War Against the Second Coalition
The second coalition of the powers against France comprising of England, Austria, Russia, Turkey, Portugal and Naples had been formed in 1798. Its object was to crush the revolutionary government in France and to confine France to her old boundaries. Prussia remained aloof from the second coalition. The coalition was formed when Napoleon was away in Egypt. The war against the second coalition began when Austria refused to turn out Russian troops from her territory on the demand of France.
In the beginning the situation was favourable to the Allies. The French army was defeated and driven across the Rhine. A
combined Austro-Russian army defeated the French forces in two great battles. However, the year 1799 ended very badly for the Allies. The French were able to regain their position. The English were defeated and compelled to evacuate Netherlands (Holland). France was saved from the humiliation of defeat and foreign occupation.
The arrival of Napoleon on the scene was a source of great anxiety to the Allies. Russia withdrew from the coalition as Tsar Paul was greatly dissatisfied with both England and Austria. While he aimed at the revival of the Ancient Regime in Europe by crushing the revolutionary France, Austria was more interested in the acquisition of Piedmont. The conduct of Austria annoyed the Tsar. He was also annoyed with the English as the latter supported Austrian policy. Moreover, the Tsar developed a great admiration for Napoleon and consequently withdrew from the Second Coalition. This left Napoleon free to deal with Austria and England.
Napoleon planned a twofold attack against Austria. While Moreau was to lead an army across the Rhine into the Danube Valley in order to attack Vienna, Napoleon was to lead an army into Italy by the passes of Switzerland. In 1800, Napoleon returned to Italy, which the Austrians had reconquered during his absence in Egypt. The French troops under Napoleon‘s command crossed the Alps in spring. While the campaign began badly, the Austrians were eventually routed in June 1800 at Marengo, leading to an armistice.
Napoleon’s brother Joseph, who was leading the peace negotiations in Lunéville, reported that due to British backing for
Austria, Austria would not recognize France’s newly gained territory. As negotiations became more and more complicated,
Napoleon gave orders to his general Moreau to strike Austria once more. Moreau led France to victory at Hohenlinden. As a result the Treaty of Lunéville was signed in February 1801, under which the French gains of the Treaty of Campo Formio were reaffirmed and increased.
After the break up of the Second Coalition, France remained at war with England only. England and France had been at war
continuously for nine years. In the course of this war England had defeated the French navy and had conquered many of the colonies of France and of her allies or dependencies, Holland and Spain. However, England was in financial difficulties and her debt had grown enormously and there was widespread dislike of the war among the British people.
A change of government in England paved the way for peace between the two countries. With the collapse of William Pitt‘s
ministry, a new government led by Addington became receptive to the overtures of peace from Napoleon. The English desired peace largely to regain the European markets that the French had closed to them. On the other hand, Napoleon was keen on peace to complete his reform programme in France and consolidate his position in Europe.
After prolonged negotiations, the British signed the Treaty of Amiens with France in March 1802, which set terms for peace. By
the Treaty of Amiens England recognized the existence of the French Republic. England also agreed to withdraw her troops from several French and some of the Dutch and Spanish colonies. However, England retained Ceylon (Dutch) and Trinidad (Spain) in West Indies. England also promised to evacuate Malta and Egypt which the French had seized in 1798 and which England had taken from them. In return, Napoleon agreed to evacuate the Kingdom of Naples, to guarantee the integrity of Portugal and to restore Egypt to the Ottoman Empire and to recognize the independence of the Ionian Islands. With peace restored, Napoleon extended French influence into Holland (the Batavian Republic), Switzerland (the Helvetic Republic), and Savoy-Piedmont was annexed to France.
The peace between France and Britain was uneasy and short-lived. The monarchies of Europe were reluctant to recognize a republic, fearing that the ideas of the revolution might be exported to them. In England, the brother of Louis XVI was welcomed as a state guest although officially England recognized France as a republic. England failed to evacuate Malta, as promised, and protested against France’s annexation of Piedmont. Within thirteen months after the conclusion of the Treaty of Amiens
war broke out once again between England and France in May 1803. The responsibility for the rupture of peace of Amiens rests
squarely on Napoleon. He had considered Amiens as merely a truce in his struggle to humble England and destroy her colonial
empire and commercial position.
England was alarmed at the continuous growth of Napoleon‘s influence in various parts of the European continent. He had
annexed Piedmont and controlled Genoa. He became the president of the Cisalpine Republic. Holland was occupied by Napoleon in 1800 and a new constitution was forced on that country. The work of reorganizing the German states was completed under Napoleon‘s direction which was named the Confederation of the Rhine. Napoleon refused to renew the commercial treaty which had existed between England and France before 1793 and imposed high tariffs on British goods which made a renewal of trade practically impossible.
In 1803, Napoleon sent troops to occupy Hanover, whose Elector was King George III of England. The ruler of Prussia, Frederick
William III protested against the French invasion of Hanover, but took no further action to prevent it. In spite of the fact that the
Kingdom of Naples was not at war with France, Napoleon sent troops into that country to occupy its ports. By threats Spain and Portugal were compelled to pay subsidies to France and the Dutch and the Swiss were ordered to contribute troops. These measures were intended by Napoleon as preliminaries to an invasion and conquest of England. However, by these actions, Napoleon aroused resentment and alarm in various parts of the continent.