How Did The Failure Of The Directory Lead To Napoleon's Rise To Power

1764 words - 8 pages

To what extent was Napoleon’s rise to power aided by the failings of the Directory?!

! Introduction! !

Crook comments that Napoleon’s rise to power had “acquired an aura of inevitability”1, and such inevitability was aided by the fall of the French monarchy, the failings of the Directory, and more importantly, Napoleon’s personal ability and appeal to employ such opportunity. This essay will argue that his rise to power was indeed very much aided by the failings of the Directory, but it was Napoleon who recognized such failures and used these to his advantage that ensured his rise. It will begin with a short background of the origins and result of the French Revolution. It will then ...view middle of the document...

Such fear of the return of the monarch led the Republicans resort to armed conflicts in September 1797 where royalists were arrested and deported. Although this ensured the survival of the Republic, Lyon argued that the Directory paid a huge price for it as “the Constitution of the Year 3 had been violated, the electoral process devalued, and the regime was now indebted to the army”.2!



From 1796-1797, Napoleon was promoted to a general and led an Italian Campaign as a commander of the French Army of Italy under the Directory’s command, mostly attracted by the valuable pieces of artworks in Italian churches that could assist the French’s regime. Napoleon proclaimed to his soldiers that “you are naked and hungry. The government owes you much, but can give you nothing. I am about to lead you into the world’s most fertile plains… and you will find honour, glory, and riches.” Indeed, after the success invasion Napoleon was able to provide what he had claimed to his soldiers — paid his soldiers in cash instead of devalued paper currency. Through this campaign, he was able to gain the respect of his troops by uplifting the spirits and fulfil what he had promised. Ellis argued that it was through the Italian Campaign where Napoleon transformed from “an unknown military quantity…[to] international fame.”3 In France, he was “boosted no doubt by his transfer to France of sundry spoils of war” that aided France’s financial situation.4 !

1 2


Malcolm Crook, Revolutionary France, 2002 Oxford University Press, 28

Martyn Lyon, Napoleon Bonaparte and the Legacy of the French Revolution, 1994 Palgrave Publishers,16
3 4

Geoffrey Ellis, Profiles in Power: Napoleon, 1997 Pearson Education Limited, 29 ibid

Alike the Italian Campaign, Napoleon was also involved in the Egyptian Campagin in 1798 under the command of the Directory. The Directory wanted to weaken the British empire by invading one of its colonies, Egypt, and disrupt Britain’s trade power. This campaign only furthered Napoleon’s personal appeal to the French public. Again, he made an inspiring proclamation to his troops that they were about to “strike the most direct and painful blow possible against England”, which even sparked a sense of patriotism among the French soldiers as England had always been seen as one of France’s biggest enemies. As Lyon argued, Napoleon “pose[d] as a modern Alexander and became a statesman on a grand intercontinental scale.”5! ! Directory’s Failings !


There was some initial administrative success of the Directory. Financially, the state the Directory inherited was virtually bankrupt. Its paper currency, the assignats, was experiencing hyperinflation and was practically worthless. Eventually, the Directory dismissed some of the France’s debt and even reformed its taxation system by introducing new taxes such as tax on land, commercial patents and luxury products. This eased not solved the French economy. However, the Directory’s...

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