By the middle of November 1799, Napoleon had made himself ruler of France. Escaping from Egypt, he returned to a country assailed by political intrigue, internal unrest and economic crisis. Skilfully exploiting the situation to his own advantage, Napoleon emerged from the turmoil as de facto ruler of France, his official title being First Consul. In so far as the international history of Europe is concerned, a number of questions immediately come to mind. How was Napoleon perceived in the capitals of Britain, Austria, Russia and the other states that made up the Second Coalition? To what extent did perceptions of the new French ruler affect foreign attitudes towards France? And what did the First Consul himself intend to do with the power that he had won at Brumaire? All this, meanwhile, gives rise to further reflections. Was Europe at a turning point in her history-a moment when the destinies of an entire continent were transformed by a single adventurer? Or was the international situation essentially unchanged, the factors that condemned Europe to a long period of conflict having already been set in stone? Before these questions can be answered, we must once again turn to the man who came to power in 1799 and, more particularly, to his relationship with the French state.
Let us begin with the issue of Napoleon’s personal power. Very soon this was as great as that of any monarch. Thus the negotiations that produced the new Constitution from which Napoleon formally derived his authority as First Consul were concluded by the middle of December
1799. The civilian conspirators who had precipitated the fall of the Directory had needed a ‘sword’, but the one they had settled upon proved impossible to sheathe. At the heart of their councils was Emmanuel Sieyès. A priest from Chartres who had won fame in 1789 by penning the famous pamphlet Qu’est-ce que c’est le Tiers Etat? and playing a leading role in the National Assembly, Sieyès had become a member of the Directory in 1799. Seen as a spiritual father of the Republic, he was also its leading authority in the realms of constitutional theory. Like his fellow conspirators, what the veteran revolutionary leader wanted was a system that would safeguard the interests of the propertied elite that dominated the Republic against Jacobins and royalists alike. To achieve this he planned to establish a complicated system of checks and balances whose end result would be to guarantee stable and effective government while at the same time ensuring that no political faction could seize the machinery of state for its own ends. As a part of this arrangement, the power of the executive was to be strengthened and that of the legislature reduced, but in no way was France to become a dictatorship. While a ceremonial ‘grand elector’ acted as head of state, responsibility for home and foreign affairs would be split and each of these areas assigned to an independent ‘consul’. To get him out of the way, meanwhile, Napoleon would be offered the virtually powerless ‘grand electorate’. Sieyès’s general would not have any truck with this, however. No sooner had discussions begun on the new constitution presaged by Brumaire than the ‘oracle’, as Sieyès was known, found himself hopelessly outclassed. As he reputedly observed, ‘Gentlemen, you have a master! This man knows everything, wants everything and can do anything!’1
Within a very few days, Sieyès’s plans lay in ruins. Napoleon was happy to accept the structure that was put forward for the legislature, which was left all but devoid of real power, and he was also quite content to see the principle of universal manhood suffrage rendered null and void by making elections not only indirect but presentational (i.e. the electorate did not choose deputies per se, but rather lists of potential deputies from which the executive made its own selection via a ‘conservative senate’ appointed from above). But he refused point-blank to accept the position of Grand Elector and insisted that the executive should be united. Let France, then, suggested Sieyès, be ruled by a three-man consulate whose members would share power with one another on an equal basis. Yet this, too, was unacceptable: as far as Napoleon was concerned, one man alone should rule. The implications of this should perhaps have been clear. But, as ever, the conqueror of Italy played his hand with consummate skill. In complete contrast to the style that he was to affect just a few weeks later, he dressed in civilian clothes, assuming an air of reason and moderation, and taking great care to pander to the sensibilities of his fellow temporary consuls, Sieyès and Ducos (aside from respecting them in procedural matters, Napoleon also offered Sieyès in particular the presidency of the senate). Two other factors were on his side. First of all, there was simple common sense: if the Directory had not worked, why should anything better be expected from a three-man carbon copy? And there was Napoleon’s own stamina: able to concentrate on matters of detail for hour after hour, he prolonged discussion to such an extent that the commission established to discuss the new constitution would have been prepared to accept virtually anything. Given Napoleon’s prestige - as far as educated opinion was concerned, he was the only man who could save France - the result was inevitable. There would be three consuls, certainly, but one of them would be ‘first’. Nor did this mean primus inter pares. In control would be the First Consul - Napoleon, of course - and while the Second and Third Consuls had the right to be consulted, they had no power of veto and for good measure were appointed for shorter periods than the ten years allotted to Napoleon.
There is no need to expatiate here upon the many means which Napoleon had at his disposal to exercise his personal power as a result of the Constitution of Year VIII. The fact of the matter is quite simple: la grande nation was Napoleon’s to do with as he wished. And what he would do with it ought to have been all too obvious. To quote Chaptal, ‘Only military glory had brought him to supreme power. That same glory was all that associated him with hope and enthusiasm. And it would be that same glory that sustained him to the end.’2 From the beginning, then, it was war and military glory that were placed at the centre of the regime and Napoleon’s formal entry into the Tuileries on 17 February 1800 was in large measure a celebration of conquest:
At one o’clock precisely, Bonaparte left the Luxembourg . . . Three thousand picked men, among whom was the superb regiment of the guides, were assembled for the occasion. All marched in the finest order with their bands playing . . . The consular carriage was drawn by six white horses . . . These beautiful horses had been presented to the First Consul by the Emperor of Germany after the treaty of Campo Formio. Bonaparte also wore the magnificent sabre which had been given to him by the Emperor Francis . . . The approaches to the Tuileries were lined by the [Consular Guard] . . . The troops being drawn up in the [Place du Carrousel], the First Consul, alighting from his carriage . . . leaped on his horse, and reviewed the troops . . . The First Consul prolonged the review for some time, passed between the lines, addressing flattering expressions to the commanders of corps. He then placed himself near the entrance to the Tuileries, having Murat on his right, Lannes on his left and behind him a numerous staff of young warriors, whose faces were browned by the suns of Egypt and of Italy . . . When he saw pass before him the colours of the ninety-sixth, the forty-third and the thirtieth demi-brigades, as these standards presented only a bare pole surmounted by some tatters, perforated by balls and blackened with gunpowder, he took off his hat and bowed to them in token of respect. This homage of a great captain . . . was hailed by a thousand acclamations, and, the troops having defiled, the First Consul, with a bold step, entered the Tuileries.3
The days that followed were along very much the same lines, as the well-placed Antoine Thibaudeau records:
The First Consul in his early days resembled rather a general than a civil magistrate . . . Day by day on horse or on foot the First Consul passed through the files of his troops, getting to know familiarly the officers and men, and being sure that they became acquainted with him. He entered into the most minute details of their equipment, arms and drill, and inquired carefully into their wants and wishes. Acting in his double capacity of general and magistrate he distributed, in the name of the nation, praise and blame, promotion and rewards. In this way also he aroused emulation among the different corps, and made the army the finest spectacle to be seen in Paris by visitors from the country or abroad. It was easy to see how completely at home the First Consul felt among his soldiers: he took genuine pleasure in remaining for hours in their midst . . . All this gave the First Consul splendid opportunities of exhibiting to the world his indefatigable energy and mastery of the art of war.4
What we see here, perhaps, is merely the response of a parvenu ruler to a situation in which, overnight, he had to gain acceptance by the crowned heads of Europe. Arguing that Napoleon was merely trying to secure the recognition of the rulers of Austria, Prussia and Russia does not acquit him of the charge of being addicted to war, however. For the First Consul, glory was not just important as a manifestation of monarchy. Victory on the battlefield had brought him to power and, as he well knew, victory on the battlefield was in the end what would keep him there. Commenting on the possibility of Napoleon making peace in
1800, for example, Madame de Staël remarked:
Nothing was more contrary to his nature . . . He could only live in agitation, and . . . only breathe freely in a volcanic atmosphere. Any man who becomes the sole head of a great country by means other than heredity can only maintain himself in power if he gives the nation either liberty or military glory - if he makes himself, in short, either a Washington or a conqueror. But it would have been hard for Bonaparte to be more different from Washington than was actually the case, and so it was impossible for him to establish . . . an absolute power except by bemusing reason [and] by every three months presenting the French people with some new spectacle.5
Yet for all that, surrounded though he was by soldiers - according to Hortense de Beauharnais, his personal suite had ‘the air of a general staff’6 - Napoleon came to power as a peacemaker. Virtually all shades of French opinion were heartily sick of war by 1799 and the new First Consul’s great advantage was that he seemed to be able to combine peace with the protection of the Revolutionary settlement. As he rode into Paris immediately following the coup, his way lined by cheering crowds, his response was to proclaim, ‘Frenchmen! You want peace; your government wants it even more than you!’7 Virtually the first action of consular diplomacy was therefore the dispatch of appeals to both George III of England and Francis II of Austria for an end to the war (strictly speaking, Francis was at this time Francis II of the Holy Roman Empire; however, when this collapsed he took the title ‘Emperor of Austria’, becoming Francis I). These, however, were hardly serious. On one level they were a useful means of gaining time: at the beginning of
1800 Napoleon was preoccupied with the need to suppress the ever troublesome Vendée which had once again risen in revolt. And, as Talleyrand, who was now once again France’s Foreign Minister, wrote, they ‘had a happy effect upon the internal peace of the country’.8 But, as Napoleon well knew, the Second Coalition was hardly likely to accept them. On the contrary, at this time it still had strong hopes of victory: the Bourbons had been restored to the throne of Naples, powerful Austrian forces had occupied the Cisalpine Republic, Piedmont and southern Germany, and Britain was supreme at sea and had isolated the army left behind by Napoleon in Egypt.
But in reality the allied position was far less strong than all this suggested. As Lord Hawkesbury recognized, there were deep differences within the coalition:
Our connections with foreign powers are still subject to great uncertainty and embarrassment. Though the emperor of Russia is cordially connected with Great Britain in all that relates to the war, he does not agree, nor can he be made to agree, with . . . the emperor of Germany. The emperor of Russia pursues the war on the simple principle of restoring . . . all ancient governments. The court of Vienna will look to nothing else but the aggrandisement of . . . the house of Austria, and will not adopt any ancient principle, or support any former system, except so far as it does not interfere with their ambitious views.9
Not surprisingly, the response to Napoleon’s overtures was fiercely hostile, but this was exactly what the First Consul wanted. As he later wrote:
If France had made peace at that time under existing circumstances, she would have made it after a campaign of disasters; indeed, she would have drawn back in consequence of a single campaign. This would have been dishonourable, and would only have encouraged princes to form new coalitions against her. All the chances of the campaign of 1800 were in her favour: the Russian armies were leaving the theatre of war; the pacification of the Vendée placed a new army at the disposal of the Republic; in the interior, factions were overruled and the chief magistrate possessed the entire confidence of the nation. It behoved the Republic not to make peace until after restoring the equilibrium of Italy; she could not, without abandoning her destiny, consent to a peace less advantageous than . . . Campo Formio. At this period peace would have ruined the Republic: war was necessary to it for the maintenance of energy and union in the state, which was ill organized, whilst the people would have demanded a great reduction in taxes and the disbanding of the army; in consequence, after a peace of two years, France would have taken the field again under great disadvantages. War was necessary to me. The campaigns of Italy, the peace of Campo Formio, the campaigns of Egypt, the transactions of 18 Brumaire, the unanimous voices of the people for raising me to the supreme magistracy had undoubtedly placed me very high, but a treaty of peace derogatory to that of Campo Formio . . . would have destroyed my influence over the imaginations of the people and deprived me of the means of putting an end to the anarchy of the Revolution by establishing a definitive and permanent system.10
Napoleon, then, was not acting in good faith. Having thrown the responsibility for continuing the war upon his enemies, he could now seek further victories that would augment his glory and allow him to dictate peace on his own terms. To put it another way, in the words of a proclamation he had addressed to the army on 18 Brumaire, ‘Liberty, victory and peace will reinstate the French Republic in the rank which she held in Europe.’11
But was there any alternative to war? Amongst admirers of Napoleon, it is axiomatic that the picture he faced at the beginning of 1800 was one of universal foreign hostility and, further, that the powers of Europe were determined to restore the Bourbons and, with them, absolute monarchy. This view is misleading in the extreme. Britain and Austria, certainly, were inclined to continue the war, but they were not much interested in the cause of Louis XVIII, who had been treated by them with considerable disrespect. Ordered about from place to place and afforded only a precarious degree of financial support, his authority had never once been proclaimed on the infrequent occasions when the Allies found themselves in control of French territory. Getting the Bourbons back on the throne was certainly favoured by some British statesmen, but it was not the centrepiece of Britain’s war aims, for the simple reason that the territorial and maritime security on which they were centred could always be achieved by other means, and probably better ones at that. Britain had gone to war in 1793 to prevent France from riding roughshod over treaties and frontiers as she thought fit and, more particularly, taking over the whole of the Channel coast (a worry that in 1795 was greatly reinforced by the Republic’s conquest of Holland). She had made use of French royalism, certainly. Supporting the various insurgents and conspirators associated with the Bourbons was a useful diversion that on occasion tied down large numbers of troops and caused considerable disruption in Paris. At the very time that Napoleon came to power, British arms were being supplied to a major royalist insurrection that had just broken out in Brittany and the Vendée. At the same time many British politicians, including, of course, most of those who made up the administrations of the 1790s, feared the principles of the French Revolution, and supported Pitt’s clampdown on domestic radicalism. But a Bourbon restoration was quite another matter. Some politicians and statesmen - most notably, the Foreign Secretary, Lord Grenville, and his acolyte, William Windham - continued to believe in a ‘strategy of overthrow’ whereby peace would be restored and Jacobinism stamped out by the liberation of France, but the Secretary of State for War and the Colonies, Henry Dundas, and many others, distrusted such visionary schemes. While Grenville argued for a march on Paris, the sceptics favoured a colonial and economic struggle that would allow the British simply to outlast the French. Inherent in this strategy was the possibility of a compromise peace based on the restoration of the frontiers of 1792, and this in turn was strengthened by growing disillusionment with French royalism as a military and political force (and, for that matter, with its chief supporters: arrogant and overbearing, Grenville was not good at carrying opinion with him, and Windham was notorious for his lack of realism and poor judgement). Meanwhile, even the most hardline members of the Grenville faction were not fighting a war for feudalism. On the contrary, in their view France should be allowed to enjoy her own 1688 and end up as some sort of constitutional monarchy, and in most quarters even this limited goal was qualified by the recognition that any solution reached in France would have to be the work not of foreign arms, but of her own politicians.
By the beginning of 1800, then, there had emerged the basis of a more moderate position than the one encompassed by the Grenvillites. If France could be hedged about in such a way that she could not export the Revolution, she could safely be left to her own devices, thereby obviating the need for a change of regime. Whatever use was made of royalism, Britain’s aim in the Second Coalition was centred on a plan that was to form the keystone of her European policy until the end of the Napoleonic Wars. France was to be confined to the frontiers of 1792 and shut in by a series of buffer states which would be backed up by a quadruple alliance of the great powers. Thus far there was no difference from Grenville’s stategy: indeed, the scheme was in origin his. But, whereas for the Foreign Secretary, the great cordon sanitaire would set the seal on total victory, for men of a more temperate disposition it was a substitute for this end. If the regime in France proved unable to sustain itself, all well and good, but its overthrow was no longer a necessity. With the advent of Napoleon, meanwhile, a further complication emerged. On the one hand his record suggested that he was a warlord and adventurer who was no more to be trusted than his predecessors, and yet on the other there were reports that he was aping the forms of the monarchy and planning to introduce a moderate constitution that would protect men of property. Grenville claimed that Brumaire made no difference, but the Prime Minister, William Pitt, took a more flexible line than is often allowed. For the time being, Britain must be cautious: with France in control of Belgium, for example, there could be no question of peace negotiations, but the possibility of a treaty was not ruled out, and a Corsican secret agent was dispatched to Paris with the explicit brief of finding out more. As for the Bourbons, they could not be allowed to stand in the way of British national interest: nothing should be done that would bar Britain from considering whether continuing the war was more damaging to her situation than negotiating a peace settlement. To this end Pitt stressed that it was vital that no commitment should be made to the restoration of Louis XVIII per se. Indeed, the question might be asked, why should Britain fight for Louis XVIII when Louis XIV had one hundred years before been posing much the same danger to Britain’s interests?
Although the rejection of Napoleon’s peace overtures was accompanied by much ferocious rhetoric - in a Commons debate on 3 February 1800, Pitt not only savaged the whole course of French policy since 1792, but accused the First Consul personally of being behind all the worst of France’s actions - Britain was by no means committed to a war to the death in 1800. And, if this was true of Britain, it was also true of Austria. Like many of his British counterparts, the Austrian chancellor, Thugut, loathed the French Revolution, while he clearly saw the conflict as a clash of ideologies in which Austria ‘must fight a nation which has not only become utterly fanatical, but which tries to drag along with it other peoples, and which has prepared its current efforts for a long time in all of Europe through the voices of its prophets’.12 However, there were important nuances in his position. In 1791 he had written:
If the democratic regime ever acquires any consistency and starts to spread the misfortune with which Europe is threatened, I would not hesitate to give all my support to the most vigorous means to pull this evil up by the roots, to make of these scoundrels an example that would dissuade forever those tempted to imitate it, and profit at the same time by the opportunity to deprive France of its former preponderance that it has so often abused vis-à-vis the other European courts.13
From this two things are apparent. First, if the Revolution could be contained, it need not actually be destroyed. France would have to be defeated, certainly, but there was no need for total victory and with it the overthrow of the Republic: like Pitt, in fact, Thugut dreamed of sealing off France with a cordon sanitaire whose basis would be territorial changes on the French borders that would place all the major fortresses of the region in the hands of Austria, Prussia and a much expanded Bavaria. Even if the Austrian army did eventually have to appear before the Tuileries, it would not be with the intention of opening the gates to a Bourbon who had, in the old phrase, learned nothing and forgotten nothing, for to do so would simply be to run the risk of a second 1789 and with it a second war.
To return to the views Thugut expressed in 1791, the second issue they raise is that making war on the Revolution was linked to wider issues of foreign policy. One of these was simply keeping France weak, which was in some ways a situation that suited Austria very well. But another - and one left unsaid - is the issue of ‘compensation’. Though Austria did in the end gain some territory from the elimination of Poland from the map of Europe between 1793 and 1795, the partition of the Polish state was a major catastrophe for the Habsburgs that greatly weakened their position in Eastern Europe. Not only was the territory they obtained of only limited intrinsic worth, but Russia was now in a position to march straight across the frontier. Particularly in the period after the second partition in 1793, when it seemed that Austria was going to get nothing at all in the face of major gains for Russia and Prussia, Vienna had to fight on, for only thus could it obtain the new territory that would even the balance. In 1797, however, it had suddenly been presented with that territory in the form of most of the Republic of Venetia, whereupon Thugut had rather grudgingly made peace. The principles of the French Revolution were still anathema, but Austria had at last gained something from the conflict. With public opinion in Vienna openly war-weary - Thugut was jeered whenever he appeared in the streets - neither Britain nor Russia able or willing to do much to support the Austrians, the treasury bankrupt and the army utterly unable to resist the attacks of Napoleon, an end to the war might at least be tried. The very favourable impression made on Thugut by the political power exercised by the victor of Arcola and Rivoli also helped, the fact being that a peace settlement negotiated by Napoleon might just stick - that Napoleon was a man with whom he could do business.
It is quite clear, however, that Thugut did not like the treaty that resulted. In his eyes, the French problem was quite unresolved, and he had only really made peace because the alternative was military catastrophe. Nor was the acquisition of most of Venetia much of a sop, for almost twice as many people lived in the lost lands of Belgium and Lombardy as had been gained at Campo Formio. Still worse, French behaviour in the months that intervened between the original armistice at Leoben and the signature of the treaty itself and in the short period of peace that had followed, suggested, first, that there was no intention of acting in good faith towards Vienna and, second, that the Revolution would continue its onward march. Before the French had handed over Venetia, for example, they had stripped it of many resources and encouraged the growth of revolutionary feeling, while the creation of republics in Genoa, Rome and Switzerland and the sudden expansion of French demands with regard to the left bank of the Rhine to include the territory of not just Austria but everyone else as well, convinced Thugut that the goal was indeed universal upheaval. Nor was the behaviour of the ambassador France now sent to Vienna much better: a notoriously vain, unpleasant and ambitious man of a strongly Jacobin persuasion, General Bernadotte adopted an air that was as swaggering as it was insolent, and cultivated the acquaintance of a variety of malcontents.
Yet the conviction that France was a danger to every monarchy in Europe - even to the whole of European civilization - did not mean that Thugut was bent on a perpetual war to the death. In the end the only hope was military victory, but the Austrian statesman knew full well that even a compromise peace could only be achieved by means of a grand alliance of all the powers that was absolutely solid and determined to subordinate everything else to the defeat of France. But of this there was no sign. Even if she joined a coalition, Prussia could be trusted neither to fight the French nor to refrain from stabbing Austria in the back in Germany. Britain was more reliable, perhaps, but even she had made overtures to France in 1797, while her ability to contribute to a land war - the only type of conflict that Thugut valued - was extremely limited; as for ‘Pitt’s gold’, it was only forthcoming in limited amounts that came not as outright grants but rather loans that were repayable at an exorbitant rate of interest (an issue which in the period 1797-8, in particular, made relations between London and Vienna very frosty). And, last but not least, the Russia of Paul I was not necessarily to be trusted either: setting aside the tsar’s own stability - though he was probably not mad (as is often claimed), the Russian ruler was extraordinarily prickly and capricious - there was also the question how Russia could intervene effectively on the battlefields of Germany and Italy and whether the Russian army was capable of taking on France.
All this meant that, far from rushing into a renewed war with France at the earliest possible opportunity, Thugut had actually held back and tried to appease Paris. Indeed, he had only gone to war at all once it was clear that the French would be opposed by a substantial coalition. In the event, however, the coalition had proved to be substantial only in the number of states that it could initially put into the field. Initial success had been squandered in disagreements over strategy, and the Russian forces, in particular, had proved of dubious reliability and far fewer in numbers than had been promised. By the end of 1799, pragmatism led Thugut to adopt a different line and all the more so given his private hopes that Napoleon would be able to suppress faction - the real motor, it was felt, of French aggression - and thereby create the conditions for a lasting peace settlement. The peace overture of January
1800 was therefore rejected, but the terms of the Austrian response were by no means as scathing as those of its British counterpart, and the next few months were marked by an exchange of letters with Talleyrand in which Thugut appears to have made a genuine attempt to sound out the chances of a deal. In short, the Thugut of 1800 does not appear to be the ideological warrior of earlier years, but rather a traditional eighteenth-century statesman whose response to the French challenge was a search for territorial acquisitions - the chief targets were Lombardy, Piedmont and the erstwhile papal territories of Bologna and Ferrara - that would make Austria a stronger state. Until negotiation or victory on the battlefield secured these fresh lands, Austria would not make peace. But the object was no longer - if it ever had been - the overthrow of the Revolution, while it was not just France that concerned Thugut, but also Russia and Prussia.
The impression that Napoleon could have bought off Austria in 1800 is strengthened by a consideration of the views and character of the Emperor Francis and his brother, the Archduke Charles. For Francis, dislike of the French Revolution was as axiomatic as it was for Thugut, and he had responded to the discovery of a series of half-baked ‘Jacobin’ conspiracies in 1794 by executing the ringleaders. In the same vein, his rule was associated with ever tighter censorship, with the exploitation of the Church as an instrument of counter-revolutionary propaganda, the establishment of a powerful secret police and the widespread use of spies and informers. And in 1792 he had certainly been keener on war with France than his predecessor, Leopold II. That said, he had always considered the conflict with France to be a defensive struggle, and was not at all inclined to sanction a march on Paris. Moreover, he genuinely hated war (whose horrors he had experienced in person in Flanders in
1794 in the course of a visit to the troops) and, as a man who was both deeply cautious and habitually pessimistic, was much opposed to foreign adventures. As a result, the ‘war baron’, Thugut, could never wholly count on his support, while by 1800 the emperor was uncertain that carrying on the war against France was anything other than futile. As for his younger brother, the Archduke Charles, he may have been Austria’s finest general, but he was even more convinced than the emperor that the Austrian army could not hope to beat the French, harboured a deep personal hatred for Thugut and in both 1797 and
1798 had been a leading member of the substantial peace party that emerged in the Austrian court.
Beneath the surface, then, in 1800 Austria was ambivalent about the war with France and little interested in the overthrow of Napoleon. What of the other eastern powers? Prussia, of course, was not in the war at all in 1800. Deeply hostile to Austria - in the wake of Prussia’s withdrawal from the war in France in 1795, a number of Frederick William II’s advisers floated the idea of going to war against her - Potsdam had no desire whatsoever to fight France, nor, still less, to offer Vienna assistance. Indeed, rather than risk becoming embroiled with France, at the end of 1795 the Prussians voluntarily renegotiated the southern frontier of the sphere of influence which they had been accorded in northern Germany in reward for pulling out of the war. In
1798 a serious attempt was made to get Prussia to join the Second Coalition, but this had foundered, first on the general hatred of Austria, and second on the nature of King Frederick William III, who had come to the throne the previous year and was as pacific as he was irresolute. According to the self-appointed spokesman of the most reactionary elements among the junkers, Ludwig von de Marwitz, ‘He was by nature averse to action’, while the liberal Hermann von Boyen lamented:
His powers of analysis were at times, in periods of tranquillity, nothing short of acute, but only if it was a question of discovering the weaknesses of a thing or a person; in this respect he possessed a truly remarkable facility . . . But directly the matter to be adjudged required serious decisions which might lead to complications, his powers of discernment became confused, and on those occasions he became anxious whenever possible to avoid responsibility.14
But it was not just a case of pusillanimity. Even more so than Francis II, the Prussian monarch genuinely hated armed conflict. As he told his uncle, Prince Henry, ‘Everybody knows that I abhor war and that I know of nothing greater on earth than the preservation of peace and tranquillity as the only system suited to the happiness of human kind.’15 Like Francis II too, he also disliked any vestige of militarism, and, so far was he removed from holding to the old adage that Prussia was less a state with an army than an army with a state, in 1798 he had issued a sharp reproof to his officer corps in which he enjoined them to remember that the well-being of the army depended on that of civilian society rather than the other way about. Setting aside the king’s personal proclivities, there were many other factors that suggested that the best course was to remain neutral. War would have meant huge expenditure at a time when the treasury - never very full given the poverty of much of Prussia’s territory - was almost bankrupt and the king anxious to make amends in this respect, while it would also have cost the Prussian army serious losses and thereby put Potsdam at risk of Austrian revanche in Silesia and even Poland. And, finally, in a war against France victory would at best be uncertain, for Prussia’s scattered lands were wide open to attack from the west, while the prescient Frederick William suspected that the Prussian army was not in a fit state to go to war: its performance in 1793-5 had not been good and there was a growing clamour for reform even in its own ranks.
But why go to war with France at all? In the first place, France seemed to pose no threat: relations with her were reasonably friendly; the Prussian sphere of influence in northern Germany established by means of the treaty of Basel in 1795 had essentially been respected; and there was no sign of revolutionary ideas spreading to Frederick William’s dominions. In the second, by pursuing negotiations with France Prussia had already secured cast-iron promises of compensation for the lands she had lost on the left bank of the Rhine in the form of territories taken from the petty states of central Germany, and could hope for still more gains in the form of Hanover. And, in the third, neutrality posed no risk to Prussia’s wider diplomacy should the situation change: Britain and Austria would need Prussia as much in 1805 or 1810 as they had in 1795 and 1800. Set against all this, the idea of a crusade against France carried little weight even in the relatively favourable circumstances of
1799. While an anti-French line had its supporters, including, most notably, the chief minister Heinrich Christian von Haugwitz, who was becoming increasingly convinced that France was so insatiable a force that she would inevitably one day turn on Prussia, the majority of the king’s advisers continued to advocate neutrality. If Frederick William was one of the first rulers in Europe to congratulate Napoleon in the wake of 18 Brumaire, it is therefore hardly surprising.
So in 1800 Napoleon knew he had nothing to fear from Prussia. Of Frederick William III, indeed, he was openly contemptuous. As he later remarked, ‘As a private citizen, the King of Prussia is a loyal, good and honest man, but in his political capacity, he is a man by nature governed by necessity who is at the mercy of anyone who is possessed of force and is prepared to raise his hand.’16 And, if he had nothing to fear from Potsdam, the same was true of St Petersburg. At first sight, this is somewhat surprising. Ruler of Russia since 1796, Paul I was an extremely volatile figure who was notorious for his outbursts of uncontrollable rage, his fascination from boyhood for all things military and his determination to transform Russia’s somewhat ramshackle armed forces. ‘The palace’, wrote the future Foreign Minister, Prince Czartoryski, ‘was converted into a guardhouse: everywhere you heard the heavy tramp of officers’ boots and the clink of spurs.’17 Nor was Paul just the very model of a modern major-general. On the contrary, he was also a bitter opponent of the French Revolution. Though he was not actually insane, everything we know about his personality suggests that he was suffering from what has been described as an obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. For such people, everything must be ordered and they themselves wholly in control, and the Revolution therefore appeared to Paul as an immense affront. It was not just that it threatened the principle of monarchy. Still worse was the fact that it precipitated debate, disorder and uncertainty. In consequence, he was even more intense in his fulminations against events in France than his mother, Catherine the Great. Unlike her, however, he was from the first disposed to take military action against France, and, by the same token, disgusted when Russia in the end did nothing: so great was his anger, that from onwards he severed all ties with the empress and virtually confined himself to his private estate.
Curiously, none of this makes Paul I a warmonger so far as the French Revolution was concerned. Indeed, his very first act of foreign policy on coming to the throne in December 1796 was to cancel the military aid that Catherine had eventually decided to extend to the First Coalition. What had started to take over were pragmatic motives. France might well be an ideological danger, but she was now so strong that sending troops against her would merely be to squander precious military resources. As for Britain and Austria, their record as opponents of the French was at best patchy and at worst singularly discouraging. In consequence, they were urged to make peace, while Paul professed himself willing to recognize the Republic and see France retain Savoy, Nice, Belgium and the Austrian sections of the left bank of the Rhine. None of this is to say that the ideological menace was discounted, but Paul’s answer to it was now very different. France might have her natural frontiers, but beyond that she must not be allowed to go, to which end he seems to have envisaged a permanent league of Britain, Prussia, Russia and Austria that would be able to keep the tricolour in check.
Yet despite this pacific beginning, by the end of 1798 Russia was formally at war with France. According to some historians, Paul had only been buying time for his military reforms to take effect and had never abandoned the cause of legitimism (as witness the manner in which he gave shelter to both Louis XVIII and Pope Pius VI in the winter of 1797-8 ). It is, then, possible that conflict would have followed anyway, but this is something that we can never know. In the world of concrete fact, what changed matters was Napoleon’s acquisition of the Ionian islands and the subsequent conquest of, first, Malta and then Egypt. Paul had no desire to follow his mother’s example by conquering yet more of the Ottoman Empire, but in 1797 he had declared himself to be the protector of the Knights of St John - a decision that was quickly rewarded with the position of Grand Master - while neither he nor any other tsar could have tolerated a substantial French military presence in the eastern Mediterranean. Russia’s war aims, then, were ultimately strategic rather than ideological, though in practice the tsar agreed with the British Grenvillites that the only hope of a permanent solution to the problem was a march on Paris and the overthrow of the Republic. Very soon, however, Paul was disillusioned. In the crucial Italo-Swiss theatre, he found that his expeditionary force was too weak to do anything other than go along with Austrian strategy and, still worse, that the Austrians had set other goals before the invasion of France, the result of which was that the Russian corps commanded by General Korsakov suffered a crushing defeat at Zurich. In the Mediterranean, Russia fell out with Britain over the future of Malta; in Italy, Russia fell out with Austria over the question of whether or not the latter should be able to compensate herself for her territorial losses elsewhere with lands taken from Naples and Piedmont; and, finally, in Holland, which had been invaded by an Anglo-Russian expeditionary force, Russia fell out with Britain over the latter’s failure to exploit an initial allied advantage and eventual negotiation of a convention with the French. And, to cap it all, in neither Italy, Switzerland nor Austria had the Russian army performed well: not only had the discipline of the troops broken down, but Paul’s attempt to revive the Frederician manner largely abandoned by Catherine the Great had not proved much of an answer on the battlefield. Just as Paul had feared in 1796, war had proved a futile expedient: Austria and Britain were not to be relied on as partners, and Russia was unable to fight a war in Western Europe by herself and could in the attempt do no more than waste men and money.
By the end of 1799, an angry and disappointed Paul had broken off military cooperation with Austria. Formally speaking, Russia was still in the war, but in the course of 1800 a variety of factors combined to change the situation still further. Not the least of these were quarrels with the British over the subsidy which Russia had been promised in exchange for joining in the attack on France. But far more important were the changed perceptions of France brought about by the advent of Napoleon. Thus, for Paul, Brumaire transformed matters completely. Championing Louis XVIII when he had been the only possible figurehead of the cause of legitimism - the only representative of peace and order - in France had been all very well, but now there was a much more dynamic and attractive alternative. In short, Napoleon’s pursuit of the trappings of monarchy had worked: in the new French ruler Paul saw a Corsican upstart, certainly, but a Corsican upstart who would put France to rights, and with her the whole of Europe. Friendly intimations were soon being received from Paris via Berlin, the gist of them being that France was prepared to make peace on reasonable terms and recognize Russia’s interests in Germany and the Mediterranean. There were other gestures yet to come - most notably the generous treatment accorded by Napoleon to the Russian prisoners captured in Holland and the promise that Malta would be restored to the Knights of St John - but by the summer of 1800 all the forces Paul had sent to Western Europe were on their way home. Nor was Russia simply withdrawing from the coalition. Implicit in the French cultivation of St Petersburg was an attempt to secure an alliance: indeed, in January 1800 a deal had been proposed whereby Russia and France would between them despoil the Ottoman Empire of Egypt, Greece, Constantinople, the Balkans and the Greek islands; establish an independent Poland under a Russian prince; and compensate Prussia for the loss of her Polish territories with fresh lands in Germany and Silesia. Meanwhile, a variety of elements in the Russian court, including, most importantly, Chancellor Rostopchin, had in turn come to the conclusion that such an alliance would suit Russia very well. On 29 December 1800, then, Paul wrote to Napoleon in person in the friendliest terms, proposing a Franco-Russian alliance that would result in a general peace. To back this letter up a Russian emissary was dispatched to Paris. This démarche, meanwhile, was accompanied by important changes inside Russia, including the dismissal of the pro-British deputy chancellor, Panin, and the expulsion of Louis XVIII and all his followers.
It is important to note that this Franco-Russian rapprochement was deeply flawed. For Napoleon, Paul I was a mere tool, a weapon that he could deploy against Britain and Austria. Thus, in 1800 what he was particularly interested in was the Russian navy, and also the possibility that Paul might be inveigled into launching an overland attack on India. In fact Paul was anything but a mere tool; he was someone who had very concrete aims in allying himself with the First Consul. Not the least of these might have been expected to be further Russian aggrandizement in the Balkans where Rostopchin, at least, hoped for French support in obtaining modern-day Rumania and Bulgaria. Yet nothing could have been further from Paul’s mind, the fact being that he enjoyed good relations with the Turks. And, while happy in a general sense to put pressure on Britain, he was not interested in an attack on India. A force of Don Cossacks was ordered to advance into the khanate of Bokhara, certainly, but while this territory straddled the route to India, the move rather stemmed from a quite separate crisis that had developed on Russia’s southern frontier. The flashpoint here was the trans-Caucasian state of Georgia. Until 1795 the latter had been an independent Christian kingdom, but in that year it had been invaded by the then Shah of Persia, Aga Mohamed, and forced to accept his suzerainty. This was a challenge that Paul could not allow to pass and in January 1801 he decreed Georgia’s annexation and sent an army to drive out the Persians, who were now ruled by Aga Mohamed’s son, Fath Ali. Persia being a powerful opponent, the presence of troops in Bokhara is best explained as an attempt to open up a second front against her. But what, then, did Paul want from a deal with Napoleon? Britain was certainly an issue here: Paul resented her maritime pretensions and was much concerned that a British expedition to Egypt might result in a permanent British presence in the eastern Mediterranean. But checking Britain was not Paul’s only aim. An alliance with France was also the best means of negotiating a French evacuation of Egypt. And at the same time there was also the issue of protecting Russian interests in Europe: here the tsar not only had numerous dynastic connections amongst the smaller German states, but also wished to extend Russian influence by posing as the protector of the weak against the strong. This had been given particular urgency, first by Austria’s determination to secure territorial compensation in Italy at the expense of Piedmont and Tuscany, and second by the major reorganization of the Holy Roman Empire that was clearly on the way. In short, Russian policy cut two ways at once. Napoleon could expect Russian support against Britain and Austria, but he too was going to be expected to show restraint in Germany and Italy, and even to draw back in the Mediterranean. In the short term Russia’s desires in part coincided with those of France, then, but in the long term matters would be very different.
But as yet these discrepancies remained hidden beneath the surface, the chief point being that Napoleon was not facing the unremitting enmity of the whole of Europe. On the contrary, the Continent was deeply divided, thanks to sharp conflicts of interest between Prussia and Russia in Poland, Russia and Austria in the Balkans, and Austria and Prussia in Germany. And at the same time, fears of Britain kept Spain, for one, firmly in the French camp. In consequence, the First Consul’s only enemies at the beginning of 1800 were Britain and Austria, whose commitment to the struggle were at best limited, but who would yet have to be thoroughly beaten before they would make peace. The struggle that followed, then, was hardly a desperate lunge to stave off overwhelming odds in the style of, say, the Waterloo campaign of 1815. Nevertheless, it did not begin well for Napoleon. Seizing the initiative, the Austrians attacked in Italy with 97,000 men, drove back the outnumbered French and besieged their adversaries in Genoa, which, defended with great courage by Masséna, held out till 4 June. Despite being taken by surprise, Napoleon’s response was dramatic: while Moreau crossed the Rhine and defeated the Austrians at Stockach on 3 May, the First Consul led the newly created Army of Reserve across the Alps and descended on the Austrian rear, winning a very narrow victory at Marengo on 14 June. As even Napoleon’s admirers admit, this was not his finest hour. The strategy of crossing the Alps was sound - brilliant even - but having reached Milan, he badly misjudged his Austrian opponent, Melas. Believing that Melas would simply fall back on newly conquered Genoa, he dispersed his forces in a cordon designed to trap the whitecoats. Melas, however, had more fight in him than Napoleon suspected, and suddenly rounded on the forces accompanying the First Consul himself with odds of over two to one. In a battle which saw the French driven back five miles, their new ruler was all but beaten, but in the nick of time General Desaix appeared with fresh troops and launched a counter-attack that caught the weary and over-extended Austrians off balance and drove them back in rout (though not before Desaix had been killed at the moment of victory).
The campaign of Marengo was badly bungled by Napoleon’s standards. Nevertheless, sufficient damage had been done to the Austrians to persuade them to evacuate their Italian conquests in exchange for an armistice. In response to a renewed appeal for a peace settlement sent to Francis II from the battlefield of Marengo, an emissary was even dispatched to Paris. The terms on offer were not ungenerous - Austria was offered the same terms as she had been at Campo Formio. Nor was this surprising: Napoleon had no moral commitment to these terms or any other, and was only interested in a rapid settlement with Austria that would allow him to turn all his strength against Britain, force her to make peace and thereby rescue France’s control of Malta and Egypt (Malta had been invaded by the British and Egypt was wide open to attack). Reflecting the doubts felt by many observers in Vienna, the Austrian envoy, St Julien, duly agreed to Napoleon’s terms but, bolstered by the fact that six days after the battle of Marengo Britain had signed a treaty of subsidy with Austria whereby she agreed to pay her an interest-free loan of £2 million, Thugut succeeded in persuading Francis to reject the agreement. However, hard pressed as they were by the forces of General Moreau, the Austrians now requested an armistice in Germany, where they withdrew to the line of the river Inn, apart from the invested garrisons of Ulm, Ingoldstädt and Phillippsburg. Having in this fashion acquired some useful hostages - the French promised to allow the troops concerned to be revictualled every ten days, but insisted that only ten days’ food would be allowed in on each occasion - Napoleon now tried to secure his goals in Egypt by other means. Thus, Thugut having floated the counter-proposal of a general peace conference, the French ruler suggested that the armistice be extended to Britain as well. When the Pitt administration jibbed at this demand on the grounds that, while Britain was happy to take part in the congress proposed by Thugut, an armistice with France meant above all a cessation of hostilities at sea, and, by extension, giving the French access to Egypt, Napoleon responded by threats of an immediate resumption of hostilities. Realizing that Austria had little chance of withstanding the French, Britain proposed a compromise that would have given the First Consul the right to send periodic food convoys to Egypt. This, too, was unacceptable to Napoleon, and the result was fresh terms that increased the pressure still further: in order to save the Austrian armistice, the Allies would now have to permit a strong frigate squadron to sail for Egypt and surrender the German fortresses. Desperate to buy even a few more days’ respite, Francis II ordered his garrisons to surrender, but the British suspected - quite rightly - that the frigates would be crammed not just with food but with considerable troop reinforcements, while they knew full well that the ships themselves would be put to the task of defending the Egyptian coast. A suspension of hostilities being one thing and the French being permitted to entrench themselves on the Nile quite another, this was the end of the road and the British duly broke off negotiations, leaving the Austrians no option but to follow suit.
Was Napoleon sincere in his pursuit of peace in the wake of Marengo? This is certainly the view of his admirers. So charitable a view is hard to sustain, however. To make a lasting peace with Austria, it would have been necessary to offer her a series of concessions that respected her interests as a great power. This would have involved the restoration of Italy as an Austrian sphere of influence-a move that would have entailed pulling the French forces of occupation back to the Alps and abandoning the Cisalpine Republic - the acceptance of Austrian territorial gains at the expense of Bavaria and France (who would have had to surrender the Adriatic ports and islands she had seized at Campo Formio), and the abandonment of any designs that France may have had with regard to the control of Germany. Yet none of these concessions were forthcoming. Nor, indeed, was anything else to be expected. The territories that would have had to be given up in the south - Piedmont, Lombardy, the Legations, Cisalpine Venetia and Venetian Dalmatia - had all fallen under France’s sway by virtue of personal conquest on the part of Napoleon and could not have been given up without seriously damaging his prestige, while in Germany, to have accepted an Austrian advance would have been seen as jeopardizing the Rhine frontier. If Napoleon wanted peace, it was peace through victory, rather than peace through compromise.
Hostilities, then, were soon resumed. Pleased though Napoleon would have been to drive Britain and Austria apart, the First Consul was only too willing to embark on a further continental campaign. Nor was this surprising: in the aftermath of Marengo, the populace had erupted in transports of joy:
The First Consul . . . continued a few days longer at Milan to settle the affairs of Italy, and then set out on his return to Paris . . . I shall say but little of the manifestations of joy and admiration with which Bonaparte met throughout his journey . . . On arriving at Lyons we alighted at the Hotel des Celestins, where the acclamations of the people were so great and the multitude so numerous . . . that Bonaparte was obliged to show himself at the balcony . . . We left Lyons in the evening, and continued our journey by Dijon, and there the joy of the inhabitants amounted to frenzy.18
At the same time, if the events of 14 June 1800 did not in themselves bring the First Consul any extra power in France, they did shatter all chance that the various politicians who had found themselves outmanoeuvred in the aftermath of Brumaire might put the Napoleonic jack back in its box. While Napoleon had been away on campaign, Sieyès had been conspiring with Fouché and others to overthrow him. With command of the Army of the Interior in the hands of Bernadotte - an almost equally ambitious figure who married jealousy of Napoleon with, on the surface at least, pronounced Jacobinism - defeat at Marengo would have sealed Napoleon’s fate. In the aftermath of victory, however, the situation was very different. Not only did a variety of malcontents rally to Napoleon’s standard, but Sieyès sank into obscurity, while talk began of making Napoleon First Consul for life. As he remarked to Bourrienne, ‘Well, a few more events like this campaign and I may perhaps go down to posterity.’19 Nor did one have to be a member of his intimate circle to observe the fresh development in his ambitions. In the words of Bertrand Barère - an erstwhile member of the Convention who was numbered among the first batch of proscribed Jacobins to be amnestied by Napoleon:
The tyrannical consul was not forgotten in the victorious general, especially as he now displayed a haughty selfishness, utterly incompatible with devotion to his country, and . . . had removed the gilded bronze letters which were placed over the principal entrance of the palace of the Tuileries. When it was seen that the words ‘French Republic’ were an eyesore to the First Consul, the more than royal ambition of the Corsican, and the destruction of the Republic, could no longer be doubted.20
What made the idea of fresh victories against Austria still more attractive was the fact that as First Consul Napoleon had access to far greater means of propaganda than had ever been the case before. Although the French ruler hid behind the fact that it coincided with the anniversary of the fall of the Bastille, his return to Paris was celebrated with great pomp and ceremony, while the campaign had already been marked by the creation of an entirely false image of Napoleon as romantic hero doing personal battle with the forces of nature. As a bulletin of 24 May proclaimed, ‘The First Consul descended from the top of the St Bernard by sliding on the snow . . . and leaping over precipices.’21 In reality, Napoleon had made the crossing in much more prosaic fashion, mounted on a mule, just as his troops trudged along not precipitous goat-tracks but a reasonably serviceable highway. Yet such details did not stop him from embellishing his alpine adventure still further. Thus, in one of a series of paintings commissioned after Marengo, the First Consul is depicted by David in the act of waving on his troops while mounted on a mettlesome charger. Carved on the rocks in the foreground, appear three names: Bonaparte, Hannibal and Carolus Magnus (i.e. Charlemagne). As for the forces of nature, they remain present in the vicious wind that is whipping Napoleon’s voluminous cloak from around his body. Implicit in this image are a variety of claims: next to Alexander the Great, Hannibal was the greatest hero of the ancient world, while Charlemagne’s kingdom encompassed both France and Italy. Less well known but just as interesting is the painting that was produced of Marengo by Lejeune: Desaix is present in the picture - indeed, he is shown in the act of falling dead at the head of his victorious troops - but he is portrayed as a tiny figure deep in the middle distance, whereas the chief focus of the picture is Napoleon, who is pictured riding forward with his staff and directing operations. Nor is this an end to the story: at first sight, the First Consul appears to be riding to the rescue of his subordinate rather than the other way about.
A fresh campaign on the Continent, then, was not unwelcome to Napoleon. But on this occasion he was denied the glory to which he so aspired. Still in Paris when hostilities broke out on 22 November, Napoleon seems to have intended to head for Italy and take control of the 90,000 French troops concentrated on the river Mincio under General Brune. In the event there was to be no third Italian campaign, for the Austrians again seized the initiative and thereby precipitated a chain of events that left the First Consul out in the cold. This time, however, the onslaught came in Bavaria, where the forces of the Archduke John turned Moreau’s left flank and launched a drive on Munich. In theory, the plan was a good one, for the French might have been trapped against the Bavarian Alps, but John was an inexperienced commander while the French had the advantage of interior lines. The result was disaster for the allied cause. Pouncing on the Austrians at the village of Hohenlinden on 3 December, Moreau shattered John’s army beyond repair, before breaking through to the Danube and marching deep into Austria. With Hohenlinden in some respects a greater victory than Marengo - in the earlier action the Austrians lost thirty-three guns whereas at Hohenlinden they lost fifty - Napoleon was furious at being deprived of his share of the glory, all the more so as Moreau was a staunch Republican as well as a long-term rival. Years afterwards he was still inclined to run down the general’s achievement:
[Hohenlinden] was one of those great battles that are born of chance and won without any planning. Moreau did not show enough decision: that was why he chose to remain on the defensive. In the end it was a mere scuffle: the enemy was struck in the very midst of his operations and defeated by troops they had cut off and should have destroyed. All the merit belonged to the ordinary soldiers and to the commanders of the divisions which found themselves in most danger, all of whom fought like heroes.22
Yet, however irritated the First Consul may have been, Hohenlinden secured his strategic objectives. Demoralized and exhausted, Vienna sued for peace, and on 8 February 1801 her representatives duly signed the treaty of Lunéville, by which Austria was again forced to accept France’s annexation of Belgium and the left bank of the Rhine and to recognize the independence of the various satellite states. But now there were also further conditions. Austria had to agree to destroy a number of fortresses on the right bank of the Rhine, and to give up the Habsburg-ruled duchies of Modena and Tuscany, together with some of the territory she had acquired from Venice in 1797 (of these territories, Modena and the Venetian lands went to the Cisalpine Republic, and, in a gesture intended to conciliate Spain, Tuscany was given to the son of the Duke of Parma - a son-in-law of Charles IV - as the Kingdom of Etruria). As if all this was not bad enough, the Austrians were also made to agree that the Duke of Tuscany should receive compensation in Germany, from which it followed that the ecclesiastical states that made up Vienna’s chief powerbase in the Holy Roman Empire should be put up for ‘secularization’ or annexation. In principle, Austria had already agreed to this process at Campo Formio in that she had accepted that the rulers of the territories lost in France’s annexation of the left bank of the Rhine should also be compensated from within the Empire. But what Lunéville meant was that the reorganization of Germany was now likely to be wholesale rather than partial, for such was Austria’s need for compensation that the Prussians would have to be drawn in too. Add to this Vienna’s failure to impose any clause in the treaty to the effect that the emperor - i.e. Francis II - should have a controlling interest in the settlement of the new frontiers, still less that foreign powers should be excluded, and it can be seen that Austria had suffered a shattering blow. As Metternich later lamented, ‘With the conclusion of the Peace of Lunéville, the weakness and vacillation of the Austrian cabinet reached their height . . . The German empire visibly approached its dissolution.’23 And, in effect, gone too was Austrian influence in Naples. In the words of the commander of the Neapolitan army that had invaded central Italy, Comte Roger de Damas:
The Queen . . . was in Vienna. The moment that the question arose of an armistice between the Austrian and the French armies she secured an official promise in writing that the ministry would consent to no treaty that did not include her army and her states. The emperor owed this return to the King of Naples after the active support that the latter had given him. However . . . before the ink was dry [he] put his name to an armistice that entirely ignored us. M. de Bellegarde wrote to me, ‘I have just concluded an armistice in which you do not appear [and could] only obtain a promise that you should not be attacked. You know how these people keep their promises: take precautions.’24
This warning could not have been more timely. A Neapolitan foray into Tuscany was duly defeated at Siena on 14 January 1801, and Ferdinand IV was left with no option but to sue for peace. Dictated by Damas’s French counterpart, Joachim Murat, the terms of the resultant treaty of Florence were predictably harsh: Naples had to cede Elba, Piombino and several small enclaves of territory that she held in Tuscany to the Kingdom of Etruria; to pay an indemnity of 120,000 ducats within three months; to close her ports to British ships; to amnesty and restore the property of all those who had been involved in the short-lived Parthenopaean Republic of 1798; to allow the occupation of the Adriatic coast for the duration of the war with Britain by a French army that would be paid and supplied by the Neapolitans themselves; and to surrender, again until peace was signed with London, three frigates to the French navy. Only narrowly did Ferdinand IV manage to retain the services of his chief minister, Baron Acton, an English soldier of fortune who had secured the favour of the Neapolitan court in the 1770s and ever since then played a leading role in its politics (the French, of course, regarded him as a British agent and were determined to get rid of him). All that could be said of the arrangement was that it might have been worse. Indeed, as Damas admitted, the peace terms ‘were by no means as bad in proportion as the terms to which Austria was obliged to submit’.25
This insouciance, however, was not shared in Naples, where Acton had gone to great lengths to avoid personal responsibility for the negotiations: indeed, the diplomat who had actually been sent to Florence was publicly disgraced and banished from the court for three years. This reflected the deep impact the whole affair had on Queen Maria Carolina, the Austrian princess who was the de facto ruler of the country given the lack of interest in public affairs evinced by her slow-witted husband, Ferdinand IV. A violent opponent of the French Revolution, who had been horrified by the execution of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, she had been a leading advocate of war in 1793, lamented the treaty of peace that had been signed with France in 1796, and welcomed the resumption of hostilities in 1798. Yet she was always ambivalent about Napoleon:
Personally I abhor the part that Bonaparte serves and plays. He is the Attila, the scourge, of Italy, but I have a genuine esteem and deep admiration for him. He is the greatest man several centuries have produced. His force, constancy, activity and talent have won my admiration . . . My sole regret is that he serves so detestable a cause. I should like the fall of the Republic, but the preservation of Bonaparte . . . I hope that his plans will miscarry and his enterprises fail [but] at the same time I wish for his personal happiness and glory so long as it is not at our expense . . . If he dies they should reduce him to powder and give a dose of it to each ruling sovereign, and two to each of their ministers, [and] then things would go better.26
For Maria Carolina, then, Napoleon himself was not so great an issue so long as he left Naples alone. Her hatred of France, meanwhile, was further dissipated by the campaign of 1800. It was not just that Austria had let Naples down in the aftermath of Hohenlinden. Caught by Napoleon’s passage of the Alps at Livorno en route to Vienna, whither she was going in a personal attempt to secure Naples’ interests in central Italy against Thugut’s determination to secure territorial compensation for Austria, she was able to observe defeat at close quarters. To quote a letter that she wrote to the Neapolitan ambassador in Vienna on 28 June, ‘The fugitives of the Austrian army arrive here in a pitiful state. You see them dying in the streets without clothes or shirts, and they no longer look human. The ill will of the generals and admirals is as incredible as their talk. They all want peace and repose. If all the emperor’s troops are like those I see, I advise him to make peace and never again think of war.’27 On 2 July, she put her views even more clearly:
I swear that once the peace is settled it will be an expert in cunning who can catch me again except in the case of aggression against our country . . . The rest of Europe may be on fire, Thugut emperor and Fox King of England, but even so I would not be drawn from a permanent system of neutrality, or, to be more precise, of nullity. I only aspire to repose.28
Despair at Austria’s war-making capacity, meanwhile, was presently joined by irritation at Britain’s actions in the Mediterranean, the bone of contention here being the island of Malta. After a long siege in which the Neapolitan armed forces were heavily involved, the French garrison of Valetta was forced to surrender on 5 September 1800. While this was welcome, there was great irritation in Palermo at the manner in which the Neapolitans had been excluded from the peace negotiations. With relations already strained by the manner in which the notoriously complacent Sir William Hamilton had been replaced as ambassador by the much more forceful Arthur Paget, the queen was much distressed:
The French are driven out and that is all to the good, but . . . we were keenly mortified to have had no part in the capitulation considering our troops, munitions [and] artillery, and our positive rights to the island . . . It is all the more painful to be so completely duped and receive an injury from a friend. We are such fast friends of England that we are delighted that this great ally should keep a fortress which dominates Sicily, but her method of procedure, this contemptuous treatment after all our care, cordiality, assistance and enormous expense - these are galling indeed.29
This dissatisfaction was to have repercussions later. In the meantime, only the Ottoman Empire and Britain remained for Napoleon to deal with. Of these, the Turks were impossible to knock out of the war, although Napoleon did his best to lure them into peace negotiations. Even so, they were not much of a threat: not only were they preoccupied with a series of internal disorders, but on 20 March 1800 an army they had sent to reconquer Egypt by land had been heavily defeated at Heliopolis. With the Turks effectively out of the battle, the French were free to concentrate on Britain. In order to ensure that Egypt hung on as long as possible - although Napoleon had hinted to the Turks that he might evacuate the province, in reality he hoped to keep it - troop reinforcements were dispatched to Alexandria and the Army of the Orient encouraged to fight to the death. Meanwhile, the pressure on London was increased by getting Spain to launch an attack on Portugal - Britain’s last ally in Europe - in May 1801. This conflict, the so-called War of the Oranges, was less than satisfactory from Napoleon’s point of view. According to the original plan, large areas of Portugal were to have been occupied and held as bargaining counters that could be exchanged for Malta and the various colonial territories and other possessions that Britain had seized from France, Spain and Holland. Fifteen thousand French troops were to be involved in the fighting. These were to be sent across the Pyrenees and by early May had got as far as the border fortress of Ciudad Rodrigo. And, finally, Portugal’s ports were to be closed to British shipping (a major blow, for Lisbon was a vital port-of-call for the Royal Navy and Portugal an important trading partner for British merchants). At the same time, the First Consul would be assured of a further slice of military glory at a time when his arms elsewhere in Europe were at rest. Setting aside the minor bait thrown to the Spaniards, the British would be left with no option but to disgorge one of the keys to Napoleon’s schemes in the east.
In the event these plans were all foiled. Much concerned at the prospect of a strong French presence in the Iberian Peninsula, King Charles IV and his court favourite, Manuel de Godoy, joined with the Portuguese in securing a rapid end to the war before Napoleon’s plans could be put into practice. After some token skirmishes Lisbon agreed to cede a small slice of Extremadura to Spain, to pay an indemnity to France and to close her ports to Britain, but in exchange the Spaniards withdrew from Portugal and eschewed any further threat to her territorial integrity. For reasons of his own, the First Consul’s personal representative, Lucien Bonaparte, went along with this arrangement, but Napoleon was enraged. Determined to secure his original goals, he refused to ratify the resultant treaty of Badajoz, and ordered a resumption of hostilities, but Godoy refused point-blank to give way and even went so far as to threaten a separate peace with Britain. Utterly furious, Napoleon demanded to know whether the Bourbons had tired of reigning. But in the end the affair blew over, as by the autumn of 1801 the international situation had changed enormously.
Before looking at this fresh situation, it is worth considering what we know of Napoleon’s war aims as they stand revealed by the events of
. If one thing is clear, it is that his aims were not just limited to retaining France’s natural frontiers, together with the sphere of influence she had carved out in Holland and northern Italy. On the contrary, implicit in the First Consul’s dealings with Spain and Portugal is the assumption not just that Egypt could be held until a general peace settlement was reached, but also that it could be retained thereafter. Nor was France simply to enjoy an oriental empire. On the contrary, Napoleon was also looking to the western hemisphere. Peace with England was quite clearly expected to restore to France her ‘sugar islands’ in the West Indies. But beyond that there was also the question of the vast territory of Louisiana. Ceded to Spain in 1762 at the close of the Seven Years War, this stretched from the Gulf of Mexico to the present-day Canadian frontier and from the river Mississippi to the Rocky Mountains. Although largely unexplored, and colonized by Europeans only in the extreme south, where New Orleans was a major port and the centre of a plantation economy based on rice, sugar and cotton, it was clear that this vast region was potentially of immense importance. A valuable source of colonial produce, it was also a convenient source of food and raw materials for France’s colonies in the West Indies. As for the interior, who knew what wonders it concealed, Napoleon having undoubtedly been much impressed by the gold and silver brought to Spain by her older territories in the New World. And last but not least, there was the issue of global strategy, for a base in the American West would allow Napoleon to put pressure on the British in Canada and to threaten the United States.
In fairness to Napoleon, it should be noted that, as with Egypt, he was not the only Frenchman to look to Louisiana. In 1795 the peace negotiations with Spain that produced the treaty of Basel had seen an attempt to get hold of the territory, while in 1796-7 the Directory had repeatedly sought to persuade Godoy to consider the idea, of which Talleyrand was a prominent supporter. On top of this, the 1790s had shown that the United States was not the friend and ally of France that might have been supposed. Despite the Franco-American treaty of amity of 1778, George Washington had declared the United States to be neutral, and refused point-blank to tolerate the attempts of the French ambassador to use the United States as a base for privateering or, still more dramatically, the conquest of Louisiana by a privately recruited army of frontier toughs. When the British began to impound American ships trading with France and her colonies, Washington responded not by declaring war but by negotiating a treaty that effectively accepted Britain’s right to block all trade with France in exchange for the payment of compensation in respect of any American ships or cargoes seized by the British. In retaliation, the French first declared that they would treat all American ships as fair game themselves, and, second, imposed a code of practice that was even more stringent than that operated by the British. With losses mounting, the French privateers behaving little better than pirates and no compensation forthcoming whatsoever, in 1798 President Adams in effect declared war on France. Plans were mooted for an attack on Louisiana, Florida and France’s remaining islands in the Caribbean, while a small navy was fitted out and sent out to do battle against the Directory’s warships and privateers. Greatly alarmed at the threat to Louisiana, within a year the French were backing away from further conflict. Conciliatory messages were sent to Adams, and Napoleon had scarcely come to power before he had repudiated the decrees that had wrought such havoc with American shipping. Thanks to a variety of political circumstances in the United States, including, not least, the manner in which the war was tending to strengthen the position of Adams’s enemies, the Federalists, these moves achieved the desired effect. Diplomatic relations were restored and a peace settlement was elaborated that effectively annulled the treaty of 1778- thereby cementing the principle of American neutrality - in exchange for the rejection of Britain’s claims with regard to neutral shipping and the de facto surrender of United States claims for compensation for the losses inflicted on her shipping since 1793. For the time being, all was quiet, but such were the contradictions between the French and American positions that further trouble was likely. In short, the acquisition of Louisiana remained essential. At the very time, then, that negotiations were moving towards the agreement of 30 September 1800- the treaty of Mortefontaine - parallel talks were being held with Spain with regard to Louisiana. There was little difficulty in obtaining the retrocession: the Spanish government regarded Louisiana as more trouble than it was worth and was happy to see France take it over and especially so if it guaranteed the establishment of the Spanish-ruled Kingdom of Etruria in Italy. On 1 October 1800, then, the treaty of San Ildefonso handed Louisiana back to France, but for the time being the new arrangement remained secret and for a variety of reasons the actual transfer of power did not take effect until 15 October 1802.
In the circumstances, this was just as well. Had Napoleon’s American schemes been revealed, it is almost certain that Britain would never have made peace. As it was, British commitment to the war was rapidly falling away. Britain was supreme at sea, certainly: Malta, as we have seen, was seized from the French; the Spaniards were defeated in a number of skirmishes; and the Danes beaten at Copenhagen (see below). And, of course, since nothing could break the dominance of the Royal Navy, nothing could stop the British from seizing the colonial and other offshore territories of her opponents: by 1800 her prizes included Tobago, St Pierre et Miquelon, Pondicherry, Martinique, St Lucia, the Saints, Mariegalante, Deseada, the Dutch East Indies, Ceylon, Malacca, Demerara, Essequibo, Berbice, Trinidad, Madagascar, Surinam, Goree, Curaçao, Menorca and Corsica (although this last had only been held from 1793 to 1796). That same seapower could also strike at the French position in Egypt: in December 1800 a large British expeditionary force sailed from Gibraltar for Alexandria under Sir Ralph Abercromby. By the end of March 1801, the British had established a firm bridgehead on the Mediterranean coast, heavily defeated the French at the second battle of Aboukir, and closed in on Alexandria. Buoyed up by hopes of relief - to the very end Napoleon kept trying to get fresh troops across the Mediterranean - the garrison held on into the summer, but Cairo surrendered in June without a fight. If the Egyptian adventure was all but over, in India too the British had met with complete success. From 1798 onwards, a series of campaigns had shattered a series of rulers friendly to France and pushed back the frontiers of British rule and in the process made the name of a hitherto unknown officer named Arthur Wellesley.
There were, then, plenty of voices pressing for a continuation of the war. One was that of Lord Malmesbury, the experienced diplomat who had undertaken the peace negotiations of 1797. As he confided to his diary in March 1801:
I fear Ministers have shown too much eagerness for negotiation. Bonaparte will avail himself of it either to be insolent (if he feels strong in his seat) or to betray them into a bad peace by an affected complaisance (if he is insecure in it). There is reason to suppose the distant French armies are not disposed to be very obedient, and that those who command them consider themselves as possessing as good claims to govern France as the First Consul. He dare not, therefore, bring them back into France, and is by no means sure that they will keep the countries they are now in possession of for him and his purposes. I dread a naval armistice: if we accede to it, it will be like the foremost jockey giving time for the others to come up with him while the race is running. But this, and concessions as to the claims of the neutral nations, and probably some boon or act of complaisance to Paul will, I apprehend, be proposed to us, and my best hope is that Bonaparte, giddy with success and vanity and reckoning too much on our easy compliance, will convey these proposals in such overbearing and insolent language as even the present pacific enduring Ministers will be offended at.30
Yet, Britain’s prospects were limited: troops were in short supply - Abercromby’s army was only assembled at the cost of abandoning all hope of defending Portugal - and there was little chance of using an army successfully in Europe. Despite the most inflated claims by its supporters in London, French royalism showed no signs of generating the sort of armed rising that might have justified a landing in France, while attacks on naval bases such as Cádiz, Ferrol and Brest proved uniformly unsuccessful. Something might be attempted against Spain’s possessions in the Americas by means of seapower - there was, in particular, much talk of the conquest of Cuba - but in the short term it was hard to see how such operations could make much difference in Europe, nor still less how the Royal Navy alone could reverse French dominance or prevent the French from closing more and more ports to British trade. And, last but not least, France was clearly making considerable strides in terms of the organization and power of the state. Whereas in the ‘Jacobin’ France of the 1790s, chaos had seemed to be the norm, brigandage was now gradually being extinguished, conscription rendered more productive and stability restored to the administration.
Not surprisingly, then, there was plenty of gloom to set alongside the optimism of the diehards. To quote a letter written by Lord Auckland to Lord Wellesley, who was then Governor-General of India:
We can no longer conceal from ourselves that the war is likely to end without any settlement of the independence of Europe, and with great accessions to the colonial dominion of France. I do not even think that the sudden disappearance of Bonaparte from the scene of action would give any essential turn to affairs. He would probably be succeeded by Berthier, Moreau or Masséna, or some other dux . . . would take the reins. In short, strange and unforeseen terms may take place, but, I must confess, we see nothing within the line of fair calculation and probability that tends to enable us either to push the war with effect, or to make a peace with safety.31
Meanwhile, at home Britain faced a growing economic crisis, and with it widespread popular unrest. The harvests of 1799 and 1800 had both failed, much to the detriment of the price of bread. In consequence, domestic demand for consumer products fell at the very moment that French success on the Continent was reducing the number of outlets for British exports. As a result, many textile factories, in particular, went bankrupt, and attempts to ease the problem by importing extra grain from Prussia - already the source of half the annual supply of this commodity - were blocked by that state’s decision to join the League of Armed Neutrality (see below). Also cut off thanks to the new development was Britain’s chief source of naval supplies, while trade was hit very badly by Prussia’s decision not only to close her own ports to British trade, but to occupy Hanover (which controlled the rivers Elbe and Weser). As if all this was not enough, the increasingly hungry populace now found themselves exposed to the impact of the notorious Combination Law, a measure that had been introduced in 1799 to check the growth of trade unions. Despite the defeat of the rising of 1798, Ireland, too, remained restive. And finally, a sick man worn out by heavy drinking, the Prime Minister William Pitt was weary and despondent.
Peace, then, was essential. How, though, was this to be achieved? With Pitt at the helm, Paris would be unlikely to respond favourably to any peace overtures, so demonized had the Prime Minister become across the Channel. It was, in consequence, most fortuitous that just at this point a major dispute should have broken out over Catholic emancipation. Put forward by Pitt as a means of conciliating Ireland, this measure was fiercely denounced by George III, whereupon the Prime Minister resigned. So convenient was his departure that it has been suggested that the whole affair was deliberately manufactured so as to clear the way for peace talks. If this theory is correct - and the evidence is not wholly conclusive - then it is certainly strengthened by the outgoing Prime Minister’s recommendation of the Speaker of the House of Commons, Henry Addington, as his successor. As Pitt knew full well, Addington was absolutely committed to an early peace, the very first act of the new Cabinet being to announce that it was ready to come to terms.
In keeping with his image of the reluctant warrior, Napoleon was content to entertain these overtures. With the French garrison clearly doomed, a peace treaty was the only means of salvaging anything from the Egyptian fiasco. Napoleon had also recently suffered a severe blow in the diplomatic field. At the end of 1799, as we have seen, Russia had withdrawn her troops from operations against the French following differences with Britain and Austria, the First Consul being quick to take advantage of the breach in the hope of further disconcerting his remaining opponents. Paul I was therefore wooed with promises of the return of 7,000 prisoners then in French hands, and of the cession of Malta, which at this point was still held by the French. Much impressed with this generosity, Paul allowed himself to be persuaded that an alliance with France was in the Russian interest, and by the late autumn of 1800 he was mobilizing an army on the Austrian frontier. On top of this, he also organized an alliance of the Baltic states - Russia, Sweden, Prussia and Denmark - to put pressure on Britain through the so-called League of Armed Neutrality. The Baltic powers had grown increasingly irritated by Britain’s constant interference with their shipping, and the aim of this new alliance was to put pressure on London to grant them the freedom of the seas by threatening the use of armed force. For Napoleon these events were highly promising, for Russia and the Baltic states could boast considerable naval resources. But on 23 March 1801 Paul was murdered in a palace coup and replaced by his son, Alexander I, a ruler who, while friendly to Napoleon, wished in the first instance to shun foreign adventures in favour of a programme of domestic reform. And hard on the heels of this event, a British squadron under Sir Hyde Parker attacked and defeated the Danish fleet at Copenhagen. Although the Prussians remained in occupation of Hanover, which they had invaded in accordance with their treaty obligations under the League, all hope of really striking against the British was suddenly gone. In consequence, there was simply no point in the First Consul taking hostilities any further, especially as France remained as war-weary as ever, and the British seemed likely to accept whatever terms they were offered (to ensure that they did so, Napoleon made a great show of preparing an invasion fleet). At the same time, peace offered further advantages, for the French navy could be rebuilt and Germany brought further under France’s sway. In short, it was very much in France’s interests to offer terms, the result being, first, the Preliminaries of London 1 of October 1801, and then the Treaty of Amiens of
25 March 1802. As Turkey signed a separate peace on 9 October 1801, for the first time since April 1792 the whole of Europe was at peace.
To obtain peace Britain had to offer terms that were extremely generous. France’s natural frontiers were recognized, along with the various satellite republics, and her colonial losses restored, together with the Dutch possessions of the Cape, Surinam, Curaçao, Malacca and the Spice Islands, Britain retaining only Spanish Trinidad and Dutch Ceylon. At the same time, Menorca was returned to Spain and Malta to the Knights of St John, guarantees also being given that the British army would be called home from Egypt. As for France, all she had to do was agree to withdraw all her forces from her surviving satellites, which were henceforth to be treated as independent states. Even here, however, there was a measure of defeat: the Cisalpine Republic, the Helvetic Republic and the Batavian Republic might all be stripped of their French troops, but the British were obliged to accept their new form of government and, by extension, accept the fact that they would remain firmly within the French sphere of influence. Strictly speaking, it ought to be noted that Napoleon had agreed to give up Egypt, but in the circumstances this was no concession at all, for France’s dreams of a new colonial empire on the Nile had over the last few months been completely overcome, while evacuation was made contingent on Britain’s surrender of Malta. Only on two small points was there much consolation, and neither of these was the fruit of direct negotiations with France. When Napoleon formally made peace with Russia on 8 October 1801 he had been forced to abandon his claim to the Ionian archipelago and to recognize the new political organization in the form of the ‘Republic of the Seven Islands’. And on 6 November, Frederick William III ordered the evacuation of Hanover on the grounds that to keep it would entail complications with Britain of a sort that could only be sustained if she was at war with France.
Other than peace itself, Britain had therefore gained almost nothing, and the treaty was greeted in some quarters with alarm and disquiet. According to William Windham, for example, ‘The country has received its death blow.’32 For Grenville, it was a ‘much-to-be-lamented business’ and ‘an act of weakness and humiliation’.33 And for Canning, it was ‘most disgraceful and calamitous’.34 Such comments have often been used as evidence that Britain - or at least the British establishment - was never serious in its acceptance of the peace settlement and only wanted a breathing space. But Windham and the rest were all either ‘ultras’ who saw the war in terms of a clash of ideologies or men who had personal reasons of various sorts for hating Addington. All the evidence suggests that they were very much in a minority in their wholesale rejection of the treaty. There was a degree of wariness, certainly, but from George III downwards a range of figures could be found who were prepared to give peace a try. As for those who opposed the settlement, the fact that William Pitt supported it as the best arrangement that Addington could have obtained completely undermined their position: to have gone against the treaty and sought to overthrow the government on a ticket of renewed war would in effect have been to cast aside their great hero. It would at the same time run counter to a public opinion that greatly welcomed an end to hostilities and had a degree of sympathy with the ideas of the French Revolution. To quote Lord Malmesbury again:
On the twelfth [of October,1801 ] a Frenchman called Lauriston, occasional aide-de-camp to Bonaparte, brought over the ratification. A Jacobin saddler in Oxford Road saw him pass . . . He assembled the mob, persuaded them he was Bonaparte’s brother, and Lauriston was drawn about by them in a hackney coach to all his visits. Government . . . treated it very lightly, yet it was a most disgraceful circumstance and a sad precedent.35
Could peace have lasted in 1802? At first sight, the answer must be ‘no’. Britain and France were prepared to come to terms, but neither had relinquished their essential war aims. While Britain still desired security in Europe, Napoleon was equally concerned to preserve French hegemony, and the two goals soon proved to be incompatible. But this is almost certainly too deterministic. Britain was most unlikely to renew the war in the immediate future: not only was most political opinion against such a move, but those who did wish to fight on were hopelessly undermined by the contradictions of their position. Moreover, given that Napoleon was already showing signs of reneging on the arrangements decided on in the Preliminaries of London even before the definitive peace was signed at Amiens, it is hard not to conclude that British interest in the Continent had been set aside. And if French hegemony in Western Europe was not under threat from London, it was certainly not under threat from anywhere else. The new emperor of Russia was very much leaning towards Napoleon, while Prussia was content with its dominance of northern Germany and Austria anxious to avoid a fight, even groping towards disengagement from Germany and Italy in favour of an advance in the Balkans. On top of that, French success had been quite extraordinary: the ‘natural’ frontiers having been achieved at no cost even to France’s colonial empire; Louis XIV himself could not have asked for more.
Nor was the settlement itself so very bad as a basis for an end to the ‘age of war’ that had characterized the eighteenth century. As Schroeder points out, the settlement reached in the period 1801-2 was in fact remarkably realistic in global terms. Britain, France and Russia were effectively recognized as the three leading powers of Europe, and each of them was accorded dominance in one particular sphere. Britain was allowed to retain her supremacy at sea: even Napoleon did not demand the dismantling of the Royal Navy, and this meant that France’s colonial presence was one that existed on sufferance and could always be closed down. France stood supreme in Western Europe and was bolstered by much enlarged frontiers and an unassailable sphere of influence in Italy and Germany. And Russia was seemingly assured that the Ottoman Empire would be her exclusive preserve, and that she would have a major voice in the reorganization of Germany that now loomed. As for Austria and Prussia, while clearly less well favoured than Britain, France and Russia, they too might hope for compensation in Germany. And if it was theoretically the case that no one power would be allowed to dominate Germany - one possible bone of contention amongst the powers - a similar situation was reached in the Mediterranean: France had her base at Toulon, Britain hers at Gibraltar, and Russia hers - at least potentially - in the Ionian islands, while Malta was denied to everybody. In short, what we see is a compromise settlement that was no more unstable than earlier general European peace treaties, and we must therefore find other reasons for its failure to produce anything other than a mere truce. What, though, should we make of the war that had just terminated? Put in a nutshell, what it showed was that France was so strong in the wake of the Revolution and, more particularly, the coming of Napoleon Bonaparte, that there was no way that she could be contained except by a general alliance amongst the powers. For that to be workable, Britain would have to accept a continental commitment, Austria and Prussia set aside their endless rivalry over Germany, and Russia lift her eyes from Poland and the Ottoman Empire. In other words, the powers would have to evolve a new approach to international relations that was based on common interest rather than mutual rivalry and the pursuit of traditional ambitions. In 1802, however, this development was still far away, blocked by obstacles so entrenched that only the most cataclysmic of forces could have swept them aside. But what did Napoleon Bonaparte with all his genius, his dynamism, his daring and his ruthlessness represent but just such a force? Embedded in the very triumphs of Marengo and Hohenlinden, Lunéville and Amiens were the seeds of France’s downfall.