|Napoléon as first consul, J. A. Ingres 1804.|
One political strategy Napoleon resorted to was holding regular elections with the French people. If there was a big question or issue, he essentially polled the French electorate. That's how he ratified the new constitution, although there were shenanigans with vote tallies. It's pretty well known that Napoleon's brother, Lucien, adjusted the returns doubling the actual vote to 3 million people having cast ballots when half that was more likely.
Keep in mind that while France was trying to heal herself from eight years of revolution, not to mention substantial interference from outside monarchies, the rest of Europe remained at war throughout 1800. What's more, by invading and occupying Italy, Austria reneged on the treaty it negotiated with Napoleon a few years earlier. As a result, Napoleon led his troops across the Alps into Italy.
|Hodder & Stoughton, 1912|
There was a French army element stationed in Genoa, a city on the western coast of where Italy meets the European mainland. The French contingent in Genoa occupied the attention of Austrian forces, giving Napoleon time to get into Italy. It didn't take long for the two sides to find and engage each other. Actually, Austrian forces surprised the French, and while effective at first, the tide turned to Napoleon's favor. It's no wonder. He made sure his lines never broke, even during tactical retreats. Napoleon would ride among his troops, inspiring them to stand and fight. And then there was Napoleon's expert use of artillery, which had its intended impact. By the end of the action, Austria was down 14,000 casualties and had agreed to once again leave Italy.
Big victories have a habit of making leaders very popular, and Napoleon's win against Austria (again) made him even more so. Add to that the treaty between France and Britain, and Napoleon earned unprecedented popularity, not just among his own people, but also Europeans in general. The fighting was over. In 1802, the French people overwhelmingly voted to approve another constitution that made the Consulate permanent, and essentially making Napoleon dictator for life. But things wouldn't stay calm for long.
|Coronation of Napoleon by Jacques-Louis David in 1804.|