To be considered as a Paradigmeer, it is necessary to show that a person has truly influenced a transformation. Most historical leaders do not feature; they are merely creatures of their time, bent on maintaining their position. Napoleon Bonaparte took the opportunity offered by the French Revolution to transform the whole of Europe. His legacy still prevails today.
Napoleon Bonaparte was born in 1769 in Corsica. Through his military exploits and his ruthless efficiency he rose from obscurity to become Emperor of France.
“I closed the gulf of anarchy and brought order out of chaos. I rewarded merit regardless of birth or wealth, wherever I found it. I abolished feudalism and restored equality to all regardless of religion and before the law. I fought the decrepit monarchies of the Old Regime because the alternative was the destruction of all this. I purified the Revolution.”
Set in the context of his time when states were ruled by monarchs many of whom believed they were descended from God and held the position by right. Your position in society was determined by your birth with no possibility of improvement, regardless of education, enterprise or hard work. Religious tolerance was at the whim of the ruler and the Pope. The revolution had swept this aside in France, the rules had been changed. In the rest of Europe Rulers stood ready to forcefully suppress any such challenge in their countries. While Napoleon didn’t initiate the revolution he was very much a son of it.
He will be remembered as a military commander, he was brilliant, and acknowledged as such by his peers, including Wellington. Even so, his ambition led to his demise as the French army was driven from Russia with terrible losses.
‘Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.’
‘One must change one’s tactics every ten years if one wishes to maintain one’s superiority.’
Perhaps his greatest legacy is the foundation of civil administration he laid across Europe. His intention was to build a federation of free peoples in a Europe united under a liberal government. In the states he created, Napoleon granted constitutions, codes of law, abolished feudalism, created efficient government and fostered education, science, literature and the arts. Under his rule he granted freedoms including religious tolerance and the abolition of serfdom.
In a time when news travelled as fast as a man on a horse, his ability to administer and motivate a large proportion of Europe while others were engaged in war against France and it’s empire, was quite remarkable. The following quotes from Napoleon give an insight into his mindset and his approach:
‘Let the path be open to talent.’
‘Ability is nothing without opportunity.’
‘Imagination rules the world’
‘Nothing is more difficult, and therefore more precious, than to be able to decide.
There is one kind of robber whom the law does not strike at, and who steals what is most precious to men: time. ‘
‘Impossible is a word to be found only in the dictionary of fools.’
Perhaps these denote some of the characteristics of a Paradigmeer?