Napoleon Bonaparte being commissioned Second Lieutenant at the age 17 in French Artillery, returned to Corsica.

  • Given his French Allegiance, why did he join the resistance movement while still being an officer of the belligerent force?

  • And why did he later abandon his comrade in the the Resistance , Pauli Parlesque?

I will be skeptical to answers attributing the fickleness to a young man's hot blood.

  • In referring to his comrade are you talking about Pasquale Paoli? That's at least the spelling I see most commonly.
    – Odysseus
    Commented Mar 21, 2015 at 20:50

2 Answers 2


The short answer to your question is that for much of his early life Napoleon was a Corsican patriot but only a French opportunist. He inherited from his father a fierce love of both Corsica and Pasquale Paoli, and did not consider himself French nor was he particularly loyal to France outside of the fact that it gave him an opportunity to move up in life. Over time, however, he grew further from both Paoli and Corsica and closer to France. For more detail as to the evolution of those feelings I've included some passages from David Chandler's "The Campaigns of Napoleon":

School Years (emphasis mine):

Surrounded by polished and courtly sprigs of the French petite noblesse, the gawky and homespun di Buonaparte was socially out of his depth, and many were the fights and altercations he had with his classmates over his supposedly lowly origins, stumbling French and quaint Corsican accent . Even his teachers tended to mock him ... This isolation bred two particular qualities in Napoleon— a deep love of books and a fierce patriotic pride in Corsica— and encouraged a third— leadership. ... His revulsion to the taunts of some of his school companions turned him in upon himself and led him to idolize Paoli, the hero of Corsican independence. He continually dreamed of the day when their joint homeland would be free from the yoke of the foreigner. This fixation was to remain with him until 1793

Chandler, David G. (2009-11-26). The Campaigns of Napoleon (Kindle Locations 870-879). Scribner. Kindle Edition.

His involvement in Corsican affairs after his schooling was lengthy and often troubled. Again I'll leave it to Chandler to explain the evolution:


the National Assembly formally pronounced that Corsica was part of the new France, and requested the veteran patriot Paoli— Napoleon’s hero— to head the new local government. Our Corsican was ecstatic, but his hopes of preferment received an abrupt douche of cold water when Paoli, newly returned from exile, made a point of ignoring the young fanatic.

Chandler, David G. (2009-11-26). The Campaigns of Napoleon (Kindle Locations 985-987). Scribner. Kindle Edition.


the incalculable sway of the Revolutionary pendulum which had so far generally benefited our Corsican, suddenly swung against him. There were riots in Ajaccio, and Buonaparte was involved in their suppression. Perhaps he acted a trifle too keenly , for his activities earned him the displeasure of Paoli; at the height of the operation , the brash lieutenant colonel had made free and unauthorized use of the supreme patriot’s name to get his way.

Chandler, David G. (2009-11-26). The Campaigns of Napoleon (Kindle Locations 1010-1013). Scribner. Kindle Edition.

Late 1792:

Paoli was fast tiring of every aspect of the French connection, and a state of cold war with the French Assembly was already in existence. It is revealing that this development did not find approval with Napoleon, once the most ardent exponent of exclusive Corsican nationalism; the processes of French acclimatization were now clearly almost complete. Not surprisingly perhaps , Paoli received the returned colonel of volunteers coldly, and set out to sabotage his attempts to serve as an effective second in command to Colonel Quenza of the Ajaccio Volunteers. This was frustrating enough, but the months that followed were to prove even more irksome.

Chandler, David G. (2009-11-26). The Campaigns of Napoleon (Kindle Locations 1028-1032). Scribner. Kindle Edition.

The final straw came when Paoli was ordered by the French Government to mount an attack on Sardinia in which Bonaparte participated. Paoli's nephew was in command, and while the details are not 100% certain it seems as though Paoli sabotaged the attack by faking a mutiny on one of the ships and further left Napoleon stranded in hostile territory.

Upon returning to Corsica Napoleon was enraged and notified the French Government that he suspected Paoli had sabotaged the operation. In the lengthy political fracas that followed the Bonarpartes ended up publicly condemning Paoli and were then forced to leave the island. The transition of Napoleon and his family from being staunch Corsican nationalists to being loyally French was, at this point, complete.

  • Chandler is what I have wanted for so long. But its too expensive, and I am not on my own yet. So Greek hero, could you like give me the ebook?
    – Rohit
    Commented Mar 22, 2015 at 4:15

I think that another explanation is also possible. We can safely assume, I think, that Napoleon was burning with ambition to achieve fame and power from an early age.

But in 1785 under the ancien regime a young officer from a minor nolbe family hailing from a recently-annexed backwater province could hardly expect much in the line of fame an power in France, so his best bet would be to stir up something on his native island. So to speak, he might have been acting according to Caesar's maxim that it's better to be the first man in a village than the second - or the 20,000th in this case - in Rome.

After the Revolution, of course, everything has changed and the upheaval in France could carry an ambitiouns subaltern very high, so there was no need or sense in wasting one's talents and time in a backwater anymore.

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