Research Subjects: Government & Politics

Bonapartiste: The Liberal Evolution of the Napoléonic Tradition in General Charles de Gaulle


By J.R. Ladick

The annuls of time are defined by a series of events that are built one upon another.  These events are triggered by punctuations in history.  In many instances, these punctuations are unleashed by the indomitable will of a single individual. Herodotus, the father of history, looked at wars as turning points in history, since war is essentially man’s greatest dramatic situation.  The nineteenth and twentieth century have defined themselves through war, suffering, and death.  The civilized European world would implode in a hailstorm of violence and oppression.  Many of these events unfolded as a direct result of the actions of one man.  Napoléon Bonaparte.  This man reshaped Europe and brought devastation to his enemies.  His legacy would include a restructured European landscape, nationalism, enlightenment, and two World Wars.  To the French, whom he ruled, he is heralded as a legendary colossus.  To the rest of Europe, he is one of the single most destructive men who ever drew breath.  His style of rule paved the way for the Bonapartiste movement.  Under this title, Napoléon’s glory would be recaptured for the French through his charismatic nephew.  Under a modified guise, Napoléon’s legacy would inspire fascist and communist regimes.  However, the self-anointed Emperor of the French did recognize his shortcoming as a ruler, and sought to rectify them in his final hours of rule.  Alas, his authoritative rule would be ended by a coalition of enemies determined to end his destructive reign.  His adopted nation would hopelessly fluctuate between empire and republic for the next century.  However, a man would rise of the ashes of his battered nation and find equilibrium to the Revolution of 1789.  This man was Charles de Gaulle.  Recognizing the strengths and weakness of his Corsican predecessor, de Gaulle’s life would render him the French antinapoléon.  This uncanny resemblance would be defined through their respective careers and dealings with Europe and the Jews. This imposing general defined his career by expanding on the liberal theory of the diminutive French Emperor. 

When arsenic poisoning toppled the great Napoléon, he had left his adopted nation in defeat and ruin.  However, when General de Gaulle’s illustrious life came to a close, he had restored his France to the highest level of gloire and stability she could possibly achieve.


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