During the 18th century, Napoleon Bonaparte ruled France for about fifteen years. Germaine De Stael, also known as Madam de Stael, was a French woman who lived during this time and was exiled by Napoleon during his rule. Madam de Stael despises Napoleon for what he did to her and her country, so she used her writing skills to express her feelings. There was a point in her life where she was able to meet Napoleon and could recall the amount of fear she felt just from being in front of him. Napoleon’s reign was a horrible time for the people of France.
Madam de Stael wrote, “It was Bonaparte, the chosen man of the people, who, trampling underfoot all the principles the support of which had caused the popular insurrection, assumed the power of banishing whoever displeased him even a little” (Stael 468). Napoleon’s goal was to gain the loyalty of powerful groups in France, and he did that by doing them favors (Weisner-Hanks 642). But, he soon became too obsessed with power. Napoleon continued going to war with other countries and was sending many people to exile, including Madam de Stael. She was the first woman to be sentenced to exile and didn’t return to France for twelve years. Another woman whom was friends with Madam de Stael, Duchess de Chevreuse, died due to the grief caused by her exile. Madam de Stael wrote, “She could not, when at the point of her death, obtain permission from Napoleon to return once more to Paris to consult her physician and enjoy a last sight of her friends” (Stael 470). Sadly, this happened to many more people besides these two women.
Napoleon was outraged that Madam de Stael was publishing books that were not about himself and how he took control over France. He put an end to her books in Germany, and eventually exiled her from France for this reason (Stael 471). Two of her friends, M. Matthieu and Madame Recamier, would come to visit her during her times of exile in Coppet, Switzerland. Napoleon found out and banished them both. Madam de Stael hated Napoleon throughout his reign.
During Napoleon’s rule he established the Napoleonic code. This code was set to have equality of all male citizens and the security of money and private property (Weisner-Hanks 642). It was put in place so that he could win over the middle class. But, Madam de Stael wrote, “The metaphysical question of the free will of man became altogether useless under the reign of Bonaparte; for no person could any longer follow his own will, either in the most important circumstances or in the most trifling” (Stael 473). This shows how the people of France were negatively affected by Napoleons dictatorship. He did not care about the people of France, he only cared about how much power he had.
After the fall of France Madam de Stael stated, “our France would not, perhaps, have fallen had any other than Bonaparte been its chief” (Stael 621). Napoleon was a good military leader but was not the right person to have taken control of France. He was exiled to Elba after the Quadruple Allies finally defeated him (Weisner-Hanks 645). Once Napoleons reign ended, Madam de Stale retuned back to France after several years away from her home. She wrote, “Different opinions may be entertained of his genius and of his qualities; there is about this man something enigmatic which prolongs curiosity” (Stael 625), because everyone had different views on how Napoleon ruled France.
Before Napoleon was exiled, he had started a war on Britain where 200,000 soldiers had been taking prisoner (Weisner-Hanks 645). The British government had so many prisoners that they didn’t know what to do with all of them. The British government began to allow French officers to return on parole (Daly 366). In return, the British government wanted one British officer of the same rank to be returned to Britain (Daly 367). Napoleon did not follow through with this agreement, therefore the British ended this agreement. This is another example of how Napoleon did not care about the people, only about power.
Napoleon was a much better military leader than he was as a leader of France. This was probably because he was sent to military school at age seven (The Dublin Penny Journal). He lived by himself and spent most of his time studying maps and books (The Dublin Penny Journal). This would later help him with his ranking in the French government. Napoleon would have been a better leader if he wasn’t so obsessed with being the best. He most likely acted this way because he was sent off alone at such a young age. This also explains why he was so heartless while choosing to exile innocent people.
John Denton Carter wrote, “Through his control of the official channels of information and by various methods of propaganda he was able to force his own interpretation of himself on the great majority of those under his rule.” (Carter 164). Napoleon abused his power to get people to think he was great. It came to the point, where England was the only place where free-criticism was allowed (Carter 167). Napoleon would allow no one to speak poorly of his name. He exiled many writers including Madam de Sale.
Napoleon Bonaparte was partly responsible for the fall of Europe due to his poor leadership during the French Revolution. He had good intentions for Europe but failed to execute them in the correct manner. His plan was to be in control of all of Europe. He came close until he failed against Britain. Madam de Stael experienced firsthand how Napoleon’s recklessness changed the lives of many French civilians. So many people, like Madam de Stael, were sent to exile for inconsiderate reasons. But, Madam de Stael was not afraid to speak her mind on how she felt about Napoleon’s reign. Napoleon Bonaparte did not help Europe and was rightfully exiled for his actions.