The Ripple Effects of American essay

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In this encouragement, American would help to touch off something
perhaps all the more miraculous given the proximity to its oppression to
the European peasantry at large. First in the doctrines which would be
formulated in the wake of French independence and secondly in the way that
Napoleon Bonaparte would begin the spread of such doctrines to a continent
driven by inequality, America's revolution could be said to have been the
opening round in the deconstruction of colonialism and feudalism throughout
Europe and thus, the world.
Drafted in the image of the American Declaration of Independence,
though perhaps more ambitious and sweeping even in its trajectories, the
Declaration of the Rights of Men would dictate a universal principle
arguing that all men are born equal and that any distinctions made between
men according to the social conditions must be terms agreed upon by all
parties. The constitutional document underscoring the spread of liberal
ideology throughout Europe, it would be taken up by Bonaparte in an active
dispensation of the philosophy in a context where such was sorely needed as
a foundation upon which to build rapid change.
In order for us to examine how successfully somebody such as Napoleon
Bonaparte was able to achieve French national objectives, this is to
indicate, we must first understand the nature of French objectives at this
moment in history. This is a distinctly difficult moment in French history
to characterize according to unified objectives. The revolutionary period
which gave prelude to Napoleon's rise must, in fact, be understood in terms
of the general disarray which consumed France in the political, social and
economic contexts. 1789 is generally seen as the touchstone of the
revolutionary era, with its chronological proximity to the recent American
war for independence and its attendant constitutional doctrine playing a
large part in inspiring this response to general discontent. The rigid
class system which divided France into three distinctly unequal segments of
nobility, clergy and peasantry-within which there were yet innumerable
philosophical perspectives on how best to treat a France that was
increasingly populated, gradually urbanizing and grossly inefficient as
demonstrated by the poor economic conditions of so many-had doomed old
France to inevitable decline. In fact, at this juncture, "when the King
called for an Estates-General in 1789, the social tensions plaguing the old
regime emerged as a central issue of the Revolution." (CHNM, 1) It was
apparent that discontent with feudalism, catapulted by the revelations of
the Enlightenment regarding natural rights, had reached a breaking point in
France that would spill over into a decade of absolutely reckless, inchoate
factionalism. Groups spanning the spectrum from Royalist to radical
leftist (typically in the Jacobin party which would include Napoleon) would
vie for authority, with idealism and political agenda playing equal parts
in motivating individuals to align one way or another. And with the events
in the United States proving ultimately permanent in dispatching of the
unwanted imposition of democracy, there was now evidence for the first time
since the decline of ancient Rome that a democratically governed republic
could be conceived and formulated.
Such is to assert that French objectives in this time are somewhat
unclear except to say with great certainty that change was desired and that
circumstances and influences had rendered change inevitable. Given the
carnage of the French Revolution, of which the guillotine is the most
notoriously lasting symbol, it would become greatly obscured that in fact
the primary objective of the French Revolution was modeled like America's
to achieve a greater plurality of representation and a dismantling of the
monarchy-driven feudalist system in France and throughout Europe. Where
the monarchies of the European states claimed various familial connections,
as well as clear connections interest, the revolutionary groups in France
would claim a connection amongst the unnumbered common people of Europe.
Specifically, where destitution surely was a common presence throughout
peasantry, it was not the only disposition to be found amongst those
excluded from political leadership and cultural ascendance. Those who were
educated, skilled and even moneyed would find it impossible to slip the
detainment of hereditary ranking under the system theretofore reigning,
providing a close enough identification of common grievances for all the
excluded classes of Europe. The revolutionaries of France found themselves
at the center of what the European monarchy would rightly view as a threat
to the overarching world order.
This is backdrop into which Napoleon Bonaparte would step. Amidst a
ten year reign of disorder and pandemonium, his efforts would represent one
of the few consistent assurances. The opposition of foreign royals to the
emergence of the revolutionaries to power would take the form of an ongoing
military confrontation, in which the revolutionary army of France would
face off against the royal armies of Prussia and Austria to the constant
and impressive victory of the General, Napoleon. So much was this the case
that he alone would rise from the tumult of the decade to declare himself
de facto leader of all of France. In his own characterization of this
accomplishment, he would claim that "I closed the gulf of anarchy and
brought order out of chaos. I rewarded merit regardless of birth or wealth,
wherever I found it. I abolished feudalism and restored equality to all
regardless of religion and before the law. I fought the decrepit monarchies
of the Old Regime because the alternative was the destruction of all this.
I purified the Revolution." (Chew, 1) If we may take anything as a mission
statement or a proclamation of intent for Napoleon's ongoing militancy
hereafter, this may serve as one with an inbuilt claim to justification.
All ethical consideration completely aside, it would certainly be difficult
to determine whether the indiscriminate bloodshed of the revolutionary
period would be worse than the massive but state-sponsored bloodshed of the
Napoleonic Wars. Less difficult to approximate however is the claim
implied here by Napoleon, that it would be his effort that would make the
aims of the revolution feasible. In the climate of terror and mob rule
which precipitated Napoleon's lone ascent to authority, the elimination of
feudalism was anything but certain. Only the elimination of order had
there succeeded. (CHNM, 1)
Therefore, we must first recognize that the wars which Napoleon
engaged on the behalf of the revolutionary would be the first to endorse an
as yet unachieved sense of constitutional order based upon the populist
vision for entitlement to mobility and property ownership. Most evident of
his accomplishments would be the expansion of French borders and the
vanquishing of historic enemies of the French popular movement during this
time, but no less than an equal accomplishment would be his centrality in
therefore endorsing state-sponsorship of a system contrary to the
restrictions of feudalism. A reflection on Napoleon's role as a party to
the revolution and his ultimate exploitation of this role to step up to a
seat of uncontested rule illustrates his importance in galvanizing this
popular movement with meaningful military leadership. Amidst the chaos and
indiscriminate bloodshed which would dominate the ten years from 1789 and
1799, Napoleon would ascend to the rank of general, a position which had
long demanded-which it would not achieve until its desertion of the Royal
party-a suitable and effective strategist. To that juncture, and under the
typically critically lambasted family Bourbon Kings, in whose line Louis
XVI ruled, France remained the inferior of all its closest continental
competitors. As Wiegely's text observes, "the French Army of the mid-
eighteen century could not match the skills of the Prussians or the
British, and probably fell short of the battlefield toughness and
resilience of the Russians and Austrians as well." (Weigley, 256) This
would, as we have discussed, prefigure the success of revolutionary forces
in bringing about the dismantling of the monarchical military, with
America's template for success helping to elucidate this military
vulnerability. It also reveals here a very clear distinction between the
imperial rule which preceded Bonaparte and his own brand. Namely, the
military force previously constituting France's armed corps would be
demonstrably weaker than those of its neighbors at a juncture when the
retraction of colonial expansion was driving an interest in consolidation
by European powers. This is to note that its military disinclination,
comparably speaking, during the declining reign of Louis XVI would place it
at a point of susceptibility during a time when such could segue easily
into the outright loss of sovereignty to foreign dominance. The vocal
objection to the allowance of this vulnerability would be a political
identifier for the position held by revolutionaries, though as a cause for
subversive revolutionary action it would naturally pale in comparison to
such motives as devastating poverty and an absence of political
opportunity. In addition to the chaos this would allow within the French
cities where fervor was at its highest pitch, this military meagerness
would present France as ripe for the picking by many of its neighbors.
Thus, Napoleon would be faced with a conflict of interest in the
formulation…[continue]

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