Sold – The Official Authorization to Ratify the Treaty of Paris between Britain and France That Ended the Napoleonic Empire

An important document in the history of the Western World.

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Signed in 1814 when Bonaparte was dispatched to Elba, it dismembered the French Empire

The French Revolution, with its democratic and expansionist fervor, not only overthrew a long-entrenched monarchy, but unsettled much of Europe. The French sought to export their revolution, the royal rulers of other nations fought...

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Sold – The Official Authorization to Ratify the Treaty of Paris between Britain and France That Ended the Napoleonic Empire

An important document in the history of the Western World.

Signed in 1814 when Bonaparte was dispatched to Elba, it dismembered the French Empire

The French Revolution, with its democratic and expansionist fervor, not only overthrew a long-entrenched monarchy, but unsettled much of Europe. The French sought to export their revolution, the royal rulers of other nations fought for their lives, and peoples from Russia to Haiti struggled to maintain or assert their own identities. The conflicts lasted from 1792 to 1815, involved almost all nations in Europe, and spilled over into Africa, Asia, North America, and South America. In its early years, the French Revolutionary Armies defeated a number of opposing coalitions (featuring Britain, Prussia, Austria, Russia and others) and expanded French control to Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, and Germany. In 1798 the French invaded Egypt, and the following year Napoleon attained the office of First Consul, the head of the French government (as well as army).

By 1804, when Napoleon had himself crowned emperor, the French Republic, starting from a position precariously near occupation and collapse, had defeated all its enemies (except Britain) and produced an army that would take the other powers years to emulate. With the conquest of the left bank of the Rhine and domination of the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Italy, the Republic had achieved nearly all the territorial goals that had eluded the Bourbon monarchs for centuries.

In April 1805, Britain, Russia, Austria and Sweden formed the Third Coalition to eject the French from Italian, Swiss and German territory. After huge victories at Ulm and Austerlitz (the latter with the Tsar Alexander I personally present), Napoleon entered Vienna, the Austrians sued for peace, and the Coalition’s aims were frustrated. A Fourth Coalition in 1806-7 found itself mainly on the defensive, as Napoleon occupied Germany and Poland, crushed the Russian army and sent the Swedes scurrying. Napoleon was now in a commanding position, but his inability to force the British into a peace was a thorn in his side. So in 1808, he overplayed his hand. To foreclose British access to its ally Portugal, he invaded Spain launching the Peninsular War. Initially the French enjoyed easy success in Spain, taking Madrid, defeating the Spanish and consequently forcing a withdrawal of the heavily out-numbered British army. However, in 1809 the British put together the Fifth Coalition along with Spain, and by 1810 the British had a strong army on the ground opposing Napoleon, and that army was led by the capable Duke of Wellington.

In 1812 came another miscalculation: Napoleon, at the height of his power, invaded Russia with a pan-European Grande Armée, consisting of 650,000 men. Initially, as in Spain,  Napoleon’s force found it easy going, but the main Russian army retreated for almost three months, pulling the French after them. The two armies finally engaged in the Battle of Borodino on September 7, in the vicinity of Moscow. The battle was the largest and bloodiest single-day action of the Napoleonic Wars, involving more than 250,000 men and resulting in at least 70,000 casualties. The French captured the main positions on the battlefield, but their success was entirely Pyrrhic, as they failed to destroy the Russian army; logistical difficulties meant that French losses were irreplaceable, unlike Russian ones. Napoleon entered Moscow, but the city had been evacuated and was burning, and the Russians spurned his offer of peace talks. Sitting in the Kremlin as the Russian winter set in, with no supplies or prospects of victory, Napoleon was forced to retreat west. The winter, the lack of supplies, the blocking movements of the Russian army, and the constant guerilla warfare by Russian peasants and irregular troops proved devastating for the French. When the remnants of Napoleon’s army crossed the Berezina River to safety in November, only 27,000 fit soldiers remained, with some 380,000 men dead or missing and 100,000 captured.

There was a lull in fighting over the winter of 1812–13 while both the Russians and the French rebuilt their forces; Napoleon was still able to field 350,000 troops. Heartened by France’s loss in Russia, Prussia joined with Austria, the German states, Sweden, Britain, Spain, and Portugal in a Sixth Coalition. Napoleon assumed command in Germany and inflicted a series of defeats on the Coalition culminating in the Battle of Dresden in August 1813. Despite these successes, the numbers continued to mount against Napoleon as his troops dwindled while those of his foes augmented, and the French army was pinned down by a force twice its size and lost at the Battle of Leipzig. This was by far the largest battle of the Napoleonic Wars and cost more than 90,000 casualties. Napoleon withdrew back into France, his army reduced to 70,000 soldiers and 40,000 stragglers, against more than three times as many Allied troops. The French were surrounded: British armies pressed from the south, and other Coalition forces positioned to attack from the German states. Napoleon was unable to prevent Paris being captured by the Coalition in March 1814. When Napoleon proposed the army march on the capital, his marshals decided to mutiny. On April 4, led by Marshal Ney, they confronted Napoleon, who had no choice but to abdicate. He did so unconditionally on April 11.

On April 20, 1814, Napoleon bid adieu to his troops at Fontainebleau and was exiled to the small island of Elba, where he arrived on May 4, 1814. Through the skillful guidance of French diplomat and chief negotiator Charles de Talleyrand, who saw prospects of lenient treatment if the Bourbon monarchy was restored, King Louis XVIII was returned to the throne and arrived in Paris on May 3.

The Napoleonic Wars were essentially ended by the Treaty of Paris, which was signed on May 30, 1814, between France on the one side and the Allies (Austria, Britain, Prussia, Russia, Sweden, and Portugal) on the other. As Talleyrand predicted, the victorious Allies, even after nearly a quarter century of war, gave generous terms to France under the restored Bourbon dynasty. But France was not the only nation profoundly affected by the Treaty, as the destinies of other nations such as Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands were determined as well. Under the Treaty’s chief provisions:

* France retained her boundaries of 1792, representing 3,280 square miles more than those of 1790, including Avignon and the Venaissin, but surrendering the left bank of the Rhine, Belgium, and territory annexed or controlled in Italy, Germany, Holland and Switzerland;

* France was to be returned most of the colonies she had lost with the exception of Malta, Tobago, St Lucia and the Isle of France;

* Switzerland was to be independent;

* Holland and Belgium were to be united under the House of Orange as an independent state;

* Germany was to become a federation of independent states;

* Italy was to consist of several independent states apart from territory ceded to Austria;

* France promised Britain to abolish the slave trade; and

* It was agreed that the final settlement of Europe was to be made at a Congress to be held shortly at Vienna.

Each nation warring with France signed its own copy of the Treaty, to which it and France were parties. British perseverance and organization, acting as the leader of all the coalitions and its pushing the wars to a successful conclusion, had led to Napoleon’s demise, so its Treaty with France was the one of central importance. Official Treaty, starting with the following paragraph: “His Majesty, the King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and his Allies on the one part, and His Majesty the King of France and Navarre on the other part, animated by an equal desire to terminate the long agitations of Europe, and the sufferings of Mankind, by a permanent Peace, founded upon a just repartition of force between its States, and containing in its Stipulations the pledge of its durability, and His Britannic Majesty, together with his Allies, being unwilling to require of France, now that, replaced under the paternal Government of Her Kings, she offers the assurance of security and stability to Europe, the conditions and guarantees which they had with regret demanded from her former Government, Their said Majesties have named Plenipotentiaries to discuss, settle, and sign a Treaty of Peace and Amity.” Signing the Treaty for Britain were Lord Castlereagh, Lord Aberdeen, Lord Cathcart and Gen. Charles Stewart. Talleyrand signed for France (as Le Prince de Benevent).  The ratification copy (included) is signed by these four in proxy.

The Treaty next had to be ratified. An official copy of the entire Treaty text was prepared. This was 22 manuscript pages, at the end of which were added 8 pages of Additional and Secret Articles, for a total of 30 pages. Appended to this was a two page Ratification Statement: “We having seen and considered the definitive Treaty…have in the name and on behalf of His Majesty, approved, ratified, accepted and confirmed…For the greater testimony and validity of all which we have signed these presents in the name and on behalf of His Majesty, and have caused to be affixed thereto the Great Seal of the United Kingdom…” This was signed secretarially by Prince George (later King George IV) as regent for his demented father George III. These two sections together constituted the official ratification copy, to be submitted to and approved by the King. Third, to enable and empower the government to ratify, it was necessary for the Great Seal of the Realm to be affixed to it, and under the British Constitution, the Seal could only be legally affixed with the written authorization and order of the Sovereign. This would be the operative signature for the ratification.

Document Signed, Carlton House, London, June 11, 1814, being the official authorization and instruction to ratify the Treaty, signed by Prince George as “George PR [Prince Regent]” and by Castlereagh, which document is attached to the official 30-page ratification copy. “Our Will and Pleasure is that you forthwith cause the Great Seal of the United Kingdom…to an Instrument bearing date with these presents (a copy thereof is hereunto annexed) containing our ratification…of a Definitive Treaty of Peace and Amity…concluded and signed at Paris on the 30th of May, 1814…and for so doing this shall be your Warrant…”

Things did not turn out quite as expected, and the Treaty of Paris did not prove to be the final document of the Napoleonic Wars. Napoleon returned from exile on Elba to Paris on March 20, 1815 and be tried to reassert his power in France.  There was a brief war  which included the Waterloo Campaign. There Napoleon was defeated by Wellington on June 18, finally ending the entire era of wars. The Congress called for by the above Treaty to meet at Vienna found itself concluding its work in the shadow of the renewed threat from Napoleon, and additional treaties taking this into account were signed in June 1815.         

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