When Napoleon took over France and became emperor, he not only had effectively destroyed the French revolution, by turning it into everything it was opposed to, an absolutist regime, but what’s more, Napoleon smothered the forces of emancipation awakened by the French and American revolutions all over Europe and enabled the survival and restoration of absolutist monarchies.
Even some of the legacies with which Napoleon is credited, including the Civil Code, the comprehensive legal system replacing a hodgepodge of feudal laws, were proposed during the French revolution, and he merley adopted them, only to ignore them later whenever it suited his dictatorial goals and ambitions.
However, the only real legacy Napoleon left behind him, was one of death, destruction, terror and defeat for the French people, the French revolutioniary cause and France itself.
It's one of history's greatest ironies that the man that was appointed by the revolutionary leaders to defend and protect the French revolution and its ideals would be the one who would destroy it, and ultimately France itself.
Over a million French people died and millions more in France suffered because of Napoleon's megalomania and irresistible thirst for power and conquest.
It's true that not all of France's wars during the Napoleonic age could be blamed on Napoleon.
When he assumed dictatorial power and later became the French emperor, France was already embroiled with conflicts with half of Europe, which perceived revolutionary France as a threat and sought to destroy it, and all he did was to try to end them with a decisive victory for France.
The problem starts with all the unnecessary conflicts he dragged France and the of the rest of Europe into, conflicts that would end up destroying him and France.
Notable examples were the disastrous occupation of Spain, his utterly stupid and pointless Egyptian campaign, or how in Tahiti Napoleon was responsible for slaughtering more than 100,000 Caribbean slaves who revolted against France.
But above all stands the truly mind blowing megalomaniac and pointless invasion of Russia in 1812, which ultimately resulted in the French capitulation to Russia and its allies and to Napoleon's exile.
Napoleon retreating from a burning Moscow in 1812.
Napoleon invaded Russia in 1812 with an international force of almost 700,000 soldiers, most of whom were not French but came from all over Europe, caused untold death and destruction to Russians and to his own army, all for literally nothing.
Most of his army never even made it back, only a tiny part of the Grande Armee survived the retreat from Russia, not that Napoleon cared much seeing how he was riding in the front, in a plush carriage, oblivious to the hell that he inflicted on the rest of his soldiers.
By the time Napoleon suffered his final and crushing defeat in the battle of Waterloo in 1815 and was exiled from France for the second and final time, France was isolated, beaten, occupied, dominated, hated and smaller in size and influence than ever before, and the French monarchy was restored.
As noted before, Napoleon through his tyrannical and absolutist behaviour did not just smother the forces of emancipation, republicanism and secularism awakened by the French and American revolutions in France, but all over Europe, and enabled the survival and restoration of absolutist monarchies.
In the final analysis, Napoleon wasn't better than those absolutist autocrats he fought against, in fact he was actually worse.
Because he fooled millions, and still does, that he was going to change things, that he was carrying the torch of the French revolution and bringing "freedom" to Europe. Millions were fooled by him, not just in France but all throught Europe, and belived him and joined his cause only to end up on some battlefield in some obscure part of the world, or frozen to death in Russia.
However, he never ever meant to implement any of his "enlightened" promises, and all he ever really wanted to do, as history proved, was to rule as a despotic absolutist monarch, all while cynically exploiting the French revolution and all the people who supported it and its motto of "Liberté, égalité, fraternité."