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The Peace of Amiens, 1802

James Gillray, "The First Kiss These Ten Years! Or the Meeting of Britannia and Citizen François", Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, Washington DC, from here

On 27 March 1802, representatives of Britain, France, Spain, and the Batavian Republic (Holland) signed a peace treaty at the French town of Amiens. The Treaty of Amiens brought to an end a war that, for Britain, had been going on for nine years.

 

By the terms of the treaty, Britain surrendered almost all the territories she had acquired during the war with the exception of Ceylon and Trinidad (the Cape of Good Hope became a free port). Although many considered this a fair price for peace after such a long struggle, others thought the peace had squandered all Britain’s gains for very little in return.

 

There was also widespread distrust of Napoleon Bonaparte, First Consul of France. Many thought Napoleon was demonstrating a predatory spirit incompatible with peace. They also thought Napoleon was taking advantage of British prime minister Henry Addington’s desperation to make peace, extorting ridiculous concessions from a country that had not been comprehensively defeated on the battlefield or at sea.

In the end, the peace lasted just 14 months. Britain declared war again on France in May 1803 following the inability of the two nations to come to terms over the status of Malta. Mostly, however, the breach occurred because neither France nor Britain had ever seen Amiens as anything other than a breathing space.

Further Reading

  • Charles John Fedorak, Henry Addington, Prime Minister, 1801-4: Peace, War and Parliamentary Politics (Akron, OH: University of Akron Press, 2002)

  • William Anthony Hay, Lord Liverpool: A Political Life (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2018)

  • Paul W. Schroeder, The Transformation of European politics, 1763-1848 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994)

Background image: James Gillray, "The First Kiss These Ten Years! Or the Meeting of Britannia and Citizen François", Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, Washington DC, from here

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