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Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP23 May 2013 4:30 a.m. PST

'Perhaps. Aren't we all? But read the reviews and see how well written they are, or not, and tell me how reliable/valuable they are. Here's an extract from one of them: "It would seem that Vincent Cronin is Napoleons biggest fan.He presents Napoleons life and actions in a totally uncritical manner.
Cronin doesn't see anything wrong with the fact that Napoleon leads his armies into neighbouring countries "for the glory of France".
When Napoleon becomes a total egomaniac and sets himself up as the arbiter of artistic,musical and operatic taste for the country again Cronin seems to think that is fine.
Cronin never points out that Napoleons victories were gained at the massive loss of mens lives.
As a book it is OK as long as you realise that Cronin is so uncritical which for an historian is a major failing I believe. "'

That's from the three-star review, is it not?

Cronin is critical of Napoleon when needed. And as Gazolla has noted, it is not a study of Napoleon's campaigns, but of Napoleon as a man and a person. The original title when it was first published was Napoleon Bonaparte: An Intimate Biography. It is not a campaign study. And the amount of material and space devoted to Napoleon's reform period in the book is noteworthy as well as the comments on the British involvement in Switzerland and the near-deliberate sabotaging of the Treaty of Amiens.

And Napoleon's campaigns were not all begun by him, nor was the choice for war. Great Britain was largely responsible for the failure of Amiens. With renewed war and what would become the Grande Armee massed on the Channel, the British financed another Austrian war against France and Austria invaded Napoleon's ally Bavaria. Prussia declared war in 1806. Russia followed in 1805, 1806, and 1807 until they finally had their ears beaten down around their socks at Friedland and quit.

Spain was invaded for two reasons. First, Napoleon found evidence in writing in Berlin in 1806 that the Spanish told the Prussians that if they won the Spanish would attack France, even though they were allies. Second, the Bourbons in Spain were both degenerate and corrupt, something Napoleon wasn't too comfortable with. That and the planned treachery undoubtedly angered him, even though he would have been better off just leaving them alone.

Austria again invaded Bavaria in 1809 and the Russian invasion of 1812 was on the order of a preemptive attack as Alexander had proven himself to be a treacherous ally, as witness his actions against the Duchy of Warsaw in 1809 and his continued 'operations' against the Duchy, which he coveted. Further, Alexander had decided on war as early as 1810.

The wars of 1813 and 1814 were continuations of 1812. The war of 1815 was the decision of the allies, whose quest for territorial loot at Vienna was interrupted by Napoleon's return from Elba.

Further the British and Bourbons tried to have Napoleon assassinated at least twice, and in 1815 the Bourbons violated the Treaty of Fontainebleu by refusing to pay Napoleon his pension, and they made a hash of ruling France. There were also rumors of the allies and the Bourbons plotting to have Napoleon moved to a more isolated place of exile.

So, in short, Barnett's 'biography' is almost as bad and inaccurate as Schom's and is part of Napoleonic literature that is a waste of good paper and printer's ink.

Finally, your comment that Napoleon was an 'egomaniac' is not only unfounded but borders on psychobabble which McLynn dabbles in as does Schom.

Sincerely,
M

Chouan23 May 2013 4:40 a.m. PST

"Makes me wonder if Chouan has actually read it, other than the early part he may have looked at for his dissertation which he claims makes him an expert!"

Re-read my post, or you might make errors in your arguments, by not reading the sources properly, a serious failing in an historian. Or is it an ad hom straw man argument? I'm inclined to think the latter, a bit of deliberate misquoting. Must try harder.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP23 May 2013 7:27 a.m. PST

On a quick run-through of Corelli Barnett's book Bonaparte up to the end of the campaign of 1809 I found the following errors made by the author-which are either errors in fact or material that cannot be substantiated.

Page 11: ‘fervent Jacobin' (pages 14, 26 ‘notoriously Jacobin', 28, 89):
The definition of Jacobin during the period was ‘fanatic.' Not only was Napoleon not a fanatic, he was never a Jacobin.

Page 11: Napoleon a ‘hater of religion.'
This was a statement made by the author without any evidence to back him up. If Napoleon was such a ‘hater of religion' why did he then restore the Church during the Consulate?

Page 15: ‘even less of a Frenchman than a contemporary American or Irishman was English.'
Again, this statement is also made without any corroborating evidence. The fact is, Napoleon was born in Corsica after it was gained by France, making him by birth a Frenchman.

Page 21: ‘…perhaps they offer an early example of his ability to assume different roles, different personalities, according to the occasion.'
Psychobabble with no reference to back up the statement.

Page 22: ‘They reveal indeed not one character, but two, and those discordant to the point of paradox.'
Again, psychobabble with no reference to back up the statement.

Page 25: ‘mob leader.'
Napoleon was never a ‘mob leader' and during the mob's assault on the Tuileries and the ensuing massacre of the Swiss Guard, Napoleon not only did not participate in the mob action, he rescued a wounded Swiss Guard. Napoleon was for law and order, not mob violence.

Page 30: Napoleon acquired ‘a lifelong digust with and contempt for the common man in action.'
There is no evidence for this and is nothing more than repeating erroneous information based on allied and British propaganda attempting to make Napoleon into some type of monster.

Page 43: ‘Like the Schlieffen Plan of 1914, the Italian offensive of 1796 was, in terms of overall national interest, a seductive folly.'
It was the campaign, leading up to Napoleon invading Austria in 1797, that led to the collapse of the First Coalition and the Treaty of Campo Formio. All of the allies quit except for Britain. What type of ‘folly' was it actually a part of?

Regarding the Battle of Rivoli on pages 50 and 51: ‘Once more the French concentration was a last-minute, pell-mell, touch-and-go affair. In fact some of Bonaparte's formations only arrived in the course of the battle itself.'
There is little or no understanding demonstrated of how the French fought or how they were organized.

-‘The Austrian strategy, another maneuver sur les derrieres, could hardly have succeeded more brilliantly.'
OK, perhaps the Austrian ‘strategy' was successful to give the author credit for strategic acumen. However, this ‘success' was all for not as the Austrians were outfought and defeated decisively.

-‘But Bonaparte and his army saved themselves yet once again by their superiority in sheer pugilism: by pace, nimbleness and hard-punching; by will to win.'

-‘Superiority in sheer pugilim'?

The author plainly does not understand the nature of warfare and what it takes to win.

Page 62: Regarding the Turkish prisoners taken at Jaffa in 1799: ‘…a further 2,000 were taken to the seashore at Bonaparte's orders and shot.'
What is neglected here is that those 2000 Turks were paroled from an earlier action and by the law of war of the period, if they broke their parole and were again captured, their lives were forfeit. Further, Napoleon had nowhere to put them and could not feed them. 20th century moralizing for events almost two hundred years earlier isn't history, but ignorance of the period itself.

Page 66: ‘the Italian gamble of 1796-1797 had in due time landed France in a fresh war of an incalculable more dangerous nature.'
What gamble? France won the war of the First Coalition. That war again erupted was at least as much fault of the allies as it was of France.

Page 67: Refers to Napoleon as a ‘toady' and a ‘rootless wanderer.'
Napoleon was hardly a ‘toady.' Further, the ‘rootless wanderer' comment is nothing but bias against the subject of the book which colors the entire narrative and contributes to the badly-researched nature of the volume with myriad errors and odd conclusions, the greater majority of which cannot be supported.

Page 68: Reference compares Napoleon to the Nazis: ‘The coup d'etat was prepared with a cunning as skilled as Nazi management of the Reichstag fire.'
Comparing Napoleon or his actions with those of the Nazis cheapens the narrative and is not historically accurate. See JC Herold, The Mind of Napoleon.

Page 70: Another comparison to the Nazis and Hitler: ‘French intellectuals, with that special gullibility of the clever, were as readily taken in by this pose of devotion to republican ideals of liberty as British intellectuals by Hitler's pose as a peace lover in the 1930s.'
See the comment and reference above.

Page 71: Comparison of Napoleon to the communists: ‘Anticipating a 20th century Communist strategy…'
Another attempt to vilify Napoleon with invalid analogies.

Page 75: ‘So yet again Bonaparte found himself saved from the consequences of his own errors by the shortcomings of his enemy.'
The general who makes the least mistakes is the one that wins.

Page 79: ‘Otherwise, Corsican and French life in an era of revolution hardly afforded an encouraging spectacle of human nature, least of all to a man so intelligent, intolerant and egotistical.'
And what element of European society, including that of Great Britain during the period 1789-1800 ‘afforded an encouraging spectacle of human nature'? With the French Revolution, although it took too many wrong turns to violence and war, at least one of the nations of Europe was pulling itself out of the feudal and monarchial order to at least attempt a new and better way of doing business.

Page 79: ‘This psychological insight did not move him to look upon humanity with compassion and charity, but rather with contempt.'
More psychobabble and a complete misunderstanding of Napoleon's character.

Page 80: ‘The army after all was his essential power base, the instrument by which he had finally reached the top; as a politician; the equivalent of a party organization to political leaders of a later era.'
Yet another illogical reference to the dictators of the 1920s-1950s

Page 80: ‘Bonaparte was here a pioneer of that calculated chumminess with the rank and file which in the twentieth century became so notable a feature of democratic politics as well as of generalship.'
‘Calculated chumminess'? Because Napoleon knew and remembered hundreds of his rank and file?

Page 80: ‘But the incapable, disobedient or negligent evoked his full savagery. One general was summarily dismissed from his post with the brutal injunction never to appear before him again.'
Which begs the question ‘why?' Napoleon did fire people who failed him. He also forgave and continued to employ those who had failed. It depended on the situation and who did what.

Page 81: ‘Domination was then more of a lifelong urge with Bonaparte; it was, like action, an essential therapy. Whereas the philosopher Descartes had sought to prove his individual existence by arguing ‘I think; therefore I am', Bonaparte in his won quest for identity might rather have said: ‘I order everybody about; therefore I am.'
Presumptuous psychobabble.

Page 81: ‘…social and national misfit…'
I would like to see documentation where it clearly demonstrates that Napoleon was a ‘social and national misfit.'

Page 81: ‘Domination was then more than a lifelong urge with Bonaparte; it was, like action, an essential therapy.'
More psychobabble.

Page 83: ‘And so well designed for its purpose was this system that it outlasted Bonaparte himself, outlasted all France's 19th century changes of regime, and survives, even though much modified, to the present day. There are those who consequently admire it as proof of Bonaparte's constructive genius and of his service to France. But in fact it completed the betrayal of the democratic promise of the Revolution…'
What was the ‘democratic promise' of the Revolution? The Revolution produced a republic, not a democracy. Too many authors equate republican government of the late 18th century with democracy and that is a stretch. And how did Napoleon ‘betray' the Revolution?

Page 84: ‘But [Napoleon] himself only took part personally in the discussions on the articles relating to the law of the family…strongly reflected…his low opinion of women.'
That is incorrect. A demonstration with factual references might have helped here.

Page 87: ‘In September 1800, however, he informed …Louis XVIII, the Bourbon king in exile, that, ‘You should not hope to return to France; you would have to walk over 100,000 corpses…'
Louis ‘the Unavoidable' had asked Napoleon to reinstate him as king. Napoleon politely refused but did offer him a pension.

Page 88: refers to the Brumaire coup d'etat as a ‘boardroom takeover.'
Interesting analogy but inaccurate.

Page 88: refers to Napoleon as a ‘social misfit.'
Again, how? References would have been nice to have.

Page 89: reference to Napoleon's coronation as ‘a further coup d'etat.'
The attempt is to vilify Napoleon and not to present facts through solid research.

Pages 92-95 on the Treaty of Amiens, et al: ‘For rather than lull them after the Peace of Amiens by behaving like a good neighbor bent on a quiet existence, he proceeded to breach the treaty in spirit and letter.'
Great Britain was just as guilty as France in breaching Amiens-the British had no intention of keeping the treaty and immediately upon the treaty being signed sought to cause trouble with France.

Page 95: ‘The same personal flaws which had betrayed him into provoking England's mortal enmity were now to be demonstrated afresh in his preparations to crush her by invasion.'
Solid explanation of this interesting statement along with valid references might have been useful here.

Page 96: on the Boulogne camps…'The land forces were to be concentrated in four great camps, each to hold an army corps and its artillery, at Utrecht, Bruges, St. Omer and Montreuil, with a fifth at Brest as a diversionary threat to the restless English colony of Ireland.'
The camps along the channel were Brest, Montreuil, Boulogne, St, Omer, Bruges, and Utrecht.

Page 98: ‘On 2 December 1803 he resoundingly dubbed the invasion forces ‘The Army of England.'
In June 1803 the army assembled on the Channel coast was named the Armee des Cotes de l'Ocean. In August 1805 it became the Grande Armee. It was never named The Army of England.

Page 100: ‘…against the most formidable corps of sea officers in history…'
Nothing but blatant British nationalism at play here. In history? You've got to be kidding. If you really wanted to make a case for that ‘title' the senior leadership and officer corps of the US Navy in War II would be not only a contender, but the winner.

Page 104: ‘Yet this advance to the Danube constituted at the same time the retreat from Boulogne; the aftermath of the greatest strategic reverse Bonaparte had so far suffered. More, it was the consequence of the crassest blunders he had so far committed. For in additiona to provoking England's renewed belligerence and then failing in his foredoomed attempt to crush her by invasion, he had needlessly stirred up Russia's enmity again-and finally Austria's as well.'
What ‘retreat' from Boulogne? Austria, financed and encouraged by the British who desperately wanted the Grande Armee off the Channel, had invaded Napoleon's ally Bavaria. War was started by the Austrians.

Page 105: ‘Thus Bonaparte gratuitously opened the door for English diplomacy in St. Petersburg and ushered it inside, with the result that after the customary long drawn-out negotiations the Anglo-Russian alliance was signed in May 1805 and ratified by the Tsar in July.'

Page 106: ‘The coming campaign against Austria was therefore even more needless in terms of the real interest of the Frnech people than those of 1796-1797 and 1800.'
That the campaign of 1805 was ‘needless' is one of the most ridiculous statements I have ever seen in what is supposed to be a factual account of Napoleon's life and campaigns (which it isn't).

Page 107: ‘Bonaparte himself was not much of a military innovator, but content instead to make war with this hybrid army as he found it.'
The army was formed into homogenous divisions of infantry and cavalry; the corps system was implemented from 1800; the artillery train was created by Napoleon in 1800; the cavalry reserve was created-just a few of the military innovations made by Napoleon.

Page 107: ‘After 1800, however, Marmont, whom he appointed Inspector-General of Artillery, had set about creating the artillery arm which was to dominate Bonaparte's later battles. For the first time civilian drivers of gun teams were replaced by military personnel. Mechanical parts such as wheels were standardized. The enormous task of recasting all France's artillery from four calibers…into three…demanding the use of Italian as well as French arsenals, was well on the way to completion by the opening of the 1805 campaign.'
The footnote to this passage reads: ‘It is often stated that Bonaparte greatly benefitted from the artillery reforms of the Comte de Gribeauval under Louis XVI, but this has been exaggerated. See Ragusa, II, p. 150.'

Page 108: ‘Off the battlefield, however, the Bonapartian army lacked system and discipline; it pillaged and straggled; it ignored or disobeyed its officers. On campaign its columns of route had all the regularity of migrating tribes of gypsies hung about with plunder, edible and otherwise. This was indeed the era which saw established the great French military tradition of ‘le systeme D', the ‘D' standing for debrouiller-muddle through. Even by 1805 only the Imperial Guard was equipped with its own wagon-train, the rest of the army scavenged as it went.'
First, ‘le systeme D' actually means to improvise or untangle. In modern parlance, the ability to ‘make bricks without straw.' Debrouiller means ‘to untangle.'
Page 108: ‘In Berthier, his chief of staff, Bonaparte possessed the perfect instrument for his style of command: a kind of super chief-clerk, untiring at routine work, but in no sense the equivalent of a modern chief of staff who proffers strategic advice or takes decisions on his own responsibility.'
This is a continued inaccurate slight against Berthier, Napoleon's chief of staff and originates from Jomini's personal malice against Berthier. In short, Napoleon and Berthier formed one of the greatest operational partnerships in military history and Berthier was one of the great chiefs of staff of modern military history. His pioneering work in staff organization and functioning is still felt today.

Page 109: ‘This strategy bore strong resemblences to the Schlieffen Plan of 1914: in the simple grandeur of the conception of a flank march by almost the entire army…'
The outflanking of Ulm and the Austrians in 1805 was not done by a ‘flank march' but by a deep envelopment into the Austrian rear.

Page 109: ‘…as Marshal Marmont justly observes, ‘of that scorn for the rights of others of which Napoleon was often guilty when he believed himself the stronger.'
Much of what Marmont states has to be taken with a large salt pill. Having betrayed Napoleon and his country to the allies in 1814 Marmont spent much of the rest of his life attempting to justify his actions as well as attempting to get into the records of the 1813 and 1814 campaigns in the War Ministry to ‘fix' the errors that he committed as commander of the VI Corps.

Page 110: Ulm'…was a success that only just escaped being a disaster.'
Again, a ridiculous statement that is not based on factual material.

Page 112: refers to ‘His nine-hundred mile long line of communications with Paris…'
What is overlooked here is that Paris was not Napoleon's base-the depots and bases established by the French along their line of communications, which would be shifted as the strategic situation changed, is ignored here.

Pages 114-115: assumptions on the trap at Austerlitz.
At Austerlitz, Napoleon ‘coaxed' the allied army to attack the Grande Armee, leading to a tactical trap. It was an excellent use of intelligence and counter-intelligence, as well as generalship. Attempts to denigrate the achievement, which is obviously taking place here, are not only inaccurate but are illogical historically.
Page 116 refers to Napoleon's personal appearance as having a ‘squat body.'
Napoleon did not begin to put on weight until after his marriage to Marie Louise. The continual derogatory personal comments by the author against Napoleon do not illuminate anything historically and are not a logical historical argument.

Page 118: ‘the purely technical brilliance of Austerlitz has obscured the fact that but for the ineptitude of Bonaparte's conduct of foreign affairs, it need never have been fought.'
The actual situation is that Great Britain hired Austria and Russia to fight France in 1805 in order to get the Grande Armee off the Channel.

Page 118: Refers to Napoleon's conditions of peace with Austria as the ‘latest extortions.'
That being the case, then the ‘settlements' at the Congress of Vienna should be viewed in the same light.

Page 118: refers to Napoleon as ‘the Casanova of power.'
Another derogatory comment that displays the authors inherent bias.

Page 119: Reynier in column at Maida.
Reynier did not attack in column at Maida but in line. The original error on this issue made by Oman was later corrected by him. It was old information by the time the book was published in 1978.

Page 121: ‘The heads of grander German states, like Wurttemberg, Bavaria and, later, Saxony were promoted to the rank of king, though naturally denied the enjoyment of full sovereignty.'
Napoleon seldom, if ever, interfered in the internal government of his allies in the Confederation.

Page 121: ‘The sight of some 200,000 Frenchmen feeding off their country like a plague of sucking aphids deeply angered the German people.'
And who were the ‘German people'?
As there was a geographical location known collectively as Germany during the period, there was no state of Germany in the political sense. After the formation of the Confederation of the Rhine, Napoleon quartered his army in the territory of his allies and made them responsible for feeding his troops. But as was brought out by Owen Connelly in his Napoleon's Satellite Kingdoms, that is also where the French troops spent their money which helped the local economies. To make such a sweeping statement that the Grande Armee was nothing but ‘a plague of sucking aphids' again demonstrates a notable ignorance of what actually happened in central Europe.

Page 122: ‘Bonaparte proved as oblivious in 1806 to evidence that Prussia was girding herself for war as to evidence of the Third Coalition the previous year.'
Barnett needs to take a serious look at Napoleon's correspondence. Again, he is in error.

Page 124: ‘The truth is that from the very outset of his career as a general-in-chief Bonaparte practiced tightly centralized control of all operations, however, distant, and demanded blind obedience to the orders which defined his subordinates' roles in his master plan.'
This is another error on Barnett's part revealing a lack of serious research on his part regarding the command and control system of the Grande Armee. Napoleon usually told his subordinates what he wanted done and how it was accomplished was up to the corps commanders and independent commanders. Napoleon was also noted as being an excellent trainer of subordinate commanders.

Page 125: refers to Napoleon as ‘the most illustrious squatter in Europe.'
Nothing but a derogatory, ad hominem attack on the character of Napoleon. How would the traditional reigning monarchs be characterized historically?

Page 127: ‘The traditional system relying on private contractors to supply the transport having broken down, Bonaparte drew up a wonderful scheme for an army transport corps. Nothing came of it because a transport corps on the scale required by the huge French conscript armies lay well beyond the resources of the French exchequer.'
But Napoleon did establish and organize an efficient supply train, militarize it, and got rid of the hired contractors that were both inefficient and corrupt. The supply train, the train des equipages militaires, was organized beginning on 26 March 1807. By 1809 there were thirteen train battalions and by early 1812 there were twenty-three. Fifteen supply train battalions went into Russia. One train battalion would be attached to each corps.

Page 127: ‘It is perhaps hardly surprising therefore that although his army escaped actual destruction through starvation and sickness on this particular occasion, Bonaparte showed himself no more than mediocre as a quartermaster-less able than Raglan, nowhere near as able as Wellington or Marlborough.'
The issue is how did Napoleon supply, reequip, and train the army for the spring campaign. That the Grande Armee was prepared to fight the Russians in the spring, and led to the decisive victory at Friedland is the material to be studied and understood.

Page 128: ‘The Battle of Eylau displayed Bonaparte at his worst as a commander.'
If that were so, then he would have lost, and lost badly.
Page 129: ‘The campaigns against the Russians between November 1806 and February 1807 mark Bonaparte's second great strategic reverse in three years.'
How? It can be argued to be a check because of the conditions in eastern Europe, but it was not a ‘strategic reverse.'

Page 131: Refers to the Duchy of Warsaw as Napoleon's ‘puppet Polish administration.'
When the Duchy of Warsaw was organized in 1807-1809, it was put under the traditional suzerainty of the King of Saxony. The Duchy was an ally of the French, but not a puppet.

Page 138: ‘In the dank shadow of such a domination neither talent nor initiative could flourish; only the fungus growth of bureaucratic mediocrity. One of his first acts on returning from Tilsit was to sack his Foreign Minister, Talleyrand, a man too independent in ideas and behavior, and replace him with a dutiful chief clerk, Champagny; the diplomatic equivalent of Berthier.'
Talleyrand was sacked for rapacity and he was committing treason to boot.
The idea that Berthier was nothing more than a ‘chief clerk' is absolute nonsense which a little close study on the French staff system will support. Usually, authors who make that comment about Berthier don't understand what an army chief of staff is supposed to do.
The idea that under Napoleon ‘neither talent nor initiative could flourish' is complete nonsense. That says more about the author of that statement than Napoleon's civil administration or his command of the Grande Armee.

Page 150: ‘So fragile was France's true financial condition that Bonaparte took care to conceal it by cooking the public national accounts like a smart company accountant.'
Interestingly, Napoleon always balanced his budgets and France had practically no national debt, even in 1814.
Page 150: ‘the newly raised troops [in 1809] approximated in quality to militia, because under the Bonapartian military system recruits received little formal training.'

Page 151: ‘The makeshift ‘Army of the Rhine' could as a whole only manage crude tactics in clumsy mass formations; it depended on massed cannon to blast a path for it. By a paradox the very decline of Bonaparte's army was to breed another Napoleonic legend; that of the master of artillery.'
First, Napoleon was a master of his profession regarding his training and qualifications as an artillery officer. That is easily demonstrated by a little careful research which Barnett's book does not demonstrate at all.
The Army of Germany was hastily organized and was initially short of much material, including artillery. However, it was built around Davout's excellent command in central Germany which included his III Corps and the heavy cavalry (12 regiments of cuirassiers and two of carabineers).
The Guard and naval units also were part of the Army of Germany.
Oudinot's II Corps and Massena's IV Corps were organized for the campaign and the contingents of the Confederation of the Rhine made up the difference. The Saxons had problems, not the least was having Bernadotte in command of them. The Wurttembergers, Badeners, Hessians, and Bavarians were excellent troops, and were well-trained and well-led. To understand the tactics used it might be worth it to study the battles around Ratisbon in the first half of the campaign where the Austrian offensive was stopped and then defeated badly.
The employment of large formations in the campaign is somewhat overblown and taken out of context. The two instances that come immediately to mind were Lannes' formation in his attack on the second day of Essling where he had to get out of the French bridgehead first and then deploy and Macdonald's formation at Wagram. It wasn't a ‘column' as is usually stated but a large hollow oblong formed in that manner because he would have to fight in three directions as he penetrated the Austrian line, which he did.

Page 151: ‘And in any case, of all the forces mobilized against Austria in Italy and Germany only half were native Frenchmen; the rest more or less unenthusiastic satellite troops.'
The Confederation of the Rhine contingents that fought in the Army of Germany did well and Napoleon was very pleased with their performance. ‘Unenthusiastic' is a very inaccurate assessment of their contributions. The Italian units in Eugene's Army of Italy were equally excellent and did good service. Again, terming them ‘unenthusiastic' is historically inaccurate and shows a unique ignorance of the situation in 1809.

Page 151: ‘On 9 April the Archduke [Charles] took Bonaparte by surprise by invading Bavaria, France's ally, six days earlier than Bonaparte expected, so catching the Army of Germany still far from concentrated, the Guard still en route from Spain and the cavalry corps still being assembled. It did not help that Bonaparte had left Berthier, a man unfitted for command, in temporary charge.'
Berthier was never left in charge of the Army of Germany. He was sent to the theater of operations before Napoleon did but was never assigned as the commander of the Army of Germany. He was in his usual position as Major General and chief of staff and Napoleon attempted, not too successfully, to command from Paris, which caused much confusion that Berthier has been inaccurately blamed for. It was Berthier who finally bluntly told Napoleon to get in theater as it was becoming a mess.

Page 152: ‘In committing his army to this operation beyond the Danube Bonaparte had embarked on perhaps his rashest military undertaking thus far; an act of recklessly bad generalship.'
Napoleon decided on a hasty river crossing, which is a valid military operation. And if the bridges had held, Davout would have gotten across the Danube and supported Lannes attack on 22 May. Interestingly, if the operation had been successful there is little doubt that it would have been held up as one of daring initiative.

Page 152: ‘Under cover of a bombardment by 250 guns, 100,000 Austrians smashed into the French and drove them out of the villages of Aspern and Essling back towards their bridge.'
The French retained or retook Aspern and Essling and held them at the end of the battle. The Austrians did not drive the French back to their bridgehead. The French withdrew after the fighting had ended.

Page 152: ‘And neither Bonaparte nor his soldiers had ever experienced so bloody a struggle.'
Yes, they did-at Eylau over two years previously.

Page 153: ‘With his defeat at Aspern Bonaparte had got himself into the most gruesome plight of his career, with half his army marooned on Lobau and the Danube repeatedly in flood.'
The French on Lobau were not ‘marooned.' The bridge to the east bank of the Danube was taken up after the French withdrawal and Lobau was turned into a fortified camp. New bridges were built to the west bank and preparations, based on Lobau were made for the second Danube crossing which took place at the beginning of July.

Page 154: ‘Along…the Marchfeld lay ranged more than 300,000 men and nearly 900 cannon; all brought together by Bonaparte's pursuit of his destiny for the purpose of slaughtering each other: 136,000 Austrians and nearly 400 guns, and 187,000 men and five hundred guns under Bonaparte's own command.'
Austrian strength at Wagram: 136,200 and 446 guns.
French strength at Wagram: 188,900 and 488 guns.
Page 154: ‘Inexplicably Bonaparte selected this strong sector as the object of his opening attack, by Davout's and Oudinot's corps. They were thrown back with bloody loss. Bonaparte tried again, this time with Bernadotte's Saxon corps in the center of the Austrian ring at Wagram.'
Davout was not engaged along with Oudinot. Oudinot, Bernadotte, and Macdonald were attacking the Austrian center. Davout was on the French right flank and his attack on 6 July was the battle-winner.

Page 154: [At Wagram] ‘the Archduke came close to one of the great victories of history.'
How? Charles stood on the defensive, did not oppose the second Danube crossing, and was outflanked by Davout.

Page 155: ‘Bonaparte did not pursue; the French army was too shattered for that.'
The French were ‘too weary and disorganized' for an immediate pursuit, but they were not ‘shattered.' The French pursuit began the next day and was undoubtedly energetic and aggressive, though not ‘quite able to bring Charles to bay.' It did, however, wear down the Austrians and they requested an armistice on 10 July 1809 (Wagram having been fought on 5-6 July).

I stopped here as the inaccuracies in the volume are clearly demonstrated.

B

TelesticWarrior23 May 2013 8:41 a.m. PST

I think Kevin's excellent post puts that issue to bed.

Like I said earlier, Corelli Barnett's book is one of the worst ever written on the subject of Napoleon. Even people who are very critical of Napoleon can usually see through it.

Gazzola23 May 2013 9:34 a.m. PST

TelesticWarrior

Spot on! Chouan is well busted! He is just another anti-Napper. They come and go like the wind and like to shout a lot. They say the same old thing and you just have to laugh at their blinkered viewpoints.

Chouan23 May 2013 9:42 a.m. PST

My, you've been busy. Unfortunately, your examples of "inaccuracy" aren't necessarily accurate themselves. I'm not going to go through your examples point by point, but I'll just look at the first few.

"Page 11: ‘fervent Jacobin' (pages 14, 26 ‘notoriously Jacobin', 28, 89):
The definition of Jacobin during the period was ‘fanatic.' Not only was Napoleon not a fanatic, he was never a Jacobin."

You're showing your ignorance I'm afraid. The Jacobins were a political movement, based on the Jacobin Club in Paris, a political club whose meetings were held in the ex Jacobin monastery. They were generally politically to the left, and became increasingly radical. They weren't necessarily fanatics, although, clearly, some were. Buonaparte was a member of one the affiliated regional Jacobin Clubs, and may have been a functionary in the local Club, secretary or something, I can't remember the details. He was also a close associate of Robespierre's brother Augustin. That, in my book, makes him a Jacobin.

"Page 11: Napoleon a ‘hater of religion.'
This was a statement made by the author without any evidence to back him up. If Napoleon was such a ‘hater of religion' why did he then restore the Church during the Consulate?"

Buonaparte, as a member of the Jacobins was clearly anti-clerical. He used religion as a tool, as an instrument of control. In Egypt he pretended to be a Muslim; by signing the Concordat, at very advanageous terms to himself, he was able to get Catholics to support him. "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."

"Page 15: ‘even less of a Frenchman than a contemporary American or Irishman was English.'
Again, this statement is also made without any corroborating evidence. The fact is, Napoleon was born in Corsica after it was gained by France, making him by birth a Frenchman."

A person born in Ireland in 1769 would be Irish, and British, but would serve in an army that would be described as English, and would be accepting of that status. However, Buonaparte's family were Italian immigrants to Corsica, and Corsicans, despite Corsica being conquered by France in 1769, saw themselves as Corsicans, not as Frenchmen. In that statement then, therefore, Barnett is correct, a newly conquered, Italian speaking (with Corsican dialect) Corsican is less of a Frenchman than either an American or an Irishman. They had, and sought, their own national identity, and used the Revolution to try to regain independence, which, again, shows how un French they, and Buonaparte were.

le Grande Quartier General Supporting Member of TMP23 May 2013 11:29 a.m. PST

I suppose a distillation of all the opinions and references in this thread would be:
Few knew him then.
None know him now.
Reported actions taken by such men make a record, but do not describe or define them.
Such men are defined only by the crucible of their own heart, where no man may go without his own God, pain and honesty.
Wherever he began, however he lived, that is where he ended.

Whirlwind23 May 2013 11:34 a.m. PST

I think Kevin's excellent post puts that issue to bed.

Like I said earlier, Corelli Barnett's book is one of the worst ever written on the subject of Napoleon. Even people who are very critical of Napoleon can usually see through it.

Well no, not really. Pretty much every comment of Kevin's about that book is the subject of heated controversy. All this means is that you agree more with Kiley than Barnett.

Only detailed analysis of the particulars of any question could convince someone who wasn't already convinced.

Regards

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP23 May 2013 12:19 p.m. PST

No, every comment is not 'the subject of heated controversy.' In point of fact, the greater majority of them are not.

And an explanation as to why Barnett is incorrect has been attached to each error, most of them errors in fact, and the rest are Barnett's opinion, not backed up by facts.

I could give you references to look them up on your own, but I'm not going to give a detailed list of reference material.

However, a good start would be Cronin's biography, which is very well-sourced. For the comments on the campaigns, see A Military History and Atlas of the Napoleonic Wars by Esposito and Elting. You can also take a look at numerous memoirs of the period as well as the works of Charles Esdaile, Peter Paret, Gunther Rothenberg, among others.

B

Whirlwind23 May 2013 1:15 p.m. PST

No, every comment is not 'the subject of heated controversy.' In point of fact, the greater majority of them are not.

Well, actually, most of them have been debated hotly on our very own TMP, or on the Napoleon Series.

And an explanation as to why Barnett is incorrect has been attached to each error, most of them errors in fact, and the rest are Barnett's opinion, not backed up by facts.

No, you have said in brief why you think he is wrong. This is not the same thing.

I could give you references to look them up on your own, but I'm not going to give a detailed list of reference material.

Well, fine. But if your argument is I've read other stuff which I agree with, but I'm not going to tell you what it is, okay.

However, a good start would be Cronin's biography, which is very well-sourced. For the comments on the campaigns, see A Military History and Atlas of the Napoleonic Wars by Esposito and Elting. You can also take a look at numerous memoirs of the period as well as the works of Charles Esdaile, Peter Paret, Gunther Rothenberg, among others.

Well, this rather proves my point. Every single one of those authors has been the subject of heated controversy on TMP:

Cronin – as we speak, and every time the subject of Napoleon's reputation comes up.
Elting – numerous times
Paret – every time the Prussians come up
Rothenberg – every time the Austrians come up
Esdaile – on the threads about aspects of the Peninsular War.

Regards

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP23 May 2013 2:38 p.m. PST

‘My, you've been busy. Unfortunately, your examples of "inaccuracy" aren't necessarily accurate themselves. I'm not going to go through your examples point by point, but I'll just look at the first few.'

I can support with references everything I have written.

‘You're showing your ignorance I'm afraid. The Jacobins were a political movement, based on the Jacobin Club in Paris, a political club whose meetings were held in the ex Jacobin monastery. They were generally politically to the left, and became increasingly radical. They weren't necessarily fanatics, although, clearly, some were. Buonaparte was a member of one the affiliated regional Jacobin Clubs, and may have been a functionary in the local Club, secretary or something, I can't remember the details. He was also a close associate of Robespierre's brother Augustin. That, in my book, makes him a Jacobin.'

Then, you are wrong. Napoleon never participated in radical or fanatical politics. Napoleon later wrote to Talleyrand in 1799 that ‘It is a great tragedy for a nation of thirty million inhabitants in the eighteenth century to have to call on bayonets to save the state.' In 1800 he would utter a basic political principle: ‘Moderation is the basis of morality and man's most important virtue…without it, a faction can exist but never a national government.'
If they were radicals, then they were fanatics. That's by definition. Desaix also referenced Jacobins as fanatics.
Napoleon and Augustin became friends at Toulon during the siege in 1793. Augustin was quite different from his brother in character and had told his brother that Napoleon was an officer ‘of transcendent merit.' That was what got Napoleon into trouble briefly after July 1794 and Thermidor. He was later cleared of any charges of being a radical and part of Robespierre's circle.

Napoleon supported the Revolution, but not its fratricidal violence. Napoleon believed in a government of moderation. He supported the first Constitution and the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen that was a part of that Constitution. In support of that Constitution Napoleon joined the Society of Friends of the Constitution in Valence, composed of 200 members and he became the group's secretary. He was not a Jacobin.

‘Buonaparte, as a member of the Jacobins was clearly anti-clerical. He used religion as a tool, as an instrument of control. In Egypt he pretended to be a Muslim; by signing the Concordat, at very advanageous terms to himself, he was able to get Catholics to support him. "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."'

Source for Napoleon being a Jacobin?

Source for Napoleon being anti-clerical?

The Concordat was proposed and signed to bring back the Church to bring peace to France because of the anti-religious position of the Revolutionary governments. Napoleon never used religion as ‘an instrument of control.' If you believe so, do you have a credible source for it?

Further, bringing back the Church, or reopening the Churches if you prefer, was what the people wanted.

‘A person born in Ireland in 1769 would be Irish, and British, but would serve in an army that would be described as English, and would be accepting of that status. However, Buonaparte's family were Italian immigrants to Corsica, and Corsicans, despite Corsica being conquered by France in 1769, saw themselves as Corsicans, not as Frenchmen. In that statement then, therefore, Barnett is correct, a newly conquered, Italian speaking (with Corsican dialect) Corsican is less of a Frenchman than either an American or an Irishman. They had, and sought, their own national identity, and used the Revolution to try to regain independence, which, again, shows how un French they, and Buonaparte were.'

Corsica was eventually reconciled to French rule, and as Napoleon was born in Corsica after becoming a French territory, Napoleon was French. It is as simple as that. And it should be noted that there were Corsican units in the Grande Armee and they were considered French.

The analogy between the Irish and the British and the Corsicans and the French are somewhat different and doesn't apply. There is no Republic of Corsica today.

B

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP23 May 2013 2:41 p.m. PST

WW,

Three things-First, I'm not going to list my library as it would take too long. If you have specific questions, I'd be more than happy to answer them.

Second, Have you read the authors and sources that I have listed? If you haven't read them, then the point is moot.

Lastly, everything is 'hotly debated' on TMP. What is important here is that I can support (and already have) every point I've made about Barnett's errors.

If you don't agree, then refute them, supported by evidence. If not, then I do think we're done.

B

Whirlwind23 May 2013 2:51 p.m. PST

Lastly, everything is 'hotly debated' on TMP. What is important here is that I can support (and already have) every point I've made about Barnett's errors. If you don't agree, then refute them, supported by evidence. If not, then I do think we're done.

I don't think there is much point debating these things. I merely point out that what you claim are facts, supported by evidence, are hotly debated by other enthusiasts with their facts, supported by evidence.

With that, if you're done, I'm done.

Regards

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP23 May 2013 2:53 p.m. PST

'My, you've been busy. Unfortunately, your examples of "inaccuracy" aren't necessarily accurate themselves. I'm not going to go through your examples point by point, but I'll just look at the first few.'

Better yet, why not post at least some of your objections to Cronin (using Cronin and quoting from him of course) and support your objections with actual evidence?

B

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP23 May 2013 2:55 p.m. PST

WW,

Two things: if you don't believe there is much point to the exercise, why bring the subject up in the first place?

Second, unfortunately, not all the members use facts in their postings, merely opinions. And that is usually some anti-French or anti-Napoleon diatribe based on bias or biased opinions and not on facts at all. And there is the rub.

B

Whirlwind23 May 2013 3:03 p.m. PST

if you don't believe there is much point to the exercise, why bring the subject up in the first place?

I'm always interested to know when some things are presented as settled fact, but are actually part of an ongoing debate. But I don't think there is much point in debating with someone with settled opinions.

Second, unfortunately, not all the members use facts in their postings, merely opinions. And that is usually some anti-French or anti-Napoleon diatribe based on bias or biased opinions and not on facts at all. And there is the rub.

Hmmm, well maybe. Perhaps you can see though – not agree with, but just see – that some people tihnk that you are as biased as they are. Take this:

Page 100: ‘…against the most formidable corps of sea officers in history…'
Nothing but blatant British nationalism at play here. In history? You've got to be kidding. If you really wanted to make a case for that ‘title' the senior leadership and officer corps of the US Navy in War II would be not only a contender, but the winner.

Now that is an opinion, pure and simple. And more power to you for expressing it. But some people might think, ex-USMC officer says USN obviously superior to RN – that is pure bias.

I'm saying only detailed comparison can determine who one thinks is right, and two people may honestly come to different conclusions.

Regards

TelesticWarrior24 May 2013 3:57 a.m. PST

Whirlwind,
Just because everything is hotly contested on TMP doesn't mean it DESERVES to be hotly contested. We can debate the veracity of Corelli Barnett's book 'Bonaparte' if you really want to, but I stand by what I said earlier that it is the worst and most bizarrely one-sided book that I have read on the subject of Napoleon. This is my subjective opinion, it is not an empirical fact (although there are a great deal of factual errors that can be proven to be erroneous in his book). Have you read Barnett? Do you not find it to be biased to a horrible degree?
Kevin Kiley has written above one of the best (and longest!) posts I have read on TMP for a while, so I don't really feel the need to add (at this point) my own detailed criticism of Barnett's book. We can debate one or more of the points in Kevin's post if you like. (He has made SEVENTY-FOUR different rebuttals of Barnetts assertions, so there is plenty to choose from!!!!) Do you want to agree with Barnett or not?
But we could be here quite a while and the weather is supposed to be quite nice for once during this coming bank-holiday weekend!

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP24 May 2013 4:01 a.m. PST

Just a little bit of form here, WW, but there are no ex-Marines in the US armed forces. They are either former Marines or retired. In my case, I'm retired.

Regarding the US Navy in War II, I don't believe that you'll find any naval operations in military history that were as detailed, far-reaching, with immense naval logistic support, as well as being able to sink the merchant and naval forces of a nation as the US Navy did in War II, especially in the Pacific. And in the Atlantic, the U-boat menace could not have been defeated, nor the convoy system implemented as completely as it was without the US Navy. Lastly, the invasion of Normandy in June 1944 would not have been possible without the participation of the US Navy.

Those are facts, not supposition and have nothing to do with national bias.

Again, if you don't agree, then present facts to the contrary. And there is no denigration of the Royal Navy intended or presented either.
B

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP24 May 2013 4:03 a.m. PST

TW,

That is the best refutation of Barnett's book that I have read and your hit the proverbial nail on the head. Well done.

B

Adm Richie24 May 2013 5:03 a.m. PST

It seems somewhat obvious that there is bias in both directions, intentional and conscious or not, for example:

"Page 62: Regarding the Turkish prisoners taken at Jaffa in 1799: ‘…a further 2,000 were taken to the seashore at Bonaparte's orders and shot.'
What is neglected here is that those 2000 Turks were paroled from an earlier action and by the law of war of the period, if they broke their parole and were again captured, their lives were forfeit. Further, Napoleon had nowhere to put them and could not feed them. 20th century moralizing for events almost two hundred years earlier isn't history, but ignorance of the period itself."

Is a defence of Napoleon where no attack was made. What is reported is fact, and not a jot of moralising, 20th Century or otherwise: just fact, the Turks were shot. It isn't neglect that this isn't included, it's your choice to find a defence. You assume a judgement has been made by the author, and given his general demeanour i can see why, but he hasn't recorded that judgement.

This strikes me as a perfect example. You read the fact and are immediately able to mount a defence of napoleon's actions, which suggests every bit as much a bias.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP24 May 2013 5:17 a.m. PST

Facts are fact, no doubt about it.

However, if the author/historian (and they are not necessarily synonymous)is actually conducting historical inquiry, then the reason for certain facts also has to be ascertained.

In the case of the execution of prisoners of war in Jaffa, the Turks broke their parole after being captured a first time. For the period that is a death-penalty offense if they are captured again.

That is not the case with Barnett in this volume. The book is nothing short of an anti-Napoleon diatribe for no other purpose than a multi-page personal attack that not only is generally factually inaccurate but merely personal bias against an historical figure. In short, the book was written in a facts-be-damned manner which does no one any good.

In short, the book is worthless as a reference for any future study of Napoleon and the period.

That is not the case with Cronin's biography, which is both well-written and generously sourced.

B

Adm Richie24 May 2013 5:55 a.m. PST

I agree to an extent, and every book on any historical subject is "edited" by the author in the sense that they include what they want to in terms of contextualising or making judgements.
I'm reading McLynn at the moment and there are entire chapters of philosphical psychoanalysis which, frankly, I could do without: it's conjecture, and I wanted to read a biography.

Chouan24 May 2013 6:15 a.m. PST

"'My, you've been busy. Unfortunately, your examples of "inaccuracy" aren't necessarily accurate themselves. I'm not going to go through your examples point by point, but I'll just look at the first few.'

Better yet, why not post at least some of your objections to Cronin (using Cronin and quoting from him of course) and support your objections with actual evidence?

B"

Why should I? I have a busy job, and a family to spend time with. Why should I purchase and trawl through a not very good book that I read some years ago in order to satisfy your demands?
I've already pointed out the errors in your critique of Barnett; you don't accept them. Fine, don't, I'm not bothered.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP24 May 2013 6:31 a.m. PST

I've demanded nothing. And your reluctance to engage in any serious research to back up your assertions is puzzling.

Instead of relying on Amazon reviews to support your position you should actually use the book and critique what the author has himself written.

Anything else matters little or nothing, and that is unfortunate. I would suggest that you would negatively critique any work that is sympathetic to Napoleon, accurate or not, merely because of that fact.

And that is intellectually dishonest and denigrates anything that you might contribute to the discussion. And the errors that you believe you pointed out are not errors at all and you certainly haven't supported your assertions at all. That, too, is unfortunate.

B

Chouan24 May 2013 7:02 a.m. PST

Brechtel198, this is getting tiresome. I'm a full time teacher of History, in exam season. This forum is of very minor consideration when balanced with my work and my family life. " reluctance to engage in any serious research"? I don't think so. For what it's worth, I've done my serious research, I've gone through the archives at the Archives National, I've de-cyphered Robespierre's hand-writing, written with poor quality ink on poor quality paper. I'm now a teacher, so research takes something of a back seat. However, referring now to your previous response, below, I can offer you a suggestion:

"Then, you are wrong. Napoleon never participated in radical or fanatical politics."

Try Martin Lyons, "Napoleon Bonaparte & the Legacy of the French Revolution", Macmillan, 1994, Pages 10-13.

"Source for Napoleon being a Jacobin?"
Ibid pp12-13
Alan Forrest, "Napoleon", Quercus, 2011, Pages 54-8
"He had joined the Jacobin Club of Valence as early as 1791", in Colin Jones, "The Longman Companion to the French Revolution", Longman, 1988, page 323.

Good enough for you, although only secondary sources? Perhaps you'll dismiss these as well, because you don't like them.

As far as this statement is concerned: "If they were radicals, then they were fanatics. That's by definition." That's your opinion, and is no more than an assertion.

Finally, this statement would be laughable if it wasn't so sad.
"In support of that Constitution Napoleon joined the Society of Friends of the Constitution in Valence, composed of 200 members and he became the group's secretary. He was not a Jacobin."

The "Society of Friends of the Constitution" was the proper, official name of the Jacobin Club, so you've proved my point. I could prove it you want me to, but is it necessary?

Gazzola26 May 2013 6:46 a.m. PST

The pages in Lyon's book suggests that Napoleon was associated with Jacobins, it does not state he was actually a Jacobin. That's a bit like saying people who associated with the Nazi party members in WW2 were also Nazis.

There is an interesting viewpoint of Napoleon, concerning the Revolutionary period, that may be more nearer the mark -

link

In my opinion, it does not really matter if Napoleon had been a member of a Jacobin party/club. People in certain situations and throughout history, did what they had to do to survive and progress. Who knows what we would have done, had we lived in France during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic period.

Thankfully, the French Revolution opened the door for people of merit to progress, at least in the military anyway, which they probably would not have been able to do before the Revolution.

Chouan26 May 2013 8:02 a.m. PST

Except that Brechtel198 states, quoting from Cronin, that he was secretary of the Valence branch.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP26 May 2013 5:09 p.m. PST

The following are definitions of ‘radical' and ‘fanatic.' Seems to me there is little to choose between the two they are so similar:

Radical:

-favoring extreme changes in existing views, habits, conditions, or institutions.

-associated with political views, practices, and policies of extreme change.

-advocating extreme measures to retain or restore a political state of affairs.

Fanatic:

-marked by excessive enthusiasm and often intense uncritical devotion.

I didn't quote Cronin, I paraphrased him. Here is the excerpt from Cronin, page 56 in the chapter entitled ‘The Young Reformer':

‘Napoleon could very well have nodded silent approval to the Constitution and left it at that. As an artillery officer, he had his daily duties to perform. But in his essay on Happiness he had stated the obligation to become involved, to act on behalf of his fellow men. The Constitution was under attack from the nobles and the clergy; from the kings of Europe; Napoleon decided to act in its defense.'

‘He did so with energy. He was one of the first to join the Society of Friends of the Constituion, a group of 200 Valence patriots, and he became secretary. On 3 July 1791 he played a leading part in a ceremony at which twenty-three popular societies of Isere, Drome and Ardeche solemnly condemned the King's attempted flight to Belgium. Three days later he swore an oath demanded of all officers, ‘to die rather than allow a foreign power to invade French soil. On 14 July he swore an oath of loyalty to the new Constitution and, at a banquet the same evening, proposed a toast to the patriots of Auxonne.'

Where is anything radical or fanatical here?

Philip Dwyer, in Napoleon: The Path to Power, covers this period of Napoleon's life quite well and offers the comment that Napoleon, while a member and secretary of the Society of the Friends of the Constitution, which was modeled on the Jacobin Club in Paris, it was almost in vogue to join as an army officer. And it should be noted that this club was local, not national. (page 79)

On page 82 Dwyer comments that Napoleon's ‘radical republican tendencies' were actually ‘anti-monarchy' in nature. And it was Napoleon in February 1796 who carried out Barras' order to close down the Jacobin Club in Paris. Dwyer later remarks that Napoleon was more affiliated with the Jacobins in the early 1790s than being a true believer in them and what they later became.

It should also be noted that Napoleon never participated in any of the terroristic actions of the later Jacobins, especially during the Terror and got into some trouble when he refused an infantry command in the Vendee, not wanting to be part of a Civil War. At Toulon he did not participate nor did he approve of the reprisals of the government against the citizens of Toulon after the city was abandoned by the allies and the French reoccupied it.

Therefore, that begs the question, Where is there any evidence that Napoleon actually acted as a Jacobin?

And it should be further noted that the Jacobins in 1791 were not a radical organization, but one that preferred and opted for a constitutional republic. Only later, before and during the Terror, as well as after, were the Jacobins considered both radical and fanatical. They and the Bourbons or royalists represented the two extremes of the political spectrum.

So, yes, it can be said that Napoleon was no Jacobin, even if he did for a time belong in 1791 to a club associated with the Jacobins. Napoleon was not a fanatic or a radical, but a moderate who stood for law and order.

So for any author to characterize Napoleon as a Jacobin is incorrect in the larger and more accurate definition of the term.

Just as it is inaccurate and somewhat misleading to spell his name 'Buonaparte' which definitely demonstrates bias in presentation, as it also does not recognize Napoleon's making Emperor, something he earned by his actions and performance, something no other crowned monarch of the period can claim.

B

basileus6627 May 2013 6:25 a.m. PST

I agree with Kevin here. Napoleon wasn't a Jacobin, even if he dallied with Jacobinism at some point in his youth. Probably, it was a mix of curiosity, oportunism and, perhaps, a certain conviction that society should be transformed, which lead him to explore Jacobinism.

Also, mind that Jacobinism wasn't a monolithic ideology, albeit some present-day historians pretend otherwise. It wasn't a short of pre-Communism, either. The "right" wing of the Jacobins were "radicals" only in the sense that they were willing to get rid of monarchy altogether -in which, they weren't that far apart from conservative republicans-.

If Napoleon was something politically speaking, other than a gifted opportunist, was a social conservative.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP27 May 2013 8:45 a.m. PST

'Alan Forrest, "Napoleon", Quercus, 2011, Pages 54-8'

Chouan,

I would suggest taking a look at Forrest a little more carefully regarding Napoleon being a Jacobin.

From Forrest, 38:

'But it would be rash to go further, or to suggest that he [Napoleon] was in any way a committed Jacobin. There is no evidence that he joined any political club, or declared his specific affiliations, during the republican moment of 1792-94.'

'To that extent, his [Napoleon's] early writings are suggestive both of his political ideas and of the restless temperament that lay behind them. But they do not add up to a political manifesto. Many of his youthful outpourings before the Revolution wisely steered away from politics, concentrating instead on the safer world of ancient history and the Classics.'

From pages 48 and 49:

'He [Napoleon] did not emigrate; he continued to serve in the army; he took the oath of loyalty to the constitution of 1791. With the passage of time, however, his letters suggest a growing disquiet at the violence and extremism of some elements of the population, in particular the Jacobins and the Paris crowd…The Jacobins, in Napoleon's view, were 'madmen who are lacking in common sense.'

Seems to me you should be just a little more careful in your research. Perhaps you have a citation from the pages you listed from Forrest's biography. Forrest has definitely shown that Napoleon was no Jacobin.

B

Chouan28 May 2013 9:22 a.m. PST

Dear Brechtel198, you seem to have a curious take on the craft of a Historian. Apart from your rather peremptory style, with your chiding, rather personal remarks, referring to my lazy research, and my need for more care in my research, you seem to have an almost Orwellian ability to change your position according to the response.
You initially stated that Barnett was wrong. No equivocation, but categorically wrong, asserting that "Not only was Napoleon not a fanatic, he was never a Jacobin." You seem to have an obsession with the concept of fanaticism, frequently asserting that it is a synonym for radicalism, but I'll leave that for now.
You subsequently tell us that " Napoleon joined the Society of Friends of the Constitution in Valence, composed of 200 members and he became the group's secretary. He was not a Jacobin." He joined the Jacobins; you stated it. Having categorically denied that Buonaparte was a Jacobin you tell us that he was the branch secretary. Your rather brusque demand of "Source for Napoleon being a Jacobin?" you supplied yourself.
However, you now change your mind, in that you now assert that he was a member, but wasn't one himself. "So, yes, it can be said that Napoleon was no Jacobin, even if he did for a time belong in 1791 to a club associated with the Jacobins. Napoleon was not a fanatic or a radical, but a moderate who stood for law and order."
Having denied his being a Jacobin, you move the goalposts, as it were, and change the frame of reference.
The Valence Club wasn't merely a club associated with the Jacobins, it was a branch of the Jacobins, rather like a local Conservative Party member in a town is also a member of the Conservative Party in London. The Jacobins frequently sent Commissaires from Paris to the regional Clubs to ensure that the correct Party line was being followed.
Of course he stood for Law and Order; so did the Jacobins. Buonaparte also stood for centralised authority, so did the Jacobins. You seem to have some near obsessive belief that the Jacobins were a crowd of wild eyed furies, rather than the centralising politicians, obsessed with order and control, that they actually were. The "fanatics" that you refer to were the Enrages, led by people like Jacques Roux, and of course the Paris crowd, who were likely to welcome journees for the chance of looting. One could argue that the more radical Jacobins were even more obsessed with order and control than the moderates were. On the other hand, that Buonaparte joined a political club for entirely opportunistic reasons seems more than likely, given his tendency to do anything that would benefit his career. If the Jaconbins are in control, join them, if they fall, then disassociate one's self from them as soon as possible. He gathered and destroyed all copies that he could find of his pamphlet "Le Souper de Beaucaire", a defence of radical politics, once he had become First Consul, I assume to eradicate any evidence of his radical Jacobin past. His reluctance to take up a command in the Vendee, for example, wasn't because he thought the war wrong, or immoral, but because there was no personal credit to be gained in fighting Frenchmen.
Alan Forrest certainly hasn't shown that he was "no Jacobin" in the sense that you mean, only that he used the Jacobin Club for personal advancement, rather than any sort of principled view of France.
As far as what Alan meant or didn't mean, I'll ask him next time I'm in York; I had lunch with him a week ago on Friday, and several drinks that evening, but we spent most of the time discussing Manchester City's prospects, I'm afraid….

Gazzola29 May 2013 3:24 a.m. PST

Bretchel198

Ah, it is all clear now. Chouan is a Man City fan, who is taking the frustration of the team not winning anything in the football season and were beat in the FA Copy by Wigan, a team that has since been relegated to a lover division. He is taking it out by attacking Napoleon. Some people use any excuse to attack the great characters of history.

Gazzola29 May 2013 3:41 a.m. PST

Chouan

You are acting like a full blown hypocrite. You accuse Brechtel198 of contradicting himself, while doing it yourself. Your claimed that Lyon's book proved that Napoleon was a Jacobin, which, as mentioned in my post, it clearly did not.

You are just Deleted by Moderator But that does not not make you the expert you boasted about in another thread.

You have your opinions, others have theirs. Accept it and get over it man!

basileus6629 May 2013 5:36 a.m. PST

"only that he used the Jacobin Club for personal advancement, rather than any sort of principled view of France."

Which should let the issue of Napoleon's Jacobinism quietly put to rest… except that you enjoy poking Kev's and Gazzola's eyes, of course!

OSchmidt29 May 2013 7:13 a.m. PST

To get past term limits on being Counsel?

Chouan29 May 2013 9:24 a.m. PST

"Ah, it is all clear now. Chouan is a Man City fan, who is taking the frustration of the team not winning anything in the football season and were beat in the FA Copy by Wigan, a team that has since been relegated to a lover division. He is taking it out by attacking Napoleon."

"You are acting like a full blown hypocrite. You accuse Brechtel198 of contradicting himself, while doing it yourself. Your claimed that Lyon's book proved that Napoleon was a Jacobin, which, as mentioned in my post, it clearly did not.

"You are just Deleted by Moderator But that does not not make you the expert you boasted about in another thread."

Deleted by Moderator

I'll give you a chance to work out your errors of analysis. I'll give you a clue for one of them. Brechtel tells us that Buonaparte was a member of the Jacobin Club , he even quotes Cronin, chapter and verse, and Lyons argues that Buonaparte was a Jacobin, how is Lyons' argument wrong?

basileus6629 May 2013 12:48 p.m. PST

Lyons argues that Buonaparte was a Jacobin, how is Lyons' argument wrong?

Because a swallow doesn't a summer make. Bonaparte didn't show any record of Jacobinism when he was on power. Actually, he blamed them for the assassination plot of 24 december 1800, even though the evidence pointed to the royalists (two of them were caught and later guillotined). There wasn't any love lost between Napoleon and the Jacobins, even if he dallied with them when he was a young and ambitious lieutenant. Nothing in his career sugest he had any sympathy for Jacobinism, or any radical politics for that matter.

Chouan29 May 2013 12:55 p.m. PST

The question wasn't whether Buonaparte was a Jacobin all his life, but whether he had been a Jacobin, as Barnett suggested, or wasn't, as Brechtel argued. Buonaparte's "Souper de Beaucaire" is a classic Jacobin pamphlet, presenting classic Jacobin ideas. I would suggest that his membership of the Valence branch, and his writing the pamphlet referred to suggests that he was enough of a Jacobin, at the time, for it to be a reasonable interpretation of the facts for him to be described as such. Whether he was a sincere Jacobin at the time is, possibly, open to question, although his role as secretary and his pamphleteering would suggest otherwise.
As I've pointed out before, the Jacobins, although radical, in that they wanted significant change, were not "fanatics", any more than a radical Tory is a fanatic, although, potentially, a swivel-eyed loon. Those that one might refer to as fanatics, the "Enrages", followers of Jacques Roux and Hebert, weren't Jacobins; indeed they were "purged" from the body politic by the Jacobin controlled Convention.
Nothing in his later career would suggest that he had any sympathy for any political ideology except his own advancement. His anti-monarchist stance didn't last long either.

Baconfat29 May 2013 8:07 p.m. PST

syphilis?

WeeWars30 May 2013 5:32 a.m. PST

Surely we're not blaming Bonaparte for changing coats during the Revolution or taking the fullest advantage of the power the Revolution had created? If he mused that Louis should have been banished rather than executed and that the young Louis should have been proclaimed regent, would that cast him as a monarchist and make his becoming emperor more acceptable? Is it surprising that he threw in his lot with the republicans? Is it surprising (to return to the question) that he set up a hereditary succession to confirm and perpetuate his regime if only to make assassination attempts pointless?

Gazzola30 May 2013 9:24 a.m. PST

Chouan

Deleted by Moderator Lyon DOES NOT argue that Napoleon was a Jacobin, he mentions that he associated with Jacobins! Deleted by Moderator

YOU were the one who boasted of doing a dissertation, which you claimed made you an 'expert'. A dissertation can make someone knowledgeable about whatever they have researched – but it doesn't necessarily make them an expert. In your eyes it obviously does. Deleted by Moderator

I have an MA and two BA's. Quite a bit of research and writing involved there, as I'm sure you will appreciate. My Napoleonic articles are usually between 5,000-10,000 words and I've researched and written quite a few. Deleted by Moderator

And to be honest, there have been far more knowledgeable people attending this site who I have debated with. Some have agreed with my viewpoints, others disagreed, and some of them have been very enjoyable discussions, some not. That's life.

I like to hear from people who have different views. Deleted by Moderator

Chouan30 May 2013 1:18 p.m. PST

Deleted by Moderator

Again, to make clear Deleted by Moderator, Brechtel asserted that Buonaparte had no connection to the Jacobins, "Napoleon had never been a Jacobin and was revolted by the crimes perpetuated by the Revolutionary government during the Terror." and again "he was never a Jacobin." Apart from the fact that Brechtel disproved his own assertions, the first book I picked up over lunch was Lyons where I noted his associating Buonaparte with the Jacobins. Whether on a point of pedantry he says Buonaparte was a member of the Jacobins or was associated with the Jacobins, doesn't change the sense or the meaning of the statement. In any case your quibbling over what Lyons' exact words were is irrelevant because of Brechtel's proving the point subsequently.
Deleted by Moderator

Gazzola30 May 2013 4:40 p.m. PST

Chouan

I was certainly correct about Deleted by Moderator

YOU did boast about being an expert because you did a dissertation. It is clear for all to see in the Cornwall thread, in your post 22 May, 3.15am.

Me a Historian? Why thank you. It is a claim you made in another thread. However, I have never called myself an historian or claimed to be one. That is yet another error on your part Deleted by Moderator

You cited Lyon's book as a source proving Napoleon was a Jacobin – which was incorrect, now you are trying to wriggle out of it – look at your OWN posts man – you got it wrong!

Oh yeah, in these threads, members don't go ape over an apostrophe, comas or punctuation. They are just posts for fun, interest and often information – they are not dissertations, no awards, certificates or medals for what you write here. Try and remember that, Deleted by Moderator!

bigdennis Supporting Member of TMP30 May 2013 11:19 p.m. PST

WOW!

Silent Pool31 May 2013 2:59 a.m. PST

So, why did Napoleon make himself emperor in 1804?

SJDonovan31 May 2013 3:50 a.m. PST

So, why did Napoleon make himself emperor in 1804?

Maybe he wanted to prove that he wasn't a Jacobin (or hide the fact that he was?).

badwargamer31 May 2013 4:01 a.m. PST

Hehehehe…somethings never change. Things written in one one book are 'facts', in another 'opinions'.
Some people say they like the fact that other people have different opinions, but then rant and rave when they express them. They accuse the other person of not letting others have an opinion but round on them for that very same reason. Pot, kettle!

As for contributon….Napoleon was clearly a great man…but he lost so nah,nah,nah,nahnah!! :-)

TelesticWarrior31 May 2013 5:27 a.m. PST

The fact remains that Corelli Barnett called Napoleon a "fervent Jacobin" & "notoriously Jacobin", and this has been shown to be a great stretch at best, nonsense at worst.

Chouan wants to trumpet Barnett's book when it is clear to everyone else I have spoken to (who has actually read the damn thing) that its fit only for burning. I agree with Kevin's analysis that Barnett's book "is nothing short of an anti-Napoleon diatribe for no other purpose than a multi-page personal attack that not only is generally factually inaccurate but merely personal bias against an historical figure."


A huge list of Corelli's mistakes and personal biases have been presented above for all to see. In short, his biased and prejudiced approach are un-fitting for an Historian of any level of education. If it takes a few people being sent to the dawghouse in order to make that clear then so be it.

Whirlwind31 May 2013 10:23 a.m. PST

Hmm, well.

The fact remains that Corelli Barnett called Napoleon a "fervent Jacobin" & "notoriously Jacobin", and this has been shown to be a great stretch at best, nonsense at worst.

Well only if you use the Napoleon was an unprincipled self-aggrandizer defence. Barnett actually does Napoleon the favour (sort of) of taking him at his (first) word. Personally I'm convinced that Kevin is right about this, but one can surely see that being secretary of a Jacobin club and writing a Jacobin pamphlet might make you look like, umm, a Jacobin?

Chouan wants to trumpet Barnett's book when it is clear to everyone else I have spoken to (who has actually read the damn thing) that its fit only for burning. I agree with Kevin's analysis that Barnett's book "is nothing short of an anti-Napoleon diatribe for no other purpose than a multi-page personal attack that not only is generally factually inaccurate but merely personal bias against an historical figure."

I've read it. I don't think it is fit for burning. I think it is a useful alternative viewpoint. Lots of the comments above are simply statements along the lines of "this opinion/analogy is invalid". Charitably one might respond "Oh really?". Less charitably, one might think "Says who?"

A huge list of Corelli's mistakes and personal biases have been presented above for all to see.

Well sometimes I can see Barnett's mistakes and biases. And sometimes I can see those of the presenter.

In short, his biased and prejudiced approach are un-fitting for an historian of any level of education. If it takes a few people being sent to the dawghouse in order to make that clear then so be it.

Well Chouan (pro-Barnett) and Gazzola (pro-Napoleon) both got dawghoused. How does that prove anything?

Regards

Whirlwind31 May 2013 10:38 a.m. PST

In short, his biased and prejudiced approach are un-fitting for an Historian of any level of education.

Well, maybe. But quite an academic reputation:

link

link

Regards

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