The coup of Brumaire significantly contributed to Napoleon's rise to power, however other factors, such as Napoleon himself and the ingrained weaknesses of the existing government (the directory), that also played key roles. Despite Napoleon’s strong leadership, the Directory’s ineffectuality, and the opportunities that were opened by the coup of Brumaire, it was the revolutionary war that specifically gave Napoleon the opportunity to be involved in the coup and subsequently rise to First Consul.

It is possible to argue that the coup of Brumaire was key in Napoleon becoming leader of France. For instance, it was in this event that Napoleon was given his place on the provisional executive committee. This, combined with his military backing, put him in a much stronger position than before to challenge the leadership of Sieyes and the other members of the committee, eventually allowing him to take full executive control over the government. The coup also led to the huge changes in the structure of the government brought about by the constitution of 1799 such as the executive bodies being able to completely overrule the decisions of the elected tribunate. This meant that Napoleon could rise to dictator with less resistance, as there was already a shift away from republicanism and towards greater executive power in government. This narrowed his opposition down to the other two provisional consuls (Sieyes and Ducos) who, with his military backing and strong personality, he could easily force into submission. Therefore, the coup of Brumaire was critical in Napoleon’s rise, as it gave him the chance to be politically involved in the new government and, through the changes that were subsequently introduced, broke down the old system enough so that there was little to stand in his way of seizing complete power. However, the only reason Napoleon was involved in the coup at such a high level was because of his already illustrious reputation as military leader. Therefore, the coup of Brumaire, although an important final step in Napoleon’s rise, is not the fundamental reason that he was able to take leadership.

The weaknesses already existing in the Directory were also important in allowing Napoleon to rise to leader. For example, the way that 1795 constitution divided legislative and executive power in the Directory slowed down the whole process of government, making it appear weak and unstable to the public. This image of the Directory vaporised any popular enthusiasm for it, allowing it to be overthrown with very little opposition from society. The constitution also restricted voting for deputies to citizens who paid 150-200 days labour worth in taxes which there were only 30,000 of in 1795. This further blackened the image of the Directory as they had failed to provide the democracy promised in the 1793 constitution, this decreased any loyalty to this government amongst the majority of the public allowing it to be overturned with little resistance. Moreover, the continuation of terror, even after the coup of Fructidor, in the form of exiling and executing refractory priests and emigres, further alienated Catholics and the general public. This was partly out of religious sentiment but mainly because of the fact that the directory had been established because of a general desire to end the terror, and it had evidently failed to do so. Therefore the weaknesses of the Directory were extremely important in allowing it to be overthrown, as they proved that it had not succeeded in providing strength and stability or even an end to the chaos of the past 10 years. This created frustration amongst political figures like Sieyes that took form in the coup of Brumaire and disillusionment amongst the public that emerged as a lack of enthusiasm to oppose the coup. Although this made a change of government almost inevitable, these weaknesses did not bring Napoleon himself into the political fray; his successes in the war were what gave him the opportunity to be involved. Therefore, although the instability of the Directory contributed greatly to its downfall, it was not the fundamental reason for Napoleon’s subsequent rise.

It is possible to argue that the revolutionary war was key in Napoleon’s rise to leader of France. One reason for this is that it gave him the opportunity to put to use his skills as a natural military leader, allowing him to be promoted and gain status. This can be seen in his swift ascension to brigadier-general following his success at the Siege of Toulon and the respect he earned during the Italian campaign. Because of this military involvement he eventually became the leader of the National Guard, thus gaining the political prestige to be involved in the coup of Brumaire from which he could take power. Moreover, the war also put a huge strain on the economy of the Directory, especially because of events such as the British successes in Egypt. This was to the extent that they had to write off two-thirds of the debt they owed to bond holders, and force a loan of 100 million livres on the citizens who had money to pay. This led to widespread discontent especially amongst the middle classes, and as a result, calls for change which undermined the authority of the Directory, lowering the risk of staging a coup. Therefore, the war proved to be integral to Napoleon becoming leader of France by giving him opportunities to use his natural strengths to increase his prominence, but also by further destabilising the Directory through its economic impact. This greatly contributed towards the coup of Brumaire while also allowing Napoleon to be involved with it, giving him the chance to become leader. Therefore the war was the fundamental reason for Napoleon’s ascent to leader, as it contributed to the fall of the Directory and allowed Napoleon to reach the position where he was able to take full power.

Napoleon and his allies were also a major factor in his ascension to leader of France. For example, his wife Josephine was a former mistress of the powerful political figure Paul Barras. This gave him the connections into the power structure of the Directory that led to his appointment as commander of the Army of Italy. With this new position he could further capitalise on the war to achieve higher status, thus bringing him on to the radar of the organisers of the coup of Brumaire as potential military backing. Furthermore, Napoleon’s brother, Lucien, proved to be vital in the success of the coup of Brumaire, by saving Napoleon from being executed for treason when he entered the Council of 500. This saved the coup and kept Napoleon in a position to take power once the Directory was officially dissolved. Napoleon’s own courage, ruthlessness and intelligence also allowed him to take advantage of his situation in the military to work his way up through society. For instance, during the Vendemiaire uprising Napoleon managed to achieve victory despite being outnumbered 5,000 to 30,000 because of his willingness to use cannons against the opposition. Because of this success, he was promoted to leader of the National Guard. Therefore Napoleon’s character played a large role in him becoming leader of France, as it allowed him to make the most of the opportunities he was given to become more powerful and prestigious. Napoleon’s allies also played a large role, as they gave him access to even more opportunities to exploit, however the vast majority of these opportunities stemmed from the revolutionary war. Although his character allowed him to take full advantage of it, he was only able to do so because the war was there in the first place. Therefore, despite Napoleon and his allies being important in his ascent to Leader of France the fundamental reason was the revolutionary war.

In conclusion, the coup of Brumaire was important in Napoleon’s rise to dictator as it put him in a strong political position to challenge other potential leaders whilst also removing the ‘republican’ structure of the Directory which could have obstructed his aims. However, Napoleon was only asked to be involved in the coup of Brumaire because of the prestige that he had accumulated as a military figure during the war, during the Italian campaign for example. Moreover, the war destabilised Directory because of its economic demands, leading to measures such as the forced loan that disillusioned any potential supporters, hastening the approach of the coup. The war helped Napoleon by giving him the opportunities he needed to gain a reputation of enough magnitude to be a leading figure in the coup and hindered the Directory by weakening its economy, thereby weakening its support from the public. Therefore, the revolutionary war was the fundamental reason for Napoleon becoming leader of France as it toppled the Directory and produced Napoleon in its place.