One of the strange things in the twenty years of war with France that starts the period under review, is the numerous occasions that France put out propositions for peace. The British made no formal proposals and acceded to only two of the French approaches – the 1797 negotiations at Lille in bad faith and the peace of Amiens.
Here is a record of peace proposals culled from the newspaper. It is not a complete record. All these Bombay Courier reports post-date the events mentioned in them by 4-6 months. It is a matter for sincere regret that so many of the articles recited from the London Press are not datelined.
The fascinating item in this chapter is the peace negotiation at Lille. This was one aspect of an immense plan. Barthelemy, the French representative in Switzerland, started the process by making Treaties of Peace with Spain, Prussia and some minor German states. With the appearance of peace breaking out, the subversion of French primary elections was concurrently achieved by bribery and a coterie of monarchists were installed in the legislature sufficient to obtain the replacement of a Republican Director. At that time the Royalists could call on only two Directors to assist them. The addition of this third Royalist Director gave the plotters control over the appointment of negotiators with whom Harris (later Malmesbury), the British plenipotentiary, was to conclude and have ratified a treaty restoring the Bourbon line to power. Concurrently, the aristocratic French General Pichegru, commanding the Army of the Rhine, who had been seduced into agreement to turn his army around, was to march on Paris and secure the capital. It was a rather more complex plan than the simple one agreed between Auckland and others with Dumouriez at the outset of war.
The constant theme of British policy was the restoration of monarchy in France. As the French people had become utterly opposed to a King this theme could never be realised unless one or other of the contending parties was destroyed. Pitt’s patronage manager George Rose evoked the image of two men with their heads in a bucket of water seeing who could hold-out longest to portray the situation of the two countries. Effectively Britain was warring on the French people. George III was adamant and Burke was willing to use his influence to bring-in the great Whig families in support. It was from amongst this group that the nexus for war and the opposition to peace is found.
Today the French Revolution is held-up in our academies and text books as a frightful violent thing. The Reign of Terror is the main prop that subsequent power-holders have adopted to deter revolution – they say they abhor casual killing. It was of course the casual killing of a million in the Vendean civil war that made the revolution so despicable and that was done by the dispossessed Noblesse with British money. English-speaking historians want to have their cake and eat it too! No doubt the early revolutionary governments were notoriously inexperienced in the arts of government. They distrusted and killed those who knew what to do because the distinction of Noblesse and Bourgeoisie was hated by them. They fell back on history as their sole guide to political acts and administration.
British reluctance to make peace with France was later duplicated in her treatment of America. That country was incited into a Declaration of War in 1812 by British interference in her banking activities and note issue, by direction of her foreign trade and by an attempt to split the Union and hive-off the New England states to Canada. It was effectively a similar policy to the incitement of Dumouriez’s treason by Lord Auckland et al and in both cases elicited a Declaration of War, first from France and then from the United States, thus making those countries appear as the aggressor. Those American matters are contained in the North America chapter.
I believe the reluctance of Britain to make peace, at least after Amiens, derived from a realisation that British ability to compete with other countries commercially had been lost. Our trading competitors had first to be equally encumbered with immense debts. Had we simply returned to peace without taking great reparations from France, we would have been paying-off the national debt at over £30 millions a year whilst France was relatively unindebted, due to Napoleon’s prudent financial policy, and able to recover more or less instantaneously. That is the thrust of the final few articles in this chapter.
Sat 11th May 1793
Lord Grenville (Wyndham) has met with Chauvelin, the ambassador of the French King (he has remained in London) and is acting on messages from the revolutionary government. The French say:
“Although you have recalled Lord Gower (the British ambassador) from Paris, we have left our Ambassador at St James as we wish to preserve our relationship with you. The French government fears the British government, in several recent measures, is indisposed towards it.
“We wish to know if you will continue neutral or have become hostile to us.
“We fear you have incorrectly interpreted the decree of the National Convention of 19th Nov 1792 (offering help to all people wishing to reclaim their liberty). We do not espouse insurrection or sedition in our neighbours. The decree is only applicable to those people who have obtained their liberty and request friendship from France. We respect the independence of England and our other allies. We wish you to know that we will not attack Holland so long as that country maintains its strict neutrality.
“With these assurances, we believe there is no reason for Britain to create difficulties.
“There remains the navigation of the Schelde. Reason and justice require it be opened to the trade of Northern France. England and Holland require it closed. This is hardly a matter for us to go to war over. We only want peace.
“I am ordered to demand a written reply. If we are to war it will disastrous for both our countries and all mankind.”
Sat 29th June 1793
Grenville’s answer of 31st December to Chauvelin’s note of 27th December 1792:
You call yourself Minister Plenipotentiary of the Executive Committee of the French Republic. Since 10th August my King has suspended all communication with France. You are not accredited to the Court of St James. We have unilaterally determined that your public character is as a minister of His Most Christian Majesty (the late Louis XVI) and that you are disqualified from approaching us.
But as you offer an explanation of the circumstances that have given England unease, and talk of bringing our countries closer together, I have been unwilling to restrict myself to just this formal notice.
You explain three things:
- We understand the decree of 19th November by the National Convention seeks to extend the new principles of French government to all other countries, even those in a strict state of neutrality towards France. This is evident from the subsequent acts of the Convention. The application of these seditious principles in England is resisted by our people who have heard many speeches on the subject. We wish for an explanation that satisfies our past concerns and addresses our future security. Your explanation of the declaration still offers support to the promoters of sedition in every country. You still claim a right of involvement in our internal affairs. Your explanation is in fact a fresh avowal of the disposition that causes us unease.
- You say France will not attack Holland so long as that country observes an exact neutrality. This is similar to the declaration made by His Most Christian Majesty in June last. An officer claiming to be in your employment (Dumouriez) has since violated the territory and neutrality of the Dutch Republic. He has gone on the Scheldt and attacked Antwerp ignoring the Protest of the Dutch. You say you respect the independence and rights of England but you also say you will continue to promote the same policies. You say that the Scheldt is of little importance but you have willingly infringed on Dutch neutrality and violated Dutch rights for this unimportant matter. It is insulting.We are obliged to maintain our treaty duties and to oppose your principles by force. France is not sovereign in the Low Countries. Your law is applicable only in your own lands. Navigation on the Scheldt has nothing to do with you. We oppose your arrogation of a supposed ‘natural right’ to amend the political organisation of Europe, settled by treaties. We will not allow you to control the Low Countries. If you want peace with us you must abjure aggression and aggrandisement and confine yourselves within your own territory.
- You say England shows ill-will towards France but, without evidencing a single instance of it, I cannot discuss it. My King wants peace but he must also concern himself with the interests and security of His people.
On your other points I tell you this country will always communicate with other nations through its King. His rights, interests and happiness are identical to the rights, interests and happiness of the English people. Sgd Grenville
Sat 14th Dec 1793
On 26th April 1793, Mr John Salter, a Notary Public of Poplar, delivered two letters from M Le Brun, the French Foreign Minister, to Lord Grenville in Whitehall. The letters were by hand of James Matthews of Biggin House, Surrey:
- 1st letter dated 2nd April – “France wants peace. I require a passport and safe conduct for a person with Plenipotentiary powers to come to London and fix terms.”
- 2nd letter dated 2nd April – “The Plenipotentiary will be Hugues-Bernard Maret. He needs a Secretary, a valet de chambre and a courier to attend him. They all need protection.”
Sat 28th Dec 1793
Burke told the Commons that the French Foreign Minister le Brun, who recently proposed to negotiate peace with Lord Grenville, is now imprisoned in the Abbaye. Égalité is likewise gaoled in Marseilles. Dumouriez has fled. Clavierre was still at large but seemed out of power. Roland and his wife were confined.
Burke said there is no honourable man left to whom we can talk but, in any event, we should not make amends with the Members of the National Convention. Burke placed his hopes for peace in the allied army and the counter-revolution of the Royalists.
Sat 31st Jan 1795
Cornwallis, who is with our army in the Pay Bas, has conferred with the Duke of York and Mollendorff and come to London to brief Pitt. It is said an overture of peace may be sent to France.
Extraordinary edition, Tues 16th June 1795
The Abbe Sieyès has presented uniform peace proposals to the National Convention. He suggests they be offered to all Kings:
- France will conform with diplomatic norms if her enemies permit the French people to chose the form of government they like.
- All French colonies to be restored; France to restore the conquests made in Spain and Italy and the lands of Savoy, except Avignon and the surrounding area.
- All the people of the German states between the Rhine and the sea to be permitted to chose the form of government they prefer; the allied powers are to withdraw their armies from this area to permit the free decision of the people which will subsequently be binding on all parties.
- Navigation of the Rhine, Moselle, Meuse and Scheldt to be free to all.
- Spain, Sardinia, Naples, England and Holland may continue to give asylum to French émigrés; Those who are willing to renounce their pretensions to national power will be provided with Corsica as their place of retreat. For this purpose Corsica will receive independence (but place itself under the protection of Sardinia) and may chose its own form of government. Its ports will always be open to French navigation.
Sat 5th March 1796
The American ship Perseverance (Williamson) has arrived Bombay from London with grain and wine from Madeira. She stopped nowhere en route (the American captains often say that these days).
He brings London papers to September 1795 that say two French commissioners had then arrived in London supposedly for peace talks but no details are available. The French army over the Rhine has stopped its forward motion. It apparently crossed solely to encourage the Austrian Emperor to cease delaying the peace negotiations with the German states.
Sat 12th March 1796
One of the wealthiest merchants in London, who no doubt knows a thing or two, has written to Lord Spencer (First Lord of the Admiralty) providing a capitalist perspective on the war:
“It is impossible for England to make peace with France just now. On the contrary you should expect to hear that Russia and England are united in combating all the other powers of Europe. At least a war with Spain is certain.”
Sat 2nd April 1796
The Company’s cruiser Strombolo has arrived at Bombay from Basra with European news:
A French deputation is in London to propose peace. Pitt’s ministry however continues to expect the French government to collapse from internal disorders consequent on his assessment of the poor state of national credit.
Pitt’s difficulty is that his policy has an object that cannot readily be published. The wish for peace that the French assert is indeed alive in England and increasing throughout the country.
Pitt agrees that the new French Constitution appears acceptable to British politicians but thinks things will be even better for England if we war a bit longer.
Fox’s motion in the House of Commons to amend the King’s speech to encourage peace was defeated 240/59.
Sat 16th April 1796
The House of Commons, 9th December:
Another message from the King has been read in the House. He seems willing to consider peace with France.
Sheridan expressed astonishment. Recently the King and his minister insisted France could not be trusted; now it seems she can. In the week between these two contradictory speeches a huge loan has been raised and the country had been committed to spent £2 millions in annual interest payments on it.
The major crowns of Europe decided to interfere in France and restore the ancient despotism and this inflamed the French to threaten the spread of their ideology. Now after considerable sacrifice, peace was again possible.
He called for the resignation of the ministry.
Grey added that the only material difference in France now and France then was the establishment of a Council of Ancients along the lines of our own House of Lords. The war so far had cost £50 millions and had added £80 millions to the national debt. Now we have agreed to treat because there is a Council of Ancients!
Pitt replied that the French government now was not asserting Jacobin principles; it was not unlike our own. It is no longer founded on the Rights of Man which theoretical beauty had been found academic and impractical.
Sat 9th July 1796
The House of Commons debated peace on 15th February 1796:
Grey proposed the country make peace with France. The internal state of France is now tranquil, which was Pitt’s condition for negotiations. The King said in his recent message that he would welcome any pacific disposition on the part of France. When the King states that he is not hostile to the new social order in France and does not consider it dangerous to the neighbours, it is time for peace and Grey was only surprised that the Minister had done nothing to promote it.
It is now two months since France met our conditions and nothing has happened. Instead, Pitt is raising funds for another campaign.
He thought the entire war was mistaken and the House should have followed Fox’s advice before it commenced. We joined this war without considering the consequences and, now our allies are all following their self-interest, we are in a predicament. Peace had been proposed at the end of the first season when we were still successful. Those conquests gave us an overwhelming negotiating position and might have secured the sort of peace we want but we were after more. Then fortune turned against us. Holland (on the preservation of which depended the safety of England, so it was said) was lost. Some of our erstwhile allies abandoned the struggle.
At the beginning of 1795 he (Grey) had again moved the House for peace and been defeated. We continued to war while Spain and Prussia made peace. All the German states (including Hanover) voted for peace. Grey had then again moved the House for peace in a way he thought should be acceptable to Pitt but the minister said there was no institution in France to negotiate with. This objection, if sustainable, was nullified by the establishment of good government in France but still Pitt persevered in fighting and defied those states that made peace. England was now the leading, almost the only, light in the cause of war (she is accompanied by the dispossessed parties – the Pope and the Bourbons).
H M’s speech allowed an expectation of peace and he (Grey) was disappointed. He asked if ministers had at that time considered the possibility of peace. Had they categorised the then demands of France as extravagant or derogatory of British honour. On the contrary ministers are working endlessly to perfect formidable preparations for more war – doubling their stakes to recoup their losses.
He had given notice of his motion for peace but few of the ministers had come to the House to consider it – it showed their disinterest. France has not repeated any of those acts that were obnoxious to us. They had now established a firm Republic on the Rights of Man and George III had said he had no problem treating with them. Why are we still fighting? France is the strongest power in Europe (triple England’s population with commensurate productive ability). Pitt says she has bankrupted herself fighting. It was as a bankrupt nation that she defeated us so decisively last season. We have accepted the Republican government and are willing to negotiate with it. What is the delay? Should we just confide in ministers and say nothing.
When the King authorised peace did they pursue it? It is supposed that ministers feel themselves degraded by negotiations. Did the then King degrade himself by making peace proposals to France in 1760? That proposal was rejected by France and as a result the House of Commons willingly voted further funds to continue the contest. If we offer honourable terms now and they are refused, Grey would be content.
We have never publicly retracted our former professions that France was ineligible to negotiate with. This makes it difficult for France to take a leading position in initiating peace – the onus rests with us. France has long retracted the objectionable decree of fraternisation (the internationalisation of the Revolution in the Decree of 19th November 1792). What have we done to respond?
When I made a motion last year to bring on peace negotiations, Pitt said it was derogatory of British honour. Since then Pitt had revised his opinions, forsaken the cause of monarchy, religion, morality and social order and pronounced our formal recognition of the French Republic. Yet, he is now starting another campaign, presumably to overthrow that government he so recently recognised. Ministers had shown no disposition to treat with France. If they did so and it was rejected, he would support the war. Grey was persuaded that his motion answered the case – we propose peace and see what happens. He moved that an address be presented to the King proposing to communicate with the French government and indicate our readiness to negotiate an equitable and honourable peace.
Pitt said everything Charles Grey had said was irrelevant. The other allies had withdrawn from the alliance as a result of French policy to divide us. It was Pitt’s wish not to submit to this policy but to bring France to her knees and obtain her submission. If instead we seek for peace, we will have to adopt the laws of France. To ask for peace is to admit defeat. He agreed that the present French government was sufficiently well-founded to negotiate with. But French resources are expended whilst ours are formidable. We can ultimately expect that we will prevail and dictate a peace. Europe depends on England for the future happiness of mankind. While France remained hostile but bankrupt, he would never consent to make peace. He thought that making an overture of peace was not dishonourable provided it was predictably likely to lead to peace but the timing would depend on France.
He referred to a recent instruction from the Directory to the Legislature which contained no inclination to make peace. He alluded to another instruction of the Directory which expressed a readiness to treat (provided England asked for it) which ended:
“…. it is held for certain that our government, deeply impressed with the proofs of affection held out by the English people to the French, would insist on no other satisfaction or indemnification than the respective restitution of French and Dutch settlements now in British hands; and would require nothing more of the British ministry than that they should not interfere in the internal government of France and the Netherlands, nor in their wars with their neighbours.”
Pitt supposed this was a genuine document. He categorised Grey’s motion as a confession of British weakness.
Fox said that the main French provocation of war had been the attempt to internationalise their revolution. That had since been abandoned. The French now declared they held no hostility towards any other country. That revised position required some sort of response from Britain because one of our published war aims was for the re-establishment of monarchy in France. He hoped the ministry would undertake to France not to meddle in her internal affairs.
Fox regretted that ministers had not acted on the King’s message. The King had said conditions in France were approaching a crisis and her government might be approached in a way consistent with the security of this country. Six weeks later the crisis is said to have arrived. Ministers should then have acted on the King’s advice. Throughout this period of pretended willingness to negotiate, ministers had done no such thing. An armistice might have been arranged. Parliament was long adjourned which allowed for a negotiation to commence.
Fox also objected to Pitt’s idea that French policy was to divide the allies and pick-off them one by one. Was France under pressure when Prussia negotiated for peace? Were they in difficulty when they made peace with Spain? It was the same with the German princes (including Hanover). It was not at all the case that France divided us but that our allies deserted us. When we paid the loan to the Emperor last year he would not even bind himself to continue fighting. It was that reason that caused me (Fox) to oppose the Austrian loan. Pitt has told us his ministry will take every opportunity to negotiate that the enemy presents to us but time had passed, nothing has been done, and Pitt’s offer appeared to be mere sophistry.
If negotiations were commenced could it be bad for Britain? Commerce would benefit. It would be the first indication we have given that peace is acceptable to us. It is often partisan hostility in the House of Commons that prolongs war. The partisan asperity today in this House equals our fixed attitudes in the war of Spanish Succession when we broke off negotiations at Gertruydenberg (now Geertruidenberg).
Pitt’s language now is not the language of peace. An offer to negotiate is the first step towards peace but Pitt says such a declaration by the country would humiliate us. This view has been rejected so often in our history it is shocking to see it reappearing. Pitt then said we cannot interfere with the King’s prerogative when it is precisely the Minister’s duty to advise the King. Lord North made the same argument as Pitt when he opted to continue the war with America. Ministers often talk of state secrets and King’s prerogatives but this House does not have to listen. All the examples we have in our national history show that opposition to such arguments is invariably beneficial to the country.
Pitt has referred to a newspaper report from Hamburg containing a declaration said to come from the French Directory (recited above). This is hardly sufficient cause to reject peace. If the Directory of France is as ambitious as the news report suggests, it would be well to publish it widely amongst the French people. Popular opinion in a Republic might be expected to have a greater voice than in a monarchy.
It seems to be a truism that reason and justice are seldom involved in the affairs of the world. Justice submits to Power as had just occurred in Poland but to have justice on your side is a powerful tool in negotiation. At the time of the treaty of Gertruydenberg, if Louis XIV had acted towards the Pretender in the same way this ministry has lately acted towards Monsieur (Comte d’Artois – who was approached by Pitt’s emissary), this would have adduced accusations of bad faith from France.
Finally Pitt complains that a negotiation would limit his options. How can a minister object to a Declaration made by the House?
Fox then turned to British finances. It is no consolation to the British people to be told their enormous burdens and hardships are less than those of France. Suppose France begged for peace and we made the most prosperous deal imaginable, would that compensate for the distress? Our annual tax revenue (the landed income) is about £25 millions. People are paying taxes at 100% of rental. If France is worse off that’s their problem; ours is bad enough.
This hardship is forced on the people to allow the minister to fight another campaign. Even if it was successful, it would not compensate in the way a peace treaty will.
This is the time for peace. I (Fox) am confident that reasonable terms are available. The Directory would not dare to refuse it because the people have a voice in a Republic and they would not submit to a prolongation of unnecessary war.
Fox concluded with the wish that whatever terms are sought, they are available to all participants equally.
The House then divided on Grey’s motion which was rejected 50/189.
Sat 10th Sept 1796
London news up to 19th May:
Pitt’s chosen peace emissary to the French is the warhawk William Wickham. He has been given Plenipotentiary powers and sent to the Swiss Federation to discover the French attitude to peace. He will negotiate with Barthelemy at Berne. He has written Barthelemy on 8th March:
- is France interested in a peace congress, if so, what terms does France propose, and
- if not interested in a congress, in what way does France wish to secure peace.
Barthelemy has replied on behalf of the Directory notifying the sentiments of the French government as follows:
“France wants peace. She is saddened that Wickham’s purported Plenipotentiary powers lack the authority to make peace. The Republic is uncertain of the British minister’s purpose in sending a Plenipotentiary to sound-out the possibility of peace without giving him powers to agree same.
“If England is proposing peace in good faith, why does she propose a Congress of all the Powers. The more countries negotiating, the longer the process will take. It might be endless.
“Alternatively, England asks for French suggestions for a basis to negotiations. Does England have no expectations for the shape of peace? France considers the English approach likely to raise doubt and uncertainty. France must act in accordance with her laws. It cannot alienate any part of what she considers French territory.
“However, the disposal of those countries occupied by French armies which have not been incorporated in France (together with other political and commercial questions), is negotiable.”
On 10th April, Pitt described Barthelemy’s letter as not indicative of a wish for peace. The unacceptable term to Pitt is that territory incorporated into France by conquest and retained by national decree is unavailable for exchange.
Pitt will continue the war until France becomes more compromising in respect of her natural frontiers.
Sat 12th Nov 1796
Message of the Directory to the French legislature:
The English suggested peace negotiations but they were not genuine and merely intended to delay our preparations while they raced ahead with theirs.
All serious talk of peace was evaded by Wickham on frivolous pretexts. This has been our usual experience with Pitt’s ministry. The views of Pitt’s group are invariably adopted by the Royalist faction which that minister maintains in our midst. We have offered peace on moderate terms although we have no doubts of the continuing triumph of our arms. It is apparent that we cannot bring the English to peace until they have been deprived of all means of continuing the war. We must commence a vigorous campaign.
The harmony between the Directory and the Legislature of our country and the suppression of factions is dreadful to our enemies. The increased circulation of provisions, the willingness of our youth to join the colours and our increased tax receipts following the forced loan, allow us to expect a glorious campaign. However we are still short of cash and we have to requisition some of the draught and saddle horses of the nation for the war effort. It was the shortage of horses in the last campaign that prevented our making the most of our battles – every time we engaged the enemy, they were superior in cavalry. The Directory proposes the Legislature consider taking every thirtieth horse in the country.
Sgd Reubell, President.
The next few articles describe the émigré-inspired attempt to occupy more seats in the French legislature by bribery, use those legislators to direct the French parliament in the appointment of a third accommodating Director (the émigrés have two on-side already), use that sympathetic Directorate to appoint suitable negotiators to the peace convention at Lille which would then agree peace terms satisfactory to the Kings. Concurrently, the French Army of the Rhine was to turn around, invade the country and occupy Paris to deter dissent – a symphony of organised deception and bribery:
Tues 2nd Jan 1798
The Company’s ship Viper has arrived from Basra with European news to 15th September 1797. On this occasion no continental newspapers are available. The only news we have is from London:
The peace negotiations at Lille have stalled. The London editors are not explicit as to the reason but it seems to relate to the alleged involvement of our government in funding and organising a conspiracy lately discovered in Paris to overthrow the French government and restore monarchy.
The conspiracy involves several leading French politicians, most of whom are Jacobins – the people Pitt has repeatedly said he will not negotiate with.
Tues 2nd Jan 1798
First information of the intended coup at Paris, 4th September 1797. It had both internal and external features:
The internal conspiracy was to replace three members of the Directory with people disposed to re-admit the émigrés and the King. General Augereau has arrested the conspirators. They are 24 army officers, the most important of whom is Ramel. He tried to influence the officers of his regiment of guards (which protects the legislators at the Tuilleries) and those colleagues brought the matter to light.
Director Carnot has fled and is presumed to be implicated.
The external aspect involved General Pichegru. He is charged with conspiring with the Bourbon Prince of Conde to restore monarchy. Pichegru commanded the French army confronting the Austrians on the Rhine. He was persuaded to turn it around and march on Paris, together with Conde’s émigré army.
The bribe Conde offered to secure this service, with the self-named Louis XVIII’s approval, is handsome – the Governorship of Alsace, an enormous estate called Terre d’Arbois, rank of Field Marshal, 1,000,000 livres in cash and a life pension of 200,000 livres p a.
The other conspirators are Gilbert Desmolieres, Bourdon de l’Oise, J V Dumolard, Boissy d’Anglas, Villau, General Willot, Dumas, Camille Jourdan, Piette, Boisset, Rambault, Cadroy, Desbonniere, Rovere, Philippe Delville and Masset (plus Vaublanc, Pastoret and Vauvilliers to a total of 32). Carnot, Barthelemy, Cochon, Suard and Ramel are implicated.
The discovery of this plot had led to a round of inquisitions and executions of leading Frenchmen. It is disappointing to every Frenchman, having amnestied the émigrés and priests last year, to find their compassion abused.
They all blame England for fomenting the attempted coup d’etat.
A consensus is forming around the belief that France cannot have peace while England remains undefeated.
The new interim Directorate is comprised of Poulain-Granpré, the Abbe Sieyès, Hardi, Chazal and the Comte Boulay de la Meurthe. All the arrested deputies have been taken to the Temple. All the conciliatory laws in favour of the émigrés and priests that have been enacted since the moderates assumed power last year have been rescinded.
In spite of the political upheaval, life in Paris continues as normal. The members of the Mountain (who support the Constitution of 1793), are quiet and the new Directory has expressly said the Mountain will not enter power. There are 12,000 – 15,000 troops guarding the roads and bridges of Paris and another 25,000 in the suburbs.
A gunsmith named Perotteau has been arrested. He sold 700 muskets to emissaries of King Louis XVIII. By the day following discovery of the plot, it was apparent that 64 Deputies (from the 500) would be banished to Africa. Two Directors will be replaced – Carnot and Barthelemy.
Talleyrand Perigord, the foreign minister, is suspect but still free.
Strangely Moreau is not mentioned in any of the papers.
The political leadership is concurrently engineering support for the French funds with the help of Scottish capitalists.
On 8th September Merlin de Thionville and Francois de Neufchatel were appointed to assume the vacant Directory seats.
Sat 20th Jan 1798
The background to the recent change of the French Ministry has been discussed in a Parisian newspaper. It says some jealousy manifested between the Directory and the Council of 500. A few legislators, wishing to end these signs of apparent discord and present a united front to the populace, approached Carnot, a Director, to dismiss his unpopular colleagues.
Carnot agreed but thought that only one other Director would support him. The conspirators then approached a third Director, Barras, and convinced him of the wisdom of the move. Soon afterwards a debate occurred in the Council whether to remove the power of the Directory to control the organisation of the Gendarmerie. This induced an intemperate letter from Director Reubel to the Council which Carnot used in the Directorate to raise the subject of the disposal of unpopular ministers in order to assure the general populace of the government’s attention. Thus was the change effected.
Sat 6th Jan 1798
Proclamation of the French Directory, 4th September:
A Royalist conspiracy has been revealed. It was Lamerer who unwisely lauded the Constitution of 1791 and drew revolutionary attention on himself. From that lead, we obtained the correspondence of Lemaine; then the papers of the émigré Gelin. By investigating each lead to its conclusion we uncovered everything.
It is shocking to discover that General Pichegru held a secret meeting with the Prince of Conde on the banks of the Rhine and allowed himself to be persuaded to sell-out the French people.
It is apparent that the Royalists have infiltrated every government department and commune. They have influenced elections and returned Deputies supportive of their plans. The sheer extent of bribery is astonishing. We have also discovered Lamerer and Merfan, the intermediaries between the minority of traitorous Deputies (whom they caused to be elected) and the agents of the Bourbon Pretender. The attached declaration of Duverne Deprelle reveals how the conspiracy worked:
“France has experienced almost continuous conspiracies by émigrés and priests for the re-establishment of monarchy. This entire war is being fought on their behalf. They learn from each failure and every time they get a little bit more skilled in deception. I fear that they are at their wits end and are likely to attempt some sort of armed intervention in Paris to achieve their ends. This will inevitably spill French blood. To prevent our people getting hurt unnecessarily, this Declaration is to enable every Frenchman – Royalist and Republican – to recognise those acts that are compatible with and inductive of insurrection.
“For two years I have promoted the cause of Royalty on behalf of Louis XVIII. I now betray his cause. I must end this chimerical plan to confound the Republic and heal the schism dividing our people.
“Initially I sought to unite the chiefs of La Vendee and Brittany and all those agents scattered amongst the departments who were pursuing the monarchical agenda by disparate and conflicting means. I went to La Vendee and Brittany. I went to Switzerland where the British minister charged with concerting the internal rebellion (Wickham) was based. I went to the Prince of Conde and interviewed the King. I went to England and explained myself to Comte d’Artois and the British cabinet. I asked them all to support an end to these quarrels.
“You should know that King Louis XVIII and his Council have always suspected the British of intending the total ruin of France. The King has agreed to rule in accordance with the Constitution of 1791. He has approved this plan. The English minister and the French princes know only as much of it as has been communicated to them. The object is to unite the political and military leadership.
“It was planned to divide France in two – one part comprising Franche Compte, the Lyonnoise, Fores, Auvergne and the South would be under M Percy. The rest of France was to be directed by agents from Paris. The two regions would communicate and neither would do anything without telling the other. If they could not agree, nothing would be done. Both areas would have direct contact with King Louis and the British cabinet. The British are there to help but we will only give them information relative to the accomplishment of those of our aims that require their help. We would not have surrendered ports, etc., to them. They are routinely perfidious and too many Englishmen aspire only to the ruin of France.
“Each of the provinces was to be sub-divided into military commands. The Commanders of these areas would be appointed by the King but would be instructed by the principal agents. These agents, generally at Paris, were primarily to subvert the legislature. They could not promise bribes to everyone and neither could they hint at Bourbon agreement to a Constitutional monarchy. The King’s position is that he will do his best to reform the abuses that arose under the ancien regime. To attain that end, He is prepared to make any reasonable offer to any Frenchman in a position of power. Whenever a powerful man or party in Paris could be persuaded to the King’s side, he / it was to send a messenger for detailed discussions. The constant thread of the King’s policy is the overthrow of the present Republican government. It was to be achieved by using a term in the Constitution itself.
“The frequency of elections prevents a sudden Royalist coup but the numbers of Royalists in France remains high. The Royalists historically have failed to focus their influence on the Primary Assemblies. To obtain a majority in these Assemblies required three points – the Royalists must attend, they must combine their votes and they should concentrate their efforts on those people who are apolitical and willing to submit to a government that merely protects their persons and property. For this purpose we divided the Royalist supporters into two groups – those fervently supportive and those timidly so. The timid group was deemed suitable to entice businessmen who only want profit. These two associations were established throughout the Republic.”
Some correspondence concerning the conspiracy is also published:
- A letter from the Prince of Conde to the ex-bailiff of Lyon, Imbert Colomes (where he is the King’s treasurer. Colomes was removed from the list of proscribed émigrés by a Decree of 20th May and has since become a Deputy). ‘The King has sent Mr Besignan to Lyon. Please receive him respectfully.’
- Letter from Besignan to Wickham, British Minister to Switzerland ‘you mentioned a letter which the Prince of Conde wrote to Colomes, Agent of the King at Lyon…..’
- Letter from Besignan to the Marquis of Montessori 2nd Nov ‘I received your letter of 31st Oct. You just refer me to Wickham to get a letter for Colomes at Lyon’
- Besignan to Prince of Conde “You could not have known about Wickham. After I told him that everything was prepared; after I had consented to serve under Reay and de Chavannes, he saw no difficulty in sending me to Lyon. He wrote that he had prepared the minds of men for my reception. I did not expect that this Wickham would then reveal that the Terror prevails at Lyon and Colomes and the others are in hiding. I have spent 5,668 livres on this endeavour. I need to hear from Colomes to reimburse me.”
There was also important documentary evidence found by Bonaparte on his occupation of Venice. It was in the handwriting of the Comte d’Antraigues:
‘I talked 6 hours with Comte de Montgaillard on 14th December 1796. He was in Venice in September but I did not see him then. His friend the Abbe Dumontel visited six weeks later on behalf of the Count …..
‘I got a letter from Fauche Borel of Neufchatel asking me to pay 600 livres to de Montgaillard and to tell the Comte to go to Basel and meet Fauche. I told the Comte that the Abbe he sent to me had again refused the 600 livres. Fifteen days later de Montgaillard sent for the money and asked for an interview. He came on 4th December with the Abbe. He described his escape, his flight to England, his return to ….. and his quarrels with émigrés in every country who do nothing for France. I asked what he did now. He said that was the reason for his visit.
‘In Aug 1795 he was in Basel. He was ordered out of Holland by Lord St Helens for writing inflammatory pamphlets. Before leaving he had a chat with the Danish minister there who asked him about the Revolution. He replied generally but spoke freely “I consider our allies as people who would pick pockets on their way to the gallows.” He went to the Hague then Neufchatel then Basel. The Prince of Conde called him to visit at Mulheim. Conde knew the man through my connections and told him he proposed to sound General Pichegru who was then at Altkirch, attended constantly by four representatives of the National Convention.
‘I took 400 – 500 Louis d’Or and considered ways of influencing Fauche Borel, the King’s printer at Neufchatel. He is a stupid but devout Royalist. I deputed M Courant to serve with Fauche Borel. Courant served the great Frederick for 14 years and is calm and brave. I persuaded them to act as foreigners visiting France with the intention of buying national treasures on the cheap. It was an appropriate thing to say to a conquering General. I then went to Basel and awaited to hear from them. On 13th August 1795 they went to Altkirch and stayed 8 days. Every time they saw Pichegru he was attended by one or more of the peoples’ commissioners. Pichegru soon realised that he saw these two repeatedly and guessed they had something to say. As he passed Fauche he said aloud “I will go to Huninguen’. Fauche followed but could still not get near. Then he heard Pichegru say ‘I shall dine with Mde de Salomon (his mistress). Her chateau is 3 leagues from Huninguen. Fauche was finally able to meet him there.
‘He opened the conversation with ‘I have a manuscript of J J Rousseau which I should like to dedicate to you’. Pichegru said he would have to read it first as some of Rousseau’s principles differed from his own. That was promising, so Fauche then said there was something else. Pichegru asked what and Fauche said he had come on behalf of the Prince of Conde. Pichegru then took him to an inner room and said ‘explain yourself’. Fauche became hesitant and stammering. Pichegru said ‘Have confidence; I think as the Prince thinks’. Fauche said the Prince wanted Pichegru’s support. Pichegru said ‘that is useless. Get written instructions and return in three days’. Fauche rushed to Basel and briefed me. I spent the whole night drafting a letter to Pichegru. The Prince had given me the necessary powers to negotiate with the General.
‘My letter was intended to tickle his pride. I pointed out what great good he could do, hinted at the gratitude of his King, etc. I said the King was persuaded to offer him a Field Marshal’s baton and the Governorship of Alsace (as no one deserved to rule that province as much as Pichegru, its great defender). He would have the red ribbon, the chateau of Chambord with its park, 12 cannon taken from the Austrians, 1,000,000 livres in cash and 200,000 livres each year (half of which to revert to his widow on death and 50,000 livres to each of his children in perpetuity), a hotel in Paris, the territory of Arbois (his native area which would be renamed for him) and I offered him tax-exemption for 15 years. That was the offer I made him.
‘For his army, I offered to establish all his officers in their respective ranks, the advancement of those he recommended, an estate for every commander and 15 years tax-free for each French town they should bring to submission. At an appropriate time, he was to proclaim the King and all people were to be amnestied. He was to deliver the King to Huninguen, join his troops with the Prince’s army and together march on Paris.
‘Pichegru asked ‘who is de Montgaillard’. Not knowing him, he required a letter from the Prince de Conde, whose handwriting he recognised, before taking any action. Fauche then returned to d’Antraigues, arriving at Basel that evening. I went to Mulheim and reported to the Prince and briefed him after midnight. He was reluctant to write to Pichegru and the discussion continued through the night. The Prince is brave and intrepid but he is surrounded by worthless vile people – de Montesson, La Jair and Bouthelier – whom he permits to control him. They are typical of the preponderance of émigrés – their idea of a revolution is exploding bombs. When they encounter a man of real talents with extensive and complex plans, they encourage him to commence and to commit himself, then assume the conduct of his plans themselves. Another motive of these people is to progress that form of revolution that makes money. They prefer the present state of things to any other. These are the people who surround the King and the Prince de Conde. They do not see the whole endeavour ‘in the round’ and confuse the scaffolding for the building. Their attitude has made the Prince as timid of trifles as they are of cannon. It took five hours of talk to induce him to write a letter (of nine lines) to Pichegru.
‘I took it to Basel and gave it to Fauche to give to the General at Altkirch. Once Pichegru saw the letter he was persuaded. He said ‘the parole of the Prince is sufficient for any Frenchman’. Pichegru then outlined his ideas. He did not want to be another Lafayette or Dumouriez – he was determined to succeed. The roots of his power were not only in his army but in Paris, in the Convention, in the Departments and in the armies of other generals who support monarchy. He thought France could not exist as a Republic – it must have a King – but he would not start until he was persuaded that quick success was likely.
‘The Prince’s simple plan was for their two armies to unit under the white cockade and march on Paris. Pichegru thought they would be destroyed in no time. His army was composed of honest men and rogues and they had to be separated first. The honest men had to be motivated to the point they could not retract and whose only recourse would then be to succeed in the undertaking. To attain this end he proposed to garrison the forts with men faithful to the King. The rogues will be removed to harmless positions where they cannot unite their strength. He then proposed to cross the Rhine wherever we like and proclaim the King. Conde and the Austrian Emperor will unite with Pichegru’s army and we will jointly recross the Rhine and enter France. The fortresses en route to Paris will be surrendered to us by the loyal men we have garrisoned them with. We will march forwards and everywhere we can expect recruits to join us. From the Rhine to Paris should take about 14 days. To get the troops to cry ‘vive le Roi’ will require a supply of wine and a Crown for each man. Tell the Prince and return with his answer.
‘The Prince of Conde was impressed. Pichegru was himself an émigré. By passing the Rhine he put himself between the armies of Wurmser and the Prince where desertion would be unattractive. Pichegru knew his army and its officers better than anyone else. Pichegru’s plan however did not guarantee the restoration of monarchy. It only offered a chance to overthrow the Republican government. Conde concluded that Pichegru’s plan brought-in the Austrians and who knows what they might have in mind. Besides it was a greater glory for Frenchmen to alone restore the King.
‘To persuade Pichegru to Conde’s plan for a French-only invasion, he should proclaim the King without leaving France by crossing the Rhine; that the march on Paris should be accomplished by the armies of Pichegru and Conde alone and, to make up the numbers, he promised an advance of 100,000 ecus in Louis d’Ors (which he could get from Basel) and 1.4 millions in readily negotiable Bills. The Prince was utterly opposed to involving the Austrians. Courant was required to explain these opinions to Pichegru.’
This paper was found in the possession of d’Antraigues by Bonaparte and opened in his and my presence. Sgd General Berthier.
Tues 2nd Jan 1798
The concurrent peace negotiations (from a Ratisbon paper):
Letourneur and the French Commissioners gave Malmesbury (Harris) their proposals for peace on behalf of France, Spain and the Netherlands. Its an embarrassment for England.
For France, Letourneur wants all colonial possessions returned; payment of the value of the ships and stores taken or destroyed at Toulon; British agreement to cease using the term ‘King of France’ to describe George III in official documents, amendment of the British Navigation Act (to end British derogation from international law in respect of neutral trade) and independence for Ireland (which France will guarantee).
For Spain he wants her colonial territories restored together with Gibraltar.
For Netherlands he wants the colonies restored, restitution for the warships taken to England by the Stadtholder at the outset and compensation for all ships and cargoes seized as prizes.
Malmesbury said Britain wants to retain Ceylon, the Cape and Trinidad; She wants a uniform system of government in West Indies (no more French bestowals of freedom on the slaves). Both proposals were rejected. Malmesbury was agreeable to exchange Gibraltar. He would commend the Foreign Office to stop using the term King of France as one of the English King’s titles. He would recommend Britain relinquish its mortgage on Belgium (which had been taken as security for British government loans to the Austrian Emperor).
It seems the French are not entirely inflexible. We asked for restitution of lands taken from English allies and, whilst it was initially rejected, France has since agreed to allow representatives of those countries to sit at the table.
Sat 6th Jan 1798
Malmesbury rapidly left Lille at 4 am on 18th September for London. The Directory has changed and the newly appointed French Commissioners Treilhard and Bonnier (with Derche as Secretary), who have just arrived, were ordered by the Directory (order signed 11th September by the new Directors La Reveillere Lepaux as President and La Garde as Secy) to put it directly to Malmesbury whether he was fully authorised to negotiate, specifically on the restoration of French colonies. Malmesbury had to admit he had no such powers. They asked him what he thought he was doing – a fishing trip? He was requested to leave within 24 hours and get full powers.
The French Commissioners remained at Lille until 16th Oct but Malmesbury never returned.
Sat 6th Jan 1798
The new Directory is upset by the abuse of supposed peace negotiations at Lille as cover for overturning the French government by stealth. The only thing they have to compensate them is that this is the first time for many years that the English have been silent.
The Directory suspects the Austrian Emperor puts London’s wishes before his own States and interests – George III as Elector of Hanover is arch-Treasurer of the Austrian Empire – and they think that is why Austria is again arming. The English needed a rest to trawl their empire for funds and it seems Pitt thought the opportunity provided by the armistice might be usefully filled with negotiations to pacify the liberal Whigs.
Sat 6th Jan 1798
The Directory has proclaimed that it is essential to make the enemy understand that the Republican government is unanimously supported by all Frenchmen in France and only the handful of émigrés and priests in London, Vienna, etc., are opposed to it.
Our enemies have failed to win on the battlefield and now attempt to gain by deception what they could not obtain by violence. If England wanted peace, terms would have been agreed long ago. We put our armies in barracks and offered good faith in negotiations in order to solicit British goodwill but it was all to no effect. They have interrupted the flow of French victories while they endeavoured to foment a coup d’etat in Paris. If they can persuade Frenchmen to fight each other, their own chances of victory are much improved. We have interrupted our repeated triumphs and laid down our arms believing the English were honestly desirous of peace. But the Courts of the autocrats want France extinguished from the map and Pitt and his City friends want the sources of our wealth. This is the basis to the unity between the British King and His Minister.
We invited home the émigrés and priests in an act of national forgiveness and reconciliation. We receive a continual flow of disinformation from those French legislators who returned from Austria and England which, with hindsight, was solely intended to disconcert France by calumniating our politicians, insulting our Generals and paralysing our government. This is the programme that the Royalists were pursuing in preparation for their coup d’etat.
Now the mask has been taken off. The real obstacle to peace is the fraudsters in the English cabinet. Our enemies talk peace whilst maintaining their arms at readiness. We must do likewise. We want a permanent honourable peace without any trace of English crookedness. We must liberate Austria from English influence and persuade her to cease prevaricating. We will fight although we desire peace. It is the only way to deal with these perfidious people. Their feigned negotiations are nothing to do with peace.
Although we have fought for six years, we must continue until our enemies lose their appetite for killing. Justice and peace are our causes. The Commissariats of Departments will resume the conscription of troops that was stopped earlier. Everyone must be ready by 6th September. This proclamation is to be printed and published throughout the Republic.
Sgd Reveillere Lepaux President and La Garde Secretary.
Sat 10th Feb 1798
Letter from Basel, 24th September:
Crawfurd the British Commissar has gone to Uberlingen on 15th September to tell the Prince of Conde that England will no longer pay for his army. The British ministry is dissatisfied with the repeated failures of Bourbon initiatives – in Brittany and with Pichegru – and, most particularly, with the revelations that the émigrés are concealing important information from Pitt’s cabinet.
All the British mercantile contractors to Conde’s force have accordingly been dismissed and from next month the Prince’s army will be paid by Russia and their supplies and food provided by Russian contractors.
Pitt has paid a half-year’s costs to Conde in lieu of notice.
The émigré army is marching to Ulm and will sail down the Danube to Lintz and thence to Limberg. They will be quartered in the Polish lands that were recently seized by Austria and will continue to be called the Corps of Conde. The Prince retains command.
Sat 17th Feb 1798
- The Council of 500 has elected a Director to replace the disgraced Barthelemy. 263 Deputies were present. Francois de Neufchatel got 224 votes at the first election but was pipped by Merlin, the Foreign Minister, in a subsequent poll. Another election to replace Carnot was equally well attended and Francois was the successful Deputy on that occasion.
- The law banishing the 67 Deputies who were elected to the legislature in pursuit of the Bourbon plot to change the government has been returned to the Council as it contains no provision for what to do with banishees should they subsequently return to France.
Sat 17th March 1798
The Directory has demanded of the Swiss Cantons that they expel Wickham. The French government has published a paper indicating Wickham is doing nothing for the mutual interests of the Swiss and the British (no normal consular activities) – he is simply plotting against France. Mingaud is sent to Berne, and the other Cantons if necessary, to detail Wickham’s activities to the Swiss legislators.
The Swiss had predicted French anger and M/s Tillet, Muttach and Hale (the brother of Napoleon Bonaparte’s banker) have come to Paris to explain how Switzerland came to permit Wickham’s group to operate in their lands.
The Republic of Berne formally replied 11th October that British ministers had resided in Switzerland for nearly a century. Wickham is accredited to all the Cantons individually – it would require a unanimous vote to expel him. We wish to preserve our strict neutrality. We will have to debate your request.
Sat 24th March 1798
George III’s Declaration, 28th October 1797:
I have twice tried to make peace with France (Wickham and Harris) but they persevere in their hostility. The war originated in their unprovoked violence. Our enemy repeatedly places obstacles in the path to peace. The French are not really seeking for peace – they just want to pretend they are peaceful people and we are the aggressors.
I sent a minister with ample powers to talk to them. He gave them a detailed proposal for peace that addressed everybody’s concerns. They made no counter-proposal. Instead they treated with my proposals separately, cutting up the package in a way that prevented agreement.
They disclaimed the ancient basis of such negotiations – mutual compensation – and demanded a pre-condition from Malmesbury before they would start to talk. This pre-condition was the return of all territory we have conquered in the war. It would have confined England to her former limits while France has grown enormously by her land conquests. I refused their demand and asked the French to recognise the high station that God had given to England. The talking continued for two months.
On 11th September the deadlock was to be resolved by the appointment of new French plenipotentiaries. The new negotiators demanded Malmesbury agree to the return of all lands occupied by Britain in the war. I had refused this two months before and Malmesbury reiterated my instruction. He was ordered away ‘to get sufficient powers (for the cession of the occupied lands) to negotiate peace’.
Since then they have been talking nonsense and trying to blame England for the failure of the peace talks. In fact throughout the discussion we have never received an indication of French terms. I only want peace but it takes two to tango. Our national spirit and resources are adequate to continue the struggle until France too evinces a genuine wish for peace. God is on our side.
The French said it was our man Wickham in Switzerland who organised and funded the Royalist coup d’Etat. This charge was never disavowed by Pitt or Dundas but a bundle of state papers was published instead:
Sat 24th March 1798
In support of HM’s Declaration on the French rejection of peace (above), the government has published some state papers showing the course of its dealings. Uniquely, it is Britain that requested peace negotiations:
- Grenville’s 2nd June 1797 proposals to negotiate peace.
- Directory’s ‘eager compliance’ of 4th June.
- Grenville’s request of 8th June – where to negotiate?
- Directory’s proposal of Lille.
- Recital of the terms of the French passport, signed Delacroix.
- The powers delegated to Malmesbury 17th June: He is the King’s representative; He may send couriers direct from Lille to Dover via Calais; English packets may freely travel between Dover and Calais to maintain communication. The passport specimen from France differs from the usual form in that it particularly describes the nature and extent of the Plenipotentiary’s powers and his mission. England finds it inconvenient to provide these details. His full powers will be drafted in the usual form, without prescribing any particular mode of negotiation, to allow him unlimited authority to conclude any treaty. London does not insist on a treaty to make peace – we welcome whatever means provides it quickest. Whether it is a preliminary or definitive treaty, Malmesbury is adequately empowered. England, in its negotiation, will consider the interests of Austria, Portugal and the Netherlands. The British government hopes these disclosures are sufficient for France to transmit a passport for Malmesbury and his suite. Sgd Grenville.
- French letter saying another ambassador would have augured more favourably on the outcome (Malmesbury negotiated peace before unsuccessfully) but containing some preliminary arrangements.
- Grenville agrees the preliminary arrangements.
- 29th June the French Plenipotentiaries arrive Lille and await Malmesbury.
- 6th July Malmesbury reports his first conference was held but nothing material arose.
- The powers given to the French commissioners, Pleville le Pelley, Le Tourneur and Maret, are listed. They speak for France, Spain and Netherlands.
- Malmesbury to Grenville 11th July – I have exchanged powers with the French. We had a second meeting on 7th July. I accepted that their full powers appeared usual but have sent a copy to London for confirmation. Le Tourneur is the precedent Commissioner. He said he had likewise sent my powers to Paris. On 8th July I gave them the proposals you gave to me with the French translation (encl A). They asked me to complete those articles you left blank. I did so (encl B). On Sunday I received a note from them (encl C) and yesterday attended the meeting proposed in it. One the commissioners said our proposals and my accompanying note raised questions they were not empowered to answer. These had been sent to the Directory.
Whilst a reply was awaited, he asked to discuss several ‘insulated points’ – things not in our proposals but imperatively required for a general peace. This was the purpose of the present meeting.
In the preamble of our grant of Plenipotentiary powers to Harris (Malmesbury) we refer to George III as ‘King of France’ which they found objectionable. They recognised the phrase was purely titular but they hoped we would change it. I said we should prefer a separate article for each subject and read one of the separate articles in the Treaty of 1783 but they objected both to the title of the article and the rights conferred in it. They seemed to be cavilling over mere words. All our treaties with France had these wordings for three centuries but now they have no King they object. I thought they were wasting time. They wanted some form of words glorifying the Republic and eventually I had to note it.
Their second ‘insulated point’ was for restitution of the ships taken or destroyed at Toulon. Their claim rested on Lord Hood’s preliminary Declaration upon occupying Toulon and on the 8th article in the Declaration to that Lord by the Committee of the Sections. Hood’s Declaration acknowledges the French Republic and its sovereignty and that the ships were taken by England as security until the Republic’s legal authority to govern had been admitted by London. As we are now talking with them they thought my presence was an admission of Republican sovereignty and the ships should accordingly be returned. I said I had no instructions on this matter but I thought it likely that points of this nature might readily defeat our intentions. One French commissioner said their concern was for justice and they would overlook nothing. I said I did not know what equivalent we could offer. I said France has already obtained great advantages in the war and we were agreed to recognise them (‘the act of condescension’ His Majesty was disposed to make in order to restore peace’) and I did not think anything further was admissible. They said they were prevented by their instructions from withdrawing the item.
Their third ‘insulated point’ was for us to confirm we had taken the mortgage on Belgium to secure our loans to the Emperor. They said they did not feel bound, now they occupied Belgium, to settle any of the Emperor’s old debts. I said I could not answer the question but, supposing it was the case, the matter should have been addressed in their treaty with the Emperor not in a treaty with us. If they had received the low countries by treaty ‘with all their incumbrances’, any hypothetical mortgage would be for their account. They were tenacious on this point and eventually I had to ask for a written paper listing their three claims. They promised this and the conference ended. Between 4 – 5 pm yesterday I received their note (encl D) and forward it to you immediately.
Subsequent papers, reproduced in 31st March edition ….
- Malmesbury’s note to the French Commissioners: You say all French possessions pre-war must be returned. This negates Article VI of George III’s proposals (below) and requires England to seek compensation for the returned lands solely from Spain and the Netherlands. We would then require Trinidad to balance the power accruing to France from our cession of the Spanish part of Santo Domingo to you. The second adjustment I am empowered to make is for England to keep the Dutch possessions at the Cape, Ceylon and Cochin in return for the town of Negapatnam and its dependencies.
- French receipt for the above
- France requires George III to cease using the term King of France amongst his titles. We are not disputing the historical derivation of the title – only the fact that France is now a Republic and French monarchy has ended. We are also required to demand the restitution of vessels taken or destroyed at Toulon which you formally declared had been taken in trust for Louis XVII as King of France (at that time, as you said). It is the Republic that now exercises the rights of sovereignty that formerly vested in French Kings. We demand this right or an equivalent for it. You say you took a mortgage on Belgium for the loans paid to the Austrian Emperor. That country has become an integral part of France and we cannot recognise your mortgage.Sgd Le Tourneur, Pleville le Pelley and Hugues B Mallet, Commissioners and Colchen, Secretary.
- Britain denies it has a demand on Belgium (the Austrian Netherlands) securing the Austrian loans and requests an answer to the overall proposals for peace.
- An account of progress so far.
- Malmesbury relates the conference at which France demanded the restitution of all British conquests from France, Spain and Netherlands as a pre-condition to peace discussions.
- The French say on 15th July that they have forwarded the British proposals and Note to Paris and have received back the following instructions: The treaties binding France, Spain and Netherlands contain public and secret articles amongst which is a mutual guarantee concerning all possessions each held pre-war. These prior agreements require France to demand Britain return all seizures from the three countries. If Malmesbury is not authorised, he should procure the powers to return these lands before continuing the negotiation.
- Malmesbury says 15th July he cannot surrender the seizures first and negotiate the other points later. He asks for a meeting.
- Grenville’s instructions to Malmesbury on the arguments to be used in support of withholding the seizures to obtain compensation in other areas. Malmesbury is told to demand a counter-proposal from France.
- Grenville on 20th July acknowledges that Portugal has been uninvolved in the war. He disclaims English involvement in the Treaty of Pilnitz and says the ‘conclusion of such a treaty, in the interview between the late Emperor and the King of Prussia, was very doubtful in point of fact’.
- A conference between the Plenipotentaries on 23rd July. Malmesbury agrees to provide France with a written rejection to her pre-condition. The French agree to provide counter-proposals.
- A note of Malmesbury to France asserting a British right to receive compensation for returning seized colonies.
- Malmesbury to Grenville 6th August – the French seem to wish to meet daily to get better acquainted, regardless of progress in the negotiations. No counter-proposal is yet available.
- France requests another meeting at which (14th August) they say they are still awaiting their counter-proposals from Paris.
- Grenville tells Malmesbury that the rights and claims of neutrals cannot be mingled with the peace negotiations. He denies any British wish to delay progress.
- Copy of a message from the Directory to the French Legislature accusing England of delaying progress.
- Malmesbury’s complaint to the Commissioners about the Directory’s note. The French say it was an internal thing to motivate the Legislature and irrelevant to the peace negotiations.
- Malmesbury’s account 22nd August on further fruitless talks.
- Malmesbury’s account 29th August of an unsatisfactory reply from the Dutch causing further delay.
- Malmesbury’s report 5th September – we only meet and chat.
- Malmesbury’s report of 9th September in which at the latest meeting, a French Commissioner said he hoped the Royalist conspiracy discovered in Paris would not delay negotiations for long.
- Another report from Malmesbury on delay.
- The French commissioners 12th September say they are recalled and Treilhard and Bonier d’Ales will replace them
- Malmesbury’s dispatch reporting the arrival of the new Commissioners 17th September.
- Malmesbury’s account of the first two meetings with the new Commissioners. They wish to know if Malmesbury is yet empowered to surrender the colonial seizures before discussing the other points. Malmesbury said if he had those powers he would have nothing left to negotiate with. The French disagreed – ‘many articles remain to be proposed and many points require discussion’ and they pressed the point. They wished to proceed step-by-step. On 15th September they asked ‘do you have the power of unqualified restitution?’ On 16th Sept Malmesbury said ‘no.’ The same day the Commissioners asked him to go to London, request those powers and return. Malmesbury requested a passport the same day. The French replied 16th September ‘we are not ending negotiations. We will not leave Lille.’
- Malmesbury sent another note 17th September asking for a meeting. At the conference he hopes the French will authorise him to send a messenger to ask for the new powers but they do not. He asks for their counter-proposal. The French say they are persuaded he is authorised to hear proposals but not to accede to them whilst they expect him to speak and act for England. Malmesbury said he would leave the next morning.
- A dispatch from Grenville approving Malmesbury’s conduct.
- Malmesbury to French commissioners 22nd September from London saying he is now invested with sufficient powers.
- Note from France to Malmesbury saying ‘we are determined to make peace but we cannot act contrary to French law or break national engagements to French allies’.
- Another note from France to Malmesbury saying they will wait at Lille until 16th October.
- Malmesbury’s answer dated 5th October.
Encl A – British draft terms of peace proposed to France:
- A treaty between the most serene and potent Prince George III, by the Grace of God King of Great Britain, France and Ireland, Duke of Brunswick and Lunenburgh, Arch-Treasurer and Elector of the Holy Roman Empire on the one part and the Executive Directory of the French Republic on the other.
- We forget everything that either party has done to the other before and since the commencement of war. Our eleven former peace treaties of 1678, 1679, 1697, 1713, 1714, 1717, 1718, 1736, 1748, 1763 and 1783 shall form the foundation to peace under the present treaty. They are all renewed and their future observance re-affirmed.
- All prisoners of war and hostages to be restored within six weeks of exchange of ratifications. Each party to pay for subsistence and maintenance of its nationals detained overseas. Security for debts of prisoners will be given.
- Fishing off Newfoundland and in the St Lawrence will revert to the rules before this war started. Britain restores the islands of St Pierre and Miquelon to France.
- Article VI – All territories will revert to their pre-war ownership, bar the (un-named) exceptions in this treaty.
- Anyone in a land to be restored who wishes to leave shall have sufficient time after ratification to notify his intention to emigrate and to sell or remove his property. Those remaining shall be allowed three years to continue their customary lifestyle before being required to swear allegiance to the new sovereign.
- Claims for ships and cargoes seized in port or at sea before war shall be settled judicially by the country in possession of the ship.
- The British ally Portugal and the French allies Spain and Netherlands shall be invited to accede to the following three terms which the contracting parties guarantee.
- Britain intends to conclude peace with Spain by returning lands to the pre-war situation except for ……. which shall remain British.
- Britain intends to conclude peace with Netherlands on the same basis except we will keep ….. and swap ….. for ….. In consideration of Dutch agreement, we agree to restore all the property of the House of Orange (or its money equivalent) which we seized in December 1794. And France engages to compensate the Stadtholder for his loss of office and dignities and compensate all those Orangemen who had their property confiscated.
- Britain intends its ally Portugal to be similarly compensated.
Sat 7th April 1798
The Parisien paper Redacteur has published an amusing letter purporting to be Malmesbury’s advice to Grenville on leaving Lille:
I am leaving Lille to report the result of my honourable mission to the master of my King. I am concerned that the British public may be disappointed that peace has eluded me.
You may recall in my first embassy to Paris I had to appear desirous of peace without achieving it and to detest war whilst actually desiring it. This was the problem that Pitt had to resolve before the British people and I was selected as his instrument. At that time I found Paris well disposed towards me and the journals praised me. I followed the old government maxim ‘to negotiate peace well, we should put ourselves in a position to make war’. That first negotiation only lasted 24 hours because I had to make unconstitutional demands of the French. Of course, a brief negotiation was entirely contrary to Pitt’s instructions. I was supposed to take months.
I have since amended my procedure. I now requested negotiations without actually commencing them. This required I pose a question that could not be answered. This should have ordinarily provoked a question that I in turn could not answer. Thus the appropriate situation of non-negotiations would be created.
I asked the French negotiators ‘do you admit the principle of compensation?’ They asked ‘what powers do you have to talk of compensation?’ I said ‘I need to know your principles then I will tell you my powers’. They said ‘tell us your powers and we will let you know our principles’. This admirably prevented negotiations whilst one might honestly say they had started.
I feared the natural impatience of the French might jeopardise the talks whilst, for my part, I needed more time. I resolved this difficulty be saying the nature of my instructions required caution and I would have to dispatch a courier to London to receive approval for each answer I would give. There was an unfortunate caricature of me that resulted. I refer to the cartoon showing me receiving a visit from Lacroix who says ‘how do you do?’ and I say ‘I am very sensible to the honour Your Excellency does me but I entreat you to wait until I shall have the instructions of my Court upon this subject’. Although they attacked me with satire I was not diverted from my plan.
Eventually Lacroix was wearied by delay and consented, for the sake of peace, to answer the question which I had continued to press upon him daily, contrary to all propriety. He said ‘France admits the principle of compensation’ and asked me what compensations I had in mind.
This rapid development of the negotiations briefly overwhelmed me. I was able to weather the storm only by assailing Lacroix with a tempest of Notes of no known significance. At length I demanded in the name of the Holy Roman Emperor (from whom I had no authority) for the restitution of the Austrian Netherlands which he had omitted to ask for himself. Lacroix said something about the French Constitution proscribing any consideration of this item. Not long after, they issued a decree ordering me away. Thus three months of arduous non-negotiations came to naught and I had to reveal to the British nation that we could not force peace upon a country that refused to have it.
Meot and the other opera girls were devasted. All the new converts to Catholicism were distressed. I assured them it was not without reason that George III calls himself King of France for he maintains many subjects within the Republic.
In London Pitt was left to prove that France had derailed the talks.
Fox, Sheridan, Erskine and Grey demanded progress; Pitt resorted to artifices to portray British war-loans as inexpensive when they were oppressively dear; popular discontent increased; the clamour against unequal representation increased; disturbances arose amongst the Catholics; the Irish expedition spread terror in spite of its failure – all these things combined to show we should give new hope to peace and it was determined that I should again assume the role of negotiator for my country.
It is not an easy part. My selection for re-appointment had a whiff of duplicity but we would respond that international disapprobation at my being expelled twice should act to restrain France in that respect on a third occasion. Its always fun to send an aristocrat to negotiate with a Republic and I understood how my first attempts had been baffled and the duration of talks truncated.
Regrettably, the Commissioners asked for my powers and I had none. I stipulated for Britain’s allies without their authority. Indeed our allies had themselves already made peace. In this circumstance, I could only assert British aims. The grounds I based myself on were alas too quickly seen to be untenable. Your Lordship may not know that ‘full powers’ in diplomatic language has a metaphysical quality – Pascal has written on the subject and confused comprehension with academic contradictions.
The 2nd negotiation was fixed at Lille. I arrived with full powers to ‘treat, conclude and sign’. Together with these powers were other instructions which strangely reduced the plenitude of my ‘full powers’. Ostensibly I could do anything, practically I could do nothing. I had to position myself between these contradictions whilst pursuing my secret instructions to take as long as possible.
I found a vast array of useless initiatives in both the ‘full powers’ and the instructions – there were disputes in the French legislature and the Directory, and I had correspondents in both. I should tell you that a good number of the Deputies could not have been better selected if chosen by the English King! Public opinion was agitated and bordering on counter-revolutionary. The newspapers, judges, priests and returned émigrés were all highly supportive of the British position. Many government administrators were firmly Royalist and some patriots were being persecuted. The Republic appeared to be near death. All this was much in my favour and even my curtailed powers began to seem excessive for the needs of peace.
I extended the preliminaries by reviewing all that occurred on the previous occasion but eventually had to enter upon the business and presented Pitt’s proposals. This engaged eleven former treaties with France extending over a century up to the one done at Versailles in 1783.
The first article excepted from the principle of reciprocal compensation the countries of ……………. which will remain in the full sovereignty of HBM; The 2nd and 3rd articles addressed Spain and Netherlands and established peace on the status quo ante bellum excepting ……… which shall remain in the full sovereignty of HBM.
These pristine gaps provided inexhaustible grounds for delay and amplification. They permitted the French two choices – to demand the gaps be filled and then to dispute the ground foot by foot or to present counter-proposals with similar gaps. The negotiation of blanks would have allowed me to introduce a novelty into diplomacy that has been absent too long. I did not object to being laughed at, so long as they continued to negotiate. I could have introduced more blanks; I might have argued that my blanks were more valuable then theirs – the French are said to be a jolly people. Unfortunately, they did not know that nothing is better than nothing. In monarchical days they would have introduced a chanson or witty epigram. The ace up my sleeve of course was to implacably insist that they complete their blanks first.
They however demanded to know the exceptions we reserved. I now introduced a subtlety. I could not offer them an official paper but I had a confidential communication. I begged them to treat it as a process verbal. In it I listed your demands. Concerning Spain they observed that Trinidad was the only possession she had lost in the war. Concerning the Netherlands they made the same specious observation. They sought to make capital of the fact that the Dutch possessions had come into British possession mainly as a result of a letter we squeezed out of the Stadtholder. I made a dexterous form of words that seemed to confirm both Spain and Netherlands should be satisfied with the status quo ante bellum including the exceptions.
In retrospect it is probably fortunate that the French did not provide me with their blanks. They might have introduced purely British possessions like Bengal, Newfoundland, Jamaica and Gibraltar as though they could ever conceivably belong to another. My own arrangements were a striking example of our national moderation. My proposals and my confidential communication have expanded the field of diplomacy and staggered the Republicans.
The basic difficulty is the continuous flow of victories that French arms have obtained and the regrettable guarantee she has given the Dutch and the Spanish to protect their possessions. These appear to have induced a rigidity in French diplomacy. I however believed the government was weak and the internal state of affairs was tumultuous. This encouraged me to raise my tone. Astonishingly they continued to demand that they set the pace. The Dutch were more predictably consensual. They would cede Cochin and their Coromandel factories but they declined to accept Negapatnam and they abandoned their ships and cargoes – ‘£2 millions taken by treachery’, they said.
We had progressed to this stage when the events of 18th Fructidor were reported at Lille. I was dismayed – who could have foreseen it? Then two new negotiators arrived. They immediately asked if I had the power of employing my ‘full powers’ – hardly diplomatic. I might have embarked on a Jesuitical explanation of ‘full powers’ but in truth there was nothing to be said. The good news is that they did not ask if I consented to restitution, but only if I had the power to do so. Ambiguity is alive.
It only remains for us to impress upon the British public that it was we who desired peace, who went to Lille, who talked for months. In that way we can finally put our expulsion of the French ambassador behind us and convince the people that France is the aggressor.
PS – I hope the French negotiators leave Lille soon. It is embarrassing for me while they still wait there.
Sat 12th May 1798
Commons debate on the King’s Declaration:
Sir John Sinclair thought France only sought to overthrow the British government because Britain had so assiduously and repeatedly sought to overthrow the French one. He thought if we leave them alone, they will leave us alone.
Lord Temple (presumably George Nugent Temple Grenville, 3rd Earl Temple and better known as the Marquess of Buckingham), in his maiden speech, regretted that the opposition had withdrawn from parliament. He thought the peace negotiations had been commenced under the influence of the liberals but, on the extent of our attempt to overthrow the French government becoming apparent, the French moderates had fallen and more Jacobin counsels prevailed. These people wanted exceptional evidence of our genuine wish for peace before talking with us. They expect our bad faith.
Pitt said it was the French who broke off negotiations. The French government did not represent the wishes of the French people. Pitt wished for an end to the present government of France. He knew the French people wanted peace and this had motivated him to attempt it. He hoped the will of the people would oblige the French government to accept peace. The moderate faction had not dared to break off negotiations but they offered no terms. It was France who had not wanted peace. To achieve their end they had altered their routine form of negotiations, such as had been adopted in all the other treaties recently made. They declined to discuss preliminary articles but only a definitive peace. The passport they provided to Malmesbury stated his mission was to conclude a definitive and separate peace. This was both impracticable and inconsistent.
We insisted on our right to represent Portugal as France insisted for Spain and Netherlands. The French commissioners claimed to represent these other countries but had not acted upon the claim. Malmesbury presented our proposals – all the French had to do was work through them one by one. It was a simple matter of agreeing the territorial exchanges. It should have been completed in 24 hours. France complained our proposals were all blanks but these identities were left open for their consideration. England was prepared to cede Martinique (an impregnable fortress), St Lucia, Tobago, the Spanish (eastern) part of Santo Domingo, the Newfoundland fisheries and the settlements at Pondicherry and Chandernagore. We would have offered all this to a country which had never defeated us, whose internal distress was common knowledge, whose commerce was destroyed. As regards Spain we only retained Trinidad as a counterpoise to the increased French presence on Santo Domingo. The only places England retained were for our security not our aggrandisement.
The French objection to George III describing himself as King of France was an immaterial matter.
The return of the ships taken at Toulon was material but did not require immediate discussion. The demand concerning the mortgage on Belgium was vexatious as it was between Austria and England and was irrelevant to France. The French kept these negotiations in suspense for three months until the 18th Fructidor. Then new Commissioners arrived and renewed the demand rejected two months earlier. It is unprecedented in international negotiations to inquire the extent of a Plenipotentary’s powers, he said. Was England to surrender everything she had gained in the hope that France would give back something? Malmesbury had no such powers. He was told to ‘go and get them’. The whole negotiation on the French side was characterised by arrogance and mockery.
Pollen MP wondered if the French could not make peace because they feared the danger that would arise once they disbanded their armies and loosed hundreds of thousands of soldiers onto their ruined economy.
Dr Lawrence rejoiced in the failure of negotiations. The French ministers are terrorists. They must feel our power in an offensive war. He recalled Lord Lansdowne said in the Lords ‘we had better concede with grace the rights we exercise over neutral trade than have them extorted in a peace.’ Such an act would end our maritime power and influence the balance of power in Europe.
Sat 9th June 1798
The Congress at Rastadt is imperceptibly edging towards a solution. There are 117 Ministers, Plenipotentiaries and Counsellors attending. It involves every European country except one – England, which government excluded itself. The participants are trying to construct better boundaries throughout Europe to ensure peace. Professor Busch has made the following proposals which appear to meet most expectations:
- George III to be removed from the ownership of Hanover;
- Prussia gets Bremen, Verdun, Brunswick Wolstenbuttel, Hamburg and most of Hanover;
- The rest of Hanover goes to Denmark;
- all the ecclesiastical estates in the German Empire to be secularised;
- the Rhine to be opened to free navigation;
- the new French frontier will be its left bank;
- the Dutch border to be straightened;
- Austria to surrender its Polish seizures to Prussia and transfer part of Silesia to Bavaria, and
- The territory ceded to France will be divided into 8 new departments.
Sat 23rd June 1798
Chief articles of the peace treaty agreed at Rastadt:
The intention of the Treaty is to provide, so far as is possible, for all participants to obtain strong natural frontiers. This treaty will incorporate the Treaty of Campo Formio. France obtains the Rhine as its eastern frontier. All ecclesiastical states in Germany will be secularised. The House of Brunswick loses Hanover and George III is removed from his positions of influence in the Austrian Empire.
The other main provisions are briefly:
- The navigation of the Rhine will be free. Neither France nor Germany may establish tolls or levy imposts on river traffic.
- Austria will disgorge its seizures in Poland and Silesia to Prussia. In return it gets Beyreuth, Salzburg and bits of Bavaria.
- Prussia cedes part of Westphalia, Franconia and Pomerania to France. In return it gets all Hanover between the Weser and the Elbe and all Hamburg, the states of the Dukes of Brunswick Wolfenbuttel, etc.
- Denmark gives the island of Bornholm (and the right to levy the Sound duties) to Sweden and gets Hanover right of the Elbe, Hamburg, Lubeck etc.
- Switzerland surrenders Mulhausen and part of Basel, Neufchatel, etc.
A Constitution is provided for the nine remaining German states – Bavaria, Bohemia, Brandenburg, Hesse Castel, Holstein, Nassau Bergen, Saxony, Westphalia and Wurtemberg. The Austrian Emperor will be President of the representative Assembly of these states and will enjoy sole responsibility for all matters of foreign policy and defence. Individual states may make treaties with other states or with foreign powers concerning their boundaries and their commerce. Votes in Assembly are proportioned to the revenues of the individual states. Electors with an annual income of over 2 million livres (c. £83,300) may coin their own money. No two electorates may unite, etc.
Sat 23rd June 1798
The Directory has sent a representative named Gallois to London to settle terms for an exchange of prisoners. Nettemen is his assistant. The details of exchange were agreed after which Lord Grenville, as Foreign Secretary, asked Gallois to leave London and withdraw some distance from the capital.
Gallois expostulated. “Your representative Captain Coates is residing in Paris and receiving every attention due to an accredited minister. What is the difference?”
Grenville immediately issued him a passport and expelled him. On Sunday he set off for Dover to return to France.
Sat 8th Sept 1798
The result of the recent French elections is interesting. About 8% (50) of the successful candidates were deprived of their seats in the Legislature because they were elected by bribery (paid by Royalists and Anarchists who combined for greater efficiency).
The Directory says this is a feature of the British / émigré plan for changing the government by bribery at the time of the peace negotiations at Lille.
There was a long constitutional argument in the chamber before the mass ejection was approved. Opponents of expulsion fear that the precedent will damage the Revolution which is only in its sixth year.
Sat 19th Jan 1799
After five years of war, a cartel has been agreed between England and France for the exchange of prisoners. There are a long list of terms. England now maintains over 15,000 French prisoners in England for the account of France. The exchange ports are Dover and Gravelines. All the old, sick and wounded soldiers and those under 12 years of age are to be returned immediately irrespective of equality of numbers. All doctors, accountants, priests, school teachers and other non-combatants are likewise to be released.
(The English have acceded to this treaty primarily to recover Major General Eyre Coote, son of the East India Company officer of the same name, who was captured in Popham’s Ostend raid. He is exchanged for Admiral l’Heritier of L’Hercules.)
Sat 11th May 1799
The French Directory says England is assisting the émigrés and priests to devalue French lands being sold for national income. People who attend at the provincial Land Offices to buy land from the Directory are being threatened with assassination by an army of thugs. This deters purchasers and keeps sale prices low.
The Directory requires the Legislature to enact law to discourage the formation of gangs of brigands in the communes. They are considering offering amnesty to whistle-blowers.
Pitt is willing to again negotiate peace with France once he has got the supplies for 1799 through parliament. French financial difficulty and the pliant policy of the new Directory has persuaded him that attractive compromises are possible.
Sat 27th April 1799
The Directory has been discussing the confiscation of assets of those people involved in the émigré plot to overthrow the Republic using Pichegru’s army. The principals were all banished to West Indies but Pichegru, Aubry and Rovere have since been taken to London where they continue to assist the British. On 4th November the Legislature agreed to additionally confiscate their assets.
Copies of the newspaper from June 1799 to December 1800 are not available in the British Library copy.
Tues 20th Jan 1801 Extraordinary
Several couriers have exchanged information between London and Paris and Thomas Grenville was nominated as peace envoy but First Consul Bonaparte is not satisfied with the proposed basis to negotiation and called it off.
Sat 21st Feb 1801
Our negotiation with the First Consul continues in utter secrecy. He insists on a naval armistice. That would be like throwing away our one good weapon before we talk peace. We might go a long way but that seems to be a step too far.
Courier du Bas Rhin reports on 25th October that a British ship under a flag of truce arrived at Calais on 19th October with renewed proposals from London for the First Consul. This is the first message the French have had from Pitt for two weeks.
There is a great scarcity of food in Britain and all the poor are suffering.
7th April 1801 Extraordinary
The peace negotiations with France have collapsed. The First Consul wished for a bi-lateral treaty but George III required Austria to be involved. The correspondence detailing the negotiations commences with the French proposals of Otto to Grenville dated 24th August and ends with Hammond’s repudiation of 9th October.
Otto is a fine chap, a protégé of the Abbe Sieyès, and a natural diplomat. Pitt says the Austrians likewise (at least after Marengo) never intended to make a separate peace. They did in fact agree peace preliminaries but Minto at Vienna objected and they were not ratified (England says the Austrian officer at Paris, Count de St Julien, was unauthorised to make the preliminary agreement).
Napoleon insists he must resume war on 11th Sept to preserve some trace of the military advantages he has won against Austria. He insists England’s armistice include naval activities – particularly British presence at Malta and off the Egyptian coast. Napoleon wants to re-provision his army of Egypt. England thinks its all give and no take and supposes France believes the British peoples’ need for peace will influence the ministry.
NB – Otto is the French officer deputed to London to arrange prisoner exchanges. His wife is English, née St John. The Treaty of Amiens was largely Otto’s achievement. In response to his unusual letters, Grenville was persuaded to prepare and send him a project for an armistice leading to peace negotiations. France replied on 16th Sept with two alternatives – either the British proposals are independent of the Austrian talks and negotiated separately or, if the talks are tripartite, the advantages to France of maritime peace should be equal to the advantages to Austria of peace on the continent. It is argued plausibly and seems genuine. Grenville replied that his counter project was as far as he could go. He characterised the French ‘choices’ as spurious. Grenville however said a maritime armistice may be acceptable (France is preparing to fight Austria and the Emperor is unprepared) and invited further proposals. Later Grenville made a tripartite negotiation an indispensable condition. Otto eventually concluded that England was unwilling to relinquish any advantage before negotiating.
The proximate cause of the failure of a bilateral FrancoBritish armistice was because Napoleon was unwilling to surrender the advantages he had won at Marengo without Britain making some reciprocal surrender and that was not on offer. George III agreed to join the FrancoAustrian peace talks at Luneville and Grenville and Garlick were appointed as British plenipotentiaries. They will travel via Berlin and Garlick wants his passport sent there.
Ultimately the talks never happened because Grenville did not trust France. Several proposals were assessed to give France advantages and England disadvantages – the maritime armistice was particularly deplored in England as France would be able to re-provision her troops in Malta and Egypt.
Otto was passed down the line to Hammond for discussions of the project.
Sat 18th April 1801
An insightful analysis by Sheridan:
Sheridan told the Commons on 20th November 1800 that British ministers, including Pitt, had exulted at the failure of the first negotiation with France at Lille (Malmesbury’s talks). It was incumbent on them to plausibly explain the latest failure or it would appear they were equally pleased with it. It seemed that England and Austria had concerted a game with France to gain time for the Austrians to recover from their military defeat. The Austrian Emperor had started off genuinely seeking a separate peace until we offered him money and again requested he combine his cause with ours.
Pitt riposted that there had never been a moment in the entire process when Austria had sought a peace separate from ours. A British cabinet can only produce British documents; it cannot reveal papers it receives from foreign governments.
Hawkesbury said St Julien must have been unauthorised otherwise the French would have complained.
Sheridan said he was convinced of Austria’s sincere wish for peace but our interference had changed Austria’s mind.
On 1st December Sheridan again accused Pitt and his group of insincerity in their peace negotiations with France. He had the King’s speech re-read and noted ministers had not thought it necessary to publish the failure. The best face he could put on the negotiations, from the British perspective, was that the Austrian Emperor and our German allies had been insincere and only sought the delay to permit their re-arming. He described the Ministry’s position as one of ‘mercenary insincerity’. He was sure that all apparent attempts of the ministry for peace had been made for show in the expectation they should not succeed. He noted that everyone of our continental allies had played false with Britain. As long as the MPs submitted to the King and his minister, parliament would continue to fail in peace talks.
Our ally Russia had abandoned us and become an enemy. Tsar Paul had embargoed hundreds of British ships and imprisoned their captains. All our German allies had acted against us in various other ways. Their attitudes predicated ours – we no longer had a national policy, it was set in Vienna where George III had a boss which he does not have in England. Pitt simply says he is not responsible for the bad faith of our allies – ‘who would have thought it?’ was his response.
Sheridan made four predictions – ‘odds-on’ as he described them:
- Prussia will soon realise that supporting Austria aggrandises a powerful neighbour;
- Spain will submit to France;
- Austria will continue to consult only her own interests, and
- Russia will recognise its present policy is commercially inexpedient and start looking for a share of the plunder.
It was the British ministry that insisted on war with France, a war of necessity because of French aggression, ministers told us. They not only demanded war but insisted neutrality was hostile too. From this policy of ‘if you are not with us, you are against us’, they found it acceptable to bully secondary states – Tuscany, Switzerland and Holland – and had commenced the same policy with Denmark and Sweden. Instead of fighting for religion and social order under monarchy, we have actually been fighting for commercial hegemony. The West Indian trade is the prime evidence of our policy, although most other maritime trade has fallen to us as well. The ministry presents it as an unexpected by-product of an honourable war for the status quo ante which they say is what we are fighting for.
He noted Tsar Paul made Home Popham a Knight of Malta and the appointment was recognised in the British Gazette. It suggests Britain concurred with Russian control of Malta.
The Austrian Emperor (or his minister) had repeatedly deceived the British. The best examples are the preliminaries to the treaty of Leuben and the treaty of Campo Formio. These are both persuasive evidence that Austrian policy is based on its national self-interest and takes no cognizance of the interests of its allies. On 13th February George III asked us for funds for Austria and Bavaria and we routinely paid on the King’s assertion they would strengthen the allied cause. Nevertheless, we got no support from Austria until 20th June when her own comprehensive defeat at Marengo induced her to return to her alliance with us. Once Austrian military capability was destroyed, the Emperor instantly looked to us and we of course sent him £2 millions for the support he no longer had to offer to us. The £2 millions was contracted to be paid in three parts of which the first was in July and the second in December. In return, we extracted a promise from the Emperor not to seek for peace with France for a year (from March 1800 – March 1801). For the first four months of this period, the Emperor was negotiating peace with France and we paid him while he was doing so. He is playing us off against France and so are all the other European powers. When he got the second tranche he made an armistice with France whereas our agreement stipulated vigorous exertions against that country. Then suddenly it looked as though Austria was really standing up – the Emperor placed himself at the head of his army and ordered Hungary to conscript a huge number of troops. Before this news had been fully circulated, he ceded to France three of the strongest forts on the Austrian frontier (Ulm, Ingoldstadt and another). This was just one example from a chain of repeated instances of Austrian bad faith.
Pitt has told this House that since Marengo, Austria has given-up all idea of a separate peace with France. Now we have papers before the House indicating Austria commenced a separate negotiation at that time – the letters between Thugut and Talleyrand together with Minto’s note (Minto was accredited to Vienna as British ambassador in 1799) all establish the point. It is clear that Austria does as she pleases and we provide money and fleets in the unrealised hope of influencing her – England is trying to buy support against France. Our basic fear is that all Europe will declare for peace and we will be forced to make peace too. The defeat of the Austrian Emperor effectively meant we had to negotiate peace with France but the ministry was opposed to peace at all costs and instructed our man in Vienna to do whatever was needful to get the Emperor back on-side. If he succeeded, we could avoid peace negotiations with France.
It is thus hardly surprising that Napoleon declined our insistence on a tripartite peace. Austria was defenceless; he might have imposed terms and they would be accepted whereas, by bringing British resources into the negotiation, the defeated and impoverished Austrians were again linked to credit to fund their continued opposition. There could be no expectation of imposed French terms in that case. It was equally true that the French request for a naval armistice was impossible for us to concede – England has little fighting ability except her navy.
Sheridan then turned to Egypt and deplored the ministry’s repudiation of Sir Sidney Smith. He had been authorised to treat with the French and he made the Convention of El Arisch for the French evacuation of Egypt. Ministers knew this agreement was likely as they had the Grand Vizier’s Proclamation promising safe conduct to those French who voluntarily left Egypt, which is what Smith’s Convention confirmed. At that time ministers were satisfied but later, when they learned how badly the French army had been reduced by jihad and disease, they realised the entire French expedition might have been easily defeated in Egypt and Napoleon’s reputation diminished. They were really contending with Napoleon’s genius and his personal defeat was France’s defeat. Then they regretted the lost opportunity and, as they are not responsible for their acts, it must have been Smith’s fault. They withdrew ratification of Smith’s Convention. In fact Egypt is a province of Turkey and the Imperial master had contracted with the French for their departure. It was a done deal, but we insisted the French be made prisoners-of-war. What was it to do with us?
Sheridan characterised Grenville’s negotiation with Otto in the same way – the nobleman had been haughty and distant which lessened whatever sincerity could be gleaned from his communications. Why did he not meet Otto, why was it always through Captain George, Hammond and Nepean? It appeared Grenville thought himself better than Otto.
Sheridan wondered if the whole course of dealing by Pitt’s ministry was shaped to mislead parliament and obtain an undisclosed objective. The representatives were supplied with all the ministry’s ambiguous documents on trust to effect that end. He mentioned specifically Grenville’s representation of the French General Kleber’s letter as a pledge to abide by the Convention of El Arisch and evacuate Egypt according to the terms agreed with Smith. In fact Grenville was lying. Kleber expressly said the Convention was no longer relevant and the French evacuation would have to proceed on new terms. If ministers willingly misrepresented papers before the House, how much more so would they be inured to misrepresent papers withheld from the House, he wondered.
Whenever there is parliamentary criticism of the war, ministers always point to the great territorial acquisitions we have made to evidence it is a highly successful war. When we ask for the ministerial reasons for warring – was it to restore the Bourbons – we are told ‘we have captured Trincomalee’; was it to restore aristocracy and Catholicism – ‘we have captured Amboinya’.
We should examine the costs of these acquisitions. So far Britain has spent over £270 millions and we have no idea how much of the conquered lands we will be able to keep. The country is paying for the acquisitions at inflated prices and only the merchants are getting the profits – it is a transfer of wealth from the people to the government (in increased revenue) and to the merchants (in increased profits).
Once we MPs realised this, the ministers fell back on their next line of defence – they are protecting the Constitution. They do this by suspending habeas corpus, inventing evidence of sedition, executing and transporting those who actually uphold the Constitution, executing hundreds who take advantage of the financial fraud on the people that the extension of the note issue represents, the tragedy of Ireland – the list is long and nowhere in it can one find evidence of up-holding the Constitution. On the contrary all the evidence points to an oligarchy with a hegemonistic agenda which is presumably their own private programme in concert with the beneficiaries of it, the landowners, merchants and bankers.
Sheridan concluded that only Fox could extricate the country from war by renouncing British interference in the chosen French form of government and renouncing our predilection for dictating to foreign countries. That would restore popular rights and produce a peace that permitted our gradually increasing prosperity and welfare (in line with the general European growth in wealth). Sheridan therefore moved that the King be asked to start separate peace talks with France and to make no engagements that precluded or jeopardised peace.
Wickham, for the government, declined to answer any of Sheridan’s charges. He characterised Sheridan’s overall argument as a proposal that England should avoid treaty entanglements and operate internationally in consideration of her own interests only – splendid isolation – and he then addressed that subject.
He thought it extravagant, unwarranted and contrary to the lessons of history. Our existence is threatened. Union is strength. It made sense to unite with others similarly threatened. The choice of fighting alone or fighting with allies is no choice at all.
He agreed that Britain had grounds for complaint against her allies who had weakened the anti-French alliance by their own selfishness and agreed that France had obtained advantages from the acts of Austria and others. He thought that Sheridan was wrong to say independent Austria negotiations resulted from Marengo – in fact peace was being negotiated before that battle and was nearly complete when it occurred, he said.
Wickham insisted that Britain was compelled to war. As a result the country is more prosperous that ever before and we have expunged domestically all trace of French democratic infection.
Charles Grey, for the Whigs, thanked Wickham for his plain declaration of principles. Ministers had experienced treachery and hostility from allies – “who would have thought it!” as Pitt says. In fact the war so far as Austria was concerned was from the outset a war for more land in the Low Countries or elsewhere by exchange. When Prussia was bribed to partake, against her natural domestic interests, it should not be surprising that she quickly recognised her error and withdrew. The ministry says Britain was threatened with the loss of her laws, liberty, religion and commerce. Those losses, such as have occurred, are solely due to the acts of the ministry in pursuit of continued war. There cannot be a common man in England who does not wish for the restoration of his pre-war rights. Better the happiness we had then than the calamities we have now. This war has not gone well for us. We failed to defend Holland; failed to rescue Belgium; failed to save Savoy; failed to confine France west of the Rhine – the course of the war has been a succession of failures in those aims that might have procured our stated purposes. Instead ministers only talk about increased prosperity, well whose prosperity is that?
Dundas, for the ministry, said the subject of debate was whether to negotiate separately or concertedly with Austria, i.e. whether this was a united war against France. He considered the motion was a vote of ‘no confidence’ in the ministry. To make that warrantable, it would be necessary to show that France was unequivocally determined on peace; that Bonaparte was a man of peace, and that ministers were not. The treaty with Austria had three months to run. The question was whether we renew the treaty with our only powerful ally or make peace. He denied the Austrian defeat at Marengo influenced that country. The peace treaty she made with France was signed at Vienna shortly before the battle. Dundas thought Austrian ministers were faithful to their engagements. They had resisted France’s attempt to bring them to a separate peace. As regards the distinction – who are the aggressors and who caused the war – Dundas had no difficulty. He was convinced that, if we had not declared war, our country would no longer exist. The irresistible appeal of Jacobinism to the British people would have destroyed our traditional form of government.
Dundas rejoiced in the renewed attendance of the opposition in the House. They are again taking-up their duty to their constituents, as he put it.
Sheridan summed-up Dundas’ contribution to the debate. Today we have heard of the Prussian occupation of Cuxhaven and the Russian attack on the Porte. These are important matters yet Dundas ridicules them.
The House divided – 155 for the ministry, 35 for the liberal Whigs.
Sat 25th July 1801
The New Lloyd’s Evening Post of 30th March says Britain is likely to send Lord St Helens (Alleyne FitzHerbert – he has just settled the AngloRussian treaty terms with the new Tsar Alexander) to Paris to treat with the First Consul for peace. Preliminary negotiations are in hand. It is said that the First Consul will represent all the powers in alliance with France.
Sat 1st Aug 1801
The French legislator and diplomat Tallien has appeared in the gallery of the House of Commons accompanied by a British barrister. He looked very tanned from his sojourn in Egypt. He is about 40 years old.
As soon as he was recognised all debate stopped. Mr Scott recovered first. For Tallien’s benefit he described the mode of proceedings in the House and pointed out some Members. Sheridan went up to the gallery and was introduced. Several members, including General Tarleton, addressed Tallien.
After some time the French official went to the House of Lords where he created a similar level of astonishment.
Sat 1st Aug 1801
Lord Hawkesbury, who is Foreign Secretary in the new administration, has adopted a less adversarial mode of communication with Otto than the war-hawk Grenville. Otto is the protege of the Abbe Sieyès. He is trying to induce the British ministry to make peace.
In about mid-March, Hawkesbury wrote a personal letter to the French officer advising that Windham’s previous order to capture French fishing vessels had been suspended. Otto quickly responded saying a dispatch he had received from Paris suggested peace was obtainable. The dispatch includes a passport.
The rumour of Lord St Helens’ appointment as negotiator remains current.
Sat 22nd Aug 1801
In the course of Fox’s reply of end March to the speeches of Dundas and Pitt concerning the opposition request for an Address to the King, he referred to Pitt’s arrogant propositions to Napoleon in January 1800, supposedly propositions for peace, that required him to surrender to the Bourbons.
Sat 10th Oct 1801
Citizen Otto, the Frenchman in London responsible for prisoner exchanges, who acted in the peace preliminaries with Lord Grenville last year, has returned to Paris. He is joined there on 11th July by Merry, our man from Copenhagen, who is now the British Commissar of Prisoners. It is rumoured however that their work may relate to more than mere prisoner exchanges.
Sat 10th Oct 1801
Le Moniteur 21st June – Ceylon, Surinam and the Cape were given to England by the Orangists. The French colony of Martinique called-in the English to protect them from the slaves who were excited by French promises of emancipation on nearby islands. Trinidad and Malta likewise were victims of internal dissension. British colonial success seems mainly due to French indifference to the surrender of colonies.
The effects of a Revolution as fundamental as ours are naturally extensive. Not all the people are instantly converted to the new cause. The occupation of Toulon and the loss of 33 warships and all our naval stores there, like the loss of the Dutch fleet at the Texel, were due to the Revolution.
Whilst England has taken all the colonies of Europe so easily, she has failed in continental Europe where two great coalitions against France have collapsed. Europe was the scene of all the battles; the place where 2,000,000 people died fighting, not many of them English.
The countries that accepted British money to fight France have particularly suffered. The King of Sardinia was beguiled with £500,000 but lost a lot more. The King of the Two Sicilies, who was the first to enter the 2nd coalition, is a less powerful monarch as a result. Prussia has occupied Hanover and the Baltic states are convinced only armed might can protect their trade from England as she asserts a rule of power on the high seas.
What can Britain do now?
- The prospects for a third coalition appear poor. All the countries that have been bribed with the gold of Asia and South America are wary of receiving anything more. Its simply not cost-effective. Why fight in Europe when the only visible result is to permit England to tighten its stranglehold on international trade and monopolise our imports.
- The fomentation of civil war in France has been a British war aim but the Revolution is over and people are settled under the new political arrangements. There will certainly be some adventurers and scoundrels who will take the offered money to cause civil unrest but now they are likely to quickly arrive at the scaffold.
- Will Britain continue the war on France alone? She is well placed to maintain her strong grip on international trade. All colonial goods now come to England to be taxed before being sold elsewhere. Her garrisons, spread around the world, are individually weak and expensive to maintain.
A French invasion of England is still possible. The channel is not an insuperable obstacle all year around. There are sufficient people in France who will undertake the task if they see it as the last step in securing the peace of the world and the freedom of the seas.
But perhaps the new British ministry will be disposed to peace. The French are no longer the people they were in the 18th century. In that century they tolerated British commissaries in their ports and allowed the fabric to be torn from French looms. Britain has taken advantage of our disturbed internal condition, pursuant on the revolution, but we are now settled as a Republic. The two great and expensive coalitions that England constructed against us have both failed. The parties to those coalitions have all suffered and are reluctant to suffer again. Europe is prepared for peace. Will Britain join us?
Sat 10th Oct 1801
Frankfurt Journal, 26th June:
Napoleon has published a conciliatory article in the Moniteur and Addington, the very next day, referred to peace in the same terms. It seems peace in Europe is really obtainable.
The True Briton, a most favourable rag to the ministry, talks of peace with France even if war recommences in Germany or Italy.
The French view is that English principles have been supported for 8 years by successive coalitions but the present organisation of Europe will scarcely allow her to form another for a long time. England has the high seas and the colonial production; France has the friendship of a tired Europe. England has the products; Europe has the customers. We should talk. Peace relies on a balance of power.
Sat 7th Nov 1801
Le Moniteur, 11th July – one of Pitt’s ministers has told the Commons of Pitt’s policy. He agreed to make peace with France if France would agree to England keeping the colonies it had taken from the other European powers.
Had France adopted the same reasoning as Pitt, we should now have all the Netherlands and Italy and half of Germany incorporated into France; Portugal would have become a province of Spain. If the retention of places taken in war is to become a principle of European law, the British Empire will not last long.
France has retained a small portion of the lands she has conquered. Most have been given-up to restore the balance of power. The French population has increased 5 millions by conquest whilst we have returned lands containing 30 millions. The 5 million increase in France is a near equivalent for the 4 million increase in Austria for her share of the partition of Poland.
England has escaped destruction in the Baltic by the assassination of Paul and the enthronement of Alexander. The new Tsar has commenced his reign with consistent attempts at peace.
One of the spin-offs from the British Act of Union with Ireland has been the British King’s assertion that he is also an Emperor. That hardly sounds compatible with being the Elector of Hanover (subject to the supervision of the Austrian Emperor). The treaty of Luneville provides for different arrangements in respect of ecclesiastical and secular states in the Austrian empire. Hanover does not fit either type – it is a province of the German Empire subject to the British Emperor. On British logic, Hanover is now lost to the House of Brunswick and George III should be pleased to avoid submitting further to the Austrian Emperor. He might wish to consider his colonial conquests as compensation for the loss of Hanover.
If British policy governed Europe we would all be fighting endlessly. Hopefully those outrageous enemies of humanity are finished as a power-group. Such politicians should be compelled to spend years apart from their families away from their country in ships blockading ports in mid-winter, or with an army in the deserts of the Middle East or amidst the carnage of a battlefield. Such employment might facilitate their taking a more humane view of society. There is more to life than money but they seem unaware of it.
Tues 22nd Dec 1801 Extraordinary
Lord St Helens, our man at St Petersburg, is transferred to Paris as British Plenipotentiary for the peace talks. Paget is ordered to Vienna but will pass through Paris where he is to brief St Helens on certain points in the negotiation.
The French government permits British diplomatic correspondence to be sent from Dover via Calais to Vienna, Berlin and St Petersburg. This is speeding our communications. In return, the ministry has recognised M. Otto as French ambassador to London and has allowed him to send his dispatches by his own couriers without inspection by the British Transport Office.
Sat 9th Jan 1802
George III’s Proclamation of 12th October:
Peace was agreed by Hawkesbury and Otto, the Plenipotentiaries, in London on 1st October 1801 and the ratified copies exchanged on 10th October. All hostilities between us and France, the Netherlands and Spain have ceased. Prizes taken after this agreement takes effect will be restored.
This Proclamation has caused great jubilation throughout England. The French ratified copy was brought by General Laureston to London. He is Napoleon’s artillery man. The horses of his carriage were removed and he was drawn by members of the public through Oxford Street and Bond Street to St James’ Street where he has apartments in Reddish’s Hotel. From the apartment balcony he threw handfuls of gold guineas to the crowd. In the afternoon he went to Downing Street and again Londoners pulled his carriage themselves. Once the ratified copy was received Hawkesbury instantly notified the City merchants. That evening all London houses were illuminated.
Usually on occasions of national jubilation, the mob becomes uncontrollable by midnight and all sorts of excess occurs but on this occasion a rain-storm commenced at 11 pm and no trouble occurred at all. Hackney coaches were charging ten times the going rate for a ride. East India House had the letters PEACE hanging, one between each of the columns on the frontage. Most other places had illuminated signs. Insurance offices, the post office and the Admiralty were all beautifully illuminated and decorated but the Bank of England had only a double row of candles at its front.
The scenes in Paris were even more jubilant. They rejoice that a single nation was able to triumph over a coalition of all its neighbours. The Legislature told Bonaparte he had done enough for France on the battlefield by making his country the foremost power in Europe but he had yet to produce the real glory and happiness of France. He now needed to win the peace and make France flourish and happy. The First Consul merely said ‘stability and social organisation principally contributed to the present peace’. The peace agreement is to be celebrated throughout France on 9th November.
There are some secret terms which will not be published until the subsidiary agreements have been concluded at Amiens.
Sat 16th Jan 1802
The terms of peace are slowly coming out:
- Malta is to be placed under the guarantee and protection of a third power;
- Egypt is restored to the Porte;
- France evacuates Rome and Naples;
- the Republic of the Venetian Islands (capital on Corfu) is recognised by the parties;
- the Cape is to be a free port;
- prisoners are restored without ransom on payment of their private debts;
- all sequestrations ordered by either party on the other are cancelled;
- all commercial claims are to be adjudicated by Judicial Tribunal;
- Fishing rights on the Grand Banks revert to the pre-war agreement;
- in all restitutions of land, the existing fortifications are to remain undisturbed;
- France is said to have agreed to colonial land concessions instead of paying-off English costs of prisoner maintenance which are substantial in East Indies but less in West Indies (Tobago is said to be available to England in this respect);
- merchants of either country residing in the former colonies of the other have three years to sell up (if they choose to leave);
- Batavia pays 10 million livres to France to end its liability to maintain 15,000 French troops on Java.
This peace should help to defeat the monster of monopoly that has arisen to affect our commerce.
Trinidad and Ceylon are surrendered to us by France (neither of which was formerly a French colony). Trinidad is a healthy island, capable of equalling Jamaica as a producer of sugar and rum.
All the peace terms have been published in Le Moniteur but they cannot be published in England until parliament has seen and approved them.
The capitulation of the French garrison in Alexandria was known in London only the day after the preliminaries had been signed.
All the detailed work is to be done at Amiens by Cornwallis as the peace terms are very general and require substance. Napoleon is sending his brother Joseph to Amiens as the French Plenipotentiary. The fate of Hanover is unknown as is the fate of the émigrés. These latter may expect generous terms from Bonaparte but they are virulently opposed to a commoner-made-King and can be expected to make difficulties. They demand reinstatement in their lands and powers.
The Spanish and Dutch government may be irritated by France – she has given away their colonies without any public indication of having consulting them. On the bare terms of the agreement it looks as though both are mere French vassals.
France is erecting a telegraph from Amiens to Paris to speed her communications. England, France, Spain, Netherlands, Russia and the Turks will all be represented at the talks. They are expected to start in November.
Sat 20th Feb 1802
The price of provisions in England has halved as a result of the peace. Peace has defeated the speculators. A quartern loaf was 1/6d and is now 8d. It is the same in continental Europe. It shows how some people were making their money.
Sat 20th Feb 1802
Paris 30th October – 300 English passports have arrived today for distribution to our merchant ships that are setting off to ports which may not yet know that peace has broken out. A similar number of French passports has been sent to London.
Sat 20th Feb 1802
British prisoners in France are to be shipped back from either Calais or Marseilles. They should apply for passports. Sgd Minister of Marine.
Sat 6th March 1802
According to the French papers of 13th October no less than 20,000 passports have been issued in Paris and delivered to London for English visitors.
Sat 2nd April 1803
HMS Imogen has arrived at the Cape with dispatches from London dated 29th October. General Dundas, the Governor of the Colony, had completed his preparations for removing from the Cape and was ready to hand it over to the Dutch as required by the peace terms. However the dispatches contained information that caused him to rescind his orders. The troops were disembarked and Dundas has proclaimed Martial Law.
The Dutch troops are encamped up-country awaiting the hand-over. There were two Dutch and one French warship in the harbour together with several of their merchant ships. Dundas told the Dutch commander that something had occurred to delay his surrender of the Colony and he had to await further instructions. This precaution appears to reveal a misunderstanding between England and France.
Sat 6th August 1803
The King’s Address to Parliament, 8th March 1803:
Considerable preparations are being made in the ports of France and Netherlands, purportedly for the recovery of colonies. This requires that we make preparations to protect British colonies. Please give me the money.
Pitt suggested the House debate the Message tomorrow. Agreed.
Sat 6th August 1803
The Royal Navy has recommenced impressment. It is said to be a precautionary step only.
Sat 6th August 1803
On 9th March the Houses of Parliament debated the King’s Message:
In the Lords:
Hobart said everyone must support the King. French preparations may well be intended for her colonies but they are so extensive we cannot sit idly by and base our future on trust. You should all be confident that the ministry will not frivolously plunge the country into war. The best preservation of the peace is an advanced state of defence.
Spencer trusted everyone would support the King. Every man in the country will give the last drop of his blood and the last guinea in his pocket to oppose the ambition of France.
Grenville said he never liked the peace terms and, as he had predicted, it had turned out to be an armed truce. The peace terms were dishonourable and we must now convince Bonaparte that he cannot trample on us. The choice is war with honour or peace with dishonour. Britain is one of the first countries of the World; we cannot tolerate the slightest diminution of our honour.
Moira said the French appear to be the same as when we made peace. Then it was unnecessary to arm, now it is – what has changed? We should confront Bonaparte and tell him we are his equal and that we will not have terms thrust upon us. Let the French people note his response. It is his ambition that brings on war. The English people won’t like it but we have no choice.
Westmoreland recalled that ministers had been thanked by parliament for effecting the peace. He wanted know why they had now changed.
Auckland for the ministry, said the peace terms had been unacceptable. Since then France had interfered in the internal affairs of its neighbours whilst we were said to have no right to do likewise. The fact is if any of our allies in Europe ask for help, we will give it as its in our interest to. Britain can well afford a war. In 1792 the excess of revenue over debt servicing was £7 millions, now it is £17 millions. Every day, due to the Sinking Fund, we pay off £20,000 of our national debt. Once it is cleared we will have a revenue of £34 millions a year. There is no question that we have the means to win a war if called upon to do so.
No other ministerial explanations were forthcoming and the Address was approved unanimously.
In the House of Commons the same topic was debated on the same day:
Addington said the French explanation for the activities in Dutch and French ports was plausible but there is also the matter of the ‘continuing negotiations’ between our countries. Should they fail, the purposes of the armament in the ports might change. We must be prepared.
The King is expected to call out the militia – it is the cheap option. Addington proposed the Commons adopt any extra precautions that were appropriate.
Fox said the unique feature of this request of the King is that we are asked to vote on a matter we know nothing about. I do not mind thanking H M for his message and assuring him of our support for his honour. In this case, whilst there are well-known preparations in European ports, we know nothing of H M’s negotiations in Paris other than that they are apparently important.
Hawkesbury, for the ministry, said the mere fact of naval preparations in French ports was sufficient for us to take steps ourselves. If the King’s initiative should provoke a renewal of war, ministers will explain themselves at that time. They will catalogue their conduct since they ratified the definitive peace treaty. We have nothing to hide but we cannot talk about the negotiations now.
Windham said it is a year since we signed the definitive treaty and ministers should tell us what is going on. It is a long time for the popular representatives to be kept in the dark. Windham thought that Addington should at least indicate if the force to be raised was intended for defence or offence.
The Address was later voted unanimously and Addington said he would be asking for 10,000 more seamen in a few days.
Sat 13th August 1803
General Sir Alexander Ball, our Governor of Malta, has corresponded with de Bussy (the emissary of the latest Grand Master of the Templars – Thomassi) over sovereignty of the island. Thomassi was nominated for the job by the Pope. The emissary arrived at Malta on 28th February. He wrote to Ball after receiving the Governor’s verbal advice that he had no orders to evacuate the British garrison. He said this appears to constitute a refusal to restore the island to the Order of St John in conformity with Article 10 of the peace treaty, and he demanded a written confirmation of the Governor’s position as Britain had agreed to evacuate Malta within 3 months of ratifying the treaty and the time had long since elapsed.
de Bussi says the conditions required for transfer of the island to the Order were recited in the Treaty. They were that the Grand Master or his representative should be in the island to receive its sovereignty and that the Neapolitan troops (who are to form the new garrison) should have arrived. These conditions have been met. My credentials empower me to ‘treat, conclude, accomplish and concert with the English and French Ministers Plenipotentiary, and with the actual English government of the island, upon all the articles relative to the restoration of religion to the island of Malta, as well as upon the restoration of the place.’ Why are you still here?
Ball replied that some of the six powers who are to guarantee the independence of Malta have not yet provided those guarantees. My Court will instruct me when it is appropriate for me to surrender the government of Malta. Please dissuade the Grand Master from coming. I cannot give you either the palace or the fort of Valletta. General Villette and myself are using the palace as our offices. If the Grand Master insists to come, I can offer him the Palace of Boschetta for his residence until it is possible for him to assume the government, but that palace is now unfurnished and I think it would be better for the Grand Master to remain in Messina (Sicily) for the time being.
General Villette, the French Plenipotentiary, has also remonstrated with Ball on behalf of the Order. France and England had agreed to place the independence of Malta under the guarantee of the six principal powers of Europe. If Austria, Prussia and Russia declined to provide a guarantee, it was hardly reason to annul the Treaty. Some were at least on record as supporting the re-establishment of the Order in Malta. At least France and England have performed and Ball has the Plenipotentiary powers to commit his country. It appeared to Villette that Ball’s argument was frivolous and, if the English King does not repudiate his representative, France will appeal to the other powers who are mainly friends of peace.
Bombay Courier Editor – The only recent change in the situation of the Order of St John has been the diminution of its finances. The Order used to draw a considerable sum from its land-holdings in France, Piedmont and Italy but all these places have been Republicanised and the people are no longer paying tithes. Bonaparte must be aware of the effect of his actions on the ability of the Order to act independently. It is also the case that Thomassi is an old and rather consensual man who is easily led.
Sat 13th August 1803
Paris, 9th March – Bonaparte has said that if England recommences war, she will find the financial system of France is now stronger than her own. This is an extraordinary and unfounded assertion. During the Revolutionary War France financed her efforts in part from the assets of those continental neighbours hostile to her. In a war with England alone, France must rely on her own resources.
Whitworth’s position at Paris is uncomfortable. At Bonaparte’s levees, none of the other ambassadors speak with him. Only the Russian ambassador de Marcoff talked with Whitworth, laughing over his discomfiture, ‘as though he had caught some pestilence’ he said. Whitworth was the British expert on Russia but was expelled by successive Tsars – it is a source of amusement amongst the European diplomats. Our man was nevertheless rueful. A great change has come over Paris. The large number of Anglophile Parisians are silent and a hostile spirit to our nation has arisen.
The merchants, who normally favour peace, are looking forward to war. Bonaparte says ‘those who could not foresee Marengo, are unlikely to foresee the immediate future if France is compelled to fight again now’.
Sat 20th August 1803
Recent speeches in the British parliament suggest there are now three parties. The first supports Addington because he seems inclined to preserve the peace; the second supports his ministry but wants a return of Pitt to renegotiate the peace terms or go to war; Grenville’s group wants immediate war.
Sat 20th August 1803
Whitworth has reported a conversation with Bonaparte. At a recent levee in Josephine’s drawing rooms at the Tuilleries, Bonaparte came in appearing excited. He addressed Whitworth in a voice loud enough for the other ambassadors to hear. “Do you know that a terrible storm has arisen between England and France.” he asked? “I hope it will dissipate” replied Whitworth. Bonaparte said it would dissipate when England evacuated Malta as George III has promised. Whitworth replied that he thought Bonaparte knew the reasons for the delay and assured the Consul that it was the British King’s intention to fulfil his obligations.
Bonaparte said you must know that we have carried on the war with you for a decade and can do so again if necessary. Please inform your Court to immediately evacuate Malta. The treaty must be effected. I owe that to the nations of Europe. You suppose we will not respond whilst our squadrons are tasked for Santo Domingo. The settlement of insurrection in West Indies is as much in England’s interest as in ours.
Whitworth said “The negotiation is not yet broken, there is every reason to believe ….” but before he could say more Bonaparte interjected “What negotiation? Is not everything already settled and signed by treaty?”
Whitworth was uncomfortable before so many witnesses. Bonaparte said ‘My Lord, your lady is indisposed; she may peaceably breathe her native air rather sooner than you or I expected. I wish most ardently for peace but if my just demand is not complied with, then war must follow and God will decide.”
Sat 20th August 1803
Paris, 15th March, Bonaparte’s response to George III’s Address:
A war of words has been fought for the last few months between the newspapers of London and Paris. France has relied on the treaty undertakings of England to send its fleet to West Indies and re-establish its colonies there. In response the British press alleged that the preparation of this fleet in Dutch and French ports was prima facie hostile and the British parliament has promised the King funding for the security of His Empire.
Anyone who visits the ports of the French and Batavian Republics can see detached preparations of one or two capital ships and some frigates. Should they visit the ports of England they will find a formidable force of warships.
One might suppose in a free country like England, where faction dominates all, that the King had fallen under the influence of some warlike group, but England has always been factionalised and the present King knows his way around better than his predecessors. This Address is an example of bad faith.
It reminds one of the treaties made between the Vandals and the Romans when force usurped right. A people owe respect to a great Monarch but this instance is repugnant to decency and justice. To embark on an unjust war will cause a dreadful contest and the more unjust it is, the more irreconcilable will the parties become.
Did not the Times of London call the Treaty of Amiens an armistice? Did not a rapid fall in British funds ensue?
This attempt to deny social rights will again cause all Europe to unite against England. We hold the justice of our cause strongly. We do not dread the expense and sacrifice of renewed war. Our financial system is simpler and less artificial than England’s – it rests on solid ground.
Wed 24th Aug 1803 Extraordinary
Two ships have arrived at Bombay with the news of the renewal of hostilities – one from Suez and the other from Basra (the two overland routes – formerly the Basra route was preferred but has been disturbed by civil disorder consequent on Anglo-French activities in the Levant). The King has addressed parliament:
“The discussions I mentioned in my message to you of 8th March have been terminated. The conduct of the French government has required I withdraw my ambassador. I have directed that parliament be provided with copies of such papers as will enable you to take a view. I have done everything to preserve the peace but I cannot deal with the ambition and encroachment of France without force.”
Whitworth’s treaty revisions were for retention of Malta for 10 years; cession of Lampedoza to England (between Malta and Tunis; its called Calypso in the Travels of Telemachus) to be developed into a great port during the ten years and then used as an alternate to Malta, and the evacuation of French troops from Holland (the threat to the smuggling route).
France does not possess Lampedoza (it belongs to the Two Sicilies) but the reasons for the failure of the other two points are not disclosed. It is rumoured Bonaparte agreed to evacuate Holland if we performed our treaty obligations. His argument for Holland appears the same as our argument for Malta. England was agreeable to performing its treaty obligations if Prussia or Russia garrisoned Malta but, ‘as the wily French had made them guarantors,’ it could not be done.
French interference in Switzerland is a tacit British objection, unstated in the documents.
Wed 24th Aug 1803 Extraordinary
Pitt arrived at the House of Commons on 15th May wearing the Windsor uniform. No-one had seen him in a military uniform before. Fox and his group say they will oppose renewed war. We don’t know if Sheridan and Tierney will join them. Russia is said to be our ally. Parliament approved the issue of Letters of Marque against the French, Batavian and Italian Republics and Spain (the Editor made a mistake here – Italy and Spain are not mentioned in the Order-in-Council). The wording of the King’s announcement (edited) is:
Queen’s Palace, 16th May 1803 – We have received repeated insults and provocations from France. I am forced to defend the honour of England and the just rights of my subjects. On the advice of my Privy Council I have ordered reprisals against the ships, goods and subjects of the French Republic. I have ordered that no British ships may enter the ports of the French or Batavian Republics or any other ports in countries occupied by France. I have ordered that a general embargo be placed on French and Dutch ships within English ports and on all persons on board such ships and that the cargoes be preserved with care.
Sat 27th August 1803
It turns out Whitworth was ready to leave Paris a week before he actually did so. He had packed his bags and they had been sealed by Customs several days before the Saturday on which he left.
Bonaparte requested interviews with him but he refused to attend, saying he could receive proposals in writing only.
He did not attend the levee on Sunday which the other ambassadors routinely attend. Neither did he attend the monthly Grand Parade. His absence from public view helped to spread talk of war. Once it was apparent he was really leaving, all the other English packed their bags too.
After Whitworth left, Bonaparte sent no less than four messengers off to London, some to Hawkesbury and some to Andreossi.
Sat 24th Sept 1803
George III is upset by Bonaparte’s public assertion of the King’s bad faith. He has published a justification of his declaration of reprisals and has included his list of complaints against France:
He says since the peace he has opened British Courts to the French and given them equal treatment at English Law but they have not reciprocated. His merchants’ ships are inconvenienced in French ports and their property is not respected.
He says since the peace, France has sent over a flood of people who reside in British and Irish ports and purport to be Commercial Agents or Consuls although there is no commercial treaty in force between our countries. Some of these people are military men and he suspects their duty is not commercial but political. Some were found to have instructions to sound the harbours, others to provide military surveys of the ports.
He complains France continues to keep troops in the Netherlands in defiance of remonstrations by the Dutch government.
France has invaded Switzerland in defiance of Luneville.
France has annexed Piedmont, Parma, Placentia and Elba, the most valuable parts of the lands of the King of Sardinia, without compensation, although they had promised that King that Russia would take care of him.
In October 1802 the British King was implored by some Swiss to mediate with France on their behalf. He immediately sought to make a joint remonstrance with other powers but none agreed to join him.
It was at that time that France advanced the principle that England could not involve herself in a European matter that was not dealt with in the peace treaty of Amiens (Britain had excluded herself from Luneville and the German indemnities to preserve her colonial conquests). The King considered this an unlawful restraint that tended to diminish British influence in the affairs of continental Europe.
Most importantly He was requested to evacuate Malta. The Russian Tsar had arranged the election of a new Grand Master of the Order and all the Priories acknowledged to be bound by the man selected by the Pope. We allowed the Neapolitan troops to be sent to Malta first. The terms required a guarantee of six powers. Austria agreed if the others did; Russia refused unless the Maltese langue was cancelled (leaving the langues of Arragon, Castile, Germany, Bavaria and Russia – the three French and one English langue have been excluded by agreement); Prussia never spoke of it; only England, France and Spain had willingly performed their guarantees but Spain had sequestered the revenues of the two Spanish langues while France has asked Bavaria to sequestrate the Order’s property in those domains. Thus the King has detected a plan to elevate the German and Russian langues and weaken the Order. Without guaranteed independence, and without a properly funded Order, Malta was vulnerable to invasion and Britain will not withdraw its garrison until the treaty terms are precisely performed.
British agreement to make Malta independent was conditioned by articles 8 and 9 of the peace treaty, dealing with the independence of Turkey and the Ionian Islands and the Levant trade. Sebastiani’s actions in Egypt, Syria and the Ionian Islands suggest to England that France might in future violate Articles 8 and 9 and this is a further reason for retaining Malta. Sebastiani’s report on the delay in British withdrawal from Egypt charges General Stuart with bad faith – it is insulting.
In a report to the French legislature, it is said England alone cannot contend successfully with France – that is insulting too and historically unsubstantiated. These insults are a public offer of French defiance to England.
France has forced a Hamburg newspaper to publish a libel on the English King (Napoleon’s unexpurgated reply to George III’s Address to parliament requesting British preparations for war). That free city has distributed the libel throughout Europe under menaces from France. This action appears connected with French protests against English press articles which France wanted disapproved. There are also the several calls of France to England not to grant asylum to French people, none of whom have been accused of any crime.
Under all these provocative insults, England has moderately held to her demand for those measures that are absolutely necessary to preserve peace. The negotiations have continued for a year without progress.
It is against this background that the King withdrew our ambassador from Paris and declared reprisals.
Sat 27th August 1803
In a debate on the reforms in the Admiralty, it transpired that whenever the government prepares to mobilise the navy for war, it first impresses merchant seamen in the ports in order to man the extra warships. It is a time-consuming proceeding which reveals the direction of ministerial policy long before parliamentary approval is obtained.
During the debate Captain Markham told House of Commons that the preparations he had seen in French ports were insignificant and might merely involve the Grand Banks fishing fleet. He disputed the minister’s advice (repeated by the King) that considerable military preparations were carrying-on in French / Dutch ports.
Fox noted that the King’s reference to military preparations may not refer solely to the navy.
Sat 1st Oct 1803
The following documents concern the background to the renewal of hostilities:
- Anthony Merry’s report to Hawkesbury of a meeting with Talleyrand on 3rd June 1802:
Talleyrand said Bonaparte saw obstacles to a full restoration of understanding between the countries. He wanted to resolve them before Andreossi arrived in London. Whilst France was represented by Otto he could overlook them but the appointment of a full ambassador to London required they be settled.
When Otto attends the King’s levees, he meets émigrés wearing old monarchical uniforms decorated with monarchical insignia that have long been abolished in the Republic. The disenfranchised French bishops also attend the levees and pass themselves off as people of rank and responsibility in France. These ex-princes and ex-bishops no longer hold any power or office in France. They assert the old exploitive views of the former regime. Nevertheless, they are treated with respect in London.
Our countries are near neighbours, separated by a few miles of sea, and what happens in London is immediately known in Paris. Even if there was no evidence of these people fomenting counter-revolution in France, their reception and welcome by the British Court is hostile to France. But in fact we have a mass of evidence that they are involved in all sorts of attempts to subvert our government and restore themselves to power and they are able to penetrate our long maritime frontier to promote their insurrection. We have recently seized several printed papers that have been sent by the émigrés from London to France for circulation in this country. They endeavour to promote opposition to our elected government.
The government of France believes the appropriate place of residence for the supporters of the former Monarchy is with the Bourbon calling himself Louis XVIII. It does not become England to provide sanctuary for these people if we are to have a durable peace.
Merry says he told Talleyrand that England does not encourage the émigrés and does not countenance their political activities but he was unsure to what extent his government might be moved to accord with the French view and would take instructions.
- Hawkesbury’s reply to Merry, 10th June 1802 – I have shown your dispatch to the King. He was surprised. Please explain candidly to the French why we give refuge to these people. We hope the peace will be permanent. We do not countenance émigrés involving themselves in projects that are hostile to the French government. We deplore acts by foreigners in this country which might disturb the tranquillity of any other country with whom we are at peace.
Provided these foreigners act in conformity with our views and abstain from hostile acts towards neighbouring countries, they are welcome to the protection of English Law. The majority of the people referred to by Talleyrand are living in retirement and we have no evidence that they are acting against French interests.
- Merry’s reply to Hawkesbury, 9th June – I told Talleyrand. He says the position is analagous to the time the Stuart Pretender was living in France and the British government demanded he not be supported.
Talleyrand said he intended no humiliation of England but merely that if the émigrés were less visible at the King’s levees it would be seen as a friendly act towards France and permit our ambassador’s attendance at your court.
Merry had replied that his King saw the French proposal as an affront to his dignity. The English people were supporters of monarchy and religion. He hoped the French government would abandon its wishes. Merry concluded his dispatch with “I am happy to say that Talleyrand shewed no warmth to my communication.”
- Otto to Hawkesbury 25th July – I sent you a copy of Peltier’s London publication containing gross calumnies against the French government. A reader would understand the article as intended to subvert the good relations between our countries. I have now received a complaint that the article is an abuse of the Press and an attack on France. It appears the Law of Nations supports the French view.
It is not merely Peltier. The Courier Francais de Londres, Cobbett and many other writers promote similar devisive opinions. All these insidious publications are opposed to peace. If the French press were to retaliate, it would seriously damage the prospects of continuing peace.
England admits no domestic law to control the press but the offence is established at international law – in time of peace all forms of humiliation between nations should be abjured.
- Hawkesbury replied 27th July that he has referred Peltier’s publication to the Attorney General for a decision on the legality of its contents.
- Otto to Hawkesbury 17th Aug – Your policy affords libellers an opportunity to subvert the peace. When libels are published regularly and systematically it appears to suggest the English government condones them. This has been going on for three months.
We have no difficulty with your policy of upholding the freedom of the press. We merely wish to end the London press’ interference in our internal affairs. National law must be subordinate to international law. It appears your Press can legally threaten to overturn the international engagements of your government. We require our own press to avoid libel.
This is not a matter of the odd paragraph that might slip passed a busy editor – it is a continuous stream of defamation directed against the constituted authorities of our government – repeated appeals are made to the French people to overturn their government and law. The views promoted by your press are those of the émigrés presently receiving asylum from you. These implacable enemies of the French Republic cause indignation amongst our people. They were removed by an act of the people and are not welcomed back as rulers. They are in rebellion against our political and religious policies. They come from England to Jersey and hold meetings and make plots to subvert our government.
The ancien regime has passed – it will not be reinstated. These people should consider their own reputations. They should not involve themselves in intrigue now peace is re-established. I am instructed to ask you:
- to take effective measures to end the seditious articles in your newspapers.
- that the named individuals be removed from Jersey.
- that the ex-bishops of Arras and St Paul de Leon and other clerics holding the same views be banished.
- that Georges Cadoudal and his adherents be transported to Canada.
- that the Bourbons now in England travel to Warsaw to join the head of their family.
- that those émigrés who think it fit to wear the decorations of the former monarchy be removed from British domains.
These demands are founded on the Treaty of Amiens and the verbal assurances provided by Cornwallis during those negotiations on the subject of maintaining tranquillity between our countries. France believes all these demands are reasonable and can readily justify them.
Whilst you have said that everyone in England enjoys the same protection of law, you have enacted an Aliens Act that empowers you to remove foreigners whose residence is found prejudicial to your interests. You have given yourselves the power to restrain foreigners and to remove them without benefit of a court hearing. We would consider the application of this law on the émigrés to be compelling proof of your pacific intentions towards France.
- Hawkesbury to un-named British intermediary 28th Aug (Hammond or Nepean) – Here are copies of the correspondence. I have told Otto you will contact him to explain everything. The requests of Otto appear hostile to us but it cannot be in French interests to provoke a renewal of war at this time. I suppose they are merely irritated but we should try to settle their doubts.
It is a fact that very improper items have appeared in the English newspapers and that the articles have the names of émigrés appended to them. The French government might expect a right of redress but instead of applying for it, they have taken the law into their own hands and adopted a policy of recrimination. The British government disavows the British articles complained of but the French recriminations have appeared in an official government paper – le Moniteur. They should not be surprised that our King has since rejected their appeal. HM feels it is beneath his dignity to formally respond.
Otto has raised six points which fall into two types – libels published against the French government and the acts of émigrés resident in England. On the first type the British government will never act against the freedom of the press except for breach of the law. If the French government wishes to act against our publications it has to do so through our Judicial system – that is our way. The freedom of the press is an inferred Constitutional right in this country. France is always free to act against the distribution of English newspapers in France and we can have no complaint to make.
The Aliens Act was passed to prevent the residence of foreigners whose principles might disturb the internal order of this country – i.e Republicans and democrats. It was not the legislative intention that the law operate against the people the French government would apply it to.
The removal of émigrés from Britain may be distinguished from the case of the Stuart Pretender in France. When James II abdicated he retired with his adherents to France. A war ensued and the French government adopted his cause. There was no stipulation in the Treaty of Ryswick requiring his removal from France. He remained at St Germain, near Paris, surrounded by his family and friends, until he died. It was after his death that Louis XIV, in breach of the Treaty of Ryswick, acknowledged James II’s son as the legitimate King of England. For that a different course was pursued by this government and in the Treaty of Utrecht, on account of the Spanish succession, a clause was inserted requiring the removal of the Pretender from French domains. This removal referred to the Pretender in person and did not extend to his family or friends. Subsequently, many of his adherents in this country fled to France and used their refuge to promote insurrection in England. We never applied for their removal.
In the instant case there is no article in the peace treaty that would permit the King to remove Frenchmen from England except for the crimes listed in article 20 of the definitive treaty which require presentation of acceptable proofs. The English King has acknowledged the Republican government of France and has, since that time, given no countenance to French royalists.
As regards Jersey, the émigrés live there for economy but we have been removing them since before the French complaint.
If France can establish any crimes attributable to the named Bishops (accused of distributing rebellious papers along the French coast inciting the people to resist the new French church) we will do everything possible to remove them.
As regards Georges Cadoudal and his group, we are contemplating measures for their removal from Hanover.
Regarding the Bourbons, we don’t want them. If they can be induced to leave that would be acceptable but we cannot withdraw hospitality so long as they conduct themselves peacefully. Please provide the evidence that they are disturbing the peace.
The people said to wear the old monarchical uniforms and insignia of the previous French government are very few. We agree they should not do so but what do you expect of us? We can hardly banish them for their appearance.
Please contact Otto and inform him of our views. You should give the advice verbally but if a written response is then demanded you may give it to Talleyrand. We characterise Otto’s notes as irritants that tend to diminish the good faith between our countries. We have just fought a violent war and feelings have not yet subsided. We should both be trying to allay harsh feelings by mild and conciliatory means.
- Hawkesbury has sent Francis Moore to Switzerland to investigate the political situation. His instructions of 10th October 1802 are to ‘locate’ the Swiss government, interview the leaders and tell them England supports them.
We believe they have prospered under their traditional government and it should not be changed. If France persists in the coercion announced by Bonaparte, check the disposition of influential people and examine their means of defence. Do not encourage them in a hopeless defence but if they cannot be influenced you may tell them that if a French army enters Switzerland, we will give them money. Keep our ministers at Vienna and Munich informed of your progress if you wish. Check the forces of Austria in the vicinity and whether they are likely to involve themselves. Find a safe route for correspondence that does not go through France. If Switzerland has already been invaded when you arrive, base yourself nearby and tell me where you are.
- Moore to Hawkesbury 31st October – I arrived at Constance on 27th. The Swiss government is in the canton of Schweitz. It has submitted to Ney’s army.
- Hawkesbury to Moore – ‘you can come home’.
- Hawkesbury to Whitworth, 30th Nov 1802:
Sebastiani says Stuart has told him he has no instructions to leave Egypt. We told Stuart in his instructions that the King’s troops were to depart Egypt by July 1802 (the India Company’s troops have already left). Normally when we capture a foreign country we send a warrant to our Commandant under the King’s Sign Manual but its different in Egypt because we never formally took possession of the country. Possession was transferred from France directly to the Porte.
We just retained a few military posts to house our troops until they could be evacuated. Stuart seems unaware of his authority to evacuate. I have now directed him to remove.
- Russia will not guarantee the independence of Malta because the French minister to St Petersburg has no instruction to make the application. Russia later gave a conditional guarantee but notes Spain has betrayed the Order by sequestering the revenues of the Spanish langues.
Paget, our man in Vienna, has applied to the Emperor for Austria’s guarantee for Malta. Champigny joined the application at Paget’s request (he has no instructions from Paris but knows it is a treaty requirement). The guarantee was issued 20th August.
The French minister at Berlin will not apply for the Prussian guarantee without instructions. Prussia says it will follow Spain in withholding its guarantee.
- As soon as Whitworth left Paris, Bonaparte called on the Russian ambassadors in London and Paris to offer the Tsar’s mediation to settle differences between the countries.
Wed 5th Oct 1803 Extraordinary
Copies of Whitworth’s advices to Hawkesbury over the breakdown:
Whitworth opines it is Talleyrand who dislikes the English Press; Bonaparte only dislikes the French language newspapers published in London for circulation in France. He is more concerned by the British army remaining on Malta.
Whitworth’s reports on his meetings with Talleyrand and Bonaparte:
- The Consul objects to Georges Cadoudal. He knows he is still based in England, receiving a pension and constantly visiting the French coast and rivers. Bonaparte has arrested two men in Normandy who had been hired by the Baron de Rolle on behalf of the Bishop of Arras in London to assassinate Bonaparte. He knews that Georges Cadoudal and Durthuel are involved in this plot – they are not just smugglers. The two arrested men will be publicly tried and their evidence published.
- On Egypt, Bonaparte confirmed he desired it as a colony for the grain production but he would not fight for it. He would await the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and make an arrangement with the Porte.
- He said if we fight again his only expedient is an invasion. To better assure success he would have to lead it himself but how could he expose himself to such a hazard now he is the popular leader of the French people? The chances are that a good part of the initial force would be sunk in the Channel. He said ‘The odds are quite poor but I have no other means of response’.
He then referred to the complementary nature of our two countries. He has an army of near 500,000 men whilst we have the biggest navy in the world. Two such countries might either govern the world or, in disputing for hegemony, destroy each other.
He said to preserve peace, the treaty terms must be performed; the published abuse should be confined at least to English language papers; the protection given to his bitterest enemies should be withdrawn.
He then reviewed the condition of the states of Europe to persuade me that there was not one substantial power that could ally with England.
- I said my King desired peace and his attitude was not influenced by any difficulty obtaining allies.
I told him that Sebastiani’s report on Egypt had put all London in fear for India. He said the Turks had repeatedly begged his ambassador for assistance in expelling the British. He denied Sebastiani’s mission was commercial – he was sent solely to discover why Stuart’s army was still in Egypt in apparent breach of the treaty.
When I mentioned French aggrandisement in Piedmont and Switzerland he said these are mere bagatelles whose fate was readily foreseeable at the time our negotiations were continuing. Why did England not mention them then. Is it not too late now?
I mentioned the property reparations. All French claimants had been satisfied within a month of ratification of Amiens. Not a single English claimant has yet been compensated. He observed that when both parties suppose themselves in the right, the negotiation might continue for a long time.
He queried our paying pensions to French and Swiss people. I said they were given as reward for past services, not for present ones.
He then said he would tell Andreossi to interview Hawkesbury. My interview lasted two hours. Bonaparte spoke almost continuously.
- In mid-March Andreossi demanded of Hawkesbury the British evacuation of Malta and enclosed a note of Talleyrand’s indicating France would march 20,000 men into Holland and camp part upon the frontier with Hanover and the rest in the Channel ports as direct pressure on England to perform. This was the diplomatic note that induced the King’s Address to parliament.
- Talleyrand then interviewed Whitworth and France backed-off. Bonaparte will never attack Hanover first, Talleyrand said, he is not like that – his style is responsive. He sees our retention of Malta as a hostile act and the threat on Hanover was his response. The armament fitting-out in Dutch ports is for the West Indies to avenge the losses on Santo Domingo (particularly the death of Bonaparte’s brother-in-law Leclerc) and restore order there. It was not a threat against England.
- Whitworth told him England wanted security for India. Bonaparte’s acts in Egypt frightened us and our Indian Empire interests.
- Talleyrand gave me an unofficial paper he had just drawn-up. It was merely a memo of the French position (not reproduced).
- There then followed a transcript of Bonaparte’s talk with Whitworth at Josephine’s levee (above) after which Whitworth said he could no longer meet Bonaparte. Talleyrand assured him it would not be repeated but Whitworth was intransigent.
- Ultimately the British position was stated to Andreossi by Hawkesbury – if we are required to evacuate Malta under existing circumstances, our ambassador will be recalled from Paris. Attached to this was a new proposal, superseding the bribe (see footnotes):
Malta to remain British in perpetuity; The Knights of St John to be indemnified by England; Elba to remain French; the King of Etruria and the Italian and Ligurian Republics to be acknowledged by England, provided the King of Sardinia is compensated.
- Andreossi’s response was to insist on performance of the existing agreement made at Amiens, but with a sweetener – agreement to hold a further negotiation on any grievances the English had since identified.
He again noted the matter of the Hamburg newspaper Correspondenten refusing to publish Bonaparte’s response to the King’s Address.
- Hawkesbury required Whitworth to say the treaty articles concerning Malta had become impractical – the Templar’s Order is partly dissolved and weakened by loss of revenue since the treaty was ratified. It was no longer strong enough to maintain the independence of Malta – that is why the six-power guarantees are not forthcoming. Alternatively England may be agreeable to hold Malta for ten years and then surrender sovereignty to the Maltese people. For this indulgence, the King requires the cession of Lampedoza. If this cannot be granted you are to strike your flag and depart.
- On 20th April, Whitworth reported a chat with Joseph Bonaparte in mid-April. Joseph thinks Malta cannot be made British indefinitely but a term of years might be possible. Whitworth said it would have to be for a good many years; that French troops should remove from Holland and Switzerland and the King of Sardinia should be provided for. Joseph seemed to think this was workable. He said I should await an interview with Talleyrand. To date, no such interview has been offered. I wish you to send me an ultimatum to bring the discussions to a head.
- Hawkesbury agreed – his new negotiating terms became the ultimatum – Malta; troop withdrawal from Holland; stipulations in favour of Switzerland and Sardinia in return for recognition of the new Italian states.
- Whitworth called on Talleyrand and recited the instructions he had solicited. Talleyrand said Bonaparte will never allow England a toehold in the Mediterranean. Whitworth suggested a long lease, provided France would not obstruct the gift of Lampedoza by the King of Sardinia. Whitworth reminded Talleyrand that England actually held Malta right now. Talleyrand had talked with Bonaparte but no amelioration of his determination that we perform the treaty terms was available. Bonaparte does not mind our getting Lampedoza from Sardinia but he will never release us from our agreement to cede Malta to the Order of St John.
Sat 15th Oct 1803
The House of Commons debated renewed war on 23rd and 24th May 1803:
Pitt has excoriated the centralisation of French power on one man. One of Napoleon’s egregious offences since becoming First Consul has been to write letters to George III and the self-proclaimed Louis XVIII – it is presumptuous for a commoner to do so.
Pitt says he had approved the Treaty of Amiens because he thought it was the best terms Britain could get. Since then, France had acted as though she had won the war. Her acts were inconsistent with British security. It was not only Sebastiani’s report that evidenced French designs on Egypt (another gateway to India, according to the Company’s Directors), it appeared to Pitt’s ministry that France sent Sebastiani to the Levant to stir-up anti-British feeling throughout the Porte’s domains. By analogy, if we sent an army officer to traverse South America, would not Spain be alarmed? The French say Sebastiani’s mission will disprove the allegations contained in Sir Robert Wilson’s book on Bonaparte in Egypt but Sebastiani left for Egypt before Wilson’s book was published. It is clear Bonaparte wishes to eject us from the Mediterranean and that is why he is implacably insistent on our surrender of Malta to the Templars.
There is also French interference in our internal affairs by protesting the contents of our newspapers and our provision of sanctuary to the émigrés. These were impudent acts which we resent.
And what of these French Commercial Agents in England who prepare plans of our ports, take soundings along our coast and write to France in cypher, he asked.
We have now seen Bonaparte at war and Bonaparte at peace and we should all recognise that we must prepare for vigorous measures. Pitt says that negotiating the Treaty of Amiens was a useful exercise. It has removed the veil of deception from the enemy’s real intentions.
Fox took a different view. He said all the supposed provocations could easily be explained in pacific terms. He thought the ministry had simply decided to resume the war and had searched through French activities since ratification to discover whatever pretexts it could plausibly make for fighting.
Sat 22nd Oct 1803
Whitworth has disclosed that Talleyrand’s contre-projet, which he received whilst en route back to London, suggested Britain retain Malta for a few years and France obtain Otranto and the old Spartan colony of Tarentum (both in the heel of Italy) in reciprocity.
It was rejected by Hawkesbury on the grounds that both ports are owned by our ally the King of the Two Sicilies and their cession would have caused distrust between us and him. It is Sicily that supplies the provisions of Malta – we cannot upset the King of the Two Sicilies and expect to retain Malta. There was a strong rumour that Talleyrand’s proposal included a Russian guarantee of Maltese independence with her troops garrisoning Malta but that now seems incorrect.
Whitworth says the letter from the Russian Tsar only arrived just as he was leaving Paris and contained nothing concrete beyond a wish for continuing peace and an offer of mediation. Thus the negotiations were ended, he says.
Sat 22nd Oct 1803
The House of Lords has been debating the causes we have for war:
Mostly it is unsupported suspicions of French perfidy. Some prefer the retention of Malta as our main reason because it gives us a toehold in the Mediterranean and provides a means of attacking France should she attempt to send troops against India. One Lord said we should have offered the Channel Islands in exchange as France must really want to remove us from places so close to her own maritime frontier (a suggestion Grenville recognised as likely satisfactory to France but which he obviated by denying the propriety of handing over ‘so many thousands of British subjects to degrading slavery’).
Dundas (Melville), in his occasional role as the India Company’s spokesman, said the neutrality and independence of Malta and Egypt were British imperatives for the protection of India. Only Russia, Spain and France appeared willing to guarantee Maltese independence under the Order of St John. An Anglo-Russian guarantee would be meaningful but nothing else would do.
Some prefer Bonaparte’s attack on our press as casus bellum.
Others preferred Bonaparte’s assertion that England was no match for French armies – that had infuriated a majority of Englishmen and would enjoy public support.
Yet others were concerned for the independence of Switzerland and the Netherlands.
And a final group thought we were at risk of being accused of abandoning the King of the Two Sicilies and should say we are fighting for him.
There was incomprehension amongst the aristocrats as to why the other European powers had not opposed a variety of French initiatives – Ney’s entry to Switzerland, Bonaparte’s seizure of Parma and Placentia, the independence of Malta – are they all satisfied with France? Is it only England that sees the danger in these activities?
Ellenborough said it was an ideological war – we contend for individual property rights.
The fate of Hanover was, as usual, not mentioned (not even by the King’s sons who sit in the House of Lords) – formally it is the King’s affair.
Grenville said the system Britain pursued inevitably meant that we must war with France to a determination of our differences. We cannot have a world in which both French and English principles are competing – there will be no end to war if we do. When the Treaty of Amiens had first been tabled in the House he had recognised the provisions were impractical and could not be voluntarily executed by us.
Sat 22nd Oct 1803
The parliamentary debates on renewed war have outraged the London Press. The reporters queued outside the Houses of Parliament for hours and when they were eventually allowed access, they found the public gallery completely filled with friends of MPs who said they had been invited to the House to attend Election Committees.
Every reporter was excluded and no independent information on the proceedings of the parliamentarians is available.
Its particularly resented because the ‘freedom of the press’ is one of the pretexts that the Lords are considering as casus belli with France.
Sat 29th Oct 1803
The British parliament has continued debating the ministry’s decision to resume the war. It seems the thrust of their thoughts are that since Amiens, France has been pressing ahead with her plans for the reconstruction of her West Indian colonies, particularly the richest one at Santo Domingo, and for the final settlement of the new European frontiers and social organisation of the newly defined states and it seems to have finally impinged on British legislators that Europe has changed – the spread of Republicanism is a fact and French principles are adopted in Spain, Belgium, Netherlands, Switzerland, northern Italy the Mediterranean and increasingly in Germany.
The Baltic states likewise prefer France to England because France is dependant on maritime countries for part of her trade and they can profit from her.
Fox notes that Grenville and Canning both assert that the justice of the British cause can be distinguished by the conduct of British ministers. Fox said that was impossible. If England has been injured and redress denied, we have to consider why redress is refused. These ministers have not fully disclosed how they have sought to preserve the peace (in fact Hawkesbury has used the peace to fund insurrection in Switzerland – Francis Moore’s instructions). There is a difference between insults and injury. Insults can seldom be casus belli and even injuries are not always necessarily so. We had a right to complain French actions towards third parties but that too was hardly a cause for war – when Poland was despoiled and partitioned we had nothing to say.
When Britain signed the definitive treaty we knew it was not all we wanted but the best we could get. That is almost always the case with peace treaties. We knew the situation in Italy then. Piedmont is also irrelevant – we knew what was happening there too. The Netherlands was occupied and Switzerland invaded and we did not say a word. How did these items subsequently appear in the King’s Address when our former silence suggests we agreed to tolerate them? We had nothing to say about the German indemnities or the fate of Parma and Placentia. Why are we now raising these items as grounds of complaint?
The French complaint against our press is simply ignorance of the Constitutional basis to our society. We should have told them straight away and the matter would never have become contentious. There has been reciprocal abuse but that is hardly reason to fight. The French know enough about our system to recognise that ministers have tamed the press and can control what gets published. We can end the abuse any time we want. Ministers were however right to decline use of the Aliens Act as Otto had suggested – it was enacted for domestic use not extrinsic purposes.
Fox said he had little respect for the Bourbon family but if France asked for any one of them to be banished from England he would certainly refuse it. But they had not asked that.
Great efforts have been made to show Sebastiani’s report as casus belli when it appears almost wholly commercial.
The King’s declaration refers to British shipping arrested in French ports (the smuggling brig Fame entered a French port in June 1802 after heavy weather; the brig Jennies in Sept 1802 was caught with contraband, and the George was arrested at Charente with English goods in the captain’s cabin) – that only shows that France has laws that proscribe smuggling. There is no suggestion the laws had been misconstrued or abused. That is no reason for war either. Our own Navigation Acts that were commenced by Cromwell have been deeply resented by every major power. Are we to repeal them?
Whitworth’s conversation with Bonaparte is unusual. He should not have gone again to the Tuilleries until the difference had been settled. But ministers have been telling us as late as December 1802 that we are in a state of profound peace with France, although they had sent orders to our garrison commander at Capetown (in October) to retain the Cape.
Fox supposed that a collection of trifling grievances might collectively be cause for war but most of the grievances were extant last December when we were all proclaiming the joys of peace.
He thought the aggrandisement argument was also defective. If France is aggrandised in Europe is not England aggrandised in India? How can we defend ourselves against this charge that we continually level at France? We do not really believe that Malta is the key to Egypt or that Egypt is the key to India. In fact in 1787 when Vergennes published his designs on Egypt we did not protest; on the contrary, that was the time Pitt concluded a commercial treaty with France. We might readily have settled the Malta question and resolved our fears by adopting the Russian Tsar’s proposals had we been of a mind too. It looks as though we were determined to retain it for ourselves and all our supposed logic was directed towards that conclusion.
Fox said every Englishman from the villager to the landed proprietor was burdened by inexorable taxation. Pitt says the renewed war is to be a vigorous war beyond all precedent. It will obviously cost more than the Revolutionary War which we found so onerously expensive. Our teeth have been pulled, our veins bled and now Pitt will perform more extreme surgery. The income tax is to be instantly raised, perhaps to 20% (double the current rate) and in return the people will get a few fine speeches in this House. We are like the King of Morocco who does not put on his best clothes to go to an execution. And why are we doing this? For Malta!
If we continue to pursue our policy of deranging French finances we simply force the French to look away from their domestic markets to profits from abroad. If we examine the ministry’s policy it is crystal clear that we force France to fight her neighbours to gain access to their wealth.
Addington had the task of responding for the ministry. He is one minister who has the respect of the country generally. He accused Fox of a lack of patriotism. The ministry had protested about Holland and Switzerland. Whitworth had demanded France evacuate the Netherlands but the Dutch themselves told us not to get involved. We also interposed for Switzerland and Addington thought that was the reason the country had not been incorporated into France. He said France intends to breach Amiens in respect of the integrity of the Turkish Empire.
Expenditure on the French army has increased from 210 million Livres when the King delivered his message in March to 240 million Livres now, and the French navy in the same period from 105 millions to 126 million Livres. They are also preparing for war, he said.
The House then voted 398/67 in favour of war.
Sat 29th Oct 1803
The French legislature has considered the British King’s Address to parliament which states that formidable armaments are being prepared in the ports of France and Holland and that the negotiation between the governments appears likely to fail. Talleyrand said the following on the matter:
This extraordinary Address astonished France. There is no formidable armament in either French or Dutch ports. We have discussed this with Whitworth and asked where he got this manifestly wrong news from. It has been used by the war party in England to rekindle the spirit of hatred.
We supposed that if the English government had been misled by reports of armaments, at least it would be right about the supposed negotiations.
Our ambassador in London, unaware of any negotiations in train, called on Hawkesbury to ascertain whether two false suppositions in the one document, both used to justify a call to arms, allowed the inference that England was about to violate the Treaty of Amiens in respect of those agreements which she had not yet performed. His note was dated 10th March and at about the same time our foreign minister (Talleyrand) was required to enquire with Whitworth along the same lines.
Hawkesbury replied on 15th March in a vague but aggressive letter that offered no clue to the British ministry’s sudden lurch in policy. Bonaparte has often said that war with England is the last thing he wants. He hopes George III will not violate such an important treaty upon which rests the security of the continent. His Declaration in response provoked another Note of 7th April in which the British government demanded ‘satisfaction.’ No explanation for the demand was contained in the Note. It appeared to manifest an intention to breach the treaty by refusing to evacuate Malta. Whitworth then demanded a consultation at the same time indicating that in the case of an unfavourable outcome he would close his embassy and depart Paris for London.
France was at a loss to know what response to make to sudden novel demands concerning strange propositions. We felt indignant but the danger to peace obliged us to submit coolly and trust to reason and justice to resolve the matter. Whitworth agreed to notify his Court that France would not agree to a unilateral British violation of her agreement.
He then received two orders successively proposing two negotiations.
By the first it was suggested Malta should remain under British rule and, upon our consent, George III would approve everything that had taken place in Europe since the Treaty. The King also agreed to punish those émigrés in England who continue to plot against France. Our foreign minister observed that this project was a violation of the Treaty whereby the future of Malta had been settled. On the recognition offered by George III for our agreement, we could discover no material change in Europe that might have required his approval except the re-organisation of the German states which George III, as Elector of Hanover, was already involved in and which was a consequence of the Treaty of Luneville (which pre-dated Amiens). The political situation of Piedmont, the Kingdom of Etruria and the Italian and Ligurian Republics likewise pre-dated Amiens.
We asked England to recognise Etruria and those Republics during the discussions at Amiens but Cornwallis declined. Neither would he consider the acquisitions obtained in India in the terms of the overall treaty. These points were obstructing settlement of the peace and we voluntarily abandoned them to get agreement. We agreed to evacuate Holland on ratification of Amiens. We further agreed not to pursue the activities of the émigrés in London and Jersey who, instead of being punished by England, were being paid pensions. We abandoned all these points for peace.
Whitworth then received and informed us of the second projet. He would allow the civil government of Malta to transfer to the Order of St John but proposed to retain a British garrison in the fortress of Valletta. This was contrary to Amiens and we refused it. Amiens put Malta under an Order of Knights guaranteed by all Europe whereas the British government sought to monopolise control of the island itself. It was repeatedly apparent that the British had no intention of being bound by their agreement and that they were intent on keeping Malta.
The British proposed to hold Malta for 10 years and Lampedoza in perpetuity (an island not belonging to France but to which seizure France was presumably to turn a blind eye, Talleyrand speculated). France was required to evacuate Holland. To preserve his honour Whitworth declined to make these proposals in writing (to avoid formally committing his government to treaty violations) but he did say, if we refused, he would leave France in seven days. Talleyrand wondered what the English orators would have said in parliament if France had proposed treaty violations to England. We could not accept the British ultimatum and Whitworth prepared to depart.
We could not so readily abandon peace like Whitworth. We sent a Note after him consenting to a garrison for Malta of any one of Russian, Prussian or Austrian troops which would make the island independent (the expressed concern of England). This was the late-arriving proposal from the Russian Tsar with which terms France agreed. That got Whitworth back to the table.
At the same time, as Whitworth had applied for a passport to leave, we advised our man in London to prepare to leave and he also applied for a passport which was granted in one hour.
Our concession on Malta required a British response but they did not – instead Whitworth sent in a Note on 11th May falsely alleging that Russia declined to comply with the proposed arrangement. Even had it been true, there still remained Austria and Prussia.
In fact, when the Russian Tsar learned of the British misrepresentations he corrected them in writing to the French and British Courts. He offered his mediation in settling differences between England and France. I (Talleyrand) informed Whitworth of this error in his instructions on 12th May as it was the sole obstacle to the restoration of peace under Amiens. Unsurprisingly, Whitworth did not respond to my Note but instead said he would leave in 36 hours and demanded a passport which we immediately prepared and gave him.
All the activities of the British minister at Paris and his Court in London on this matter indicate an attitude of hostility. The French government cannot acknowledge the right of any government to renounce a reciprocal agreement. I was instructed to inform the British government that France cannot receive communications that do not conform with the principle of equality between nations; that France will not dispose of territories that do not belong to her and that it will never acknowledge a British right to abrogate treaties made with France. “If we let England violate one article, she has a precedent for violating all of them.” I confirmed French willingness to place Malta under one of the neutral guaranteeing powers and confirmed our national readiness to continue talking.
Talleyrand concludes that Britain cannot be appeased. There is a hatred of France that motivates her ministers; an unwillingness to co-exist.
Sat 5th Nov 1803
The order of Lord Hobart to General Dundas at the Cape, to not surrender the colony to the Dutch pending for further instructions, was written 17th Oct 1802 and received at Capetown on 31st Dec 1802. Dundas’ reply of 3rd Jan 1803 was received in London on 18th Mar 1803 (a few days after the King’s Address).
Sat 5th Nov 1803
House of Commons, 18th May – Grey moved that additional papers be produced by the ministry to evidence their contention that France was the aggressor and Britain was forced to resume the war. Sir George Heathcote complained that the papers were unavailable to him as some MPs had removed multiple copies. Hawkesbury said he had printed 800 copies.
Grey had been fortunate to get a complete set but he found they lacked evidence of French aggression. He called for certain papers to evidence the aggression upon which rested the ministry’s case for war. Briefly, these were:
1/ violence offered to British shipping in French / Dutch ports – this was similar to the basis to our war with Spain over Nootka Sound. He called for the correspondence with France from May 1802 – March 1803.
2/ Spies sent to England purporting to be Commercial Agents who surveyed our ports and reported our naval facilities. This is unmentioned in the bundle of papers provided but an appendix contains a letter to Citizen Fauvelet in Dublin which might be relevant. He wanted to see all the correspondence with France on this, sent / received since Amiens.
3/ The French troops in Holland. Grey wished to see our Protest and the other letters.
4/ The tone of Bonaparte’s Response to the King’s address. He wished to see the British remonstrance and other papers
He referred to British interference in Switzerland. A Note dated 10th October 1802 had been given to Otto on the subject but neither Note nor reply was included in the bundle. That same month the British Commandant at the Cape had been ordered to retain the colony in breach of our treaty commitment to surrender it. We have since evacuated. He wished to see the papers sent to General Dundas.
He was aware Louisiana had been ceded by France to America. This was an important matter and he wanted to know the details.
Grey said the uncertainty concerning Elba, Piedmont, etc., would be addressed by another of the liberal Whigs tomorrow.
As concerns the supposed armament building in French and Dutch ports, there is no information whatsoever in the papers provided – this is concealment. The French government positively denies it. Where’s the evidence? We have 50 capital ships ready to fight in East & West Indies, Mediterranean and the Channel. Do the French / Dutch have anything like that? Grey wanted to see the British Protest and correspondence from April 1802 – Mar 1803.
He particularly wished to ensure that all channels for diplomatic settlement had been explored before consenting to renewed war and he reminded the House of the attempts of M Chauvelin before the last war that might, had they been listened to, have avoided that conflict.
Hawkesbury replied for the ministry. Do not pre-judge the issue. We do not have a single great complaint for renewing war, we have several little complaints which collectively show French hostility. It was so threatening, we had to terminate the negotiations. Grey is stating the case in stronger terms than the King’s Address requires. Actually, we have complained of the hostility but no satisfactory answers have been given.
As regards the Commercial Agents we know they are spies because we have no Commercial Treaty with France and no formal trade with her. We complained to Andreossi and some were withdrawn. None of them was permitted to go to their requested destinations (i.e. they were stopped at port of entry). Our remonstrance was verbal.
There are no British documents concerning the antagonistic report of Bonaparte to the French Legislature.
As regards Switzerland, a Swiss national applied to us for help and we queried French actions in Switzerland in a Note Verbale. No answer was received and we saw only a general note in the Moniteur that France would never violate the freedom of Switzerland. That is clearly untrue.
He agreed to produce the correspondence with General Dundas at the Cape in due course.
Concerning Louisiana the ministry has received a paper from Rufus King (the American representative) and will produce it if it be lawful to do so. This transaction occurred after the negotiations had broken down and Whitworth had returned.
Concerning the French troops in Holland (the force France said was for the restoration of colonies in West Indies) our information is informal and comes through an important confidential channel which we must protect. The papers cannot be published. These military preparations are widely known and should not require exact evidence. We have a French declaration that the force is to avenge French injuries (Hawkesbury omits the words ‘in Santo Domingo’ that appear in the French declaration) – that should be enough for MPs.
Finally, on the course and failure of Whitworth’s negotiation, the ministry would naturally provide full information as soon as it could be assembled.
Whitbread objected. The King should not be advised to include speculative matters in his Address. He thought only items against which we had protested should be included. He objected to Hawkesbury saying the sources of information about French arming were secret when we are at peace and any one willing to pay the fare can go to the ports and look for himself. These preparation have been continuing for ages but ministers only took exception in March. The French statement (that there are two frigates in Dutch ports and three corvettes in French) remains uncontradicted. Ministers have endeavoured to say the impending danger is so great, we have no time to debate and must act.
Eventually the House voted on the adequacy of disclosure provided by ministers in respect of French rearmament and it was approved 196/50.
Sat 12th Nov 1803
The timing of renewed war is fortuitously ideal for England. We should catch most of the French and Dutch merchantmen that were sent off to their colonies after the Treaty of Amiens was ratified. That is where the enemy’s money is invested right now – in those ships and their cargoes. They will be returning fully laden very soon. (This insight about fortuity is correct – see Windham’s revelation to the Commons below that the French expedition is financed by the City of London)
Letters of Marque were issued to all British warships on 19th March. Some heavy impressing has been done in all the ports. In London the Lord Mayor gave good support and hundreds of putative seamen were rounded-up.
Sat 26th Nov 1803
One of the British officers in the army of Egypt has written from Malta on 28th March to explain the delay in the army withdrawing from that country:
The real problem related to the French ordnance seized during the war. General Stuart wished to sell it to the Turks or the Mamalukes and requested £100,000 to transfer title. It was a very reasonable price and represented only half the real value. Stuart sent officers to Cairo to negotiate but it took a long time. The Mamalukes said they had no money and the Turks were constantly disagreeing with each other.
It transpired that only the Beys had the funds to seriously consider purchase. Eventually two Turkish officers came to Alexandria and an agreement was reached in February. This requires Mohamed Alfi Bey to come to England (his assets in London will meet the army’s price) and he has now arrived here in Malta en route to London.
Once he pays we will let him return. The guns remain in Egypt. Mohamed Alfi Bey is the richest of the Beys but not the Chief Bey. We could not have waited in Egypt longer for Alfi Bey to receive the necessary funds from within the Porte’s domains because a plague was spreading. We had to leave.
Sat 26thNov 1803
A list of the MPs who opposed the King and his Minister’s requests for renewal of war is given in this edition. It is about 10 percent of the representatives in the Commons. As a preponderance of these people were effectively voting with their conscience rather than their pockets, their names, as shown in the newspaper, are recorded here for posterity and the pride of their descendants.
The national situation at this time had been well stated by John Nicholls MP during a debate on increasing the Assessed Taxes (in January 1798). He said “I oppose the tax because not necessary; I think the tax not necessary because I think the continuance of war not necessary; I think the continuance of war not necessary because sincere efforts have never yet been in vain employed to obtain peace” and he asserted the war was waged, not from a dread of France, but from jealousy of the Commons of England … that Britons might claim their rights:
|ADAIR Robert||FELLOWES Robert||ORD William|
|ANSON Thomas||FITZPATRICK General||PIERSE Henry|
|AUBREY Sir John||FOX Charles James||PLUMER William|
|ANDOVER Lord||GREY Charles||PETTY Henry|
|ANTONIE William Lee||HAMILTON Archibald||PONSONBY William|
|BARCLAY George||HARRISON John||PYTCHES John|
|BANKS Henry||HOWARD Henry||RUSSELL William|
|BOUVERIE Edward||HEATHCOTE John||RAINE Jonathan|
|BURDETT Francis||HUSSEY William||RICHARDSON Joseph|
|BULLER James||JEKYLL Joseph||ST JOHN St Andrew|
|BENNETT Captain||JERVOISE Clarke||STANLEY Lord|
|BENT Robert||JOHNSTONE George||SPENCER Robert|
|CAVENDISH Lord G H||KINNAIRD Charles||SOMERVILLE Marcius|
|CAULFIELD Henry||LAMBTON Ralph John||TOWNSHEND John|
|COKE Thomas||MADOCKS William A||THORNTON Henry|
|COURTENEY John||MILFORD Lord||WALPOLE General|
|CREEVEY Thomas||MILBANKE Ralph||WESTERN C C|
|COMBE Hervey C||MILNER William||WILBERFORCE Wm|
|DALEY Bowes||MILNES James||WINNINGTON Edward|
|DOUGLAS Marquis of||MORE George Peter||WHARTON John|
|DUNDAS Laurence||MORE Peter||Tellers:|
|DUNDAS Charles||NORTH Dudley||SMITH William|
|DUNDAS George||NORTHEY William||WHITBREAD Samuel|
Sat 10th Dec 1803
Extracts from Le Moniteur, copied from Mercure de France:
When Austria was forced to make peace after Marengo, England might have involved herself in the treaty negotiations at Luneville but she had made some colonial conquests in the war and was reluctant to have them thrown into the pot. Consequently, the name of England does not appear in that treaty.
At the time the British thought it was the right thing to do although it cut them off from any involvement in the German territorial settlement and their King (as Elector of Hanover) got burnt. Still that appears a just reward for opposing Catholic emancipation in Ireland.
Grenville’s war party asserted as policy that England could not involve herself in continental matters and was better served by isolation. Grenville reserved all British foreign conquests for the treaty negotiations at Amiens so she alone got the full benefit of those conquests. That disenchanted Austria and was unapproved at Berlin and St Petersburg. It is a reason why the Europeans believe Britain is in this war for the money. It may be more difficult for England to obtain allies in future.
Since Amiens, once she had secured the advantages of a separate peace, the Grenvillites have been saying England should again involve herself in Europe. Why the volte face? The British reputation in Europe is that she reserves the profits of war to herself whilst sharing the sacrifice and cost with her allies. The British ministry responds that it has generously funded the continental allies. It is however a fact that all the continental powers have been impoverished by war whilst England alone has profited from it.
That profitability explains the Grenvillites’ readiness to fight again. The bankers of London can hardly conceive how the governments of other countries can refrain from war. British trade figures have grown through the war and everyone has to pay London for colonial production. The Europeans necessarily chose to buy in London for the cheap British manufactures so the city has become a one-stop shop, like a latter-day Carthage.
The differing positions of France and England can be clearly seen from the history of the war. At the beginning all Europe was Britain’s ally and France fought alone. At the end of the war all Europe was aligned to France and Britain was alone. The fact is that treaties of offence and defence require allies to make guarantees to each other, whereas England fights when there is money to be made. It might be thought that England makes alliances to share the burdens of war but leaves them to make peace.
On the other hand France, with three times England’s population (since the frontier changes) is able to fight her own battles and having done so makes alliances to secure the peace. She fights for the interests of society; England fights for the self-interest of her merchants. (French principles put society over the individual; English principles put the individual over society.)
England has now acquired an ascendancy over the other states of Europe. She enjoys and exercises this with a regrettable haughtiness. It was Pitt who introduced the ambitious young men of no connections to government, who have spread the spirit of commerce and stock-jobbing to national policy. Pitt’s ministry has been a usurping oligarchy, buying off whoever it could not controvert and destroy.
Fox’s speech says it all: “Numerous people are ardent for renewed war. This animates the commercial men in all the commercial towns, but most particularly in London. I hope the hearts of English merchants glow with generosity and patriotism. They would not sacrifice the happiness of the people for profit from government contracts or other means of self-enrichment. If I am wrong, I should wish for the return of one of the ancient heroes. If we are doomed to fight this war to satisfy greed, I should rather fight for the romantic notions of Alexander than to swell the coffers of a merchant.”
Pitt introduced England to commercial war. He did not always get his way. His spats with Windham are instructional. Windham is one of those romantics who worships the glory of war whereas Pitt was solely concerned with the economic possibilities. It was Windham who revealed some telling details about the brief peace. He said:
“Since the conclusion of the preliminary peace agreement, France has fitted out 13 warships (6 capital ships and 7 frigates) and over 10,000 tons of Baltic hemp have been sent to France in British ships by British merchants. The expedition to Santo Domingo was fitted-out in record time. A new expedition is now fitting-out in Dutch ports. France has no money. It is British capital that funds these expeditions.”
That is why Addington’s ministry could not complain about them.
Sat 14th Jan 1804
Russia’s wish to mediate our quarrel has produced a proposal to which France consents to be bound. She will evacuate Holland and Hanover; Malta is to remain British for ten years whereafter it will then be transferred to the Order of St John with the necessary guarantees of the great powers.
It has been rejected by the British ministry.
Britain’s purpose is not to quibble over details; we seek to establish a general system of control over France. That can only be done by violence.
The Russian Tsar is concerned by our blockade of the Weser and the Elbe. No goods are getting into northern Europe by those routes. That has made the Tsar realise that French occupation of Hanover is not in his interests. He has told France that she must withdraw from Hanover and from the banks of the two rivers to permit British trade to resume – failure to do so will be considered a hostile act against Russia.
Sat 31st March 1804
Paris, 29th June – Talleyrand and the Russian ambassador Count de Marcoff continue their daily discussions on Russian mediation with England. Their efforts are preserving a faint hope for peace.
Sat 21st April 1804
An important negotiation is underway between Austria and Russia. It is believed to be intended to enforce mediation on England. That should be too powerful a combination for England to simply dismiss as she did the Tsar alone.
D’Antruigues, the Bourbon émigré Comte who has lately been Counsellor to the Russian Legation at Dresden, has been dismissed.
Sat 29th Dec 1804
The Austrian minister has approached Paget, our man in Vienna, on several occasions to offer his government’s services in mediating our quarrel with France. It appears Addington’s ministry has not responded.
Sat 14th Dec 1805
Napoleon has made a peace proposal to England and Pitt asked the Tsar to send a negotiator to France to see what could be done, concurrently advising Paris of what he had done. Soon after Pitt’s advice was sent to France, Napoleon published his intention to incorporate the Ligurian Republic into France.
The Tsar selected Novozilzov for the job. Russia’s own relations with France are not good (the Marcoff affair) but with the support of Prussia, through which country the envoy will pass, the Tsar thought he could give peace a chance. He made two conditions for Prussian passports to France – that Novozilzov should treat directly with Napoleon but without acknowledging his title of Emperor and that Napoleon should give some prior evidence of a sincere desire for peace.
France affirmed her sincerity and the Tsar accepted the passports. Then France announced the incorporation of the Ligurian Republic within France. This is a treaty violation and France knew it would offend the Tsar and defeat his intended peace negotiations. He therefore returned the Prussian passports to Berlin and countermanded his instructions to Novozilzov. The Russian envoy is coming instead to London.
Sat 12th July 1806
Napoleon has sent new peace proposals to Dover, perhaps assuming a new ministry with liberals in it might have more pacific intentions, but reportedly his terms were outrageous (the King will never accept the loss of Hanover, which was one of them). Even Fox could not see a way to negotiate honourably on them.
Sat 20th Sept 1806
England received another peace proposal from France on 7th April. It arrived via a small ship called Pilote No 1 by hand of an artillery lieutenant. It was handed to an officer on HMS Diligence and is addressed to Fox.
It is said, inter alia, to contain French agreement to prisoner exchanges as proposed by London. This has elicited a frequent correspondence between Talleyrand and Fox. The latter recently called Napoleon ‘Emperor of the French’ in a parliamentary debate – now that’s astonishing.
Sun 26th Oct 1806 Extraordinary
Fox is ill. The peace negotiations are being developed by others. Lord Yarmouth, who has been detained in France since war began, has been released on his own parole to progress the talks and he has brought specific terms from Napoleon. He has since returned to Paris with a British response. Lord Holland is expected to be named British plenipotentiary to France. The French proposals are said to be:
- Full British sovereignty over Malta.
- Hanover to be restored to George III.
- The Cape to be ceded to England.
- The recent arrangements (Napoleon’s family and supporters assuming royal titles and estates throughout Europe) to be acknowledged.
- British commerce to pass into Europe unimpeded.
- No capital ships to be built by France or England without giving notice to the other.
The expectation of peace has pushed the 3% consols to 63½.
Thurs 27th Nov 1806 Extraordinary
The British cabinet is divided over the prospects for peace.
Six are in favour (Fox, Lord Henry Petty, Lord Moira, Lord Howick formerly Charles Grey, Lord Erskine, Lord Fitzwilliam).
The five hawks are opposed (Lord Grenville, Lord Spencer, Windham, Lord Sidmouth formerly Addington, Lord Ellenborough)
Sat 14th Feb 1807
On 8th Oct Downing Street received a semaphore message from Dover that Lord Lauderdale had left Paris and required a frigate at Calais on 9th Oct. It seems it is not yet time for peace. This information was instantly relayed to the Royal Exchange where the short duration of Lauderdale’s to Paris visit was received by the stock brokers with pronounced satisfaction. The messenger then continued to Lloyd’s where the underwriters expressed their exultation by giving him three cheers.
Sat 28th Feb 1807
George III has Addressed parliament on the failure of peace negotiations:
France proposed peace on the basis of actual possessions and willingness to exchange possessions or give compensation. One of the terms that attracted me was the French assurance that Hanover would be restored. My only request of France was that the negotiation should be conducted by England in concert with her allies.
During this early negotiation, d’Oubril who had been sent to Paris by our ally the Tsar, without informing England, made peace with France unilaterally on the basis that France would not interfere in Germany. This left us alone in the negotiation.
Then the south German states of Austria established themselves as the Confederation of the Rhine. At the same time the Ottoman Porte amended his policy towards Russia. Both these developments resulted from French diplomacy. In consideration of these changes I assessed no genuine wish for peace on the part of France and recalled my Plenipotentiary.
On that event, France made some (unidentified) concessions and hinted others might also be available. This allurement caused me to allow my minister to remain in Paris. France wanted me to make peace separately from Russia but I disagreed until the Tsar published his refusal to ratify d’Oubril’s treaty and I realised the unratified Russian agreement had been a ruse to isolate England in the negotiation.
It had been a fundamental term of our negotiation that we acted in concert with Russia. I knew what Russia wanted (even if d’Oubril did not) and I specified the terms on which peace could be made. Lauderdale was instructed to negotiate for both countries and France accepted this. But she rejected the Russian terms (as I imagined they were) as well as my terms.
Sat 4th April 1807
The Frankfurt Journal has published the correspondence between Fox and Talleyrand concerning the search for peace:
Fox to Talleyrand 20th Feb 1806:
A gentleman arrived at Gravesend from France without a passport and asked to see me. I interviewed him at my office. He calls himself Guillerme de la Gevrillier. He has the demeanour and attributes of a spy. He proposed to assassinate Napoleon and says he has hired a house at Passy for the project.
I was embarrassed to find myself conversing with an assassin. I told the policeman to eject him from the kingdom as soon as possible. I then thought it would be better to detain him until I had informed you of the matter. Our law does not permit me to detain him long but I can send him to a port far from France.
Talleyrand to Fox 5th March:
I showed your letter to Napoleon. He respects your honour and virtue and thanks you. He instructed me to tell you that the politics of George III may promote a quarrel which will be detrimental to mankind. He rejoices at this indication of what France may expect from your cabinet.
Fox to Talleyrand 25th March:
I showed your letter to my King. He reaffirmed his desire to have peace for all Europe on a solid basis, not an armistice. He recognises the stipulations of the Treaty of Amiens may be construed in 3 – 4 different ways which will cause delay and proposes instead that our countries should solely concern themselves with ‘honourable’ peace, for ourselves and our allies. We cannot commit to anything without Tsar Alexander’s prior agreement.
We have sufficient resources to continue the war. We suffer the effects of war least of all the nations of Europe. We recognise the horrors of war in Europe and wish to bring them to a conclusion.
Talleyrand to Fox 1st Mar:
Napoleon says he wants nothing that you have. Peace with France is possible and may be perpetual. British interference in our internal affairs should stop. The management of our Customs and commerce should not be constrained. You, and a few like you, know that France wants only peace and a fair chance to develop her commerce. Napoleon thinks that no particular article of Amiens was a cause of renewed war. He thinks it was British refusal to make a commercial treaty with France. That was prejudicial to French commerce and industry.
We hold the view that your merchants desire to own everything whereas we only want fairness and equality. Like you we want a just and lasting peace. Already our commerce and industry is collapsing. We do not wish to again become inured to constant war. As regards mediation, France would accept the services of any great maritime power for its interest in peace would be the same as ours and yours.
We do not wish to impose terms on any country; neither do we wish to have terms imposed on us. We cannot resile from the treaties we have made. The integrity and absolute independence of the Ottoman empire is essential.
Your national fleets equal the fleets of all the world. You control the seas. That means our maritime commerce is always at your mercy. We are a land power and contend with a good many competitors. We will not place ourselves at the discretion of England on the continent. If you wish to also control the land, we cannot have peace. Napoleon wants peace. He wants to rest, compatible with French honour, compatible with lasting security, compatible with continuing French commerce.
If you want peace with us, send an emissary to Lille. Herewith are the passports. When your envoy arrives Napoleon will nominate and send his own. We are flexible. We reiterate that we only require an honourable peace.
The correspondence continues in Sat 23rd May 1807 edition …..
Fox to Talleyrand 21st April:
I have read your letter with care. I am unable to commend my government to forego joint negotiations with Russia. If England negotiates without Russia we are exposed to the reproach of failing to be faithful to our engagements. That might compromise the dignity of my King and the reputation of this country.
We cannot believe that the admission of Russia to the peace negotiations would compromise our mutual wish for equality. Although there will be three Plenipotentiaries, there will effectively be only two parties. If French negotiators feel disadvantaged by the plurality of our numbers, we have no objection to your inviting an ally to join-in.
You have proposed three possible bases for discussion of which the first appeared inadmissible to you. We ourselves would find the third incompatible with our notions of justice. We think the second may be workable but will involve such delay it is hardly practicable.
I see no hope for peace at present but you may wish to reconsider the form of negotiations that we proposed. This form is frankly essential for us, not just for the reasons I mentioned, but because any other form would allow the suspicion, already rumoured, that France wishes to exclude England from Europe. Such an exclusion would of course be incompatible with our rank in the World and something to which we would never consent. So it comes to this – we treat with Russia jointly or not at all.
Talleyrand to Fox 2nd June:
Napoleon says your joint negotiation with Russia would constrain our discussion and humiliate France. He resents any attempt to impose negotiating conditions on France, contrary to usage. He says his view would be the same if an English army had penetrated to the Somme. Nevertheless, we affirm our sincere desire for peace.
Your alliance with Russia is a wartime thing. The first clause is to keep it secret – clearly its not your normal policy. France wishes to follow the negotiating forms that have always prevailed in all countries. You fear we are unwilling to allow England any continental connections – the French government is not the source of this rumour. You form your connections as you like and France has from time to time aided you in such formations.
The matters for discussion between England and France are not matters for discussion with Russia. We cannot yield this point and the principle is in our favour.
To ensure there will be no misunderstanding we propose to negotiate under the same preliminary forms as applied to Rockingham’s negotiations in 1792; forms that were not so happily renewed at Lille but which had full success at Amiens. We propose two fundamental principles: The first (from your letter of 26th March) that peace be honourable for both sides and their allies, and that peace be capable of securing tranquillity in Europe; the second is mutual recognition of full rights of intervention in all continental and maritime matters.
France wishes these points to be established as principles so that you recognise our true sentiments which are decisively for peace. We see this negotiation as a matter affecting the welfare of humanity. We would regret the termination of these discussions and our only satisfaction would be to see the record indicates it was not France that repudiated peace.
Fox to Talleyrand, 14th June:
I do not understand your difficulty about joint negotiations with Russia. In 1782 Vergennes told us it was necessary for French honour for us to treat with France, Spain and Holland jointly. We did so without feeling any sense of degradation. How will France be humiliated by joint negotiations? Both our countries wish for peace. The secret parts of our Russian treaty were necessary then to Prussia and Austria but that is all over now. Our task now is to procure and preserve peace.
I am grateful for your disavowal of any intent to exclude this country from Europe. We both wish for peace; what can prevent us accomplishing our wish?
Turning to your proposals, the negotiating forms we adopted under Rockingham’s ministry are known to me as I was then Foreign Minister. If you reverse our positions, it is precisely what we have been proposing to you now. We treated then with you and your allies; let France now treat with us and our allies.
The basis to your second proposition is conformable to our wishes. We shall have mutually acknowledged our respective rights of intervention and guarantee in Europe. We shall also agree that both sides abstain from encroachment on other European powers.
England would regret seeing this discussion broken off. If we can act without reproach for want of good faith towards an ally, we shall be content, especially knowing that peace is as much the wish of Russia as of France and England.
Lord Yarmouth possesses my entire confidence. You may believe all he says as if I had said it myself.
Yarmouth’s full powers dated 15th June are included in the bundle.
The next document is Lauderdale on 7th Aug:
In the preamble to our Plenipotentiary’s powers, the description of George III as King of France is removed; he is now simply King of Great Britain, Duke of Brunswick and Lunenburg, Arch Treasurer and Elector of the Holy Roman Empire, etc.
France has already agreed to restore Hanover to George III. We complain your requiring the evacuation and surrender of Sicily without indicating the compensations due to the King of the Two Sicilies. England is prepared to discuss this in order to preserve the negotiation.
Since we agreed to explore the possibility of peace negotiations, France has made peace with Russia and has re-organised central Europe. This gives France a powerful reason to agree peace on the basis of uti possedetis. This principle formerly appeared just to England but these recent changes make it unduly favour the interests of France.
England requires the King of Naples to receive an indemnity for Sicily and to make such exchanges of lands as appear reciprocally advantageous. If France improves her position in Europe, England will improve her position elsewhere. England cannot negotiate from any principle of inferiority, express or implied. It is our belief that a continuance of hostilities would be detrimental to both sides. We have no expectation that the conquests we have made in war can be taken from us except by our agreement. We propose that our governments return to the basis for negotiations proposed by you at the outset of our discussions.
Sat 6th June 1807
Yarmouth has reported his discussions with Talleyrand on peace. The French wanted secrecy. They suggested Lille for the negotiation as Amiens would be associated with the former treaty which we are now proposing to change in respect of Malta. I told him France would have to cede Hanover back to the King as well before I could consider it. Talleyrand asked me to come back after three days. When I returned he said Hanover would be ceded as well. I then added Sicily. He complained I had not mentioned that before. He asked about British recognition of Napoleon’s family as rulers of here and there. I confirmed it would be available but we would like a French guarantee to preserve the Ottoman empire. He said that was acceptable but these talks must be brought to completion soon. I said we needed to treat unitedly with Russia. He said that was no problem – either both powers could attend or a British minister may be authorised by the Tsar to speak for both.
On Sicily Lauderdale discovered Napoleon’s belief that Naples and Sicily could not be separated as the former relied on the agricultural surplus of the latter. Lauderdale suspects Napoleon is determined to retain Italy whole for his brother. It also seemed to Lauderdale that France did not care sufficiently about the West Indies to offer any European territory in exchange for those islands.
The basic French position is they are prepared to give Malta for our navy; Hanover for our King and the Cape for the India Company, thus satisfying three major British power centres. When we insisted on having Sicily guaranteed to the King of Naples as well, Talleyrand took a couple of days to think about it and declined saying Hanover was a fair equivalent for Sicily. Later he suggested the Hanse Towns as alternative compensation for the King of Naples for Sicily – they could readily be added to his German possessions. I said we occupied Sicily on behalf of the King of Naples; we could not give it away. Later Talleyrand suggested Dalmatia, Albania and Ragusa as equivalents for Sicily.
It seems the French are keen to have Sicily and our representation of the King of Naples must recognise this point or abandon the negotiations.
D’Oubril for Russia is willing to abandon Sicily and Albania. The Albanian population is almost entirely Turkish. He just wants to get the Russian troops home. The Tsar knows they are no match for French troops. He seems determined to make peace with or without us.
Sat 19th March 1808
Canning has told the House of Commons on 11th August (in answer to a question from the liberals) that an offer of Russian mediation in our dispute with France had been received on 2nd August but it did not attach the Treaty of Tilsit and the British ministry has accordingly not seen the specific article that evidences the agreement of the parties to mediate. According to French newspapers there is a one month time limit for our acceptance of Russian mediation but the British government has no formal knowledge of this. In these circumstances a conditional answer has been returned and it is a secret answer for the time being.
Another offer of mediation was received from Austria in April 1807. We told the Austrians we were prepared to listen only if it involved all the belligerents.
Sat 2nd June 1810
The Austrian Prince Starhemberg who is continuing the Sisyphean task of bringing England and France to a peace negotiation on behalf of the Tsar, says British terms cannot be conceded by France.
The difficulty is one of practicability – we claim to represent the abdicated King Ferdinand VII of Spain, the touring Queen of Portugal in Rio and the exiled King of the Two Sicilies whose present whereabouts is unknown.
Napoleon has reportedly written a gentle and comforting letter to George III suggesting a pleasant means of restoring peace. Lord Wellesley, whose department advises the King on such matters, has suggested the King reply personally. Others say that personal communications by foreigners with the King is unconstitutional. We hope the country does not lose an opportunity for procedural reasons.
Sat 21st July 1810
The ministry has denied there was any French proposal of peace made during negotiations concerning the prisoner exchange at Morlaix. They say the French newspaper reports were the first they knew of it. Lord Holland asked ministers in the House of Commons to reveal the correspondence and they refused.
Castlereagh said a French dispatch was being brought to England but had been lost en route – this might explain the French news. The London newspapers have made a public call on France to publish the exchanges reported in Le Moniteur.
Sat 25th Aug 1810
The French cartel ship Camille has arrived at Madras from Mauritius with 25 British and 50 Lascar prisoners-of-war. She brings recent news from Europe up to 3rd April 1810:
Napoleon has sent two ambassadors – Marshall Duroc and Prince John of Liechtenstein – to London to investigate the chance for peace.
Sat 27th Oct 1810
The son of Count Fagon, formerly of the Irish Brigade, lives near Paris. He was summoned to town by Fouché, the home minister, recently and assigned a confidential mission to England.
He was in London for three days and had several meetings with Lord Wellesley. Not a word of this has come out officially and speculation is rife.
Sat 24th Oct 1812
French attempts to negotiate peace with us continue unabated. The point of contact is still at Morlaix but it remains mainly for prisoner exchanges. The ministry says it tried to return a reply to the latest French initiative to Calais but our frigate was fired on and we had to revert to Morlaix for delivery. The French later apologised for firing.
Sat 20th March 1813
House of Commons, 21st July 1812:
Sheridan has moved to see the latest French peace proposals. Whitbread has taken time out of his busy schedule to come to the House and warn us that the minister’s rejection of peace was mistaken. He thinks the French proposal is sincere. Sheridan is vehemently opposed to peace but Whitbread often gets it right and Mr S wants to know why Mr W finds merit in the French letter.
Sheridan subscribes to the ministerial view that the French proposals were induced by the negotiations Napoleon was engaged in with Russia. The French sent Russia a list of the sacrifices they were willing to make for peace with England:
- independence of Sicily,
- cession of Malta to England,
- Swedish submission to the British system,
- British foreign possessions untouched,
- return of Hanover to the House of Brunswick,
- Spain and Portugal guaranteed independent,
- AngloFrench withdrawal from the Peninsula leaving Portugal and Spain to arrange their own governments.
On the face of it, they have a realistic chance of success. All British concerns are met but there is a French pre-condition of truce in Spain which Britain will not agree. Peace between France and England would leave Russia alone to confront the consequences of the Tsar’s broken promises at Tilsit. Although France has offered everything we want, leaving Spain to be discussed, we rejected the offer because Russia is expected to provide the military defeat that humbles France and that is what we really want.
Maret, Duke of Bassano, made the peace proposal to Castlereagh in a letter dated 17th April and we declined on 23rd April – it did not take long. On 25th April France sent Count Romanzov, the Russian minister, details of the proposal. It is conceivable that the French notified Russia after they knew we would not accept. That is the reason Sheridan is opposed – he does not trust Napoleon.
Whitbread was annoyed with Sheridan for anticipating what he would say himself and stirring the House against it even before he had spoken. He said we have been warring for nearly twenty years without success. We have adopted the cause of eternal war in preference to peace and the people are increasingly dissatisfied. Sheridan has said he will fight until France or England is destroyed. Uncompromising and inflexible policies have been the bane of Britain in this war, Whitbread complained.
British assertion of maritime rights was questionable legally but irrefutable factually. We have the power to enforce ‘stop & search’ on the high seas and so we do it. It has been the key to the elimination of all competitive merchant marines except the Americans and that oversight is now being redressed. There were aspects of our claimed rights that were indisputably illegal – the seizure of the Danish fleet in Copenhagen and the piracy of the Spanish treasure fleet – but the rights we claim are the basis to British wealth and power and, however you characterise them, they will not be surrendered voluntarily.
Whitbread identified two former occasions when peace might have been had. At the commencement of the Peninsula War when Napoleon was in Bayonne; and, four years later, when Austria reneged on its treaty commitments. Now, with Napoleon disappointed by the Tsar’s unreliability, with Bernadotte’s unreliability; with his brother Joseph’s unreliability, this was a third chance to make peace.
England never makes peace proposals – we consider it a sign of weakness. Throughout the wars with France it has always been the French who make proposals. We reject them (except Lille and Amiens, which we agreed in bad faith). Whitbread thought a proposal for peace that addressed all our concerns and contained only one condition for discussion, such as this recent letter, was not a bad offer.
He said the mindless principle of eternal war should be substituted for some candid ministerial reflection on what we want for peace. The inference deducible from the latest French proposal was that Napoleon is shocked by the volte face of Alexander, Bernadotte and his brother Joseph at a moment when he has committed not only France but all Europe to a confrontation with Russia. This rare moment of weakness is an opportunity for England. Whitbread knew the thought of negotiations was unpopular in the Commons and a good part of the people had been conditioned to a similar conclusion.
Whitbread thought France could never agree to Ferdinand VII as King of Spain any more than we agree to Joseph Bonaparte performing that office. We might however have proposed that the existing Regency be a party to the talks to argue the Spanish position. Perhaps the French would not have agreed but at least it would appear that we had thoughtfully considered the proposal instead of another instant dismissal ‘out of hand’. In any event, had we accepted the offered terms without any revision, its highly likely that as soon as the British and French armies were withdrawn from the peninsula as proposed, King Joseph would have had to leave as well under Spanish popular pressure.
Whitbread said, in reflecting on the course of the war, that it was a nice point why it had commenced, why it had re-commenced and why peace negotiations formed such an unimportant part of its course. For over a decade Britain has stirred the enmity of its people against Napoleon personally. All the treaty breaches that permitted a succession of coalitions were facilitated by our offers of money and materiel to any country willing to renege on its agreements with France. It could not be doubted that it is England that has kept this war going so long and our purpose seems to be to remove the Bonaparte family from the seats of power that were formerly the monopoly of Kings. We repudiate change and fight for the old order while, incidentally, creating new International Law and making astonishing profits.
In a former peace negotiation, we insisted on the restoration of Hanover to the House of Brunswick. We said it was essential to the dignity of George III. France agreed to restore it if it could be recovered from Prussia who had meanwhile assumed its sovereignty. Prussia demurred and started the war that resulted in her elimination from the ranks of first-rate powers.
No doubt Napoleon imagined that the latest proposals, which contain an offer to restore Hanover to us, would have been irresistible, based on our earlier posture. Hanover gives us a route into Europe through which we can pour our finance and trade, and ensures, so long as the Electorate exists, that we cannot be excluded. Even this offer merited no comment in our refusal. It seems the British ministry is not in the mood for an agreed peace, it intends to dictate terms.
Turning to America, the ministry has publicly stated that the USA dare not declare war on England. We thought their democratic institutions would make a decision for war so difficult as to be inconceivable. Now both legislative houses have approved war and Executive sanction of those votes can hardly be in doubt. We have belatedly repealed the Orders-in-Council and hopefully we can settle this quarrel short of violence. A war with America will do us much commercial harm. She carries our trade to Europe. Without her help we must rely on French allies like the Dutch, the Danes and the Swedes. If we had no fallback position to rest upon, in the event of the withdrawal of the American merchant fleet from our ports, as appears to be the case from the suffering Midlands, we should have conciliated America more prudently. The alternative is to leave our capital frozen in British warehouses as sugar, cotton, coffee, tea, spices and the rest.
C Hutchinson said Britain has instigated Russia to fight and, without support, she risks defeat. We have sent the bulk of our army to Iberia but the war we fight there is of little concern to France. We routinely abuse Napoleon but can see no-one else capable of occupying the French throne. Who other than Napoleon merits it? He has restored the country with a minimum of violence. He has rarely abused his authority and has cared for his people.
Castlereagh responded for the ministry. Eternal war is not our policy. Whitbread believes Napoleon is sincere – he must be deranged. Napoleon has always made peace proposals to us when he needs a truce in the west to permit some other ploy in the east. Napoleon is insincere and successive British ministries have all worked on that belief. Castlereagh said any British ministry that sought to maintain the confidence of the British people would inevitably distrust Napoleon. “I did not deny the French proposals out of hand. I said if something suitable can be agreed for Spain (the French letter did not mention who was to be King), I would negotiate a general pacification on the basis of the other proposals.”
Russia is doubtful about France because of French activity in Poland and other French violations of the Treaty of Tilsit. Castlereagh said we did not excite Russia against France but merely warned her. The Tsar thought he should fight France now whilst he has regiments under arms who are available to him due to peace with the Turks. “I tell Whitbread that there is a time for peace and a time for war. Peace is available only when all parties want it. That is not the case now.” Napoleon expects his brother Joseph to remain King of Spain. We will not negotiate on that basis. Whitbread expects an AngloFrench joint withdrawal from Spain would facilitate peace but Napoleon urges that because he cannot unilaterally withdraw. If we postpone war in Spain we might never recover our present advantages and any peace discussion will certainly make the Tsar’s initiative fail. How would we explain ourselves to Russia? Negotiations now would be disastrous.
Canning laughed at Hutchinson’s characterisation of Napoleon as a benevolent dictator. Was Napoleon sincere in his peace proposals, sincere at Amiens? To say he deserves the French crown is ridiculous, immoral and dangerous. No usurper should ever be rewarded. Those MPs who repudiate our Copenhagen attack have forgotten that Russia promised France to cause Denmark and Sweden to fight against England (the armed neutrality). We had to strike pre-emptively.
Prussia has been a conquered country for three years. She does whatever France asks – that is the future of any country allying itself with France.
Austria has marched her conscripts against Russia, a neighbour with whom she has always acted in concert (in land-grabs in Poland and the Ottoman states). This reveals how Napoleon has changed the traditional alliances of Europe. England will resurrect them.
Hutchinson objected to Canning’s personal attack. Canning told him to ‘go away’.
Sun 1st Aug 1813 Extraordinary
Napoleon’s Address to his Legislators, 14th February 1813:
France has proposed peace with England. This is our fourth proposal since Amiens. The British maintain their concept of ‘eternal war’ – they say we only want peace to restore our armies after Moscow. Napoleon urges his people to stay the course. The preponderance of the peoples of Europe are satisfied and only the British need be reconciled with peace for them to abandon maritime war. Britain has no allies except those whom she has bought. Once she is willing to make peace, we can unitedly enjoy the fruits of fair trade.
A bad peace now would destroy everything by allowing predatory British principles to remain as a threat against society. Her trade is limited by our control of her markets. Even America fights against her to preserve International Law and bring her to acknowledge the principles of neutrality. The World sends America its good wishes in this glorious contest. We wish America can bring Britain back to its obligations under the Treaty of Utrecht (ratified by Queen Anne in 1713). The ancient world has lost its rights; the New World is recovering them for us.
Sat 16th Oct 1813
Dresden, 4th June 1812 – The Plenipotentiaries of France, Prussia and Russia have agreed to negotiate an armistice with a view to suspension of hostilities. It lasts until 20th July and 6 days notice of its termination is required. The line between the two sides is drawn through Silesia and Bohemia.
The terms and the delineation of the frontier reveal that the Russian reports of successive victories are nonsensical. Those uncountable Russian legions seem to have disappeared. In fact the French still have a numerical superiority over the combined allied force and, with 70,000 French troops in garrisons, they remain extremely strong, hence our willingness to agree an armistice. It is also the case that our allies sent their armies to the fight largely unprepared for anything more than a few days of campaigning. They have inadequate food and ammunition to keep up the offensive.
The Prussians are not interested in peace – they want all their lost land back. King Frederick William has told his people he agreed to an armistice to allow time to increase the size of his army. Only a clear French defeat can help him.
Sat 23rd Oct 1813
Metternich for Austria and Count Kusdenberg for England (he was the Hanoverian ambassador to London) have joined the French, Prussian and Russian Plenipotentiaries in the peace talks.
Territorial trading has commenced.
France and Denmark made a treaty of alliance back in 1810 / 1811. This ensures that France cannot now ally with Sweden which expects to receive Norway from Denmark in return for its support. The Swedes offered that deal to France, noting the feasibility of an invasion of Scotland from Norwegian ports, and were rebuffed. That is why they allied with England and Russia – those two powers have promised Bernadotte the sovereignty of Norway. When Denmark discovered the British guarantee to Sweden it withdrew its ambassador from London.
This leaves Denmark as the sole French ally in the Baltic. In the winter of 1812 / 1813 when France was in difficulty and evacuated Hamburg, Denmark feared it was threatened by England and Sweden and recognised the French could not give much help. Napoleon realised the Danish difficulty and agreed to waive the treaty provisions to allow Denmark to negotiate with England for self-preservation. Having promised Norway to Sweden, the British proposed to give Denmark an equivalent in France or the Netherlands. The Danish King recognised the delusive nature of the offer and the likelihood that the allies were more concerned to cut him off from France.
Prince Dolgorouki was then sent to Copenhagen with a new offer whereby Britain would guarantee Norway to Denmark on the pretext that the Swedes had not exerted themselves sufficiently in consideration of the £300,000 we had paid for their support (they only sent a small detachment of troops to re-occupy Swedish Pomerania). The Danes signed-up to this perfidious offer and agreed to secure Hamburg.
It is also said that England would welcome a deal whereby in exchange for Norway, Denmark gets the sovereignty of Hamburg and some other Hanseatic towns on the south Baltic coast.
Sat 23rd Oct 1813
Napoleon has proposed a peace congress at Prague. He already has Austrian agreement. On the French side will be Denmark, USA, Spain (the King lives in France), Bavaria, Switzerland and all the allied states along the Rhine and in north Italy. On the other side will be Russia, England, Prussia and the Spanish insurgents.
Napoleon supposes that England will not wish to defend her principle of individual self-interest to the international community as they had all signed the Treaty of Utrecht and will be unwilling to relinquish their maritime rights to England.
Sat 13th Nov 1813
The Nuremberg Gazette says the Peace Congress at Prague held its first sitting on 19th July.
Sat 18th Dec 1813
Austrian mediation at the peace conference at Prague is apparently biased. England has requested that all submissions be in writing while France said verbal submissions would be more flexible and conducive of an agreement. The Austrians promoted the English view which Napoleon suspects is intended to extend the talks beyond the armistice period. Napoleon’s problem is he sees everything clearly whilst others need written submissions to distinguish a good deal from a bad one.
Sat 9th April 1814
The expectation in Paris is that Napoleon will successfully defend the line of the Elbe until the peace negotiations are complete. They refer to the moderate line taken by Austria which cannot afford continued war.
On paper the allies can field a preponderance of troops, about 400,000, but the costs of maintaining these forces and their financial difficulties are always in their minds.
So many coalitions have collapsed due to bickering and this one cannot be an exception – its one of Napoleon’s advantages.
Sat 25th June 1814
Frankfurt Journal, 9th November 1813 – The Baron St Aignan, Caulaincourt’s brother-in-law, attended Metternich and Nesselrode at the allied headquarters and proposed peace.
The terms he agreed to accept, after some discussion were agreed by Austria, Russia and Britain. They include the restoration of international law to its pre-1792 status – free ships make free goods – which the British ministry will never ratify but in the agreement it is simply written “freedom of commerce and rights of navigation” which may be adequately vague to permit consensus.
France retains her natural frontiers – Rhine, Alps and Pyrenees.
The great principle that the foremost powers be separated by weaker states is to govern the settlement. Spain must be restored to its Bourbon former rulers and guaranteed independence. Italy should be independent but Austria may take a little bit. Germany must be independent and Holland likewise.
Lord Aberdeen, on behalf of the British ministry, agreed that England was prepared to make the greatest sacrifices to procure peace.
The French Legislature has requested the executive to obtain peace. However there may be an undeclared intention on the part of the allies to continue the war. Wellington has entered France in the south. And the two armies of the Austrians and the Prussians / Russians are in the north.
Sat 25th June 1814
A new peace congress is being held on the French warship Chatillon which has been moored in the Seine about 30 miles from Langres. Napoleon offered to make a treaty based on the terms already agreed with Austria and Russia and a return of the French fortresses beyond the Rhine in which he has over 100,000 troops in garrison. It was rejected by England.
|Lay on Macduff; And damned be he who first cries hold, enough.|
Napoleon has confiscated the Estate of Talleyrand (Prince of Benevente), including his largest single asset – the Hotel de Richelieu in Paris. Talleyrand’s recent acts have been equivocal. Yesterday he was worth £500,000, now he’s worth much less. Talleyrand has recently been living in Rome with the (Bourbon) Royal family of Spain.
Castlereagh will represent Britain (he has Lords Aberdeen and Cathcart and his brother, Sir James Stewart, in his party). Counts Stadion and Raminouski and the Baron de Humboldt represent the other powers. Caulaincourt represents France.
Sat 2ndJuly 1814
The quotas of troops agreed to be mobilised against France are large:
Plus some smaller contingents from Hesse-Darmstadt, Mecklenburg, Brunswick, Saxe Gotha, etc.
Napoleon is in Paris and is seen in public everyday. He promises peace to the people.
Tues 5th July 1814 Extraordinary
Allied armies have entered France and Napoleon has been driven back to Soissons. General Blucher claimed a decisive victory over the French at Brienne on 2nd February. He expects to be soon in position to severe the communications between Paris and the French armies. He has sent in the Cossacks whose approach has caused great consternation amongst Parisians.
Paris is assessed to be capable of defence – the Bois de Boulogne has been stripped of its trees to provide a palisade. The students of the Ecole Polytechnique and some Parisians are performing this service gratis.
The allies have a numerical advantage and can rest their troops whilst the French have to race from battle to battle.
Wellington is at Roquefort (in Aquitaine) and pushing up towards Bordeaux.
Sat 9th July 1814
The allied armies occupied Paris on 31st March. The Senate has been convened to appoint a provisional government. Talleyrand, Montesquieu, Bournonville and Kellerman survive the transition and are Senators. The allies are embarrassed to deal with Napoleon who was accordingly dethroned on their behalf by the reconvened Senate on 3rd April.
He got a reasonable deal from Caulaincourt on 14th April derived from the peace negotiations on the warship Chatillon. The main terms are:
- He and Maria Louisa remain styled as Emperor and Empress for life;
- His family continue to be Princes and Princesses;
- The sovereignty and property of Elba is given to Napoleon (he alternatively asked for refuge in England but the British ministry was horrified at the thought of his clarity becoming available to Englishmen);
- Maria Louisa (and her son) gets the sovereignty and property of the Duchies of Parma, Placentia and Guastalla (they contain nearly 400,000 people and produce 4 million Francs a year);
- Napoleon’s family get 2.5 million Francs annual revenue from the countries they formerly ruled;
- All the Bonaparte family’s private property is guaranteed to them;
- In exchange for Napoleon’s investments in pensions, shares, forests, etc., he receives 2 million Francs annually full and final;
- All crown jewels remain the property of France;
- An armed corvette will be provided to take Napoleon to Elba and it will remain his property, available to his use.
- He may maintain a guard of 400 men on Elba.
It sounds like the basis to a pleasant retirement but whether the allies will ratify that agreement is a nice question.
All French troops are relieved of their obligations to Napoleon under their Oaths and the new conscripts have been sent home. A deputation has gone to London to bring Louis XVIII to Paris.
Wellington has entered Bordeaux on 12th March. Napoleon is at Montmirel with 80,000 men.
Sat 9th July 1814
The peace talks on the warship Chatillon in the Seine have broken down. Caulaincourt, whilst having adequate powers, lacks instructions and appears bent on causing delay. The French have fooled us too often. They are more skilled in negotiations than we are.
Its not just the maritime rights question. The English also intend France to resume its pre-Revolutionary size. She is to be denied her natural frontiers.
The French proposals that were agreed by Austria, Russia and Prussia as the basis to peace talks have now been repudiated at the insistence of England.
Mon 1st Aug 1814 Extraordinary
Napoleon abdicated in April. He will live on the Island of Elba which was long ago a possession of the Knights Templar. It has two main towns, both ports, one of which belonged until recently to the Grand Duke of Tuscany and the other to the King of Naples.
Elba was occupied by Britain in the Revolutionary War. After the Treaty of Amiens, Britain removed its garrison and passed sovereignty to the King of Etruria. He sold it to Napoleon who ceded it to his brother-in-law Felix, Prince of Lucca and Piombino. Our withdrawal was a term of the Treaty of Amiens and it was the brief French re-occupation of Elba after we left that was our pretext for abrogating that Treaty. Elba has iron and mercury mines and exports a type of marble to the Levant. It has a fine climate and produces a broad variety of delicious fruits although the wine is not memorable.
Napoleon requested Elba for his retirement. His request for an annual allowance of 6 million Livres was reduced to 2 million Livres (Talleyrand reinstated it at 6 millions whilst in charge of the provisional government but the allied ministers deemed it was a clerical error for 600,000 Francs, about £24,000).
Peace was proclaimed on 18th April. The Bourbons are recalled and Louis XVIII is finally really Louis XVIII. He is coming to Paris from London. Comte d’Artois is already in Paris. The re-establishment of their House was not unanimously agreed by the allies but was pushed through with incentives. In fact it is only the Bourbons who can get moderate terms from the allies. This peace agreement will be a unique opportunity for France to thank that family.
Louis XVIII says his reign commenced from the time of the execution of Louis XVI. He is thus entering onto the 19th year of his government. He deems that all legislative acts in the last two decades were acts of usurpers and may not necessarily be ratified. It seems he does not intend to be popular.
Ferdinand VII has gone to Spain to assume the government.
Venice has surrendered to an Austrian army.
Thurs 18th Aug 1814 Extraordinary
The unsinkable Talleyrand has become President of the Provisional Government of France along with four senators. On 7th April he announced the adoption of a new Constitution of 29 articles which permits a Constitutional Monarchy. Talleyrand handed over the government to Comte d’Artois when he arrived at Paris on 14th April.
On 21st April Napoleon set off for Elba. He is said to have got his 6 million Livres annual pension from Talleyrand whilst that official still had the power. Maria Louisa goes to Parma with the son.
On 23rd April Castlereagh signed a suspension of hostilities by sea and land. Hostilities in Asia must end by 23rd Sept (5 months). France is to resume its 1792 limits. Peace with Denmark is agreed. All Danish colonies in Asia are to be restored.
Louis XVIII arrived in Paris and suspended Talleyrand’s Constitution – it was done hastily and needs revision, he says – but he agrees a liberal Constitution is desirable. He has the 1791 / 1792 Constitution in mind. He got a welcome reception from the Parisians. All the Bourbons seemed to be weeping. There was a sign on Hotel Dieu – pauper clamavit & Dominus exaudivit eum – which caught the bitter-sweet mood. The King is staying in the Tuilleries. The Swiss Guard is outside.
Talleyrand made a speech to the King on behalf of the Senate “You know better than we that the institutions of a neighbouring people, so well proved, give support and not barriers to Monarchs who are friends of the Laws”. It is a sign of the times.
The British ministry has made Wellington a Duke.
Sat 20th Aug 1814
The allied Kings entered Paris on 31st March. Tsar Alexander is staying at Talleyrand’s house which has become his headquarters.
The details of Napoleon’s abdication and the formation of the Provisional Government were agreed between the allies and Talleyrand (in consultation with the Senate) before Paris was entered. Talleyrand heads the Provisional Government and was thus empowered to fix all difficulties and ensure a smooth transition of power – his usual skilful diplomacy. Napoleon had concentrated his loyal forces at Fontainebleau and was able to negotiate a better deal from Talleyrand than he would have got direct from the monarchs, indeed they would not talk to him. He initially wanted to take 20,000 men to Italy and unite with Eugene in the belief his popular support in Italy would permit it. The Duc de Reggio told him the troops would no longer follow him since his abdication. Napoleon sent Ney to Paris to see if there was any prospect of his continuing in power. Ney said there was none – it was Elba and 6 million Livres or nothing.
Meanwhile the Bourbons have appointed Plenipotentiaries to represent their interest with the allies in settling terms of peace. The allies have agreed to evacuate France (as it was on 1st Jan 1792). France agrees to evacuate places beyond these limits and restore them to the allies for their owners. Louis XVIII is at the Palace of Compeigne and has been visited by many French Legislators and the allied Kings.
By late April Napoleon was heading south down the Rhone reportedly for St Tropez. Jerome was in the vicinity with a Russian colonel for escort. He is said to be also going to Elba. Joseph was being conducted south when he is said to have ‘disappeared’ at Luzy, although he and the other members of the Bonaparte family have well-laden wagon trains with them.
Napoleon has attributed his downfall to England and is astonished that a country with a smaller population and land area could have maintained the war for 20 years without serious internal disturbances or diminution of resources and prosperity. It will be British naval power that protects him in Elba and he says he will consider himself British so long as he lives there. He said he would like to visit London.
Sat 27th Aug 1814
The Bonaparte family are making their individual ways towards Italy and Elba. The ex Queen of Westphalia was stopped on 21st April near Nemours by the Sieur Montbreuil (or Manreuil – also identified as Jean Hugues de Benoit, a former Chouan) and relieved of 100,000 Francs in gold and a large collection of diamonds valued at four or five million Francs. He claimed to represent Louis XVIII and demanded the property in the name of the Catholic church.
Napoleon requested the libraries of Fontainebleau, the Tuilleries (his private library) and the Council of State be sent with him to Elba. He also asked for his 160 carriages (Elba lacks any roads).
He left Fontainebleau on 20th April with 14 baggage wagons, accompanied by the four Commissioners of the Allies. He paid his valet-de-Chambre, Constant, 50,000 Francs. He said “I have done as I please with the allies; now I suppose they will do as they please with me.” He philosophically admitted one great error – he married an Austrian princess when he should have married a Russian one. He had a valuable amount of specie and jewels with him when he set-off but these were all taken from him en route.
He was given the choice of an English or French frigate for the sea journey and chose the former. The Royal Navy captain was surprised to find 240 French troops awaiting him on Elba. They had come from Italy is response to one of Napoleon’s last orders before his abdication.
All the people Napoleon made Princes, Dukes, Counts, etc., are to retain their titles but forfeit their foreign estates. The forfeiture of Estates may be unconstitutional but the Bourbons are settling the terms of a new Constitution. Napoleon’s appointees retain their French estates.
Sat 27th Aug 1814
Paris, 8th April – the Senate is considering the new Bourbon-approved Constitution for France. Its main terms are:
- Government is by a hereditary monarch selected by male primogeniture.
- The executive is led by the King.
- The people have selected Louis Stanislaus Xavier of Bourbon for King.
- The ancient aristocrats resume their titles, the new aristocracy (Napoleon’s appointments) preserve their inheritance. The King, Senate and Legislature must concur in making new law but all new law requires the sanction of the King.
- The number of Senators is 150 (foreign Senators must renounce their office and return to their countries). All Bourbon princes and Princes of the Blood are automatically Senators.
- Deputies to the Legislature are elected for five years as before.
- The independence of the Judiciary is guaranteed. Trial by Jury is preserved.
- Freedom of worship; liberty of the Press, etc.
- The Code Napoleon is continued, renamed the Civil Code of the French.
Sat 3rd Sept 1814
We are settling the terms of a definitive commercial Treaty with France. Talleyrand leads the French negotiators. The tax on tea is reduced from 1,000 Livres per cwt to 50 Livres, cottons from 842 Livres per cwt to 42; sugar, coffee and cocoa to 35 Livres per cwt; indigo to 2 Livres per lb.
The French Board of Trade has also indicated its willingness to receive India goods into France but the duties are still under discussion. It is supposed that Pitt’s commercial treaty of 1786 will guide the negotiators.
A provisional tariff was already drafted by ‘Monsieur’ (Comte d’Artois) at slightly higher levels. The Duc d’Angouleme also introduced a provisional pro-English tariff at Bordeaux. The Bourbons are good on taxes.
Sat 17th Sept 1814
House of Commons, 18th April – Whitbread and the liberal Whigs want to know why the peace talks with the French on board Chatillon failed. Castlereagh was our man at the talks. The ministry has agreed to discuss the matter but keeps adjourning the debate and no information is being provided.
The British parliament is the only parliament in Europe which remains formally unaware of the cause of the failure of Chatillon – indeed the first intimation received in parliament of the existence of the talks was the report of their failure.
Vansittart said he could not prevent production of the papers if the House voted for it but it was inexpedient at present.
Next three issues missing
Tues 11th Oct 1814 Extraordinary
The terms of peace agreed with the Bourbons for France have arrived and are very long. Briefly, France gets its 1792 frontiers and colonies except Mauritius and Reunion (and their dependencies) near India, and Tobago and St Lucia in Caribbean, all of which we are keeping. She gets back Guadeloupe from Sweden and England has agreed to pay Sweden £1 million in compensation.
Wellington is appointed British minister to Paris and has been given a present of £400,000 by the minister. 6,000 applications for passports to France were received by the Foreign Office in the first two days after peace was authenticated.
Sat 15th Oct 1814
The European papers report that Napoleon’s pension at Elba is 2 million Livres. They say the allied powers have guaranteed 500,000 Livres to each of his brothers and sisters too.
Sat 22nd Oct 1814
Napoleon has arrived at Elba, given a dinner to all the local dignitaries and told the people that he loves them but will not be staying long.
Sat 19th Nov 1814
France will not be dismembered by the allies. The area around Avignon and the Cambat Venaissen are ceded to France. The lower part of Savoy likewise and the King of Savoy gets an indemnity in Italy. The Pyrenean frontier with Spain remains as it was in 1792. Part of Brabant northeast of Namur is also placed within French borders.
The contributions that Europe paid towards French military costs for the achievement of unity are not to be reclaimed but all French transfers of private property are to be restored to original owners.
The French negotiators have been reluctant to receive back some of their West Indian colonies due to British insistence that slavery be abolished.
Sat 3rd Dec 1814
The allied powers have agreed to meet in Vienna on 1st October to resolve all territorial disputes. Castlereagh and Aberdeen will represent Britain.
Sat 4th March 1815
A debate on the terms of peace in the House of Commons:
Sir John Newport reminded MPs that Britain has never fought a war in which the national aims have changed as often as the twenty years war with France. At first it was to extirpate the Revolution, punish the regicides and restore monarchy and aristocracy to national leadership; then it was Pitt’s phrase – ‘indemnity for the past and security for the future’; then we fought to destroy Napoleon and finally to protect our predatory commercial system. It is now suggested that the terms of peace we have obtained will adduce to the happiness of everyone – try telling that to the Irish, said Newport.
We have conceded the opening of the Grand Banks fisheries to France and others on the basis that we agreed to it in the peace of 1797 (after the failure of the 1st coalition). At that time France overwhelmed us and we had no choice but to concede whatever terms they required. America had 1,500 schooners employing 12,000 sailors in the Newfoundland fishery trade. This used to be the training ground of our seamen. The monopoly of the Grand Banks fishing grounds feeds directly into our ability to control the seas.
We were also forced into concessions to promote our wish for an end to the slave trade, a trade that had been fundamental to our West Indian productions. We had obliged the Bourbons to reprobate the slave trade and agree its abolition.
Article 16 of the peace treaty with France amnesties everyone for their political acts in the war. It appeared to refer not just to France and England but all the people who took sides in the war. Now in Spain the people who since 1808 assisted us and opposed Napoleon are being imprisoned by King Ferdinand in contravention of the spirit of this Article.
Wortley MP said the superficially variable British war aims were effectively all the same thing – opposition to the growth of French power.
Peter Grant disputed that view – he thought Napoleon had defeated himself by trying to stop the trade of the merchants of Europe in order to bring-on a financial crisis in England and procure our submission to French principles. That attempt was incompatible with human nature – the self-interest of merchants can rarely be restrained.
We made the peace treaty with France in advance of the peace treaty with the rest of Europe because of our partiality for the Bourbons and the wish to have their influence with us and the Dutch when we settle the Treaty of Vienna (i.e. support against the expansionary wishes of Prussia, Austria and Russia).
Sat 11th March 1815
Castlereagh explained his thoughts about peace. He told the Commons the basic deal in his mind in negotiating peace with France was that India should remain British and, in return for French agreement to that, we would facilitate French Asian commerce and the restoration of her national wealth.
We kept Tobago because there was not a single Frenchman left there – just British merchants and the natives.
We kept Mauritius for strategic not commercial reasons – it allured the French to cause trouble in India whenever we quarrelled.
Our retention of St Lucia was accidental. We had asked for the Saints, a barren rock with a fine harbour, but the Bourbons thought that would threaten Guadeloupe and suggested St Lucia instead.
We could hardly exclude France from the Newfoundland fisheries in light of our acceptance of French fishing there in our previous two treaties.
Tues 14th March 1815 Extraordinary
Ministers of the six powers (Austria, England, France, Prussia, Russia & Spain) have convened at Vienna for preliminary talks to select the countries that will participate in the peace negotiations. England is promoting Portugal and Sweden as contenders – we need more allies to give our opinions weight and neither France nor Spain can be expected to provide constant support.
Sat 25th March 1815
The French people have shown themselves to be insufficiently responsible to enjoy liberty. A Republican government and Constitution are unsuitable for them. They need a long exposure to orderly government to diminish the influence of malcontents. The dissatisfied people are ex-soldiers and the Parisian workers who believe that a country should be governed by its citizens – mob rule.
The new Constitution will fully confirm the authority of the King but the people seem not to recognise their good luck and continue to promote their foolish democratic ideas.
Meanwhile the allies are considering the new face of Europe. King Francis of Austria gets the first spoils – he is restored as Emperor of Germany and gets the Tyrol, Salzburg and the surrounding country. We approve his aggrandisement because Austria since Charles V has been a stalwart supporter of the balance of power (except in Poland).
Prussia seems to have got too much. Saxony is dismembered to benefit Prussia and she also gets Wittenberg, Mentz and Leipzig. There is a long historical rivalry between the Electors of Saxony and the House of Randolph which we have destabilised. At least Mentz should have gone to Austria.
Bavaria likewise does better than seems prudent. She gets a slice of the Duke of Brunswick’s former fief. He is related to our own Royal Family but it does not seem to have helped him.
Sat 8th April 1815
In the peace treaty we have concluded with France we have agreed to absorb the costs of maintaining French prisoners during the war. In reciprocity, Louis XVIII has agreed to reinstate the French schools for the education of English and Irish Catholics. Napoleon had previously restored about a third of the funds for these schools but now they are to be fully funded. They are in the nature of scholarships, such as the universities offer, and are not expressly limited to Catholics – some Protestants have benefited from them too. These schools have historically been an important recruiting source for the Catholic clergy of Ireland.
Sat 6th May 1815
The preliminaries for talks at Vienna have two difficult matters to agree. Prussia wants Saxony as compensation for her sacrifice in the last battles with Napoleon while Russia wants most of Poland. Castlereagh is opposed to eliminating Saxony from the map.
Sat 20th May 1815
Letter from Porto Ferrajo, 4th November – Napoleon ceased making improvements to his house on Elba in September. Many of the chests of personal effects that he brought from Paris have not been opened. The locals are accordingly wondering how long he will stay. There has been a regular exchange of couriers between this island and Vienna (were his wife and son are living).
Sat 1st July 1815
Letters from Paris dated January 1815 say Louis XVIII has seized all the property of the Bonaparte family in France, including the estates of Eugene Beauharnais.
Sat 10th June 1815
Napoleon collected a few small boats at Elba in February 1815 and embarked on a brig for Frejus on 26th February. He arrived 1st March with about 1,100 soldiers – French, Poles and Corsicans. He is going to Paris. Louis XVIII has 60,000 men in Paris.
Napoleon’s timing is excellent. Talleyrand is away from France at the Congress, indeed every important European diplomat is at Vienna.
Many French army officers have been dismissed on the peace and have obtained no other employment; the large numbers of French prisoners-of-war who have been returned to France recently likewise have no means of subsistence. These two groups will likely hear a Napoleonic call to glory.
There is also popular recognition that the Bourbons have overthrown the Republican Constitution and are quite likely to restore all the old objectionable features of monarchy – they are not trusted. It will be interesting to see how the Bourbons confront this challenge.
Sat 1st July 1815
On Napoleon’s departure from Elba, he was accompanied by Generals Drouet and Bertrand. His mother and sister stayed behind but the sister, Princess Pauline Borghese, soon went to Piombino from whence she was sent to Vienna by the Austrian garrison.
Napoleon landed at the Bay of Tuan. He sent 60 men to the commandant of the Antibes Fort who arrested them instead of welcoming them. Napoleon overlooked this and set off for Grenoble where he met the 7th Regiment of the Line, whose General allied himself with the former Emperor. Napoleon continued to Lyon, arriving about 11th March. The city’s garrison withdrew on his approach.
Louis XVIII convened the Legislature and requested a Decree making Napoleon an outlaw.
Mon 10th July 1815 Extraordinary
Napoleon entered Paris on 18th March. An enormous crowd, estimated at 500,000 (half the population of Paris), went out to meet him and conduct him into the city. Joseph Bonaparte was there as well. Napoleon immediately proclaimed his resumption of the French government.
His first act was the abolition of the slave trade which will infuriate the émigrés (their wealth comes from West Indian estates) and please England. His second was recognition of the independence of Belgium. He is answering British complaints. All the émigré nobles left Paris on his approach, their wagon trains of archives and treasure trundling behind them.
Wellington remained in Paris for ten days after Napoleon’s arrival but it is not known if they met. Another Bourbon King (Louis XVIII) has fled Paris, this time to Lille where an allied army is assembling. General Swartzenberg has 100,000 men, Blucher 80,000 and Wellington 45,000 but it is the last-named who gets supreme command. Austria, Prussia, Russia and England are treaty-bound to protect the Bourbons from any civil disturbances and will have to respond to Napoleon.
Wed 12th July 1815 Supplement
Napoleon’s Proclamation to the French asserts that everything done by the Bourbons without the assent of the people is illegal. Twenty years ago, France embarked on a new course and its too late now to bring back the old system. He says the feudal rights of a King and his small band of noblemen cannot be maintained over a people who know the extent of their power.
|“I heard your cries in Elba. You reproached me for attending to my personal interests before yours. You are the true government. Everything that has been done since my departure is of no effect. You French people have rights. You are dishonoured by the return of the Bourbons, appointed as they are by the arms of the neighbours. You threw them out and the armies of Europe have sought to reinstate them.”|
Cambaceres is appointed to preside at the Legislature; Davoust the forces; Fouché security; Count Molkien treasury and Duc de Gaeta finance.
The Bourbons have support in La Vendee and in some parts of the south. They have revised their flag by adding the words ‘Les Bourbons ou la mort’. The Duc d’Angouleme commands the Bourbon army at Marseilles. Toulon and Poitou are also said to have declared for the Bourbons.
Napoleon received great contributions from the merchants of Lyon on his way to Paris via Dijon. He made a Proclamation there nullifying the legislative acts of the Bourbons. All émigrés who entered France after 14th April last are ordered to leave. They are deprived of their honours. The white cockade and other Bourbons symbols of authority are proscribed. The tricolor is re-instated. The Swiss Guard is removed 20 miles from Paris. The King’s Household Troops are suppressed. All Bourbon property is confiscated. The new Chambers of Peers and Deputies are dissolved. Feudal titles are suppressed. Appointments made by the Bourbons to the Legion d’Honneur are revoked. The laws of the old Legislative Assembly are to be enforced. The Electoral College is to convene in May to make such revisions to the Constitution as accord with the popular will.
Wed 2nd Aug 1815 Extraordinary
On 21st March Louis XVIII and the Duc d’Orleans were at Calais preparing to board ship for England. They have over 14 million Francs of jewelry with them – it’s the Crown jewels. The national treasury is reportedly empty. The other Bourbons have gone to the Duc d’Angouleme who is forming an army on the banks of the Loire.
Tsar Alexander is raising a huge force of 600,000 men and says he will enter Paris in three months and sack the city. England has sent 20 infantry regiments and several cavalry regiments to the Netherlands to reinforce our army there.
On 2nd April a French officer from Napoleon landed at Dover with instructions for Comte de Chastre, the French ambassador to London appointed by Louis XVIII. He also had letters for Castlereagh and Rayneval. We required he show us his letters before disembarking, some of which were reportedly addressed to people in Scotland and Ireland. He refused and we sent him back. His passport was signed by Caulaincourt. All the English in France are still free to move around the country but we have stopped communications with France.
General Daendels and Admiral Verheuil have been arrested in Netherlands for commending the Dutch forces to join Napoleon.
Napoleon arrived in Paris on 20th March and assumed the government of France. He instantly appointed his men to all the principal positions of power. Not a shot has been fired and there appears to be no opposition to him anywhere. Even the people of La Vendee are tranquil. He reviewed the National Guard and several other regiments on the same day. He spent the rest of the month in administrative duties.
On 24th March he revoked the Bourbon restrictions on the press. Censorship is again illegal in France.
He describes the political situation of Europe succinctly – a contest between ‘birth without merit’ and ‘merit without birth’. Since the Bourbon return, the Catholic church has worked assiduously in the provinces to require the local clergy to deny absolution to anyone who buys or has bought church lands (which were nationalised and have been partly sold-off). The Bourbons proclaimed they would forget the past but their every act revealed they had not.
The reward of 100,000 gold Louis offered by the Bourbons for Napoleon’s capture or death has not been taken-up by any of the French people.
Napoleon has addressed propositions to all the Kings of Europe for his peaceful government of France. In his letter to our ambassador, he solicited the propositions of London. He said he frankly preferred the terms of the Treaty of Chatillon to those of the Treaty of Paris but, if that is the price of peace, he will accord with the Paris stipulations.
Sat 5th Aug 1815
Ministers at the Congress of Vienna have made a fearsome Proclamation:
“… by his escape Napoleon has placed himself beyond the pale of civilisation. He is an enemy of the people and will be subjected to public vengeance.”
Cathcart, Clancarty, General Stewart and Wellington have all signed this call for the assassination of Napoleon. The Tsar is infuriated at Napoleon’s return. General Ney has told Louis XVIII that he and his 30,000 troops will join Napoleon. He said the Bourbons are unfit for government. Ney met Napoleon at Lyon.
When Napoleon’s forces at Fontainebleau discerned the King’s army at Melun there was an ominous silence. Then an open carriage was seen crossing the divide attended by a few hussars. It was Napoleon. As soon as the King’s troops recognised him they shouted ‘vive l’Empereur’ and ‘vive Napoleon le Grand’. Their senior officers decamped and the men of the two armies embraced. Napoleon then entered Paris at the head of an army that a few hours earlier had been sent out to destroy him. His own army returned to Fontainebleau.
In London there is deep depression amongst the political classes. The 3% consols fell to 57¾. Wellington has left Vienna for the Netherlands. There are 40,000+ British troops there. The Prussians have a large body of men on the Rhine intended to secure their territorial claims but which now will have to confront Napoleon.
Napoleon has acted to appease the neighbours. He has prohibited the slave trade and he has undertaken not to interfere with other countries. He has agreed to settle all the British war claims, subject only to quantification. He seems to be doing his best to satisfy England. He knows our objection to him is personal. He has repealed a few new taxes of the Bourbons which has secured to him the greater affection of many people. Of the senior army officers only Augereau, Marmont and Berthier have declared for the King. Massena at Toulon has placed the Mediterranean fleet and arsenal at Napoleon’s disposal.
Sat 5th Aug 1815
The Times leader accuses the ministry of again preparing to plunge mindlessly into war with France when the Editor believes the matter of Napoleon’s return is an internal affair of the French people:
|Many merchants in the major towns are opposed to Napoleon as they recall the years of their hardship in his commercial battle with England. The merchants of Bordeaux, which has a huge trade with England in claret and brandy, support the Bourbons and there is sympathy for them in Marseilles and Toulon, but as a general rule almost all the rest of the country supports Napoleon.
Napoleon said in Elba that he attributed his failure to the spirit of the age and not to any administrative or military mistake. The Kings of Europe feel threatened by democratic Constitutions and Republicanism.
If our concerns are for the happiness of the French people we will not intervene. We should not allow our country’s policy to again be hijacked by war profiteers, says the Times.
Sat 5th Aug 1815
The Regent has sent a message to parliament. He is preparing to augment our land and sea forces in response to Napoleon’s return and he will consult with our allies on our joint policy.
Whitbread asked Castlereagh in the House of Commons on 6th April if there is another secret clause in the Treaty of Paris committing the allies to maintain the Bourbons on the French throne. Castlereagh’s reply was incomprehensible.
Whitbread also asked to see the terms of the Treaty of Chatillon on which we were initially agreeable to settling peace with France. Castlereagh says he will reveal the Chatillon treaty terms later but only in so far as they effect the aims revealed in the Regent’s speech.
Sat 12th Aug 1815
In trying to understand what has happened, we find the terms of the Treaty of Fontainebleau that were agreed by the allies, in so far as they dealt with the care of the Bonaparte family and its supporters, have all been unilaterally abrogated by the Bourbons. The treaty also required the Bourbons to reward Eugene Beauharnais for his services to France but they ignored that too.
A detailed report has been published by the French Legislature listing the treaty breaches of the Bourbons since assuming power. It appears they are a vindictive and violent family. They relied on the clergy to do their dirty work. They sent the Sieur Brulart (Marquise de Puysieux), wife of Marechal d’Estrees and one of Georges’ assassins (she’s a poisoner), to Corsica to procure the murder of Napoleon on Elba. They sent other assassins to kill Napoleon’s brothers and their wives. The Sieur de Montbrueil (Jean Hugues de Benoit) has detailed the Bourbon instructions in the Legislature.
Napoleon was to receive 2 million Francs a year and his family members 2.5 million Francs in total, none of which has been paid despite requests. By withholding the money, Napoleon was faced with the dismissal of his guard (whom he could not pay), and was thus exposed to the Bourbon assassins.
Fortunately, the bankers of Genoa and Italy loaned him 12 million Francs.
Talleyrand is not exempt from criticism. The allies gave Parma and Placentia to Maria Louisa and her descendants. Talleyrand delayed issuing the passport to her and by the time it was handed over, her country had been despoiled and the Treasury emptied.
A term in the agreement made by the Bourbons stipulated that the heroes of the French army retained their lands and received their funds from the Civil List but nothing was paid. The army sent Bresson to Vienna to plead with the Plenipotentiaries for their payments in vain.
The preservation of the Bonaparte family property was guaranteed in the treaty but they were repeatedly pillaged both in France and Italy, again by the priests.
A Bourbon-inspired resolution at the Vienna Congress requires Napoleon be removed from Elba and secured somewhere safer. It ignores the fact his possession of Elba is granted by treaty, signed and ratified by all the powers.
Napoleon says he has returned, almost alone, to right these wrongs and restore France to her former Republican glory. He demands the execution of the agreed terms of the Treaty of Paris, etc. He says the French will not submit to a re-introduction of seigniorial and ecclesiastical controls – the French people are independent; they elect their own government.
Wed 16th Aug 1815 Extraordinary
House of Lords, 7th April 1815:
Regarding Napoleon’s return and the Regent’s address, one of the British ministers said that before the allies got to Paris on the first occasion, the Tsar and King of Prussia had already categorically refused to treat with Napoleon.
That meant we had to form a provisional government of France with which to negotiate. As we could not talk with Napoleon, we needed the submission of the French generals – that meant fair treatment for the Bonaparte family who still had public opinion on their side. The only General we could persuade to join the provisional government was Marmont. He became our contact man.
Napoleon could still call on 30,000 men in Paris, whilst Soult had 50,000 men in the south and there was a huge army in Italy which was expected to be loyal to the Republic. All the fortified towns of France, Holland and along the Rhine remained under French Republican garrisons. The allies had to be discreet to avoid fomenting a civil war.
It was in these circumstances that the Treaty of Fontainebleau was made at arm’s length by Napoleon with the Tsar and Prussian King. Then Castlereagh arrived. He now says he did not like the Treaty but it was done so he acceded to it for Britain. Castlereagh never recognised Napoleon’s title of Emperor and excepted those parts of the Treaty that so referred to him – he’s just a General in England. The terms of Fontainebleau include the compensation payable to the Bonaparte family. We concurred in granting Elba to Napoleon and Parma and Placentia to his wife. On the basis of this treaty Napoleon abdicated and gave up the fight. By this agreement, Napoleon was more or less on his honour to remain at Elba.
Our escort (Sir Neil Campbell is the British representative on Elba) left the island and Napoleon went shortly thereafter. We did not abrogate the pecuniary terms of Fontainebleau because firstly we did not ultimately ratify that clause and secondly, even if we were bound to perform, it provided for annual payments which might arguably be payable in arrears. On that construction, the first payment only falls due in May 1815.
Napoleon was not recalled by the French people – he had gone back of his own volition. It was a breach of the Treaty of Fontainebleau entitling us to make war on him. We have not definitively reached that conclusion but we think we would be within our rights to fight and will consult with our allies.
Grenville said the Congress system at Vienna was the true cause of Napoleon’s return. When France agreed in the Treaty of Paris to withdraw behind her 1792 frontiers, it was incumbent on the other powers to do the same. If we planned to generally change the map of Europe, it was reasonable that the Bourbons should participate in the redistribution of territory. Once it was apparent that a carve-up was intended for the benefit of the four major powers except France, Napoleon had his cause.
A secondary consideration was the way the Bourbons resumed the throne of France. The allied armies placed on the throne those whom the French people had thrown-out. They appeared to be the creatures of foreigners and were being imposed upon them again. It was a degradation of France.
Grey noted that the Austria army was mobilised at an early stage in the Congress in order to protect Austrian interests. It was then apparent to all the world that the Congress was about national self-interest and not about the welfare and tranquillity of Europe. He thought Castlereagh should have persuaded his colleagues towards a nobler course of action.
Grey said Napoleon had stated that the precedent cause of his return was the shabby treatment of his wife and son at Parma / Placentia. If Britain resumes the war on the basis of broken pledges in the Treaty of Fontainebleau it will go bad for us – it is our promises that have been broken.
He thought the way out of our contractual difficulty was to mingle the terms of the Treaty of Fontainebleau, the Convention of Paris and the Treaty of Paris and treat them all as one agreement. It is a settled principle of international law that if treaties are made under fixed circumstances, and those circumstances subsequently improve for one party, the other party has the right to war to recover its former position. If we shape our argument this way, we can say we entered all our agreements with Napoleon in the expectation that the Bourbons would rule France. That circumstance has changed. This allows us the choice of war or not war.
A similar discussion was held in the House of Commons. Castlereagh said the allies had endeavoured to be magnanimous in their arrangements with Napoleon. France actually had slightly more territory now than in 1792; she retained all the art treasures of Egypt and Italy etc. It was the Tsar who identified Elba as the suitable place for Napoleon. It was the Bourbons who feared civil war and agreed to give Napoleon what he wanted to be rid of him. By the time I (Castlereagh) arrived at Paris everything was fixed. Its not my fault.
Sir Francis Burdett said he would approve the Regent’s Address if its thrust was to defend ourselves from French aggression. As it means using our army to reinstall the Bourbons on the French throne, he could not approve. He could see no valid reason to war with France simply because the people had chosen a ruler whom we disliked. He laughed at Castlereagh’s characterisation of Napoleon’s return as an invasion of France – who ever heard of an invasion by one man? Burdett recalled that in 1793 Pitt had expressly disavowed fighting to restore the Bourbons – he said then that we fought to help Dutch merchants by closing the Scheldt.
Look on the bright side, said Burdett. The Bourbons categorically refused to abolish the slave trade because they feared the wrath of their merchants in colonial trade. Napoleon abolished it in an instant.
The debate reached the conclusion that support for the Address was support for renewed war. In a time of uncertainty, the country members all voted with the minister as usual and it passed 220 / 37.
Sat 19th Aug 1815
British ratification of the Treaty of Fontainebleau, 27th April 1814:
Austria, Prussia and Russia made a treaty at Paris on 11th April to grant the future requirements of the Bonaparte family. They have invited Britain to accede to this contract.
The Regent accedes to the provisions in respect of Elba, Parma, Placentia and Guastalla but not to the pecuniary clauses.
Sat 16th Sept 1815
House of Commons, 29th April – the MPs are debating peace or war. Whitbread said there is very little time left to decide this matter. We discussed the Regent’s address three weeks ago (to augment the forces and consult with allies) and agreed to approve it only on the undertaking of ministers that approval did not commit the country to war.
Castlereagh gave that undertaking and now we find he lied.
By an accidental publication in the Vienna Gazette we representatives have learned that Castlereagh signed the Treaty of Vienna of 25th March pledging this country to fight.
In his reports to this House, he glossed over Wellington’s Declaration of 13th March, which required Napoleon’s assassination, and now we find he committed Britain on 25th March to the same warlike threats as Wellington’s.
Castlereagh’s relative Clancarty has been paying subsidies to the allies at Vienna unknown to this House and when we asked to see Clancarty’s powers we were refused.
Whitbread concludes that Castlereagh and his relatives have committed this country to war on their own authority.
Whitbread asked the House to Address the Regent and ascertain if we will fight to remove Napoleon and restore the Bourbons. He notes Pitt and some succeeding Prime Ministers expressly excluded that possibility when they were in office, indeed the Regent’s own Declaration, that was annexed to the Treaty of Vienna, disclaims any intention of interfering in the form of government chosen by the French. Whitbread thinks the form of government of a country is an internal matter for the people of that country.
Whitbread felt ashamed that Wellington and Castlereagh had publicly declared their preference for a Bourbon government of France contrary to the clear wishes of the French people – it looks unwarranted and unjust.
It is also the case that Britain is exhausted by continual war. The people are petitioning parliament endlessly for some amelioration of the war taxes. Business failures have never been so frequent. The debtors’ prisons and poor houses are full. Where is the money for renewed war going to come from?
Russia, Austria and Prussia are likewise all more or less bankrupt. They expect us to pay their war costs, indeed they will not fight for more than a few weeks without subsidies. Our financial situation is not much different yet we have Clancarty giving away our money at Vienna. British society is approaching the point when the suffering of the people will rouse them from their customary stupor and bring on a serious revolution – they have very little left to lose. We have already had machine-breakers in the Midlands. They only need leadership to overthrow us. Then instead of squeezing the best deal out of the planet we will have to compete with the hoi polloi in the distribution of what we have already got.
He ridiculed the idea of the allies being the deliverers of Europe. Much of the evidence suggests the allies are the oppressors of Europe. The Proclamation of 13th March at Vienna was a call to assassinate Napoleon. The Treaty of 25th March continued this uncompromising line. We have kept armies in Europe since the peace in expectation of the people objecting to our restoration of monarchy and they are now to be used to fight one man. He thought, if Napoleon was killed, that, of all the contenders to subsequently rule France, the Bourbons would be the least favoured. We will have to maintain armies in France to support the Bourbons and suppress the popular will.
He said it was reminiscent of the ‘juggling’ Message sent to the House in 1803 that facilitated renewed war after Amiens.
British ministers have been deceived by their own propaganda – we convinced ourselves that the Bonapartes were unpopular; that if Napoleon returned to France he would be lynched. We said in this House that the French considered him a ‘monster, ruffian, villain and traitor’. We have had our strings pulled by the Bourbons and have become misinformed of the true situation. It may have been like that all along.
Sir M Ridley said Napoleon had re-introduced the Constitution and thereby limited his power whereas the Bourbons had amended it to give them supreme authority. France was more dangerous to Britain under the Bourbons than under Napoleon – at least he has to consult a bicameral Legislature. Ridley supposed the matter came down to trust – do we trust Napoleon and his assertions he would forego aggrandisement, or do we trust our allies who have already agreed the partition of Poland and Saxony amongst themselves, and abrogated their agreements on Genoa and Naples?
On the matter of finance, the Irish Chancellor of the Exchequer has just revealed Ireland is unable to pay its ordinary expenditure this year; the situation in England cannot be markedly better – and the minister is offering funding to our allies and has contracted to put 150,000 men in the field!
The debate was long and complex but the vote was predictable – 273 / 72 against Whitbread’s motion.
Sat 21st Oct 1815
Professor Frederik Buchholz has published some information on Napoleon’s departure from Paris in April 1814 after the allies entered the city. On 20th April a hundred carriages containing his personal effects were drawn up at Fontainebleau, preparatory to his departure.
He told General Koller he had received over one thousand Addresses from the people requesting he retain the conduct of government. He thought a succession of minor breaches of agreement by the allies already amounted to sufficient cause to abrogate his conditional abdication.
He said it had been solely to spare France a civil war that he had agreed to abdicate in the first place but already the extent of discontent that the Bourbons’ official acts have inspired, and a succession of broken promises to himself, revealed he had misplaced his trust. He had 30,000 men on hand and could increase their numbers to 150,000 in a few days. He thought it would violate no pledge if he were to say that he had renounced his right to promote peace but he could not ignore the call of the nation.
Koller said Napoleon’s abdication was patriotic. He was unaware of the breaches of agreement that the Emperor attributed to the allied powers.
Napoleon said in that case he would perform his agreements but should any fresh cause of complaint arise, he would consider himself released from his engagements.
Sat 21st Oct 1815
Both the ministry and opposition have conveniently overlooked the question of right in the ministry’s intention to go to war. Only the lawyer Elliot MP took this line in the recent debates and we are pleased to see he has published his views in a pamphlet. We commend this practice to all MPs so the public is informed.
The vulgar classes, high and low, noble and commoner, are decidedly warlike – its a sporting engagement for them. Those Englishmen who put their faith in negotiations are in a small minority. They should recall that in a war there is not just an immense waste of money, there will inevitably be maimings and deaths. We should really consider carefully if our acts are justified.
This is what Elliot’s pamphlet says:
|First we should clearly note that it was France that entered the treaties with the allies not Napoleon. It was the allies that violated that engagement to France in their treatment of Napoleon before he returned from Elba – annuities were not paid to him, lands promised to his wife and son were withheld.
To be sure it was the Bourbons who withheld the cash but the allies guaranteed its payment. We are all involved in Bourbon skulduggery. We were not ignorant of what they were doing – Castlereagh himself says he remonstrated against the withholding of promised funds whilst he was in Paris but to no effect.
As regards the cession of Parma and Placentia to Maria Louisa, withholding is justified by Castlereagh on the grounds the Congress was considering a modification of the grant. How can the Congress unilaterally modify a done deal?
It is now revealed that no steps whatsoever were initiated to make either the payments or the cession. Our treaty terms were a simple means to get Napoleon to abdicate and leave France without further fighting. It appears consistent with English law for Napoleon to abrogate the treaty on the basis of these breaches.
Castlereagh avoided criticism on behalf of England by saying we did not ratify the whole Treaty of Fontainebleau and actually made a Protest to the pecuniary clauses. It would appear that we have no contractual breach by France to complain about. Castlereagh wants to have his cake and eat it too – if we have no treaty violation to assert, how is our right to war founded?
The allies next say they spared Napoleon’s life on terms. The terms have been broken and they intend to kill him. Based on this construction, they published the call for his assassination at Vienna. Now at the time the Treaty of Fontainebleau was done, France was a war zone. After Laon it was probable that France would be overpowered, but it had not happened at the time the Treaty was done and Napoleon still had a small army with the ability to hurt us. The Treaty terms were clearly a compromise – both parties gave some reciprocal advantage to the other. The allies’ statement that Napoleon signed the Treaty to save his own life is absurd – there is not a shred of evidence to support it.
Supposing that his departure from Elba gave the allies a right of war against him, how can that be extended to a war against all France? The concept of the allies maintaining a right of war against an individual is faintly humorous. We say the French sin was to again adopt Napoleon as their ruler. This is like saying that when George III has a dispute with his Hanoverian neighbours, it automatically involves Britain as well.
Another line of argument identified by the allied Plenipotentiaries is that the French broke the Treaty of Paris by permitting the restoration of Napoleon. There is no express clause stipulating that Napoleon not be restored so this is an inferred duty on the French. In a matter of war and peace, it is exceptional to rely on an inferred breach.
Well before the Treaty, Russia and Prussia made a Declaration refusing to treat with Napoleon. They said they required his abdication prior to making any agreements. This might have helped the war party, or at least the Russian and Prussian war-mongerers, if the Declaration was included in the documents attached with the Treaty of Fontainebleau – it was not.
There is also an assertion that it was the return of the Bourbons that encouraged the allies to grant mild terms to France – they are our friends. That is a non-starter – Napoleon got better terms from us direct at Chatillon than the Bourbons got at Paris.
We appear to have no legal right to make war on France but the lawyers have identified another nice point. The Bourbons say their prudent departure from France is casus belli. As it was the Bourbon Louis XVIII who signed the Treaties and he is no longer King of France, we may ignore all events in Paris, which were frustrated and legally never happened, and we are returned to our position before the Treaties were made i.e. we have never stopped warring with France and our present intended invasion is a continuation of the former war.
In answer to this it will be recalled that the Bourbons were not expelled – they themselves decided to leave. Whilst they remained, Louis XVIII was King and he was invested with all a King’s powers including the right to make Treaties.
The fact is that the allies should have inserted a specific clause indicating they would resume hostilities in the event of certain circumstances occurring.
Fri 27th Oct 1815 Extraordinary
Wellington has defeated Napoleon near Brussels and taken 300 pieces of cannon. The English and Prussian armies then commenced their march on Paris which capitulated on their approach. They will enter in triumph on 6th July.
It was the Prussians who bore the full vigour of the French attack. They fight for the recovery of their position in the European First Division whilst the French consider them dishonourable and fight as against wild animals. Prussia is said to have lost nearly 20,000 men but they revenged themselves once the tide of battle had turned when Bulow’s cavalry were at the forefront in pursuing the flying French troops and butchering them without quarter.
Parliament has voted £200,000 to build and furnish a house for Wellington.
Sat 28th Oct 1815
Wellington’s armies will have no commissariat once they enter France from the Low Countries. He is instructed to issue no Payment Orders on British agents nor cash any Bills of Exchange on the Treasury. He is to obtain all the clothing, food, etc., he needs from the French people – they are the enemy as much as Napoleon.
It is an economy of the ministry’s justified on the grounds that the French people welcomed Napoleon’s return. Wellington may pay for his necessaries in those towns and villages where the people appear to be loyal to the Bourbons.
Fri 3rd Nov 1815 Extraordinary
After his defeat at Waterloo, Napoleon returned to Paris and tried to abdicate in favour of his son but the Legislature rejected it. Ney told them there were only 16,000 – 18,000 French troops left to fight with. The Legislature formed a provisional government of three Deputies and two Peers who selected ambassadors to attend the foreign courts to make proposals but they cannot prevent the advance of the allied armies. The Duke of Bourbon has come out openly in command of the militants in La Vendee and is securing that part of France for the Bourbons.
Napoleon made a Declaration to the French people on 22nd June. He volunteered to be sacrificed to the hatred of the neighbours. He proclaimed his son Napoleon II, resigned himself from all political activity, and requested the Legislature to form a Regency. He then made his way to the coast where the Provisional Government had provided two frigates Saale and Medusa to take him to America. He sailed to Ile d’Aix near Rochefort and disembarked awaiting favourable winds. Moonlight and the presence of a British blockade outside Rochefort decided him to surrender. He sent Savary with a flag of truce to HMS Bellerophon. A couple of days later a Danish smack anchored off Ile d’Aix and it was supposed Napoleon had earlier made terms with the Master.
He then seems to have decided not to leave in that way and boarded a French brig that took him to the British warship. He is said to have surrendered with Ney, Savary, Maret and some other Generals as well as a few ladies. He has been taken to Fort George in Scotland on board HMS Bellerophon. This is the only real fort in the British Isles and was built after Culloden (1746) in the style of Vauban’s forts. It is on a narrow peninsula on the Moray Firth ten miles east of Inverness. During the Irish rebellion of 1802 we kept the Irish state prisoners there. There are no roads or villages in the vicinity – it is the end of the world.
The Duke of Brunswick, Sir Thomas Picton and several other heroes died in the battle. Our losses were rumoured to be about 12,000 but the ministry is not publishing the figures yet.
Sat 23rd Dec 1815
Allied armies are all over France. The English and Prussians are in the north, the Russians, Bavarians and Austrians in the east. They are all living off the country which is causing great popular resentment.
A contribution was imposed on the people of Paris of 100 million Francs but was reduced on the intervention of the Bourbons to 8 million Francs. It is the allied intention to punish the French people for welcoming Napoleon’s return. A considerable number of small battles are being fought.
Sat 23rd Dec 1815
Units of the British and Prussian armies have occupied Paris. Louis XVIII is back. The Provisional government and the two Legislative Chambers are dissolved. Carnot tried to keep the Legislature in existence and troops had to be sent in to disperse the popular representatives. New ministers were appointed by the King on 11th July. The Tsar is there, living in the Elysee Palace, and the rulers of Austria and Prussia are expected to join him. Wellington has praised the Regent for ‘saving the world’. Louis XVIII has praised Wellington – he acknowledges a debt of gratitude to England that bodes well for our future relationship.
Sat 3rd June 1815
Castlereagh magnanimously offered on behalf of the British people to continue to pay subsidies to our allies until the Congress of Vienna is concluded. That may explain why everything is proceeding so slowly. Every single night there is a grand ball and all the Emperors, Kings, Ministers and Generals have fun.
The popular saying at Vienna is “The Tsar makes love for us; the Prussian King thinks for us; the King of Wurtemburg eats for us, the Austrian Emperor houses us and the British King pays for us.”
Sat 1st July 1815
The agreed territorial apportionments proposed at Vienna is:
All issues for 1816 and 1817 are missing in British Library copy of the newspaper – they contain the news between about June 1815 – June 1817.
Sat 9th May 1818
London, 9th Dec – it appears France is finally settling down under Bourbon rule and the allies are likely to withdraw their armies soon. It is said March 1818 is the date set. The French army is being increased to replace the departing foreigners.
Sat 4th July 1818
We have agreed France pay £25 millions (about 600 million Francs) for allied costs in occupying the country after Napoleon’s return. The Bourbons have appointed Lafitte to organise a national loan.
Sat 18th July 1818
Calcutta Gazette, 13th June – The allies have changed their minds. They want to withdraw their armies from France two years earlier than agreed. The early withdrawal is necessitated by French inability to pay. A commissioner from each power (ours is Wellington) is in discussion with the French.
The problem is founded in the financial security France gave for our expenses. Those funds are exhausted and Richelieu, the French foreign minister, is pleading poverty. He can pay more by increasing the national debt. He’s reluctant to do so because its already large. He says he cannot both increase tax revenue and maintain social stability. He wants to be let-off.
France made the treaty on 30th May 1814 before Napoleon’s brief return. At that time it appeared to offer no difficulty in performance. France guaranteed state creditors (that’s the neighbours) they would not be disadvantaged and promised to pay us 700 million Francs.
Then Napoleon arrived to be followed by a million foreign soldiers predating on France. Not only was the national Treasury exhausted but most French towns were required to pay foreign requisitions and military contributions. French revenue collections were deranged. Since then, the country also has to pay 150 million Francs a year for our occupation of her frontiers. Within five years, France will have paid 1,000 million Francs more than seemed necessary in May 1814. Not only that but the allies presented France with a Convention of 20th Nov 1817 construing the May 1814 Treaty as permitting the creditors alone to fix the amount of their claims. This added another 1,000 millions to French liabilities. Richelieu says he cannot pay.
The allies have taken a lien over 8,500 million Francs of national rents which underwrites the French guarantee. It was never suggested that the allies might have recourse to these rents. It was said to be a routine precautionary measure. Richelieu say it is now apparent that our claims just get bigger and bigger.
He says France pays its debts. ‘The payments we made last year were done by raising a loan. We have to renew it annually. Your escalating demands simply destroy our credit. When our people realise you require them to pay more than they have, they will likely take an ambivalent view of your occupation and the restoration of Bourbon rule.’ Richelieu says we may expect another Revolution.
Sat 12th Sept 1818
The claims made on France total 1.6 billion Francs (£66 millions) of which 180 million Francs was paid out of the loan raised on 23rd Dec 1815 and 30 million Francs of debts were deemed inadmissible. The balance is 1.39 billion. France will pay a perpetual rent of 16 million Francs a year which is the interest on a debt of 320,800,000 Francs. That is what is available – c. 25 cents in the dollar.
There is also the matter of our costs in occupying the country. France is offering 24 million Francs a year which will fund a perpetual loan of 480 millions so altogether we will squeeze just over 800 million Francs out of the country in compensation.
Our share (Britain) is 60 million Francs which Paris will fund with 3 million Francs a year.
The absence of a popular mandate for the Bourbons is apparent from the proposed troop level they suggest for the peacetime establishment of the French army – 200,000 men.
Sat 3rd April 1819
Lady Castlereagh has been appearing at the parties at Aix-la-Chapelle (where the allied Commissioners are disposing of Europe) wearing diamonds worth an estimated 4 million Francs (c. £167,000). The Congress is breaking-up and all parties are expected to leave before the end of November.
They achieved consensus on a Convention dated 9th Oct 1818 which regulates the performance of engagements made in the original peace treaty of 20th Nov 1815. This is intended to secure peace for the future.
Meanwhile Baring & Co will reportedly clear £1.8 million profit on the French loans they organised for payment of war reparations.
Sat 10th April 1819
The French have undertaken to succeed Louis XVIII with Comte d’Artois (later Charles X) who has himself undertaken to continue the same policies. The Tsar and the Duke of Wellington are satisfied and have no qualms about withdrawing the allied armies.
Barings have undertaken to underwrite the indemnities to the tune of 31 million Francs a month for ten months. Payments commence nine months after signature of the Agreement.
There are many creditors and difficulties will arise. By the Treaty of Paris of Nov 1815 it was stipulated that France would pay for our occupation to an estimated expense of 150 million Francs a year. The scarcity of grain in 1816 and 1817 that affected all Europe added an unforeseen 40 million Francs to our provisioning expenses which France paid and Richelieu wants that sum deducted from the former estimate.
- This is a rare public example of the City advising the Admiralty of correct British foreign policy. Spencer is a core member of the ruling oligarchy.↵
- Readers of the Economy chapter will recall that Pitt is encouraged in this belief by his employment of 400 artists of London who are forging Assignats and by a similar operation of the Dutch in Amsterdam and of some Swiss Royalists. In October 1792 the extent of forged money distributed in France was sufficient to reduce the paper money value by 30%.↵
- A French delegation is in London to propose peace.↵
- The strategic argument is that whoever holds the Netherlands can launch an invasion at a great many places along the English East coast.↵
- Same as Harris at Lille↵
- This charade was Pitt’s response to the liberal Whigs’ demand that some sort of effort be made to make peace. The new secure French frontiers, which encompass the permanent cession of Belgium and southern Netherlands in the north, Luxembourg and the Austrian lands along the west bank of the Rhine in the northeast, and Savoy, etc in the southeast, was not negotiable.
It made British continuation of war acceptable, i.e. a tacit British war aim was to restore the pre-1792 French frontiers.↵
- Apparently the Bourbons like natural frontiers too.↵
- d’Antraigues is the man who revealed the secret Tilsit terms to the British minister. He and his wife will be murdered in England in 1812.↵
- Full powers were not provided to Malmesbury (also known as Harris or FitzHarris) whose ‘negotiations’ seem to have been held to satisfy the liberal Whigs in parliament and the peace-loving British people. The Congress at Lille ended with his departure.
However, on 5th October, Malmesbury wrote to the French Plenipotentiaries saying the Directory had ordered him out and was alone responsible for terminating negotiations. He said he felt threatened by negotiating in a French town.
Pitt’s ministry put it about that French peace terms were unrealistic.↵
- The cause of the absence of silver from India – see the Asia and Asia Economy chapters for details.↵
- This justifies most British acts but overlooks d’Antraigues’ papers that Bonaparte found in Venice, which existence is yet unknown to the British cabinet.↵
- As a term of providing him sanctuary in England. The letter instructed Dutch Governors to submit to the Royal Navy and hand-over their colonial government to British appointees.↵
- They are debating the future shape of Europe. Its part of the Napoleonic initiative to create buffer states between the great powers.↵
- Persuasive thinking of the intentions behind Pitt’s “what is to gained from war.”↵
- This line of French thought may indicate a contributing rationale to Pitt’s resignation. The rejection of his Irish proposals by the King was his public justification but he was so closely identified with the war party in England that he could hardly be involved in peace negotiations. Ireland gave him the opportunity to remove himself from the centre of the political stage and allow others to front national policy.↵
- This telegraph is a development of Claude Chappé’s system that France has been using throughout the war.↵
- The despatches mentioned earlier, dated 29th October 1802, ordered General Dundas to retain the Cape. The pretext is Ney’s bloodless entry into Switzerland, 1,600 men of his army having arrived at Basel on 25th October, but retention of the Cape is without the approval of parliament and prima facie a treaty violation.
It was Addington’s ministry that had instructed Cornwallis to offer the Cape in the negotiations at Amiens, its cession was not a French request.↵
- From the commencement of Napoleon’s rule at least until Tilsit, French finances are based on real value according to Del Mar “Money and Civilisation”, 1886.↵
- Whitworth had been informed and verily believed, indeed he had told Addington’s cabinet, that Bonaparte could be bought for £100,000 and that was the price of Malta remaining English. Addington authorised him to offer the bribe. Publicity of the attempt was damaging the prospects for his private diplomacy and suggested that Napoleon had learned of the offer to a family member and was angered by it.↵
- Pursuant on the three Papal Bulls, mentioned in the Europe chapter, that were said in London to have been issued at French demand.↵
- Peltier was prosecuted for his published call to assassinate Napoleon and found guilty but war soon recommenced and he was never punished.↵
- Rolle is near Lausanne, Vaud, Switzerland. The Baron de Rolle commanded a Swiss Royalist regiment in Portugal in about 1805. An apparent connection with Frédéric-César de la Harpe, who established the Helvetic Republic, may be misleading. He died in London in 1813.
The emigre Bishop of Arras, Marc Hilaire de Conzie, an uncompromising absolutist who had earlier patronised the Robespierres, and was the custodian of the English College in that town. In London he was chief political officer to the Comte d’Artois. He was repeatedly accused by Napoleon of planning assassinations whilst in London and Edinburgh – see the chapter of that name.↵
- A rare instance of Napoleon being disingenuous – Sebastiani’s report is almost wholly commercial.↵
- Wilson published his allegation that Napoleon had his wounded soldiers put down after Acre so the rest of the army could move more quickly. It rested on the reported evidence of a priest, Rogo or Roget, who told Wilson’s informant he received it in the confessional. Wilson had no evidence of French military officers in support.↵
- This is controversial – the Russian proposal for mediation was realistic and accepted by France. It was England that declined mediation.↵
- This is causing British parliamentarians to search for good pretexts for the position the ministry has taken. War is unpopular and the politicians wish to create public support. The problem is the people fight best when the cause is just and its difficult to frame an argument that evidences that – the facts are that we lost the war, France controls Europe, the French are more lightly taxed and better fed, Bonaparte is a more skilful administrator than the Kings and aristocrats, and no-one in Europe, except Portugal, wants to co-operate with us.
The endless debate on Malta is typical – it is a chattel so far as the powers are concerned; the Maltese are not mentioned, their interests are not consulted. They have no military power ergo they are irrelevant. The countries that might support England – Austria, Prussia and Russia – are either impoverished (Austria), concerned solely for their self-interest (Prussia) or too remote from the centre of things (Russia).
It is a lonely world for ‘British principles’ but Britain has the naval power to control the seas. She monopolises the wealth of the colonies of West and East Indies and the China trade. She can interrupt the flow of silver from Vera Cruz and Montevideo to Cadiz. England has the money and the investment in cheap manufacturing ability to undersell the competition while France controls the consumer markets.
To prevail in the contest, Britain imperatively needs access to the European market – that means smuggling on a grand scale as the answer to Pitt’s question ‘what is to be gained from war’.↵
- There is a persuasive note elsewhere in this text, attributed to Canning, to the effect ‘ministers make the news and newspapers profit from publishing it.’ Along with the use of the libel and anti-sedition laws, this seems to catch Fox’s meaning.↵
- Fox is delightfully lucid in his speeches. Cromwell is often considered a rogue by British historians today (but not Antonia Fraser in her sympathetic biography of 1973) although this sentence reveals it was he who introduced the law on which the empire was built.
His Navigation Act was repealed on the Restoration but re-enacted in 1660 with three major terms – exports from English colonies went to England; all English imports were carried in English ships, and three-quarters of English ship crews were English nationals. It formed the basis to British hegemony and was only repealed in mid-19th century once Britain had secured the bulk of world trade.↵
- The letter is reproduced in the paper. Hawkesbury / Whitworth were caught out.↵
- One of the imponderables for the reviewer is the rather small amount of loans and subsidies paid by London to European allies. Most summaries of loans in the newspaper are less than £20 millions for the entire Revolutionary War although the British national debt during those years increased by about £500 millions (including the loan from Bank of England of £300 million).↵
- This bankers’ view, which has characterised world history for the last two centuries, was most recently expressed by President George W Bush of the United States of America in conversation with Argentinian President Nestor Kirchner – the best way to revitalise an economy is to make war – see Oliver Stone’s documentary “South of the Border,” 2010.↵
- He is considered the epitome of Englishness.↵
- London financed the expedition. France paid for her purchases of sugar from the former estates of the émigrés at Santa Domingo and elsewhere. This fleet was caught on its return by renewed war and many ships and cargoes were made prize.↵
- Napoleon has previously been pro-peace. This is the first evidence I have that he has come to view British defeat as a necessary pre-condition to the settlement of Europe.↵
- It will be recalled that the description of George III as King of France appeared prominently in the preamble to Harris’ powers and irritated the French Republicans at the failed discussions at Lille.↵
- Whereby a country under new administration continues to occupy the same borders as its predecessor state↵
- England needs a friend ruling Sicily. The intent is to retain Malta which is as dependent on Sicily for its grain. But so is Naples↵
- The first time Napoleon wrote to George III that King had Pitt protest in the Commons at the insult of a commoner addressing a King. Times have changed.↵
- Maret is French Foreign Minister.↵
- All British press commentary of the time refers to Napoleon doing this or that, never France.↵
- This comment was not repudiated by the ministry. The idea of Spain being an ulcer in French arrangements is the propaganda of Victorian historians. As mentioned in the Iberia chapter, Spain was indubitably a British ulcer – in 6 years involvement we spent an unaudited and unauditable £265 millions. This appears to be an example of the role-reversal aspect of imperial history.↵
- People say the French army is all new recruits but the Prussians and Russians are also fielding mainly young inexperienced lads.↵
- On 8th January 1814, Metternich told France that the 4th Earl of Aberdeen, George Hamilton-Gordon, later British Prime Minister, had signed the preliminaries in a private capacity in spite of his plenipotentiary powers and was not authorised to commit Britain. Castlereagh is the British Plenipotentiary. The former agreement, which opened the high seas to all maritime countries, is intolerable to London.↵
- This pre-dates the decision at Vienna to transfer him to St Helena, made in February 1815, and may well refer to his intended return to France. It seems Bourbon abrogation of treaty commitments (mentioned below) had already decided him.↵
- But only after five years, otherwise they would not have supported the suppression of Norway. Its the same in obtaining Russian agreement – conditional on retaining Finland.↵
- This was very popular. The Bourbons had arrested and prosecuted some authors who had criticised their rule and / or applauded the Revolution.↵
- The Scot William Cathcart was earlier Commander British Forces in Ireland and later led the raid on Copenhagen. Clancarty, in the Irish peerage, is Richard Trench, soon to be Baron Trench, while General Stewart is Sir Charles Stewart, Castlereagh’s pugilistic half-brother.↵
- The ambiguity and occasional incomprehensibility of Castlereagh’s phraseology is a matter for frequent comment in reports on Commons debates.↵
- These two must be deservedly ashamed of their dissimulations.↵
- A reference to the King’s message that France was preparing a huge fleet and we should do likewise. Debate on it became a debate on renewed war.↵
- He in fact ordered the Commissaries to issue receipts to the people for such goods as were seized so they might have some means of making a recovery.↵
- These immense debts will help to ensure that France does not return to an independent self-sufficient financial policy but remains reliant on financial markets.↵
- See the Chapter called ‘The Year Without a Summer’ for details of the global effects of the eruption of Tambora on Sumbawa Island.↵