Sunday, August 21, 2016

Scorpions in a Bottle: The Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle

We continue with chapter 7 of Scorpions in a Bottle. Today's section looks briefly at the Trans-Oceanic War in Europe and the terms of the peace treaty ending it.

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In Europe, the 1795 Franco-Austrian invasion of the German states had initially gone well for the two Catholic powers, with the French crossing the Rhine to occupy the Duchy of Wurtemburg and the Palatinate, while the Austrians occupied Silesia and advanced through Saxony toward Berlin. Jenkinson responded by sending British troops to the German states, where they successfully halted the French and Austrian advances. However, the Anglo-German forces lacked the strength to push the French and Austrian armies back, and the war in Germany settled down into a stalemate for several years.

The stalemate ended abruptly when the Russians concluded their conquest of Poland in 1798 and declared war on Austria, which had been providing covert aid to the Poles. Faced with a new enemy in the east, the Austrians withdrew most of their troops from Prussia, allowing the Anglo-Prussian army to focus on the French.

Two decisive battles took place within days of each other in September. On September 11, an Austrian army led by Francis II was defeated at the Battle of Kremsier by a Russian army led by Mikhail Kutuzov. Seven days later, an Anglo-German army under the overall command of Arthur Wellesley defeated a French army under Charles François Dumouriez at the Battle of Heilbronn. When news of the two defeats reached Paris, Marie Antoinette was removed from the regency by the king’s uncles, who sued for peace. [1]

While negotiators met at Aix-la-Chapelle to work out a peace treaty, an anti-monarchist uprising took place in Paris. The French royal family was driven out of the country and a republic was declared. Fearing the breakdown of order in France, Jenkinson ordered Wellesley to enter Paris and put down the rebellion. With Anglo-German troops occupying Paris and the French monarchy dependent on them for its survival, the terms of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle were dictated from London and Berlin.

The final treaty was ratified on March 1, 1799. It confirmed the loss of the Floridas and Louisiana to the British, and required the Austrians to cede Galicia to the Russians and Austrian Silesia and northern Moravia to the Prussians. Although the victorious allies declined to annex any French territory, France was required to pay an indemnity of 40 million livres to Prussia and the other German states, which placed a further strain on French finances. Finally, in an effort to end the Franco-Spanish alliance, the Bourbon king of Spain, Charles IV, was deposed, and Prince August Ferdinand of Prussia, youngest brother of the late Frederick the Great, was set on the Spanish throne as Ferdinand VII. [2]

News that a Protestant prince was being placed on the Spanish throne caused consternation in Spain and throughout the Spanish Empire. British garrisons in several Spanish cities were set upon by mobs. The uprisings in the cities were put down, but armed irregulars called “guerrillas” made much of the Spanish countryside hazardous for British troops. [3]

When news of Ferdinand’s enthronement reached Spanish America, the result was a series of uprisings, with most of the Spanish garrison troops joining the rebels. In Mexico City, the leading figure in the rebellion was former viceroy Juan Vicente de Güemes Padilla, the Count of Revillagigedo, who had governed the colony from 1789 to 1794. Revillagigedo’s successor, Miguel de la Grúa Talamanca, supported the new king, and the result was a six-year civil war. Revillagigedo’s rebellion attracted the support of New Spain’s clergy, most notably Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla and José María Morelos. The Mexican War of Independence ended with Revillagigedo’s victory and the withdrawal of the last loyalist Spanish soldiers on March 17, 1805. [4]

1. Sir Wilfred Eddington. The Five Years’ War (London, 2003), pp. 466-79.

2. There has never been any consensus among historians on the war’s name. In the New World it is known as the Trans-Oceanic War, while British historians call it the Five Years’ War and continental historians call it the Habsburg War.

3. Spain remained ungovernable for years until King Ferdinand abdicated in favor of his son Louis Ferdinand, who had converted to Catholicism after the family moved to Madrid. Esteban Gutierrez. Luis Fernando and the Spanish Hohenzollerns (Mexico City, 1938).

4. Carlos Ortez. The Birth of Mexico (Mexico City, 1979).

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