Top 10 Fascinating Napoleon Quotations

Google+ Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr +

Napoleon I the Great (15 August 1769-5 May 1821) is one of history’s greatest conquerors, but he is far more complex than a mere military man. He wrote and spoke of just about every aspect of life he could, as evidenced by the multi-volume collections of his numerous letters and memoirs. His ideas give great insights into Napoleon as a lover and philosopher, among other things. While researching this influential man for my book, Meteors that Enlighten the Earth: Napoleon and the Cult of Great Men, I came across many fascinating quotations that could fill multiple lists, but I have found ten remarks in particular that I find striking for various reasons. This list features ten of these most intriguing words of the great man in semi-chronological order. Rather than provide my analysis of them, I shall present the quotations to you with some background context and allow you to discuss your own thoughts on them in the comment section below the list.

10. Napoleon on Oral Sex

oral-sex-napoleon

Written to Josephine in April 1796: “A kiss on your heart, and one much lower down, much lower!”

While Napoleon is most typically known as a conqueror of armies, as is the case with many male conquerors throughout history, he also enjoyed conquests of women. He married twice and had several mistresses during his life and had one legitimate and two illegitimate children through these relationships. Yet, by far the most celebrated love of his life was his first wife: Josephine de Beauharnais. While Napoleon campaigned in Italy, he wrote extensively to his wife, who did not reciprocate in kind and in his correspondences, he reveals himself as someone romantic to the point of obsession with his wife, including remarks in a perhaps surprisingly risqué manner.

9. Napoleon REALLY Loves Josephine

really-loves-josephine-napoleon

Written on 21 November 1796: “I am going to bed with my heart full of your adorable image. I cannot wait to give you proofs of my ardent love. How happy I would be if I could assist you at your undressing, the little firm white breast, the adorable face, the hair tied up in a scarf a la creole. You know that I will never forget the little visits, you know, the little black forest. I kiss it a thousand times and wait impatiently for the moment I will be in it. To live within Josephine is to live in the Elysian fields. Kisses on your mouth, your eyes, your breast, everywhere, everywhere.”

Here we once again get a sense of Napoleon’s thoughts while fighting a bloody war that lasted for months. He does not merely report about military life, but dreams of sexual encounters with his wife as what real heaven (the Elysian fields) is. We thus once again see the side of a man whose thoughts were hardly focused solely on bloodshed even while fighting a war.

8. Napoleon Being More Romantic

pleasing-woman-napoleon

“A beautiful woman pleases the eye, a good woman pleases the heart; the first is a jewel, the second is a treasure.”

Now the previous two quotations might make Napoleon seem almost perverted in his letters to his wife, and yet, he also had a tender side as well that demonstrated he valued women for more than just their physical attributes.

7. Napoleon’s Opposition to Torture

torture-napoleon

Written in 1798, while in Egypt: “The barbarous custom of whipping men suspected of having important secrets to reveal must be abolished. It has always been recognized that this method of interrogation, by putting men to the torture, is useless. The wretches say whatever comes into their heads and whatever they think one wants to believe. Consequently, the Commander-in-Chief forbids the use of a method which is contrary to reason and humanity.”

Given the debates held even in modern democracies about whether or not torture is justified, for example, when trying to stop terrorists, Napoleon’s words here are perhaps still relevant two hundred years later. Even in his day, an Enlightened conqueror realized the problems inherent in this form of interrogation. Moreover, the quotation is consistent with his approach to conquering Egypt. He brought with him an army of scholars in addition to his soldiers who among other things discovered the Rosetta stone.

6. Napoleon Anticipates Karl Marx on Religion

marx-napoleon

Written in 1806: “Religion associates with Heaven an idea of equality which prevents the rich from being massacred by the poor.”

When it came to religion, Napoleon understood its value, but approached it as a utilitarian would. In Egypt he played the role of someone who respected Islam. He also proposed creating a Palestine for Jews and called a Grand Sanhedrin while emperor. He reconciled with the Pope and had him attend Napoleon’s coronation. Later, Napoleon held the Pope as a virtual prisoner and annexed Rome to be the second city of the French Empire. In these various actions, we see a man who used religion as a means by which to prevent further chaos as occurred in the French Revolution. What he actually believed (or did not believe) is debatable, but he did nevertheless identify organized religion as beneficial for society to not descend into anarchy.

5. Napoleon on Dogs and Men

dogs-napoleon

Written September 1816: “If you do not like dogs, you do not like fidelity; you do not like those who are attached to you; and, therefore, you are not faithful.”

As a dog owner (I had two basset hounds and now have a dachshund and yes, I named one after Napoleon’s first wife and another after his second!), I understand where he is coming from in this remark. Napoleon reflected toward the end of his life on how people betrayed him (1816 is after his final defeat and during his final exile). He remembered, for example, an incident on a battlefield where a dead soldier lay guarded by his dog. Napoleon was moved by how everyone had abandoned this soldier except his dog. The defeated Napoleon on St. Helena felt abandoned and even betrayed by many and so it is hardly a shock that he would identify canine faithfulness as a supreme quality worthy of respect.

4. Napoleon on his Biggest Mistake

santo-domingo-napoleon

“The Santo Domingo affair was a foolish business on my part. It was the greatest mistake I ever made in my administration. I should have treated with the black leaders as with provincial authorities, appointed Negro officers in all the black regiments, kept Toussaint L’Ouverture as viceroy, sent no troops, and left everything to the blacks, except for giving them a few white advisers, a treasurer for instance, and even these I would have wanted to marry black women. That way, seeing that they were not surrounded by the threat of white power, the Negroes would have come to trust my policy.”

Winston Churchill, when discussing the hypothetical capture of Hitler during World War II, denounced any idea of sending Hitler to St. Helena as an insult to Napoleon’s memory. While plenty of authors have tried to draw parallels between Napoleon and Hitler, the two are opposites in terms of their actions with regards to genocide. This particular quotation by Napoleon reflects the distinction between the two men. Yes, both fought and lost grandiose wars to conqueror Europe, but their methods varied and their opinions on their methods varied as well. One does not find Hitler lamenting the Holocaust as something that was morally regrettable. Napoleon, however, realized that of all the unforgivable blemishes in his career, re-instituting slavery was the worst. Granted slavery in itself is not as disgusting as full on annihilation, but it is unquestionably one of the most shameful aspects of human history. In an age in which Britain, America, and France were all some years from abolishing slavery in 1833, 1865, and 1848, respectively, Napoleon commenting decades earlier is a sign of maturity and intellect that an unfortunate number of his contemporaries did not share.

3. Napoleon on Polygamy

polygamy-2-napoleon

“The question of freeing the blacks is a complex and difficult problem. In Africa and Asia it has been solved, but only by the means of polygamy. There a single family has both white and Negro members. Since the head of the family has white, black, and mulatto wives, his white and mulatto offspring are brothers, are brought up in the same cradle, bear the same family name, and share the same table. Should it prove impossible, then, to authorize polygamy in our colonies, limiting the legal number of wives to two, one white, one black?”

With this quotation, we have Napoleon further elaborating on his non-racist ideas in a manner inconsistent with the mainstream viewpoints of his time and in a manner somewhat paralleling Alexander the Great. When Alexander invaded Persia, he encouraged marriages between Greco-Macedonians and Persians. He even married two Asian women: Roxana and Stateira. Not all of his Greco-Macedonians were enthusiastic about these policies. Yet, they served as part of a dream to unify people. It is only fitting that Napoleon, who greatly admired Alexander, also contemplated intermarriage as way of unifying peoples. Even during his reign, he considered proposals to encourage marriages among Catholics, Jews, and Protestants to bring together the various peoples of his empire. Ultimately, Napoleon appears to have hoped that neither religion nor race would be dividing factors among we humans who after all are really belong to one HUMAN race.

2. Napoleon’s Anticipation of the European Union

europeon-union-napoleon

“There are dispersed in Europe, upwards of 30,000,000 of French, 15,000,000 of Spaniards, 15,000,000 of Italians, and 30,000,000 of Germans; and it was my intention to incorporate these people each into one nation. In this state of things, there would have been some chance of establishing, in every country, a unity of codes, principles, opinions, sentiments, views, and interests. Then, perhaps, by the help of the universal diffusion of knowledge, one might have thought of attempting, in the great European family, the application of the American Congress, or the Amphictyons of Greece. The impulse is given; and I think, that since my fall, and the destruction of my system, no grand equilibrium can possibly be established in Europe, except by the concentration and confederation of the principle nations. The sovereign, who, in the first great conflict, shall sincerely embrace the cause of the people, will find himself at the head of all Europe, and may attempt whatever he pleases. Europe thus divided into nationalities freely formed and free internally, peace between States would have become easier: the United States of Europe would become a possibility.”

Now realistically, Napoleon did not have the means by which to conquer and thereby unify the word, but he did come close with Europe and when explaining what he was attempting to establish, we have him reflecting on his love of history by referencing the examples of Ancient Greece and contemporary America as models for Europeans to follow. In his time, it was clear that in order to establish a unified Europe, the crowned heads of centuries-old monarchies would not accept such an idea through diplomacy. So, he tried to accomplish his dream via warfare, which of course failed. In fact, it took even worse wars than those fought by Napoleon for Europeans to finally realize that they best chance for stability lied in peaceful unification and so ultimately the dreams of a “United States of Europe” were ultimately realized through decades of diplomacy in the aftermath of humanity’s worst conflicts.

1. Napoleon’s Tragic End

death-napoleon

26 April 1821, less than a month before his death: “I have just seen my good Josephine, but she didn’t want to kiss me. She slipped away the moment I wanted to take her in my arms. She was sitting there; it was as if I had last seen her only the night before. She hadn’t changed, always the same, still completely devoted to me. She told me we were going to see each other again and never again leave each other. She has promised me. Did you see her?”

Shop Related Products

We end our list by coming full circle. We started with Josephine and so we shall end with her. After all, Napoleon’s reported last word was, “Josephine.” When all was said and done, when he began his final physical decline into death, his thoughts were not of great military campaigns or even fantastic political ambitions, but of the love of his life. In these dying utterances, we see not some larger than life legend, but a man, reflecting on his lost love.


Share.

78 Comments

  1. What about that one where he says something to the effect of, “There are 2 factors on the battlefield: Space and Time. I am least concerned with the former as it may be regained. Time, however, once lost is gone forever.”

    It’s my favorite.

  2. Hitler was a madman Napoleon wasn`t. And me, personally, I think sending tyrants into exile is a good idea. Churchill was a idiot to not think putting Hitler, Hermann Goering, Himmler, Benito Mussolini and so on, on an island. I mean, putting the likes of Saddam Hussein, Mad Dog Gaddafi, Assad, and other dictators on an island and leaving them to argue amongst themselves is a good idea. A dictator version of I`m a Celebrity get Me Out Of Here!, would me good..

    • Exile for dictators/tyrants in the past was a good punishment, but I don’t think it would work today. As long as they’re alive their followers would commit terrorist acts to free them. Don’t tell me Qaddafi’s supporters would have let him rot on an island when they could blow things up if they thought it would free him.

      Then again, they’ll probably blow things up whether he’s dead or alive.

    • Dr. Matthew D. Zarzeczny, FINS on

      Dear Dave,

      Thank you for your comment. Churchill said in 1943: “I always hate to compare Napoleon with Hitler, as it seems an insult to the great emperor and warrior to connect him in any way with a squalid caucus boss and butcher.” Churchill also said that he would not “desecrate St. Helena” by sending Hitler there.

      Best,

      Matthew

  3. Dr. Zarzeczny, great article! I find the last quote about Napoleon’s final words rather interesting. His last words show that he was just like any other man because he was a “Victim of Love” as the Eagles might sing. Napoleon was able to bring France, a nation that was unstable, and turn it into a large, powerful empire. Not only did he expand the borders and influence of France, but his ideas about how government should look at internal affairs influenced many nations today. Though Napoleon brought about great change, he was not a man that did not have flaws. For example, the events that occurred in Haiti were not something that modern leaders would be proud to have under their belts. Nevertheless, Napoleon was a man, somebody that produced great and tragic decisions. He may have tried to produce the notion that he was a great emperor under God, but he was human as anyone else. I believe the last quote before his passing truly demonstrates this notion. He envisioned with being the love of his life, Josephine, for the rest of eternity. So, not only was he a brilliant tactician on the battlefield and leader of a vast empire, but he was like any other man because he found love.

    Best,
    – Gene C.

    • Dr. Matthew D. Zarzeczny, FINS on

      Dear Gene!

      Thank you for your kind and thoughtful words! I am happy to read that so many have liked the article!

      Have a nice weekend!

      Matthew

  4. James DiAntonio on

    From all the information we’ve been shown in class, my opinion of Napoleon would have to be that he is an exploiter. He seems to me like a politician that makes the right statements at the right time to try to seem like he’s a great man. When really all he wanted was to conquer more land to build his empire up so one day him and his family could rule most of the eastern hemisphere. Napoleon was a selfish man. Another instance of this was when he kept pushing forward in Russia and it got most of his men killed. He just seems like an untrustworthy man to me. From having multiple mistresses and what he did in Haiti. My impression of Napoleon is that he was just a power hungry man wanting to have it all at any cost.

  5. Christina Minjares on

    After reading this article it appears to my belief that Napoleon was a great man for what he stood for and what he acted upon, regardless of what people may say. Some key points that stood out to me is that he encouraged marriages among all different types of religions in order to bring together different kinds of people of his empire. He also valued women for who they truly are rather than seeing them just for their physical appearance. Even at the time of his death, it was centered around the love of his life. He even realized that re-instituting slavery wasn’t a good idea. In conclusion, I feel that Napoleon had good intentions during his life, it was just that at times they were misinterpreted.

  6. Napoleon I was definitely a great man. He cared for the people he conquered, or didn’t conquer (in some cases), which made him a very noble leader, unlike the ones we try to look to today. Unfortunately, his actions, more or less, showed him to be an exploiter when he tried to retake the black slaves and his various exploits with conquering other countries and using them and people in general for his bidding, but, although these actions are not pardonable, it can be said that he realized his mistakes and probably tried to do what he thought was best for those he had conquered. Unfortunately, he will probably best be remembered for his exploitations of countries and people by others, but I will remember him as a human leader because his greatest legacy, for me, was his penance when he re-enslaved the people of Saint Domingue. At this point, he showed that he was human and susceptible to mistakes, and willing to admit it, which is something I do not get a chance to see too often. In the end, Napoleon I was a great and human leader, and, therefore, unlike his contemporary conquerors, I agree with Churchill in saying that Napoleon is not worthy to have his name besmirched by having other, far worse, dictators sent to the same island as he. Maybe they do deserve an island to live out the rest of their lives, but not that one.

  7. This was a very good article! It really shows how Napoleon was just like other people, falling in love with a woman, and giving her his heart. This article also shows that Napoleon was a very smart man. His intellect level was much higher than those of the times, especially in his military tactics. However, every leader has their flaws, and Napoleons over-ambition really showed in his invasion of Russia. His pursuing of this goal led to the loss of almost his entire army. Everyone needs to know their limits, and Napoleon failed to remember his. I would tend to say that Napoleon is really an exploiter, and I agree with what James says, how he tends to say the right things at the right time in order to get what he wants. Overall, very smart leader and tactician, but he used the people around him to get what he wanted.

  8. Personally, I believe Napoleon was an exploiter. He was concerned with extreme power and gaining as much land and as many supporters as possible. I feel that most of his decisions were made with selfishness and without thought of consequences. Of course he could love his wife and be sentimental, all beings are capable of such. Due to the amount of power and control he had, he was not embarrassed to show these types of emotions that could be seen as weak. He had so much manipulatory power over many people he needed not fear being threatened or overthrown.

  9. Rebekah Thomas on

    After reading the article and everything we have disscussed in class I feel that Napoleon was a good man. I think he had true intentions of what he wanted to do, he was opposed to slavery and torture, but also looked to gain women more rights/freedoms. I think he was also good in his military tactics as well, being able to take control of over half of modern europe. The things I do not agree on is how he wanted to get his way to the top. Overall though I believe he was more wise and uinlike other dictators such as hitler, he was not as cruel or unjust. He made the way to the top by working his way their and by doing so with his leadership, he got their by respect. All in all I think Napoleon was a liberator.

  10. Allyssa Dziurlaj on

    In my opinion I think Napoleon is a great leader. I also like how this article showed the merely human side of Napoleon and at the same time it showed his power as a military leader. I think the main testament to his leadership skills is the fact that he was able to command such a great following. I also find it very interesting that he was opposed to torture. I think while he was far from perfect, overall Napoleon was a good man who wanted to do what was best for the citizens.

  11. After reading this article, I obtained a better understanding of another side to Napoleon. I never got the impression that he was a romantic with Josephine, who he claimed to be the love of his life (despite having mistresses). Even though this may be a major fault, the soft, loving side of him was still present. What I can conclude from reading further about Napoleon is that he appears to show many qualities of an exploiter despite being such a well known conqueror of his time. He was very power hungry and showed little concern for the people he re-enslaved in Saint Domingue. While assuming the title of a leader, sometimes you are faced with difficult challenges, but he chose to be a powerful leader for some of the wrong reasons. He is depicted as “bad” by most references because at the end of the day, he acted more along the lines of a somewhat greedy and corrupt leader.

  12. To read these few quotes, its amazing to see the emotions that lay behind such a powerful leader. His devotion and passion towards Josephine remained so strong even during the times of his toughest battles. It does begin to lead you to think how he had the ability to go from the mind set of a battle field fighting for what he wanted and then turning over to the softly poetic and sexual Napoleon. It does capture his sense of passion for what he hold dear to him tho, whether that be on the battlefield or the bedroom. His loyalty and companionship also ties in with his love for animals. The dog quote, which I believe is my favorite, truly expresses and compliments the previous statement that Napoleon had a heart of reason and passion. His quote on his mistakes holds us to believe the humble side of Napoleon and that he can determine his mistakes and progress from them. This i believe is what made Napoleon so great in such a short period of time. Progression was key. As seen in the remaining quotes, Napoleon had planned out goals that he meticulously laid out for execution. He had no plan to stop his reign of power, but simply to continue on progression the Napoleonic empire he had created. His last fall reminds us that throughout his power, he still grounded himself in what first built him up, such as his wife Josephine.

  13. Napoleon was an excellent leader and seems to be more of an exploiter to me. A liberator is said to “release one from bondage” and although Napoleon did remove many from under rule, he moved throughout Europe and Asia with such great planning and timing. The legacy of Napoleon to me lies in the battle of Battle of Austerlitz, the strategy and execution of this battle will live forever. History is better served thanks to Napoleon being a member of it.

  14. You forgot my favorite Napoleon quote —

    “SH*T! SH*T! SH*T! SH*T! SH*T! SH*T!” after slipping in the bowling alley

    From “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure”

      • Dear sir,

        Did you know that Napoleon:
        – Despised black people?
        – Used his naval ships as gas chambers avant la lettre to kill as many blacks as possible?
        – Wanted to wipe out all blacks in Saint Domingue and Guadeloupe above the age of 12?
        – Re instated slavery?
        – Eventually met his “Waterloo” not at Waterloo but on Haïti because of tactical superior blacks?

        Yours Truly

        Adam

    • Dr. Matthew D. Zarzeczny, FINS on

      Hello, Marc!

      I am the author of the article and I also teach Western and World History for two different universities and so yes, several of my students are commenting on the article, as I mentioned it to them due to its relevance to class material. We just finished covering Napoleon in class this past week.

      Best,

      Matthew

  15. After reading this article, I learned about a different side to Napoleon. I wasn’t aware that he had and truly showed a romantic side. Although he appeared to love his wife, nonetheless he had several mistresses and “enjoyed conquests of women.” Napoleon had many highs and lows in his conquests. He demonstrated qualities of both liberator and exploiter. Re-enslaving the people in Saint Domingue makes him appear to be more of an exploiter and an inhumane person. Nonetheless, he did admit to his mistakes and apologize for his wrong- doing. Napoleon was power hungry yet very smart and tactful when it came to his military skills. He might have left a large legacy, but for some of the wrong reasons.

  16. Cameron Gutierrez on

    Dr. Zarzeczny,

    This article has enlightened me to the many different sides of Napoleon. When I used to think of Napoleon, I would think of a military genius who led France through many harsh battles. Now, I can see that he had many other qualities about him that your average man would have. For example, I really enjoy #7 and #5 on the list above. The one about Napoleon liking dogs really touched me, as I can relate because I love dogs. I completely agree with his view of the loyalty and faithfulness of dogs, and I like how he is able to relate that view to qualities of humans. I think it makes sense that if you do not like someone who is attached to you, such as a dog, than you are not a faithful person, and do not appreciate the loyalty of others. Overall, I look at Napoleon as a great liberator who achieved so much for France, and rewrote history for much of the country. He will always be remembered for his military accomplishments, such as the Battle of Leipzig, but this article also reminds us that he was a man of many attributes. Napoleon could laugh, cry, dream, and love like any other person, which I never really realized until now. Thanks for the informative article!

    -Cameron G.

  17. After learning about Napoleon for the past week in class I would describe him as an exploiter. Napoleon thought he could take over Europe through military and political exploits. He even went as far to marry a woman from Austria to try to gain influence there. I think that Napoleon was selfish in a way that he thought he could conquer Russia even though he was constantly losing troops the further they invaded. I don’t think Napoleon was a good leader but he was a good manipulator by the way he took advantage of the people around him.

  18. Napolean was most definently a exploiter. He wanted to conquer as much of Europe as he possible could He got so greedy that he thought his grand army would be able to survive in the harsh Russian winter. I do not think it is appropriate to compare Napolean to Hilter. Hilter wanted to wipe out a enter race, Napolean simply just wanted to rule and be the greatest, he was greedy. I find it comical that he dumped Joesphine because she was unable to give him a child and than as he was dying he came to see that the only thing he really cared and wanted in his life was to be with her during his dying days. If he wasnt so greedy, Napolean probably would’ve lived the rest of his life as a great ruler, and changed history in more ways that he had. The main thing I took away from this article was when it got down to brass taxes, Napolean was a normal guy just like you and I. He felt pain, weakness, lost love, and eventually death. Good article.

  19. I believe that his role in The Haitian Revolution tips him to the side of exploiter. However, his many accomplishments through forward thinking in other areas such as ending certain violences, makes me ambivalent towards his true greatness. I am partial towards his love for Josephine, and hers for him — even after they separate — that is what stands out the most about him, for me.

  20. This article came very interesting to me as I have though Napoleon to be a ruthless exploiter to the oppositions against him. However reading Napoleon’s opposition to slavery, it kind of shows the true colors of the dominant man he was. Like this, the aspect of his love for Josephine shows that though Napoleon was ruthless and experienced in his trials of conquering his enemies, he still showed his true colors as a human being with his devotion and love to Josephine and his opposition to torture, definitely an eye opening and interesting article.

  21. Napoleon was a great leader and most definitely made many changes while in power. At first look people would think he is more of an exploiter, but after learning more people like myself will learn that he is more of a liberator. He was a great leader and knew what he had to do to become successful. He might have not been the greatest man ever, his love for Josephine was more in the for the sexual aspects as shown in his letters to her. Everyone looks at “Napoleon syndrome” as a bad thing, but he really wasn’t a bad guy and led in much success until the end of his reign.

  22. Albert Efkeman on

    In the article, and class lecture we see that Napoleon was a romancer and seemed to have a true love for his first wife Josephine. Napoleon seems to have been truly in love with his wife and would rather be with her then away at war. Napoleon’s last word was Josephine. All of these different factors have me wonder even though Josephine and himself were having trouble having a child that he would continue to try, and stay with her because he truly loved her.

  23. Most cartoons today depict Napoleon as a short angry Frenchman hellbent on conquering all of Europe for himself. I think that with his ideas of polygamy in the colonies and his opposition to torture that he was not so much an exploiter but more of a liberator. He wanted to bring all of Europe together and then work on bringing the rest of the world under French rule. His non racist ideas as a leader are almost unheard of in history and because of that I believe he was a great man.

  24. After reading this article, I now see another side of Napoleon. I never knew that he was like that with Josephine. He stated that she was the love of his life even though he had other mistresses. I never thought of him as much of a lover, but more of a born leader who would do what ever it took to win. Napoleon seems to show many qualities of being an exploiter. I think Napoleon just wanted to rule as much as possible and be the greatest man ever known even though he was extremely greedy. Overall what I took away from this article was that Napoleon was a pretty normal guy who could feel emotions just like everyone else.

  25. William Crider on

    I believe that Napoleon began as a liberator, but then became an exploiter. He was a man that was never satisfied he always wanted to do more. I believe he was a great liberator at first because he did give the french people a lot of the the things they wanted. He put an end to a lot of the economic situations that were occurring in France before he took over. It seemed once he had done everything he could for France he still wanted more which is when I believe he became an exploiter. He became to power hungry and was never satisfied with anything he had done. He began seeing the whole world as his responsibility rather than just France. Once this began happening he began taking over countries that didn’t approve of his ideas and were unhappy under his philospohies. I believe the most important legacy that Napoleon left behind was his way that he conducted the military by not torturing people and by not destroying the towns in cities. Overall I do believe Napoleon was a great man that just let the power cloud his judgement.

  26. I believe that Napoleon was a exploiter because he always wanted to have more land. He was never satisfied with what he had except his wife! He loved his wife but need to conquer more land! He was a great man when it came to his wife but as a leader no because he didn’t think about the consequences from taking land from others. His most important legacy he left behind is that people can conquer land with out destroying it all!

  27. I believe that Napoleon was a liberator because whenever he seemed to conquer someone’s land he was tolerant of their customs and values. Based on this article and our class discussions and lectures, Napoleon was much more of a romantic than a tyrant. Also, depending on the text and from where it comes from can easily depict Napoleon as either a liberator or an exploiter because of writings from historians whose countries were being conquered by Napoleon I. Lastly, from this article alone, I see Napoleon more for thoughts and actions away from the battlefield and his tolerance of many different topics including slavery and polygamy.

  28. Jacob Hirschmann on

    Overall, I believe Napoleon was a liberator. At first, I was convinced he was an exploiter, and I kept that belief for most of the lesson. But as we closed our lesson on Napoleon, my viewed slowly changed. After seeing how he started to realize at the end of his life how we should have treated the blacks, how he wanted to create a nation for the Jews, and how he wanted to only rule France, I believe that at the end of his life, Napoleon was more of a liberator. In terms of his greatness, I do believe he was a great man and one of the most accomplished conquerors of all time. And in terms of his most important legacy, I would say that is his great military tactics and how he set the stage for future leaders, such as Napoleon III.

  29. Brant Meredith on

    I was always taught that Napoleon was just a ruthless, evil dictator with short man syndrome. after what we learned in class, and this article, i believe that he is not the man people has made him out to be. from respecting the Islamic religion to not allowing torture it shows that even while invading a country, you can still respect the beliefs and equality of others.

  30. In the beginning of the lecture I went into it thinking he was without a doubt an exploiter but the more I heard of him I want to say he’s without a doubt a liberator. Despite invading many countries and places he gave the same rights to them as he would give his own people. The main thing that caught my eye was that he told his soldiers to never torture the enemy. Also, unlike most commanders, Napoleon was brave and so brave that it can almost be considered crazy. Overall, I believe he was a good man.

  31. Hallie Fetterman on

    I found that the most shocking part of this article was that numerous authors have attempted to draw parallels between Hitler and Napoleon. I believe the two cannot be compared because Hitler was not a good man whereas Napoleon had the makings of becoming a good man. His stance on abolishing torture was admirable, as was his contribution to civilization through the discovery of the Rosetta Stone. As stated in the article, Napoleon’s worst act was re-instituting slavery. His quotation about the Santo Domingo affair reveals that upon reflection he knew he should have acted differently. By the time he comes to this realizatio,n however, it is too little too late. Based off of this information, I believe Napoleon had more tendencies to act like an exploiter earlier in his life, but those tendencies did not necessarily overtake his later years.

  32. I think that Napoleon was a fantastic leader! He showed a lot of love for his wife Josephine, although it seemed to be more of a physical and sexual attraction the way he talked in his letters to her. I really enjoyed the last quotation and the part where they said his last word was “Josephine”. That shows that he was attracted to her sexually and that he really did love her. Napoleon was very successful and he knew exactly what needed to be done. I really liked that Napoleon was against torturing men. He stated in the seventh quotation that it was useless. I believe that Napoleon was a liberator. He always wanted more land, but when he did conquer other people’s land, he still took their beliefs nad values into hands. Overall I think Napoleon was very successful and a great man. I think it’s ridiculous that they even tried to compare him to Hitler because they are exact opposites.

  33. Napoleon was a liberator and a lover. He overtook so much for the time period that it was his greatest legacy, but he should have known when to stop and not been greedy. It was almost too much for one man to lead all of that area, and trying to overtake Russia was brave but obviously not the best move he’s ever made.

  34. Honestly, I really had no opinion of Napoleon either way–good or bad. I didn’t know that much about him and had never studied him. From what I have learned, I believe that he was an exceptional thinker and leader. Do I agree with every decision/battle he made/fought? Of course not. But that doesn’t take away from his ability to strategize and command. As for his personal life, his heart appears to have been truly dedicated to his first wife, Josephine, and that is beautiful, but it is unfortunate that he wasn’t willing to be true to her, and, just like all of those non-dog lovers out there, he showed her no loyalty when he divorced her.

  35. While some can argue that at the end of his epic regime, Napoleon had become the very thing in which he stood for. He was tyrannical, gawdy and saw himself as something of a god-like figure, all aspects of a ruler a young Napoleon would not have endorsed. Nonetheless there simply is no military commander, or ruler of a country comparable to Napoleon. Time and again he was able to defeat his foes even when heavily overmatched.

  36. Napoleon was an amazing leader. He progressed so fast in military and had a real quality of leadership inside him. I believe that Napoleon had a clever aspect to him, and he used his way with people to be manipulative and achieve what he truly wanted. I think its interesting to see how he “used religion as a means by which to prevent further chaos as occurred in the French Revolution”. Napoleon had much more aspect him besides the revolution and military. I think him and his wife had a amazing story. So in the end, he knew how to win battles, and how analyze situations that leads to military and political success. His hunger of power may have been his downfall but he had a brilliant mind, and that can not be over looked.

  37. Napoleon was , in my belief, an exploiter who eventually became a liberator. He conquered nations ruthlessly and often showed no mercy towards his opponents. Although he was attempting to expand the power of France, he did so in a violent and blood-filled way. Many men were sacrificed and some of his battles that he led involved some of the greatest number of battle casualties in history. This was all due to his campaign ideas and goals. Therefore, in this way, I believe Napoleon left behind a great military, but did so at a price to many lives. However, after being exiled from France, he seemed to contain a few regrets such as the way he treated Negroes during his ruling. He also muttered the name of his long lost love right before he died, showing that he indeed can be sympathetic. Inc conclusion, Napoleon was a ruthless military rules, but after being defeated, he seemed to show a side of him that may not have been so bad after all.

  38. Dr. Zarzeczny,
    Between reading through this and our class lectures, I think that Napoleon was a great leader for that time. Today, his tactics would come across as crazy, forcing his men to move at times when he knew they wouldn’t all make it and taking insane risks. However, it was things like this that set him apart from every other leader. His narsarcism is what drove him to greatness and also what destroyed him in the end, he couldn’t stop himself.

  39. I believe that Napoleon was a liberator and he worked hard at trying to understand from different points of view even when he didnt agree such as with religion. He can be seen as a great man although he cheated on Josephine but it is apart of life. Josephine could not bear children and it should have been expected that Napoleon would cheat but that does not mean he did not still love her. I was excited to learn Napoleon’s thoughts on torture which is torture is useless and I believe that more people should come to realize that. Once of the best things Napoleon did was try to unite Europe, although he fault many bloody battles, this showed how much he started to care. Many other people may see this as Napoleon being greedy or selfish but I think he was trying to be positive. He was a very intelligent man and in that he was able to admit his mistakes. One of his mistakes was the way he treated the negroes so it was amazing to see two qoutes mentioning how he could have done better. Napoleon was a true liberator and he showed it.

  40. Dr. Zarzeczny,
    I really loved this article! I am always a fan of great quotes from great people. From what we have learned in class, and from reading Napoleon’s own words, I have to say that Napoleon was a liberator. Although he engaged in violent warfare and caused an unimaginable number of deaths, his intent was not to become tyrannical. His idea of uniting all the European countries into one nation seems to be indicative of what he was trying to do. Napoleon even recognized his error in the way he handled things at Santo Domingo which hardly sounds like an exploiter. If he truly was an exploiter, he would not have lamented over the Santo Domingo affair the way that he did. Napoleon’s view on torture is possibly the most telling sign that he was more of a liberator than an exploiter. He proved to be very much against the use of torture. One would assume that a true exploiter would encourage the use of torture to get what they wanted; however, Napoleon did not do this. Overall I believe that the evidence points to Napoleon being more of a liberator rather than an exploiter.

    • Dr. Matthew D. Zarzeczny, FINS on

      Dear Dani,

      Thanks! I am pleased to read that and I appreciate all these thoughtful comments from our readers!

      Sincerely,

      Matthew

  41. Tammy Thompson on

    Napoleon’s success on the battlefield defines him as one of the greatest military commanders in history. This, I believe, was his most important legacy. The reverberations of the Napoleonic wars were felt across Europe long after Napoleon’s death. While Napoleon was a great conqueror, he exploited the lands he conquered for the benefit of France (and himself), attaining money and land to broaden his empire. The most interesting fact about Napoleon perhaps was his romantic nature, and that his only concern upon death was that of Josephine.

  42. Overall I see Napoleon as more of an exploiter than a liberator. I feel that all he really wanted to accomplish in life was conquering more land and nations so that he could build up his empire, and that he would use any means necessary to accomplish this, which to me is selfish. Napoleon also re-instituted slavery, and although he realized that this was one of his greatest mistakes, it was a mistake that effected numerous amounts of people negatively. Although I am portraying Napoleon in a negative light, I do think that he did accomplish many great things as well. He was a very intelligent man, especially with military tactics, and was madly in love with his wife Josephine. He was able to bring France, which was an unstable nation, and turn it into an empire with power and influence in the world.

  43. After learning about Napoleon last week, I would have to say that I found him to be more of an exploiter than a liberator. Although Napoleon was known for his military strategy and success of winning battles, we learn of a man who exploited his success for his own political goals. Napoleon was willing to make his own peace deals for his own benefits. Also, Napoleon had re-instituted slavery which would bring harm to a lot of people and was still focusing on only his success, rather than that of France’s. Learning about Napoleon this past week, has allowed me to understand more about military battles, and France in general and have found it a very useful lesson.

  44. Last week was very enlightening to learn about Napoleon, I was surprised by the sentiment spirit this leader of the French had for his lovers, and for the faithfulness of a dog. The bloodshed of the soldiers, and the civilians, to numerous to count, has still persuaded me to find him an exploiter than a liberator. His responsibility to his countrymen, and the nation of France should have been his top priority, instead of conquering Europe. This endeavor, and expense could have re-built his nation, and enforced his ideals that he is so eloquently quoted. His march into Russia was a diabolical loss of life and disertion, that should never be forgotten, even though he may live in the dreams of all, who wish to conquer. As a military leader, a persuader of men to follow, a charismatic conqueror, this past week of class gave a complete picture of the man who was not “King” of France, but crowned himself, Emperor.

  45. When we were first learning about Napoleon in class, I also thought he was an exploiter. He was always out for more; he invaded so many countries to get more land until he was finally defeated. Like the above person said, he even crowned himself Emperor. However, the more I learned in class on him I changed my opinion of him. He actually tried to learn about other people and believed in everyone having rights. I just didn’t know the man had a raunchy romantic side to him, very interesting to say the least.

  46. Hi Dr. Zarzenczy,

    With all of the information presented to us thus far in Western Civ II, it is my belief that Napoleon was on a journey of maturation. When young and first in a position of power, he was all about liberation, the people, and justice. However, as time went on, the naivety started to cease and Napoleon became more and more of an exploiter. When he first started leading France, Napoleon took on military conquests that were accomplishable and realistic. Unfortunately, as time went on and Napoleon’s ego began to get in the way, he started taking on military exploits such as Russia. Which only resulted in massive loss of life and a major loss for France. Through out Napoleon’s journey through leading France, it is my belief that he started first as a liberator but sadly ended his life as an exiled exploiter.

    Thanks,

    Rachel Kirsch

  47. Dan Heidenreich on

    After learning about Napoleon these past couple days I have landed on the decision that he was more of an exploiter than a liberator. A liberator would have his or her mindset on the good of the people and or the country they are in control of. Napoleon was more worried about conquering anything he could get his hands on. Even though that outlook on things made him one of the most historical leaders in all of history it does not make him a liberator. Some of the measures that he took to acquire land were cynical. With everything that has been said I stand by my opinion on Napoleon being more of an exploiter than liberator.

  48. Before learning more about Napoleon, I would have definitely said he was an exploiter. Having listened to the lectures the past week in addition to this article, however, I would say he was a liberator and a decent man. Napoleon did whatever he had to do to get the job done, but he never treated the enemy unnecessarily bad. He respected their values and customs; I really like that he didn’t approve of torturing the enemy. It makes me realize that even though he may not have been a perfect individual, he was human, and never forgot that his enemies were also humans. Moreover, the fact that he was quoted talking about how a woman’s heart is a treasure indicates that he loved just like we all do, and had a tenderness that may not have necessarily been obvious to someone just reading a history textbook. He may let his power go to his head, but he helped France become a much greater influence in the world.

  49. Clifford Vickery on

    I enjoyed this because it shed light on many sides of Napoleon that are seldom seen. However i feel like napoleans actions may have only contradicted his writings. He speak of a unity and equal rights but spends most of his life fighting and opressing others. He refers to a good woman as a “treasure” but spends most of his time off “jewel” hunting. As much as Napoleon was physically engaged in war. I fell he was also engaged in an internal war. It seems like Napoleon has a sence of Right and wrong however historically fails to take that into consideration and self interests always prevail.

  50. David Morrisnewell on

    I think Napoleon was a great military leader, but I also think he needed to learn when and where to quit. Not necessarily give up, but if he had found a good stopping point, maybe he would have lived longer and possibly viewed less as an exploiter.

  51. My fiancee is a YSU graduate with a degree in history. She studied for a year in Europe. She has come to convince me, mostly because of his love for Josephine, that Napoleon was more good than bad. His life was far more intriguing than I had ever thought before this year. Before February, most of my knowledge of Napoleon was taken from The Count of Monte Cristo…

  52. Number 5, I think its pretty true in some circumstances. Ive seen it reflected in some men that I know of that dont like dogs and they either committed adultery, divorced eventually, violent in their relationship, etc. Now of course i’m not saying this is always true. Every situation is different. Maybe its just coincidence between the two but in someway its true, but not always. Good analysis from Napoleon though

  53. Christie Wade on

    This is a great article- it really makes you realize that, while a powerful leader, Napoleon is a person just like the rest of us. His love for Josephine and dogs is what made this stand out to me the most!

    • Dr. Matthew D. Zarzeczny, FINS on

      Dear Christie,

      Thanks! I am glad you enjoyed it! Wow! Seventy comments already! I am pleased that so many of you have found this list worth commenting on. Would you like to see more lists of fascinating quotations by famous people?

      Best,

      Matthew

  54. I think this article shows how Napoleon wasn’t a nasty leader like some think. He deeply cared for Josephine and even hallucinated about her on his deathbed. Napoleon’s main downfall was his ambition for land and to conquer the world, but honestly who can blame him? If you can conquer that much land, you are going to want more. It is human nature.

  55. By far i found this to be the most interesting article straight from the beginning. Kind of though maybe their should have been top 10 romantic Napoleon and top 10 Napoleon quotes. I saw the romantic part of it quite interesting from a guy like Naopeon.

    • Dr. Matthew D. Zarzeczny, FINS on

      Dear Yevgeniy,

      Good suggestion! Napoleon wrote many, many love letters to his wives that make him seem far less like the stereotypical tyrant.

      Sincerely,

      Matthew

  56. Mark Jackson on

    What I found interesting in this article was the fact that Napoleon was actually quite human. The majority of the time he is depicted as a little angry man on a horse. However, These quotes show that Napoleon had a different side to him. My favorite quote was the quote about dogs. I like how he compares dogs hand being faithful to a cause. Napoleons men, I am sure, had to be dog lovers.

Leave A Reply