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Thread: Did Napoleon do more for France or for the United States ?

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    Question Did Napoleon do more for France or for the United States ?



    Napoleon is still seen as one of the greatest Frenchmen ever and a national hero in France. There has been coutnless books and movies about his life. Yet, Napoleon Bonaparte is often regarded as a dictator with a lot of battle blood on his hands in some other countries (UK ?).

    What do American people think of Napoleon nowadays ? Do they remember him as a friend of the American Revolution who helped the young USA to extend its territory by twice its land area ? There have been speculations that Napoleon didn't die in 1821 on St. Helena, but that he brother (who looked a lot like him) did, and that the former Emperor managed to escape to Brazil, then to Louisiana, where he spent the rest of his life. In any case, Napoleon certainly did love the United States, maybe as much as France.

    About 200 years after his time of glory, and with the hintsight, could we say that the Corsican emperor has left more to France ot to the USA ? France can remember him through the Napoleonic Code of law and a few buildings. But the United States owe him much more, parts or all of 16 states : Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, New Mexico, northern Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado.



    This huge territory, 4 times bigger than present-day France or 9 times the size of Britain, was sold by Napoleon to the United States in 1803 for the ridiculously low amount of 3‘ per acre, for a total of $15 million. That is not much for 22.3% of the territory of the modern United States.

    In my opinion, Napoleon should be more happily remember as an American hero (or even founding father) rather than a French one, even if he didn't know the whole importance of his act at the time. Could you imagine the presdent United States being limited to the Eastern third of the present country ? It could be argued that the land from the Louisiana Purchase would have been acquired by force if necessary, but 200 years ago, and even 100 years ago, France was more powerful militarily (and more populous) than the USA. So there is a good chance that Louisiana would have stayed French until well into the 20th century (if not to this day), or that a second, French-speaking, independent country would have been created in the Mid-West. This would have radically changed the history and shape of the USA we know, and world history. If the US is the huge, powerful country it is now, Napoleon has had a lot to do with it.

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    Except for a page on " Louisiana Purchase " written in American high school history textbook,otherwise ordinary Americans don't relate to France or French in any fashion.Very few white Americans have opinions on Europe or European peoples,1950's was the last decade of " Euro-centricism " in America.

    Louisiana population has a percentage of Creole ancestry,some can speak French fluently.

    It puzzles me to this very day as to how fellow white Americans have nearly lost their " European-ness ".They are consciously aware of their European heritage,but American in heart and soul.

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    I read it somewhere on the web that some Americans think the French are "stupid" to give up those lands in the US.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Minty
    I read it somewhere on the web that some Americans think the French are "stupid" to give up those lands in the US.

    I wouldn't put it in those exact words, but it's true to a point. I remember learning about Napolean in my World History class back in high school. I think alot of Americans forget that the French have been helpful to us in the past. But selling so much land for only $15 million, that wasn't alot even back then it wasn't. I also think alot of Americans see Napolean as this power hungry dictator. This is the same man who was sent into exiled and was able to reclaim his power.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ma Cherie
    I also think alot of Americans see Napolean as this power hungry dictator. This is the same man who was sent into exiled and was able to reclaim his power.
    Few American presidents can boast to have been re-elected (and when they did, not without controversy, like with G.W. Bush). However, Napoleon was loved and admired by the vast majority of the French population, cheered on his return from exile, although a lot of the same French population where the ones who guillotined Louis XVI. They probably had the power to execute their monarch again, or at least reject him, if they had seen him as a dictator or bad ruler. Napoleon is the single greatest national hero in France to this day. His tomb in the Invalides in Paris is the most lavish of any French in history and probably the most visited - despite a 7.5 euro admission ticket ! Famous French actors have fought for the role of Napoleon (or at least a role) in his 2 recent biographic films.

    Far from being a power-hungry dictator, Napoleon is seen in France as the most important founding father of the French Republic (a bit ironically), and a symbol of progress (and glory, obviously). Rather than resenting the French "occupation", Belgian people share "almost" the same enthusiasm for Napoelon. How many dictator invading someone's country do you know that are considered as some of the greatest ruler ever, and still 200 afterwards ? I do not know of any other (well, maybe Julius Caesar in France and Belgium, but that is really too long ago for people to feel personally connected to the events).

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    We have a palace here in Strasbourg now a museum where you can see Napoleonfs bedroom. It's called "Palais Rohan". Napoleonfs favourite colour was green, and his bedroom is very pretty decorated with fine French antique furniture. But strangely there are many large Chinese vases and a Chinese lamp shaped like a pagoda in the palace.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Minty
    But strangely there are many large Chinese vases and a Chinese lamp shaped like a pagoda in the palace.
    Chinese stuff were in fashion in the early-19th-century Europe. For instance, the Royal Pavillion in Brighton, built during Napoleon's reign, is entirely Chinese inside (and Indian outside).

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    As I was watching the news yesterday on TV, I saw protesters in New York carrying signs that said "Worst tyrants in history : Napoleon, Hitler & Bush !". Although I am glad to see that Americans are slowly waking up and realising that Bush isn't a good president, I am further amazed at their ignorance. Napoleon was not a tyrant, he was one of the most loved and most effective ruler France has known in its history. He was admired during and after his life and his tomb is still one of the most visited monument in Paris (the most visited city in the world).

    Napoleon, who established the government structure, administrartive divisions the code of laws still used in France nowadays, supported the metric system, gave France its modern flag, etc., is certainly best compared to George Washington or Thomas Jefferson than to Hitler or Bush.

    As for the worst tyrants, why not Stalin, some African dictator, some bad medieval rulers or bad Roman emperors ? There are just so many. Why choose one of the best ruler in history ?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post

    As I was watching the news yesterday on TV,I saw protesters in New York carrying signs that said "Worst tyrants in history : Napoleon, Hitler & Bush !". I am further amazed at their ignorance. Napoleon was not a tyrant, he was one of the most loved and most effective ruler France has known in its history.

    Napoleon, who established the government structure, administrartive divisions the code of laws still used in France nowadays.


    Not a bit surprise,as I've always known white-Americans are generally anti-France and often put French in a negative light.They're also ignorant of world histories not worldly as the culturally sophiscated Europeans.

    Napoleon's Egypt Expedition accomplished the decipherment of the Egyptian script " hieroglyths ".

    I definitely would rate Napoleon as a great European leader,a native Corsican whose parents fought the French for the independence of Corsica Island became Emperor of France with broken-Francais.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ricecake View Post
    I definitely would rate Napoleon as a great European leader,a native Corsican whose parents fought the French for the independence of Corsica Island became Emperor of France with broken-Francais.
    I never heard that Napoleon spoke "broken French", although I did heard it about his English.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post

    I never heard that Napoleon spoke "broken French", although I did heard it about his English.


    The program on History Channel mentioned Napolean had French language " handicap ",it was either thick accent or not influent I can't recall the exact words.

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    I believe Napoleon did alot more for France, than the US. Especially with the Napoleonic Code. The code also had influenced other European countries. Though I'm not dismissing the Louisanna Purchase.

    I don't know about Napoleon being a tyrant. But some people in history beg to differ.
    "He would trample on all human rights and become a tyrant."
    -Ludwig Beethoven

    This can be disputed. I was also wondering about the misconceptions people seem to have about his height.

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    I think Louisianna once adopted the Napoleonic Code,it's law are still in use there today.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ricecake View Post
    I think Louisianna once adopted the Napoleonic Code,it's law are still in use there today.
    Do you mean the state of Louisiana only, or the 16 states that used to belong to the French colony of Louisiana ?

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    Louisianna is still governed by Napoleonic Code,the other 49 states are under English Common Law.

    Louisianna was and is stronghold of French presence in America.It's part of America's South but a kinder south to African-Americans.

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    I'm not sure if Napoleon was actually so generous in selling Louisiana, it was a pragmatic solution. Much of the territory was secured from Spain 2-3 years earlier in a treaty, and I don't think the French government had much of a presence in the territory.

    An extract from one website

    "The international situation favored the American diplomats. Louisiana was of diminishing importance to France. The costly revolt in Haiti forced the French emperor Napoleon 1 to reconsider his plan to make Hispaniola the keystone of his colonial empire, and impending war with Great Britain made him question the feasibility of holding Louisiana against that great naval power. He decided to sell Louisiana to the United States."

    In short he would of lost it, and the American's would have engaged the Brits to help with a war if needed (say in the case of France taking "actual" possession of New Orleans). Another interesting fact is that Great Britain actually lent the US the money for the purchase - at 6% interest

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    Napoleon took the right decision by selling Louisiana to the United States. France had just lost Haiti to the slave rebels. In 1803 France and the United Kingdom were at war again. The British controlled the seas and Canada. The only access to Louisiana was via the Caribbeans. France was de facto isolated from New Orleans and the British could attack Louisiana from Canada anytime. Louisiana only had 35,000 colonists. It was only a matter of time before it was lost to the British, the Spanish or the Americans. Napoleon knew that and decided wisely to sell it. Better make a profit from it than spend more funds to defend it and surely lose it anyway. He was a great strategist and an excellent calculator.

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    Sadly, I believe when most Americans hear the word Napoleon the first thing they are reminded of is the "Napoleon Complex". This is even despite the fact that he was of at least average height and most likely his supposed shortness was merely a defamation invented by the British. Reminds me of the many fabricated defamations surrounding Hitler today -- such as him only having one testicle or that his mother or grandmother were actually Jewish.

    Possibly even sadder though, their next thought is probably of him being a megalomaniac "dictator" who was equally addicted to geopolitics and war. I personally admire him greatly and would probably rank him as the 19th centuries greatest individual, but I imagine my opinion is in the minority among Americans.



    Anyways, in regards to the Louisiana Territory I think it was pretty inevitable that the United States would eventually obtain the territory. The French presence wasn't very strong in the area and mostly limited to a few outposts on the coast and along major rivers. And as long as the UK ruled the seas, getting substantial amounts of French troops there would have posed a problem. Finally, don't forget that ultimately France couldn't even maintain Hispaniola. To think that they'd succeed in the Louisiana Territory were they failed in Hispaniola seems a little far-fetched to me.

    So the decision to go through with the Louisiana Purchase was mostly pragmatic in nature. By that time I think Napoleon had decided to focus his energies mostly on Europe -- especially after the debacle in Egypt and the troubles in Hispaniola. He rationally thought it best to get what money he could rather than nothing at all.


    So in this instance I think it's easy to see that Napoleon did much more for France than the United States, even when indirect and long-term effects are taken into account. After all, Napoleon probably made the single greatest contribution to the shape of modern Europe not only geographically and politically, but also in many other regards such as law and science.

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    Quote Originally Posted by KCA View Post
    So the decision to go through with the Louisiana Purchase was mostly pragmatic in nature. By that time I think Napoleon had decided to focus his energies mostly on Europe -- especially after the debacle in Egypt and the troubles in Hispaniola. He rationally thought it best to get what money he could rather than nothing at all.

    So in this instance I think it's easy to see that Napoleon did much more for France than the United States, even when indirect and long-term effects are taken into account. After all, Napoleon probably made the single greatest contribution to the shape of modern Europe not only geographically and politically, but also in many other regards such as law and science.
    It's true that Britain's naval superiority prevented the French to reach Louisiana, so it was the practical thing to do. However Napoleon could just as well have sold or given Louisiana to Mexico. After all Spain had been annexed to France and Mexico was therefore a French colony in name until its independence in 1810. Such a move could have earned the hearts of the Mexican towards Napoleon and possibly prevented the independence - if Napoleon had any interest in the management of American colonies, which he didn't.

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    Napoleon promoted the growth of the modern state through his administrative and legal reforms, and his changes in the map of Europe stimulated movements for national unification. However, his use of such ruthless police chiefs as Joseph Fouche to suppress all opposition, if relatively mild by 20th-century standards, set an ominous precedent. More or less apocryphal sayings and anecdotes illustrating Napoleon's character and manners are as innumerable as the books written about him.
    Last edited by Mako; 26-08-10 at 18:45.

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