Brief Essay on the Foreign Policy of Napoleon Bonaparte of France



Napoleon who was a born soldier immortalised his name by his military skill. He had great ambitions in his life; and in order to fulfill them, he moved heaven and earth.

He adopted a dynamic foreign policy which added a new feather to his cap and enhanced his greatness.

Napoleon gained grand and splendid victories one after the other and thus tried to satisfy his ever-growing ambitions.

By conquering the Austrian Empire, he made his name immortal in the annals of history. His empire had reached the zenith of its glory during 1804-1807. Hazen has written about it:

"He wanted to make France a La Grande Nation of Europe and for this a spirited and vigorous foreign policy of constant militarism was very essential."

After the declaration of enthronement of Napoleon in 1804, a French citizen had rightly remarked:

"We came to give France a king; we have given her an Emperor."

It was really the greatest success of Napoleon that he progressed from the post of an army officer to the throne of France. In fact, he dazzled the people of France by his victories and occupied the throne with great pomp and show.

He assumed the title of Napoleon I, Emperor of the French. He stressed the point before his accession to the throne that unless one single emperor had seated himself on the throne, there would be no peace in Europe; and after his enthronement he endeavoured to execute his dream into reality.

He felt himself to be the most suitable candidate for enthronement. Napoleon was afraid of any interference by England. He, therefore, concluded a treaty with England known as the Treaty of Amiens to avoid this danger from England.

Though the Treaty proved very short-lived and lasted for 15 months only, it gave an opportunity to both the countries, viz., England and France, to improve their internal conditions. The following causes led to its abrogation.

Expansion of the Colonial Empire

Louis XIV had established a colonial empire of France in India and America which was destroyed by the follies of Louis XVI, who was merely a child at the time of accession. Napoleon, after holding the post of the first Consul endeavoured to revive the lost colonial Empire.

He compelled the king of Spain to yield up Louisiana, a Spainish colony, situated in America to France. He also tried to capture some colonies of West Indies. He dispatched his General to take possession of Haiti.

A separate army was sent to capture the island of San Domingo. Napoleon also wanted to drive the Britishers from India after having established a league with Tipu Sultan.

His ambitions to establish a vast colonial empire and his acts alarmed England which ultimately resulted in abrogation the treaty. England was now anxious to wage a war against France in or to crush his ambitions.

The Mercantile Polity

Napoleon's mercantile policy is one of the significant aspects of dynamic foreign policy. He failed to conquer England on sea and decided to defeat her as a nation of the traders.

Napoleon in order to tool England's strong hold on the market of France levied heavy duties British goods.

It affected the trade of England adversely. England not expected such a war from Napoleon after the treaty of Amiens was concluded but she noticed Napoleon's staunch determination to harm interests of her trade and commerce by establishing continental system Napoleon did not achieve success in his mission and the Treaty of Amiens was scrapped.

Policy of Interference

Though the Treaty of Amiens was concluded, Napoleon did not stop from interfering in the internal affairs of the European states. He established republics in some countries and posted his armies there.

He meddled with the internal affairs of Switzerland and by dissolving unitary constitution, introduced Federal Constitution.

He himself became the mediator in Switzerland. The name of Cis-Alpine Republic was changed into Italian Republic. He also occupied Holland incorporated it into his empire. Thus he endeavoured to extend territory of France and boosted her power and prestige.

Naval Power of England

Napoleon considered England to be his greatest enemy. He thought of destroying her naval power again and again but he knew it well that was not an easy task as the naval power of England was invincible.

England was surrounded by sea; it was not possible for France to defeat her by his powerful land forces. Napoleon wanted to recapture Malta which was now under the possession of England because he was planning to create difficulties for England.

According to the provisions of the treaty of Amiens, England had to return Malta to Napoleon, but England being alarmed of his continental system and his policy of interference, refused to do so. Hence the war between the two became inevitable.

Army Organisation of France

Napoleon was a born soldier and he knew well that his position was based on military power. He intended to recapture Malta, but he did not succeed in doing so.

He utilized his powerful army in invading Hanover, situated in the north of Germany and established his control over Hanover belonged to England by a law of succession and hence Napoleon declared that as England had not given him Malta he would not parts Hanover.

Napoleon massed a large number of soldiers at Boulogne and wanted to invade England by crossing the English Channel. Holland also supported Napoleon and the joint naval forces of both countries became formidable at sea.

Increase in the Glory of France

Napoleon wanted to enhance the glory and splendour of France like Louis XIV. Napoleon achieved wonderful victories and contributed much towards increasing the power and prestige of France.

The people of France did not bother about his absolute rule because they were overwhelmed by his victories and reforms. A prominent writer has remarked about his foreign policy:

"The key of his foreign policy was to smash the British power. The main objects of Napoleon were the colonial expansion, his spirited foreign policy, undermining the British naval power, revival of the ancient glory of France and the strengthening of the military power of the country.

But he could not succeed in his efforts, not in the least. He wanted to dominate the entire Europe."

How far Napoleon's Empire was an Instrument of Peace?

Napoleon tried his level best to maintain peace in Europe. He considered his empire to be an emblem of peace. In fact, it was only Napoleon who established law and order in the country.

He was a supporter of the theory of religious toleration. People of different faiths, such as, Jews, Roman Catholics and Protestants were happy with Napoleon's religious policy. He formed a popular government and framed a new constitution with the support of his people.

He initiated several reforms for the good of the people. Owing to the establishment of peace and order, arts, crafts, trade and commerce, industry and agriculture all flourished. If we take all these facts into account and scrutinize them minutely, we would realise that his empire was not an emblem of peace but a source of terrible wars and ruthless murders.