The Transformation of European Politics, 1763-1848

By Paul W. Schroeder | Go to book overview

5
The Third Coalition, 1802-1805

THE quick collapse of the Lunéville-Amiens settlement, though mainly Bonaparte's responsibility, was not his alone. Even he could hardly have done certain things that would have helped make it more durable--for example, opening the French sphere in Europe to British trade. Nor was he the only one in France eager for military glory and expansion; so were many of his troops, other generals, both rivals and followers, and ordinary French civilians.1 In any case, France had begun to undermine the settlement before the treaties were even signed. The main story in 1802-5, therefore, is not the quick revival of war between France and Britain, but the long, difficult process required to renew it on the Continent.


I. THE RENEWAL OF WAR, 1802-1803

The French government chose first of all not to conceal its overseas ambitions from Britain, but to flaunt them, even where it had no specific plans for expansion. For example, it deliberately created a false impression that it was preparing to reconquer Egypt. Colonel Horace Sébastiani was sent on a special mission to Egypt in 1802, and his enthusiastic report on how easy and valuable a conquest Egypt would be was published in the official Moniteur. Talleyrand boasted to the British ambassador, Whitworth, that French recovery of Egypt was only a matter of time. Other French initiatives in Algiers and Muscat reinforced British fears of French expansion in the Mediterranean and Near East.2

France's acquisition of Louisiana from Spain in 1801 posed a more concrete challenge to Britain in the New World, underlined by General Charles LeClerc's expedition to Santo Domingo to put down a slave insurrection under Toussaint L'Ouverture. LeClerc's army was eventually destroyed by yellow fever, helping induce France to sell Louisiana to the United States in 1803. In the interim, however, the French attempted repeatedly to acquire

____________________
1
Fugier ( 1954: 160-3); Lefebvre ( 1969: i. 162-9).
2
Dard ( 1937: 56-9); Fugier ( 1954: 170-7); Testa ( 1864- 1911: ii. 45-62).

-231-

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