Treaty of Amiens

  • Author: Admin
  • September 05, 2022
Treaty of Amiens
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At the conclusion of the War of the Second Coalition, the Treaty of Amiens temporarily put an end to hostilities between France and the United Kingdom. After a brief period of calm, it signaled the end of the French Revolutionary Wars and prepared the way for the Napoleonic Wars. The majority of Britain's recent victories were given up, and France was ordered to leave Egypt and Naples. Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and Trinidad were kept by Britain. A "Definitive Treaty of Peace" was signed there on March 25, 1802, or 4 Germinal X in the French Revolutionary calendar, by Joseph Bonaparte and Marquess Cornwallis. The ensuing peace, which was Europe's last extended period of peace between 1793 and 1814, barely lasted a year (18 May 1803).

Britain acknowledged the French Republic in accordance with the treaty. The Treaty of Amiens ended the Second Coalition, which had fought against Revolutionary France since 1798, together with the Treaty of Lunéville (1801).

In order to rebuild and resume trade with continental Europe, Great Britain desired peace. It also aimed to break its isolation from other powers, and it succeeded in doing so by warming up to Russia, which gave it the impetus to accept the pact with France. The antiwar Whig opposition in Parliament was likewise appeased by Amiens.

Napoleon made significant internal reforms during the interim, including the adoption of a new legal code known as the Code Napoleon, a Concordat that brought peace to the Vatican, and the issuance of a new constitution that guaranteed him lifetime power. France gained territory in Italy and Switzerland. Napoleon, however, gave up on his plan to establish a North American Empire after his army's defeat in Haiti and sold the Louisiana Territory to the United States.

The Democratic-Republican administration of President Thomas Jefferson cut the American military budget, partially demolished the Hamiltonian Federalist financial agenda, and used British banks to finance the Louisiana Purchase. However, the French West Indies were no longer required to transport their goods to Europe using American ships. Despite the fact that the terms of the Treaty were unfavorable to his nation, British Prime Minister Henry Addington skillfully utilized the pause to reassemble British strength so that, when fighting erupted once more in the spring of 1803, the Royal Navy was able to seize control of the seas with relative ease. However, the Federalist minority in Congress fiercely opposed the United States' isolationist foreign policy, which was hostile to both Britain and France, and was under intense pressure from all sides.

Early Diplomacy

With victories in Egypt, Italy, and Germany, the Second Coalition War got off to a strong start for the coalition. The wins were fleeting, though; following France's triumphs at the Battles of Marengo and Hohenlinden, Austria, Russia, and Naples filed a peace suit, and Austria ultimately ratified the Treaty of Lunéville. The formation of the League of Armed Neutrality was halted by Horatio Nelson's victory at the Battle of Copenhagen on April 2, 1801, and a negotiated ceasefire resulted.

Napoleon Bonaparte, the Originally Consul of France, first suggested a truce to Lord Grenville, the British Foreign Secretary, in 1799. The suggestions were outright rejected due to Grenville and Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger's rigid position, their mistrust of Bonaparte, and the evident flaws in them. Pitt, however, left in February 1801 due to personal problems, and Henry Addington, who was more understanding, took his place. Britain at that time was driven by the threat of conflict with Russia.

Robert Jenkinson, Lord Hawkesbury, Addington's foreign minister, immediately established contact with Louis Guillaume Otto, the French commissary for prisoners of war in London through whom Bonaparte had made his earlier suggestions. Hawkesbury declared that he wanted to start talking about the specifics of a peace accord. In the middle of 1801, Otto entered into negotiations with Hawkesbury while generally following specific directions from Bonaparte. Hawkesbury sent envoy Anthony Merry to Paris after being dissatisfied with the conversation with Otto. Merry then established a second channel of communication with Talleyrand, the French foreign minister. Written negotiations had advanced by mid-September, when Hawkesbury and Otto met to produce a draft of the preliminary agreement. They signed the preliminary agreement on September 30 in London, and it was released the next day.

The preliminary agreement stipulated that Britain had to withdraw from other occupied Mediterranean ports as well as Malta and most of the French colonial lands it had taken over since 1794. The sovereignty of the Order of St. John was to be secured by one or more powers, to be decided at the time of the final peace, and Malta was to be returned to them. France was required to hand back control of Egypt to the Ottomans, withdraw from the majority of the Italian peninsula, and consent to the preservation of Portuguese sovereignty. The British were to retain control of Ceylon, a former Dutch colony, and the pre-war status of Newfoundland's fisheries rights was to be reinstated. The Seven Islands Republic, founded by France on islands in the Ionian Sea that are now a part of Greece, was also to be recognized by Britain. The outposts on the Cape of Good Hope were to be open to both sides. The tentative agreement contained a covert clause that stated Trinidad would remain under British control, dealing a blow to Spain.

News of the deal was joyfully received throughout Europe. In French, English, German, and other languages, there were many leaflets, poems, and odes celebrating peace. Actors enthusiastically portrayed the treaty on the real stage, in vaudeville, and in dinner theaters. Fireworks and illuminations were displayed in Britain. In Britain, it was believed that peace would result in the removal of Pitt's income tax, a decrease in grain prices, and a resurgence of markets.

Final Negotiations

With plenipotentiary authority, Cornwallis was dispatched to France in November 1801 to conduct final negotiations. Because the British people believed that peace was imminent, Cornwallis was under tremendous pressure, which Bonaparte recognized and took advantage of. Cornwallis wrote, "I feel it as the most unpleasant circumstance attending this unpleasant business that, after I have obtained his acquiescence on any point, I can have no confidence that it is finally settled and that he will not recede from it in our next conversation" because Talleyrand and Napoleon's brother Joseph kept changing their positions during the negotiations. Rutger Jan Schimmelpenninck, the Batavian Republic's ambassador to France, was chosen to represent the country in the peace talks since the Batavian Republic's economy was dependent on trade, which had been destroyed by the war. On December 9, he made his way to Amiens. The French lacked respect for the Dutch throughout the negotiations because they saw them as a "vanquished and subjugated" client whose current administration "owed them everything."

The status of Ceylon, which would stay British, the return of the Cape of Good Hope to the Dutch while keeping it accessible to all, and the compensation for losses suffered by the ousted House of Orange-Nassau were all negotiated by Schimmelpenninck and Cornwallis. Joseph did not, however, instantly consent to their requirements; he apparently needed to speak with the First Consul first.

Napoleon traveled to Lyon in January 1802, when he took office as the leader of the Italian Republic, a nominally autonomous French client state that included northern Italy and had been founded in 1797. The Italian Republic and the other client republics' independence was guaranteed by Bonaparte under the terms of the Treaty of Lunéville, which was broken by that action. He continued to back the reactionary uprising led by French General Pierre Augereau in the Batavian Republic on September 18, 1801 as well as the republic's new constitution, which was approved through a rigged election and drew it closer to the dominant partner.

The incidents were covered in British newspapers with strong moralizing hues. Bonaparte's actions at Lyons were described by Hawkesbury as a "gross violation of faith" that showed a "inclination to humiliate Europe." It "caused the greatest panic in this country, and there are many men who were pacifically disposed and who since this happened are eager of renewing the war," he wrote to Cornwallis from London.

The Marquis de Azara, the Spanish negotiator, did not reach Amiens until early February 1802. He suggested to Cornwallis that Britain and Spain reach a separate agreement after some preliminary conversations, but Cornwallis rejected that idea because he thought it would jeopardize the more crucial negotiations with France.

Because of ongoing budget disputes in Parliament and the potential for a protracted conflict, pressure on the British negotiators to reach a peace agreement kept growing. The position of Malta was the main issue that prevented progress in the late negotiations. In the end, Bonaparte recommended that the British depart within three months of the agreement's signing and that control be returned to the Order of St. John, a new version of which would have its sovereignty guaranteed by all of the major European nations. The method by which the Order would be re-established was not mentioned in that proposal; it had effectively been disbanded during the French occupation of the island in 1798. The other powers had not been consulted about the situation either.

London set a strict deadline for Cornwallis to complete the budget on March 14. If a deal could not be reached in eight days, he was to return to London. At 3 a.m. on March 25th, after a five-hour negotiation process, Cornwallis and Joseph signed the final contract. In spite of his displeasure with the deal, Cornwallis was concerned about "the catastrophic repercussions of...resuming a brutal and fruitless war."


The treaty, beyond confirming "peace, friendship, and good understanding," called for the following:

  •     The restoration of prisoners and hostages.
  •     Britain to return the Cape Colony to the Batavian Republic.
  •     Britain to return most of its captured Dutch Guiana to the Batavian Republic.
  •     Britain to withdraw its forces from Egypt.
  •     Spain agreeing to British rule of Trinidad
  •     The Batavian Republic to cede Ceylon, previously under control of the United Provinces and the Dutch East India Company, to Britain.
  •     France to withdraw its forces from the Papal States and the Kingdom of Naples.
  •     French Guiana to have its borders defined.
  •     Malta, Gozo, and Comino to be restored to the Knights Hospitaller and to be declared neutral.
  •     Gibraltar to remain under British rule.
  •     Menorca be returned to Spain.
  •     The House of Orange-Nassau to be compensated for its losses in the Netherlands.
  •     The Septinsular Republic was recognized by the signatory parties.

Two days after signing the treaty, all four parties signed an addendum, specifically acknowledging that the failure to use the languages of all of the signatory powers (the treaty was published in English and French) was not prejudicial and should not be viewed as setting a precedent. It also stated that the omission of any individual's titles was unintentional and not intended to be prejudicial. The Dutch and French representatives signed a separate convention, clarifying that the Batavian Republic was not to be financially responsible for the compensation paid to the House of Orange-Nassau.

Preliminaries were signed in London on 1 October 1801. King George proclaimed the cessation of hostilities on 12 October.