Napoleon Bonaparte and Klemens von Metternich
Napoleon Bonaparte, also known as Napoleon I, was a French military leader and emperor who conquered much of Europe in the early nineteenth century. Napoleon accelerated within the ranks of the military during the French Revolution. Napoleon’s sudden rise to power had him working extremely hard to restore the stability in post-revolutionary France.
He had centralized the government, instituted reforms in such areas as banking and education, supported science and the arts, and sought to improve relations between his regime and the pope,who represented France’s main religion, Catholicism, which had suffered during the revolution. One of his most significant accomplishments was known as the Napoleonic Code. This civil code gave post-revolutionary France its first coherent set of laws concerning property, colonial affairs, the family, and individual rights, which had streamlined the French legal system and continues to form the foundation of French civil law to this day (History.com, A&E Television Networks). From 1803 to 1815, France was involved in the Napoleonic Wars, a series of major conflicts with various coalitions of European nations. Napoleon did make sure to be victorious battle after battle along with the fact that he had made major improvements in France and so he decided to declare himself as the first emperor in 1804. Napoleon’s conquests cemented the spread of French revolutionary legislation to much of western Europe and eventually permanently altered the European map. Napoleon’s kingdoms had consolidated scattered territories in Germany and Italy. Along with that, these developments had caused resentment towards Napoleonic rule and sparked growing nationalism in these regions in addition to Spain and Poland. Prussia and Russia, less influenced by new ideologies, nevertheless introduced important political reforms as a means of strengthening the state to resist the Napoleonic war machine. Prussia expanded its school system, modified serfdom, and also began to recruit larger armies. Britain was less affected, protected by its powerful navy and an expanding industrial economy that ultimately helped wear Napoleon down. Although, even in Britain, French revolutionary example spurred a new wave of democratic agitation. (Peters, Edward, and Hermann Aubin. History of Europe. Encyclop?¦dia Britannica, Encyclop?¦dia Britannica, Inc.).
The thirty-three years after the Napoleonic Wars finished, are called in Austria and even to some extent in all of Europe, the Age of Metternich. Clemens von Metternich was a major player in European affairs for twice as long as Napoleon Bonaparte. Metternich, also known as the man who outwitted Napoleon, was Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1809 to 1848 and the Austrian State Chancellor from 1821 to 1848. He was the most significant conservative statesman in Europe during this time period. As well as dominating affairs within the Austrian Empire, Metternich often dictated policies within the German Confederation and the Italian states, and directly influenced the pattern of international relations through the medium of the Concert of Europe. He has been credited by some historians with having devised a method of working, known as the Metternich System. This system was a series of meetings among the more powerful European nations between the Napoleonic War and World War I which the purpose was to resolve the disagreements between European nations and repress nationalism and liberalism within states. Both individuals did what was best for their nation along with influencing the rest of Europe but in their own ways.
Below is a conversation between Napoleon Bonaparte and Klemens von Metternich:
Metternich: Good day His Imperial Majesty
Napoleon: Good day, Metternich is it?
Metternich: Klemens von Metternich sir.
Napoleon: Alright. Please continue, we have lots to discuss.
Metternich: As you must already know, I was a close admirer of yours. I have always felt that when France needed discipline you were the man to provide it.
Napoleon: Mhm, yes indeed.
Metternich: But you also must be aware of the fact that when the war resumed between France and Austria in early 1809, I was arrested and briefly confined as a reprisal for the Austrian detention of two French diplomats. You then defeated Austria at the Battle of Wagram in July 1809 and had even took more territory and money from us in the Treaty of Schenbrunn.
Napoleon: To be honest with you, France was very poor at this time and needed a lot of money. I had won a big war against Austria fair and square. I then decided to send lots of money from Austria to France.
Metternich: I believe that Europe’s stability depends on a balance of power among the great powers. My aim is to preserve Austria’s internal peace and external power. I already got the allies to endorse Austrian hegemony in central Europe and Italy. You doing this was unnecessary.
Napoleon: France should be the #1 power in Europe. France is the reason why any of the other European countries have the power that they currently do.
Napoleon: What are your plans moving forward as Austria’s foreign minister?
Metternich: I think the best decision right now if for Austria to give France their support then.
Napoleon: I think because of this decision you and Austria will be extremely successful.
Metternich: Now if I may ask, with my full support, what are your upcoming plans?
Napoleon: There are many. I have already installed what is called the, Napoleonic Code, into France. This code is something that will give France a backbone and like you said earlier…when France needs discipline, I am the perfect man to provide it. The Napoleonic Code eliminates feudalism, supports religious tolerance and introduces other liberal reforms across Europe. It seems it is already spreading influence throughout Europe. Great Britain has been fighting against us for European supremacy to the point where we had treated the weaker powers heavy-handedly. Although, the Napoleonic Wars have been making France more successful overall as a country since we continue to conquer almost all of Europe now. So now I am also planning to invade Russia. As an advanced military leader, this is something that needs to be planned accordingly. All of my battles have been successful and there is no surprise that this one will be as well. Do I still have your support?
Metternich: Yes you have Austria’s support. France actually is the most powerful European nation and I think it would be smart decision.
Napoleon: I am glad you agree, Metternich. Now you’re thinking as a leader as well.
*Metternich actually Metternich deceived Napoleon into thinking that Austria supported France’s 1812 invasion of Russia. Meanwhile, Austria secretly encouraged a Russian victory After the French retreat, Metternich dropped the cover of neutrality. He led Austria into outright alliance with the coalition against Napoleon. Metternich and Napoleon met for the last time on June 26, 1813 in Dresden.*
Metternich: I am finished with you.
*With Austria on their side, Russia, Prussia and Britain were able to overthrow Napoleon in 1814. As a reward for his success, Francis I made Metternich a hereditary Prince of the Austrian Empire. The Bourbon restoration then proposed that France be now governed by the English and French diplomat Talleyrand. Napoleon was exiled to island of Elba*
*The victors gathered at the Congress of Vienna, where Klemens von Metternich exercised considerable influence on the proceedings. The Congress was interrupted by Napoleon’s escape from Elba and his subsequent defeat at the Battle of Waterloo.*
Metternich: I have an aristocratic view of the international order. I believe Kings are meant to govern and people to be governed. I believe that the best government is absolutist that it was best because it guaranteed equal justice and fair administration for all. I dread revolution, liberalism and nationalism as well.
Metternich: My system, the Metternich System, establishes the organization of periodic Congresses, in which the great powers could meet to consider how to suppress revolution.
*Metternich and his generals also worked to keep this part of the post-Napoleonic world intact. Defeats only strengthened resolve, particularly in Germany and Italy, where the repeated invasions by the French during the revolutionary period had led to reforms and stimulated alike royal and popular ambitions. British and Russian empires expanded so greatly that they became the world’s leading powers after the Napoleonic Wars.*
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