Amy has MA degrees in History, English, and Theology. She has taught college English and religious education classes and currently works as a freelance writer.
The First and Second Coalitions
The 1802 Treaty of Amiens ended a war between France and Great Britain that had been waged for nine years. Let's take a look at the events leading up to this treaty. It all began in 1793 when leaders of several European countries, including Britain, decided to combat the spread of the French Revolution and put an end to French aggression. The wars of the First Coalition ended in a shaky peace between France and Austria in 1797, but Britain remained at war.
That peace didn't last long anyway. France continued its drive for power and territory. Its army soon resumed a campaign in Italy and slipped into Egypt in 1798, hoping to disrupt Britain's trade and communications with its colonies to the east. In 1798 and 1799, Britain joined forces with Austria, Prussia, Russia, Turkey, Portugal and Naples to form the Second Coalition. These countries planned a three-pronged attack against France. Britain would strike through Holland, Austria through Italy and Russia through Switzerland. It seemed like a good strategy, but the Coalition didn't count on the power of France's favorite general and first consul, Napoleon Bonaparte.
The Coalition Falls
The Coalition met with some success at first, especially in Italy where the Austrians recovered some of the territory they had lost in the previous war. Then France began to push back, defeating the British in Holland in 1799. The tide turned against Austria, as well. On July 14, 1800, the French, led by Napoleon, routed the Austrian army in the Battle of Marengo despite the Austrians' superior numbers. The two countries formed a shaky truce.
Meanwhile, the Russians, under Tsar Paul I, were quickly losing confidence in the Coalition. The tsar rather admired Napoleon's aggressive leadership, and he soon left the Coalition and initiated friendly relations with France. Napoleon, living up to the tsar's estimation, began another push against Austria, marching toward Vienna and trouncing the Austrians at Hohenlinden on December 3, 1800. This time, Austria agreed to a new treaty in February of 1801, and once again, Britain stood alone against France.
France vs. Britain, Kind Of
Both countries had their advantages in the conflict. France had a larger population, but Britain maintained a decisive naval supremacy. The British decided to push their advantage and control the seas, preventing France from carrying on a thriving international trade. British ships were soon guarding ports all over Europe to block French ships from entering.
This soon became a problem for countries that were losing out economically from the blockade. In 1800, Russia, Sweden, Prussia and Denmark formed the League of Armed Neutrality with the goal of protecting their ports and reopening trade with France. Britain took this as an act of war, and on April 2, 1801, the British navy attacked Copenhagen, Denmark, destroying ships and damaging shoreline defenses. Denmark quickly surrendered, and the League fell apart.
Britain then turned its attention to Egypt, joining the Turks in a campaign to kick France out of the country. They were successful by the end of August 1801.
Another Shaky Peace
By this time, however, both sides were exhausted and ready to talk peace. Napoleon wanted to concentrate on matters at home, and the British wanted to focus on their own economic troubles and manufacturing. By October 1, 1801, French and British representatives had agreed on peace terms, which were made official by the Treaty of Amiens on March 25, 1802.
Britain agreed to return nearly all the French, Spanish and Dutch overseas territories it had occupied during the years since 1793. Further, Egypt would return to Turkish control, and Malta would revert to the Knights of St. John. France, for its part, agreed to pull out of Naples and the Papal States in Italy, stay out of Egypt and recognize the independence of the Ionian Islands off of Greece. Both sides consented to abandoning all hostilities.
The treaty was unstable almost from the beginning. Certain important questions had been left unresolved, especially with regard to trade relations between France and Britain. Napoleon refused to sign a commercial treaty and imposed high tariffs on British imports. He also continued to sneak into new territories, grabbing Piedmont in 1802, for instance. Britain wasn't perfectly on board with the treaty either. The British, probably smarting about their lost territories, refused to leave Malta. After only 14 months of peace, Britain once again declared war on France. The Treaty of Amiens had failed.
When the Treaty of Amiens was signed in 1802, Great Britain and France had been waging war against one another since 1793. Britain had been part of two failed coalitions. The wars of the First Coalition ended with a shaky peace between France and Austria in 1797, but Britain continued to fight. The Second Coalition formed in 1798 and 1799 when the British joined forces with Austria, Prussia, Russia, Turkey, Portugal and Naples. After a series of French victories and Russia's defection, the Coalition fell apart, and Britain again stood alone against France.
Britain, with its naval supremacy, worked hard to disrupt France's trade with other European countries. Some of these countries soon became fed up with Britain's interference. Russia, Sweden, Prussia and Denmark formed the League of Armed Neutrality in 1800 to protect their ports. Britain, in response, successfully attacked Copenhagen, Denmark, on April 2, 1801. The League soon disintegrated.
Both Britain and France were becoming tired of war. After negotiating peace terms, they signed the Treaty of Amiens on March 25, 1802. Britain agreed to give back captured territories. France consented to leave Naples and the Papal States and stay out of Egypt. The treaty didn't last long. Neither side was willing to completely fulfill its terms. Only 14 months after achieving peace, Britain once again declared war on France.
After this lesson is over, you should be able to:
- Describe the wars between the British and French and allies of both in 1793 to 1802
- Explain what occurred with the First Coalition and Second Coalition
- Identify the Treaty of Amiens terms that temporarily ended hostilities
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