Battle of Waterloo: Outlawry of Napoleon
Napoleon’s escape from Elba threatened again to bring Europe into a war of French aggression and unimaginable consequences. The news reached both London and Vienna on 7 March — it came to the latter from Austrian diplomats at Genoa and from Lord Burghersh, the British minister at Florence. There was immediate agreement among the allied powers that they would unite to preserve the Peace of Paris and that they should wait a little to see what Bonaparte did before deciding on a course of action. Diplomatic business continued: on 8 March, the Duke of Wellington, one of the British plenipotentiaries at the Congress, Prince Metternich, the Austrian Chancellor, and Prince Talleyrand, the principal minister of Louis XVIII of France, went together to Pressburg (now Bratislava), to see the King of Saxony, to persuade him to accept the award of arbitration that ceded some of his lands to Prussia. They remained at Pressburg in this unsuccessful attempt until 11 March: Wellington believed that the King delayed in part to see what might follow from Bonaparte’s return — and on the return of the trio to Vienna, the allied powers confirmed the cession of parts of Saxon territory to Prussia.Drafting a legal response
At Vienna, further news was waiting of Napoleon’s progress in France, and on the evening of 12 March the plenipotentiaries of the eight powers that had signed the Treaty of Paris of 1814 met to affirm their intention to maintain it and all its articles, by force if necessary. This affirmation was to be made by a declaration: Wellington was able to enclose a draft in his despatch of that day to Lord Castlereagh, the Foreign Secretary in London, ‘which, with the alteration of some expressions and the omission of one or two paragraphs, will, I believe, be adopted’. This was to become known as the ‘declaration of outlawry’. It was agreed the following day, and Wellington sent a copy of the declaration to Lieutenant Colonel Sir Henry Hardinge in Paris on 14 March, to communicate to the authorities in France. The legal basis for war was thus made plain.A further treaty
Further diplomatic moves followed, including a formal treaty, first drafted on 18 March, which recreated the alliance against Napoleon and reaffirmed the Treaty of Chaumont. The Treaty of Vienna was agreed on 25 March. It committed each of the four allied powers to provide 150,000 troops, of which not less than 10% were to be cavalry, along with a suitable proportion of artillery. A separate article allowed Great Britain to use subsidies to pay for soldiers of other powers to make up her contingent. The treaty committed the parties not to lay down arms until Napoleon had been completely defeated. The challenge was there: Napoleon was rapidly to gather a significant force about him — the Bourbon monarchy had not become sufficiently re-established in eleven months to command widespread French loyalty, and especially not from the military. Over the next three months, there were hurried preparations to assemble sufficient troops to oppose the returned Emperor. Immediately after signing the treaty, Wellington left Vienna for the Low Countries to take command of the allied army that was to assemble there in the campaign that was to lead to Waterloo. The process of bringing together other allied forces, elsewhere in Europe, those of Prussia, Russia and Austria, was also set in hand.
Why do you think it was important to establish a legal basis for war? What is unusual about this particular declaration?
Document: Letter from the Duke of Wellington to Lord Castlereagh, 12 March 1815
In this despatch (a formal letter), Wellington reports to his political master, the British Foreign Secretary, the steps that were being taken by the allied powers in response to the news of Napoleon’s escape from Elba. He notes progress with drafting the ‘declaration of outlawry’.
Vienna, 12 March 1815
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Wellington and the Battle of Waterloo
Document: Declaration of the Powers who signed the Treaty of Paris, assembled at the Congress of Vienna, on the escape of Bonaparte
The ‘declaration of outlawry’ exists in several drafts, with the paragraphs in a slightly different order. The text given here is a translation of the one that was sent to Paris on 14 March 1815, to Sir Henry Hardinge, to be published there.Vienna, 13 March 1815The Powers which signed the Treaty of Paris, assembled in congress at Vienna, and informed of the escape of Napoleon Bonaparte and of his entry into France with force of arms, owe it to their own dignity and the interest of the social order to make a solemn declaration of their sentiments on this occurrence.By thus breaking the convention which established him on the island of Elba, Bonaparte has destroyed the only legal title on which his existence depended. By reappearing in France, with ambitions for disorder and upheaval, he has deprived himself of the protection of the law and has demonstrated, in the face of universe, that there can be neither peace nor truce with him.While they are intimately persuaded that the whole of France, rallying round its legitimate sovereign, will ceaselessly reject this last attempt of a criminal and impotent delerium, all the sovereigns of Europe, actuated by the same sentiments and guided by the same principles, declare that if, against all calculation, any real danger whatsoever should result from this occurrence, they would be ready to give the King of France and the French nation, and any other government that is attacked, as soon as a request is made, the assistance necessary for re-establishing public tranquillity and to make common cause against all those who should attempt to compromise it.The Powers declare that, as a result, Napoleon Bonaparte has placed himself beyond the pale of civil and social relations, and that, as an enemy and disturber of the peace of the world, he has rendered himself liable to public vengeance.At the same time, they declare that, having firmly resolved to maintain intact the Treaty of Paris of 30 May 1814 and the dispositions sanctioned by that treaty, and those that are decided or still remain to be settled to complete and consolidate it, they will use all their means and will reunite all their efforts so that the general peace, which is what Europe wishes and the constant goal of their labours, might not be troubled again, and to guarantee it against all attacks that threaten to plunge the peoples into the disorder and misery of revolution.The present declaration, inserted in the protocol of the Congress meeting at Vienna in the session of 13 March 1815, will be made public.Done and certified as true by the plenipotentiaries of the eight Powers signatories of the Treaty of ParisSigned in alphabetical order [in French] of court:Austria: Metternich; Wessenberg
Spain: Gomez Labrador
France: Talleyrand; Dalberg; Latour du Pin; Alexis de Noailles
Great Britain: Wellington; Cathcart; Clancarty; Stewart
Prussia: Hardenberg; Humboldt
Russia: Rasumowsky; Stackelberg; Nesselrode
Sweden: Löwenhielm[Translated from the French text printed in J. Gurwood, ed., The dispatches of Field Marshal the Duke of Wellington, KG, during the various campaigns … from 1799 to 1818 (13 vols., new edition, London, 1837–9) [cited hereafter as WD], xii, pp. 269-70]
Wellington and the Battle of Waterloo
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