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The Age of George III

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The Second Coalition 1799-1801

Between 1793 and 1797 the First Coalition was established in an attempt to defeat the forces of the French following the French Revolution of 1789 but it failed to achieve its aim. In May 1798, to get rid of Bonaparte, the Directory sent him to capture Egypt. If the French dominated the Middle East they would have control of the overland route to India. This was a clear threat to Britain.

In August 1798 the Battle of the Nile (or Aboukir Bay) took place. Nelson wiped out the French fleet while it was at anchor in the shallows. 38,000 French soldiers were stranded. The French defeat allowed the formation of a second coalition, by restoring European confidence in Britain. Europe decided to attack France while she was weakened.

The second coalition lasted between 1799-1801 and comprised Turkey, England, Austria, Russia (T.E.A.R.). In 1799, European armies were successful: Austria drove the French back across the Rhine, a Russo-Austrian army drove the French out of Italy and Britain, under the Duke of York, drove the French out of Holland. A three-pronged attack was planned on France, by Britain, Austria and Russia.

Meanwhile, Napoleon had abandoned his army of Egypt to find its own way home; he had returned to France, where the Directory was stirring up war throughout Europe. The Directory had

Bonaparte arrived in France on 9 October 1799 with only six officers but on 9 November 1799 (or 18 Brumaire, An VIII) he took over the government of France in the Coup d' état de Brumaire. The new constitution was the Consulate, modeled on the constitution of Ancient Rome, with 3 Consuls. The Consuls were Napoleon, Sieyés and Ducos. The Directory was dismissed as incompetent. There is some evidence to support Napoleon's accusation because European armies were having military successes, there was still a civil war in France and there had been no domestic reforms carried out since the beginning of the Revolution. When Napoleon made himself First Consul, no-one realized that a dictatorship was on its way.

In November 1799 Bonaparte took over effective government of France by coup d' état and began to defend France from the Allies' three-pronged attack. Immediately, France began to win land victories. The Russian and English forces were only token armies. The main army was Austrian. General Moreau led the French against Britain at Hohenlinden in Holland in 1799 and defeated British. Napoleon led French against Austria at the Battle of Marengo on 14 June 1800 and routed the Austrians.

Napoleon was like Pitt in many respects, and embodied some of the best principles of the French Revolution. He appreciated and chose men of ability and talent rather than men of influence. His armies were made more professional, so the defeats of the allies were crushing and Napoleon divided, and so defeated, the coalition. Austria made peace with France in 1801 at Lunéville. Austria surrendered all territories south of the Rhine and all her possessions in Northern Italy to France. Russia was neutralized because Czar Paul (1796-1801) admired Napoleon as another autocrat. At the end of 1800 Russia left the coalition and became friendly with France. Russia became a threat to England because of the Eastern Question and because Britain relied heavily on Russia for naval supplies. The Russian threat to Britain was averted because:

Denmark was an ally of Russia after the League of Armed Neutrality had been resurrected. At the Battle of Copenhagen, the British fleet was commanded by Admiral Sir Hyde Parker but Nelson famously disobeyed his orders ("I see no ships") and wiped out the Danish fleet. This was an example of Britain demonstrating her naval power yet again.

In 1802 the Peace of Amiens was concluded between Britain and France; both countries needed a breathing space after 10 years of war and the new Prime Minister of Britain, Addington, had always wanted to find a peaceful settlement to end the wars against France.


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Last modified 26 October, 2013

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