What are the causes for the Defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte?



Napoleon failed to carry out his ambition of bringing the whole of Europe under his thumb on account of various reasons.

In the first place, the haughty nature of Napoleon greatly contributed to his downfall. He had an ego about the inability of his judgment and did not pay due regard to the counsel of other seasoned diplomats and politicians like Talleyrand and Fouche.

As a result, often his judgment failed him. As Monsieur Theis has said, "It was his judgment that degenerated him and proved to be the ultimate cause of his failure."

Secondly, Napoleon tried to concentrate everything in his own hands. No doubt he was an intelligent person and was endowed with exceptionally sharp imagination, but due to human limitations he could not do everything by himself equally well. No wonder, he failed in certain matters.

Thirdly, the soaring ambitions of Napoleon also contributed to his downfall. He was very ambitious and tried to extend his empire as far as possible. In fact he even nourished the ambitions of carving out a world empire. Such ambitions were incapable of realization and no wonder he ultimately failed.

Fourthly, the rise of the nationalism in the various countries conquered by Napoleon also greatly contributed to his downfall. The people of these countries did not like the autocratic attitude and coercive methods of Napoleon.

They submitted to his authority as long as he was powerful. But after his failure against Russia and Spain, these countries became bold and began to defy his authority.

Fifthly, the continental system introduced by Napoleon to reduce the English to submission was strongly resented by the various European countries because they could not get necessary goods from England to which they had been accustomed for a long time. Further, it also gave a serious set-back to their trade.

Unmindful of the sufferings of the people of various countries of Europe, Napoleon tried to enforce the measures •strictly. This resulted in revolts in certain countries like Portugal, Spain and Russia. Napoleon invaded these countries to enforce the continental system.

The continental system also brought him in conflict with the Pope. The rejection of the continental system by the Pope greatly infuriated

Napoleon and he annexed his empire and merged it with the French empire. The Pope on his part declared Napoleon as an atheist. This turned all the Catholics against Napoleon and he began to be hated as a godless being.

Sixthly, the supremacy of the British navy also greatly contributed to the downfall of Napoleon. Napoleon failed to successful enforce his conti­nental system in the face of strong English navy. The British navy also proved quite helpful in the carrying men and material for war against Napoleon in different parts and thus contributed to his fall.

Seventhly, the accomplishment of industrial revolution in England played no mean role in the downfall of Napoleon. As a result of the industrial revolution England possessed sufficient finances with which she could fully equip her armies and sustain long struggle. Therefore, it has been asserted that Napoleon was not defeated in the Battle of Waterloo but by the textile mills of Manchester and the steel furances of Burming- ham.

This point has been brought out by a historian thus, "In the era of Napoleon the quickening operation of shining frames and power looms, blast furnaces and steam engines, in a country on which the French army never trod, provided the financial sinews for the military efforts of Britain and her allies and thereby most truly worked towards his down­fall."

Eighthly, the destruction of revolutionary sentiments by Napoleon and their replacement by an autocratic rule in France was disliked by certain sections of society and they became suspicion of his intentions.

Ninthly, the benevolent and partial attitude adopted by Napoleon to­wards his relations also brought about his downfall. Most of the relations whom he elevated to important positions proved unworthy of the trust reposed in them.

For example his failure in Italy and Germany was largely due to his step son Caroline and his youngest brother Jerome respectively. Napoleon is said to have remarked "My relatives have done me more harm than I have done them good."

Tenthly, Napoleon's expedition to Moscow greatly contributed to his fall. Napoleon's military power, on which his rule rested was greatly shattered because of this expedition because a large number of his soldiers died either due to unbearable cold or attacks by the Russians. As a result when his military power waned, his empire also collapsed.

Finally, the complete exhaustion which Napoleon suffered during the closing years of his rule also proved suicidal for him.

As Dr. Sloane has observed, "The causes of his decline may be summed up in a single word, exhaustion." Prof. Thomson also says, "Out of the hundred nerve centres that composed his brain, more than half were no longer sound."