieu believed that Britain was the best-governed and the most politically balanced country of his own day. The British king and his ministers held executive power. They carried out the laws. The members of Parliament held legislative power. They made the laws. The judges of the English courts held judicial power. The interpreted the laws to see how each applied to a specific case. Montesquieu called this division of power among different government branches the separation of powers. The British government system did not actually separate this way, but Montesquieu over simplified it. Though this idea became part of his most famous book, On the Spirit of Laws (1748). In this book, he proposed that the separation of powers would keep any individual or group from abusing its powers and taking total control of the government. He wrote that "Power, should be a check to power." This idea later became known as the checks and balances. Montesquieu's book was admired by British colonial and political leaders. His philosophy on the separation of powers and checks and balance system became the basis for our Constitution.