Hello, and welcome to Revolutions.
So we left off last time with the Fall of Mantua in Italy in February, 1797. This week, I want to pick up right where we left off, push the Italian campaign through to the preliminaries at Leoben before hopping back to France to cover the elections of year V, which will bring a whole bunch of conservative delegates into the legislative councils of the Directory. Then we’ll cover the events of the summer of 1797, culminating with the coup of Fructidor in September, wherein the Directory will bail on the Constitution in order to save the Constitution and the Treaty of Campo Formio in October, wherein the War of the First Coalition will come to an end.
General Napoleon Bonaparte wasted no time getting back to work after the Fall of Mantua. Capturing the fortress was a key part of his larger plans, but in and of itself, it was just a thing to check off the list. Next up was charging at the Austrians and flat out winning the war. But before he could do that, Bonaparte needed to solidify his hold on Italy by wheeling around and smacking down the Pope. Napoleon wanted to make sure His Holiness didn’t get any smart ideas when the French pushed their way out of Italy.
So just days after the Fall of Mantua, bonaparte targeted a 7,000 men papal army at Faenza, allegedly defending the frontier of the Papal States. A 9,000 men French division marched south and the resulting battle wasn’t even a contest. The now highly trained, highly disciplined and very experienced French troops endured no casualties, forcing the Papal army to surrender. On February 19, the Pope signed the Treaty of Tolentino. This treaty required the Pope to hand even more hard cash over to the French and recognize the right of the French armies to loot valuable treasures and works of art from the Vatican. Included in this total capitulation was also a further ceding of territory both inside Italy and within the boundaries of France, because remember, the Pope still claims sovereignty over Avignon and the Comtat Venaissin. Those papal enclaves had been annexed by the French way back in 1791, but the Vatican had never recognized it. Article Five of the treaty said, the Pope renounces purely and simply all the rights to which he might lay claim over the city and territory of Avignon and the Comtat Venaissin and its dependency and transfers and makes over the said rights to the French Republic. And so that was the end of that.
With his rear secured, Bonaparte then made ready to push his way out of Italy altogether and plunge into the heart of the Austrian Empire. With the situation now critical, Austrian Archduke Charles, the young hero of the Rhine campaign of 1796, was sent down to try to contain the French army on the Italian side of the Alps. But there was very little he could do. The French Directory had finally woken up to the fact that Bonaparte was like winning the war and sent him a bunch of reinforcements, bringing his field army up to 60,000 men. He peeled 20,000 of those right off the top to garrison the northern Alpine passes into Italy, and then himself led 40,000 across the Brenta River northeast towards the Austrian army, who were trying to hold on to their last little foothold on the Italian side of the Alps.
Bonaparte’s main hope in rushing back onto the offensive was to drive through the Austrians before Archduke Charles really had a chance to organize a proper defense. And this is pretty much how it went. Charles allegedly had 50,000 men at his disposal, but they were spread out all over the place. Over the course of March, the French either captured the Austrian forces they encountered or forced them into a retreat.
Bonaparte approached in two columns. He led the main force of 30,000 himself, while another 11,000 paralleled him a bit to the north. Those 11,000 men moved so fast that they were on top of the critical pass at Tarvis before Charles could send reinforcements. When reinforcements did arrive at Tarvis on March 21, they found the French had already taken the pass. The Austrians managed to dislodge the French after a day of hard fighting. But the next day, a French counterattack pushed the Austrians into a full-blown retreat. Running back through the past that they were trying to defend. They retreated so rapidly that 4,000 Austrians were trapped on the wrong side of the line. Surrounded and cut off, those 4,000 men surrendered on March 23.
After the French captured Tarvis, Archduke Charles decided his position was untenable and he evacuated Italy entirely, hoping to draw a new line of defense on the other side of the Alps. Bonaparte, meanwhile, was fanning his men out all over northeast Italy to hold down strategic points that he had just acquired, like Trieste and Palmanova along the northern Adriatic, which he planned to now use as his supply and communications base for the push into Austria.
At the same time, he ordered the 20,000 men he had left back guarding the northern passes above Mantua, to go ahead and start advancing for a planned convergence deep in Austrian territory. Then, on March 31, Bonaparte sent a letter to Archduke Charles asking if the Archduke was interested in an armistice. I mean, you’re in it in a really bad way here, man, so why should we spill further blood? Charles did not immediately respond, so Bonaparte kept up the pressure. But at that moment, the French forces were actually a bit spread out themselves, and Bonaparte’s position was not as strong as he was letting on. So to keep up the bluff, he ordered his men to march and march fast towards Vienna. They marched up through the Alps and by April 7 had made it as far as Leoben, which was just 100 miles southwest of Vienna. And that is when Charles finally said, Okay, stop!
Austrian envoys arrived in the French camp asking for a five day ceasefire. When that five day ceasefire was up, it was renewed for a further five days. And when those five days were up, real talks to put a stop to the fight and got going in earnest, negotiating on behalf of the Republic with exactly zero authority to do so, Bonaparte and his Austrian counterparts agreed on April 18 to what we now call the Leoben Peace Preliminaries.
As we’ll see at the end of today’s episode, the terms of the preliminaries at Leoben form the basis of the Treaty of Campo Formio. Austria seeded Belgium and the west bank of the Rhine to France, and recognized the new independent Republics Napoleon had created and was still creating in Italy. But at Leoben, Bonaparte included a controversial enticement to get the Austrians to say yes to the deal. Specifically, he offered them sovereignty over the hereto for neutral Republic of Venice, minus some of their strategic territories, of course!
Since the main French ambition at this point was to secure the natural boundaries of France, getting Austria to abandon claims to everything west of the Rhine was the main goal, and offering Venice as compensation was a generous way of getting them to agree. But this would prove to be a controversial move by Bonaparte. For one thing, as I’ve mentioned repeatedly, he doesn’t really have the authority to be doing stuff like this. But for another, the Revolutionary optics do not look good at all. For the most part, the French still believe they own the moral high ground in the war. They were a Republic of citizens, freeing their fellow man from the despotic shackles of old Europe. And here, Bonaparte was horse trading territory like the most arrogant Ancien Régime diplomat.
But Napoleon was able to justify screwing the Venetians, thanks to an ill-timed anti-French uprising in Verona, which was in Venetian territory. On April 17, the 400 men French garrison was attacked by locals and slaughtered. Bonaparte used this as an excuse to dictate terms to the Venetians with a very heavy hand.
The Austrians agreed to all of this, and couriers were dispatched to the Rhine frontier to tell everyone over there to stop fighting. And those couriers got there just in time. Well, almost just in time.
So, just to wrap things up along the Rhine, you remember how General Jean Baptiste Jourdan had basically been left out to dry by both peace Pichegru in 1795 and Moreau in 1796? Well, as a reward for getting hosed by his colleagues, the Directory decided to blame Jourdan for the failure of the Rhine campaigns. As preparations for the renewed offensive in 1797, the Directory relieved Jourdan of his command, and in his place, they promoted Lazare Hoche, the Conqueror of the West, whose flagship had eventually made it back to port after getting blown out into the North Atlantic during the disastrous invasion of Ireland.
Hoche was pretty excited about the chance to rehabilitate his image. In the second week of April, he led his army across the Rhine and defeated an Austrian army at Neuwied on April 18. But within days of that victory, the messengers arrived with news that a deal had been struck at Leoben, a deal that would end fighting in Europe for two full years.
Now, as I mentioned last week, Bonaparte’s victories were really helping the Directory out. And news that he had brought the Austrians to their knees was really good news! But it did not come soon enough to save the regime from the political bloodbath they were about to endure. The national finances were still a total mess, and the French economy was still struggling, even with the influx of all those spoils from Italy. The new territorial mandates, the paper currency that was supposed to replace the assignat, were dead on arrival. Within six months of their creation, the territorial mandates were as worthless as the worthless assignat.
The Directory tried a few tricks over 1796 to try to prop up the new currency, but nothing seemed to work. In February 1797, the Directory admitted defeat and just stopped printing them. After that, no new paper currency would be issued. France returned to a money economy based on hard species. The Revolutionary experiments with paper money were over.
All of these economic problems helped further bolster conservative arguments that the Republican government was itself the cause of all this misfortune. I mean, seriously, ask yourself are you better off now than you were four years ago? Aside from a few speculators who everyone hated, the answer was no, not at all! So in the lead up to the spring elections, conservatives began to mobilize to exploit all the disenchantment. A new movement called the Friends of Order began to attract adherents and they started setting up a new sort of political club called the Philanthropic Society to spread the conservative gospel of a return to the stability and normalcy of monarchy.
But remember, within the conservative camp there was a split between absolutists and constitutionalists. So though they were all ostensibly working towards the same common goal of getting conservatives elected into the Legislative Council, a small absolutist click formed called the Legitimate Sons, who still dreamed of overthrowing the Republic rather than slowly undermining it from the inside. Some of these Legitimate Sons got it into their heads that the reason the army garrison at Grenelle had been impervious to the overtures of Babeuf and the Conspiracy of Equals was because the garrison was secretly Royalist. So in January 1797, the Legitimate Sons made their own play at using the Grenelle garrison to launch a coup. But this plot was exposed in an even more proto state than Babeuf’s attempted uprising had been and the leading conspirators were all arrested. All this aborted attempt really did was prove to the other conservatives that the only way to go was victory at the ballot box.
The elections of Year V were held from March 21 to April 9, 1797. And with ominous conservative stirrings everywhere, the nervous Directors tried to rig the vote by disqualifying potential Royalist voters. Many former émigrés had returned to France since Thermidor and were eagerly awaiting their chance to vote and vote conservative. But the Directory still had a list of officially prescribed émigrés from the old days of the Committee of Public Safety, and they said, if your name is still on that list, you are not allowed to vote. Then, at Lazare Carnot’s insistence, the Directory ordered in early March that all candidates for the Legislative Council swear a hatred for both monarchy and the Constitution of 1793. This forced a lot of monarchists to either stay in the closet or stay at home.
But none of this was enough to overcome the prevailing conservatism of the electorate. Well, that’s not exactly right. The prevailing attitude of the electorate was a combination of exhaustion and apathy. As usual, the turnout for the elections of Year V was pathetic. It’s really one of the defining features of democracy during the French Revolution. There wasn’t a single election where turnout wasn’t comically low. But of those who voted, the conservatives formed by far the greatest part. 234 members of the Directory’s Legislative Councils were up for reelection. All of them holdovers from the National Convention. The voters re-elected eleven of them. That’s it. Eleven. And those eleven were the most conservative of the lot. The rest were just turned out. 182 of the newly elected delegates are identifiably Royalist and zero could even be called left leaning. Which means that this resounding defeat of the incumbent regime was not just a defeat of the Directory per se, but also everything that has happened since August 10, 1792.
This was, of course, alarming to the remaining committed Republicans in the Directory. Those committed Republicans were led by the little three man triumvirate within the five men Directory. So we’re talking about Louis Marie de La Révellière, Jean-François Rewbell and Paul Barras. Now though Barras was always a wild card, the catastrophic losses in the election seems to have driven him into a working alliance with La Révellière and Rewbell to preserve the Republic at all costs. One more election like that and the Royalists would actually have working majorities!
Rewbell suggested they annul the election results right then and there. But Lazare Carnot, their slightly more conservative colleague in the Directory, retorted with the crazy notion that the Directors ought to work with the councils the voters elected. If we don’t respect the elections, then what are we all doing here? Now, if those delegates break their oath and support monarchy, we can deal with them then.
When the new Council of 500 and the Council of Ancients met for their first sessions, though they did nothing to alleviate the fears of the triumvirate. The Council of 500 elected newly minted Delegate General Pichegru, to be their president. Pichegru still enjoyed the glow that came from being the man who had conquered the Netherlands. And his treasonous correspondence with Louis XVIII was at that point merely suspected at the highest levels. It was not common knowledge, nor was there any proof of his treason. But still, Pichegru in charge of the Council of 500 was a warning shot across the bow.
Now the first order of business for the incoming Council was replacing the first Director who would be selected by law to resign. Luckily for all the major players, the name of the inconsequential François Étienne Letourneur was selected from the hat. This is reported to have been a genuine luck of the draw, but I personally have a really super hard time believing that, especially given what is going to happen down the road.
To replace Letourneur, though, the Council’s appointed François-Marie de Barthélemy, a conservative diplomat whose claim to fame was negotiating the Treaty of Basel that removed Prussia from the war. The triumvirate was not at all happy with the selection, but there was nothing that they could do about it.
Now, one of the big reasons Barthélemy was a provocative choice is that one of the key issues on the Directory’s table was negotiating the end of the war with the Austrians. Now, you would think that ending the war would be pretty non controversial, but there was a disagreement among the Directors about the best response to Austria’s weakness.
The triumvirs were in favor of even more aggressive expansion. The war machine is finally fired up. It’s finally kicking ass. So why stop now? Oh, also, the spoils of war are just about the only thing propping up our national finances. But Carnot and Barthélemy both advocated signing a peace treaty to bring the long and costly war to a close. In general, opinion in the Legislative Councils trended towards supporting a peace treaty. But even among those who wanted the war to end, opinion was split. Conservatives wanted to make a generous peace with the Austrians as a first step towards securing foreign support for the restoration. The old Thermidorians, meanwhile, wanted to extract serious concessions from the Republic’s enemies. And those Thermidorians had a key ally: the army.
The army was not at all thrilled about rumors that the politicians back in Paris were going to return territory to the Austrians that had been captured by their sweat and blood. So the alliance between the Republicans in the Directory and the Generals and soldiers out on the frontiers got stronger.
Speaking of that newly won territory, general Bonaparte was seriously just still off on his own and continued to organize Italy to his own specifications. Pro-revolutionary elements within the Republic of Genoa, though, decided to preempt direct French intervention by organizing a local coup in May to kick out the old oligarchic regime. They proclaimed themselves to be a French aligned Ligurian Republic. The famous banking operations of Genoa were now at Bonaparte’s disposal. But the political reorganization of Italy wasn’t going 100% smoothly for Bonaparte. The Cispadane Republic, the first new republic Napoleon had created, held its own initial round of legislative elections in April 1797. And just as had happened in France, the electorate returned a slate of very conservative, very anti-French delegates. This was much to Bonaparte’s great annoyance, so at the beginning of July, he erased the Cispadane Republic and the Transpadane Republic from the map and merged them into a single unit, now called the Cisalpine Republic, with a capital in Milan. Milan was by far the most pro-French region Bonaparte had come across, so he submerged any nascent conservatism or Italian patriotism under the thumb of his Italian supporters in Milan.
Back in Paris, Bonaparte’s unilateral reorganizations of Italy was met by fears that he was setting up personal client states for himself that he could either use as the basis to form some new kingdom with himself as King Napoleon, or that he could use as a springboard to come back to France and set himself up as a dictator. The fact that he had taken over a huge palace to serve as his headquarters allayed no one’s fears. But there was no possibility of just recalling him or censuring him in any way. Even conservatives did not want to mess with his success.
Over the summer, tensions in the Directory between the Republicans and their conservative colleagues heightened over the issue of the old non-juring priests. Though a big part of the Thermidorian reaction had been the acceptance of freedom of worship and church-state separation, technically, refractory priests were still outlawed. The Conservatives wanted to start easing up on this a little, but for the Republicans, it was one thing to tolerate those guys and quite another to rehabilitate them completely. The Republicans were happy with the whole we won’t actively come break down your door if you stay behind that door arrangement, but at the end of June, the Council of 500 voted to repeal the law outlawing non-juring priests. The law was vetoed by the Council of Ancients, but still it was obvious where this was all headed. The reactionary priests who had done so much to turn France into a religious war zone, would soon be coming back out into the light, where they would no doubt fully support restoration.
The other source of tension between Republicans and Conservatives was the Directory’s revenues and expenditures. The Legislative Councils technically controlled the budget, but the Directory itself executed tax collections through its Treasury Ministry. But this Ministry had become a hotbed of conservatism and together with allies in the Councils, the Conservatives started annulling, cutting off and/or depriving the Directory of all its various revenue streams. The immediate goal was to starve the Executive branch of funds to further prosecute the war and so force them to agree to more lenient terms with the Austrians. The longer term goal was to break the independence of the Executive arm, pack the Legislative Councils with monarchists, and then vote to invite the King to come home.
None of this was lost on the triumvirate, who were now feeling like the Conservatives were successfully outmaneuvering them. And this moment also happens to be the moment when the Directory was given final proof of Pichegru correspondence with Louis XVIII. The damning correspondence had actually been captured by General Moreau during the campaigns of 1796, but he and Pichegru were old friends. Moreau was himself no Royalist, but he didn’t want to rat on his friend and so he sat on the evidence. Eventually, however, word of the letters reached Bonaparte and he forwarded everything to Barras. So as it turned out, the current president of the Council of 500 was in league with Louis XVIII. This revelation appears to have come as a complete shock to Lazare Carnot, who pivoted away from his argument that the Directory should passively respect the will of the voters. Not that this pivot would come fast enough or be strong enough to save Carnot from the events of Fructidor.
In response to all this, the triumvirate took steps to secure their position. They ordered General Hoche to lead some men from the Rhine frontier back to the west. And if you wouldn’t mind coming by way of Paris, that would be just super! Now this was actually an unconstitutional order, as there were rules about troops in the capital. Aside from the Grenelle garrisons, Paris was supposed to be off limits to the army. But the triumvirate was already getting over constitutional niceties. When Hoche and his men passed through Paris, the Directory had them stick around for a minute, just to rest, you understand? Just for a minute.
Once the troops were in Paris, the triumvirate then implemented a radical reshuffling of the Executive ministries on July 14. They appointed an ally to head up the Ministry of Finance, and his job would now be to reform and improve the Directory’s revenue streams rather than destroy them.
Then they appointed Hoche Minister of War, a post Hoche accepted, but then quickly resigned a week later once he realized that the triumvirate was positioning him to possibly lead some kind of attack on the democratically elected Legislative Councils. And then, of course, there was the post of Foreign Minister. But the Directory was having trouble finding a man with the requisite experience and standing to take on the job. And that’s when Paul Barras said, well, I’ve got a guy! And that guy turns out to be… Talleyrand!
That’s right. July 1797 marks Talleyrand’s triumphant return to the public stage. Of course, if the triumvirate thought Talleyrand was going to run any one’s program but his own, they were oh so sadly mistaken.
So when last we left him, everyone’s favorite slippery card shark of an ex-bishop had been booted from England in 1794 and then exiled to Philadelphia, where he spent the next two years. As soon as he found out about the Thermidorian reaction, though, Talleyrand immediately set to work trying to get his name removed from the list of prescribed émigré. And in this, he had a key friend in Madame de Staël, the daughter of Jacques Necker, who was just starting to become a key center of intellectual gravity in the Paris salon scene. She was close to Barras, and through him, managed to get Talleyrand’s name removed from the prescribed émigré list at the end of 1795. Talleyrand then happily ditched the United States in the spring of 1796. He landed back in Europe in Hanover, where he remained for a few months to get a feel for the situation before he actually re-entered France. I mean, who knew what the scene would really be like for a noble archbishop of questionable morals and a checkered political past?
But with the coast appearing clear, Talleyrand came back to France in September 1796 and then proceeded to bide his time and wait for an opportunity to get back in the game. That chance is finally coming right now. The triumvirate needed ministers who had experience and who could maybe be trusted and so Barras tapped Talleyrand to serve as Foreign Minister. But if the goal of this ministerial reshuffle was to preserve the Directory, putting Talleyrand in a key role was not the hottest idea going. As soon as he was inside the government, Talleyrand took a look around and said to himself, well, this is never going to last. I better start planning for the future. It took him exactly 3 seconds to survey Europe and go, whoa, who is this kid Napoleon Bonaparte who is kicking so much ass in Italy?
Talleyrand immediately started up a regular correspondence with Bonaparte, sucking up to the young General and flattering his ego to the hilt. Talleyrand congratulated Napoleon on the deal he was striking with the Austrians, even if he kept his reservations about handing neutral Venice over to the Austrians to himself. So the Coup of 18 Brumaire is officially in the making.
Talleyrand entered the Foreign Office at an auspicious moment, but his own role in the subsequent negotiations would be a minor one. Bonaparte himself was leading negotiations with the Austrians and negotiating envoys had already been sent to Lille to meet with the British to see what they wanted to do now that they were about to have no allies.
But as the days and weeks tick by in Lille, the French envoys started to suspect that the British were intentionally stringing them along. And they were right. British Intelligence had it that the Conservatives were on the rise and that if they waited, they could get a much better deal than the one offered by the current government. One back channel recommending that they stall turned out to be the new Foreign Minister, Talleyrand himself, who, as I said, believed from day one that the Directory was fatally flawed and would eventually collapse one way or the other. So it’s safe to say that Talleyrand spent his entire time as the Directory’s Foreign Minister arranging its demise. Oh, also making an absolute god-smacking amount of money. He did that too!
The combination of the influx of troops into Paris and the ministerial reshuffle led to perfectly justified fears inside the Legislative Councils that the triumvirate was planning something. And those fears were not at all delayed when Hoche decided to resign as Minister of War and go back to the front, because within a few weeks, even more regular army troops had arrived in the capital. This time they came from the army of Italy and were led by one of Bonaparte’s key Lieutenants.
As an institution, the army was clearly aligning itself with the current Republican government. Napoleon himself had just told his troops that he would personally lead them all back to France with an eagle swiftness if he felt the Republic was threatened. So inside the Legislative Councils, the delegates started discussing how to protect themselves. They tentatively approved a plan to rebuild the National Guard and in the meantime support irregular armed bands inside the Capitol, mostly drawn, I presume, from the Muscadins who had proved so useful to Conservatives in the past.
But none of these plans were going to roll out fast enough to stave off the triumvirs, who now believe that they had to destroy the Constitution to save the Constitution. At the end of August, Conservatives once again attempted to repeal the laws against refractory priests and this time they got the Council of Ancients to agree. And that was when the Triumvirates decided that they had to strike now before things got any worse.
On September 3, 1797, that is 18 Fructidor, Year V, Paris woke up to find itself under military occupation. Soldiers occupied all the key strategic positions in Paris. The Parisians also discovered the streets plastered with anti-Royalist propaganda. And in case you were wondering, this is the moment evidence of Pichegru’s treason was publicly revealed. The Directory, and by that I mean the triumvirate, issued arrest warrants for 53 Council Deputies and their two Directorial colleagues, Carnot and Barthélemy. With the full support of the army, these arrests were carried out swiftly and efficiently.
Then a carefully chosen quorum of loyal Council Delegates met under the protection of armed soldiers to officially sanction the deployment of troops in Paris and approve the subsequent arrests. Then this loyal Republican quorum dropped the real bomb. They retroactively annulled the result of the spring elections in 49 departments, immediately purging 177 conservative members from the Councils.
The Fructidor coup, the coup from above was carried out quickly and professionally. There was no pushback. There was no fighting in the streets. The nascent thrust to restore the monarchy was successfully parried.
In the immediate aftermath of the Fructidor coup, Pichegru and the other arrested delegates were tried, convicted of treason, and then exiled the French Guiana. Many of them managed to survive the subsequent ordeal, though, including Pichegru himself, who would eventually escape to the United States and from there to London, where he attached himself to the staff of a Russian General during the War of the Second Coalition. He then slipped back into France in 1803 to help organize a Royalist coup against now First Consul Napoleon Bonaparte, but Pete Grew was betrayed and arrested in early 1804. Shortly thereafter, the guards discovered he had accidentally strangled himself to death.
The great organizer of victory Lazare Carnot, meanwhile, managed to escape from his cell and slip across the border into Switzerland. And it’s pretty clear that Carnot got a bum rap here. His only real crime was advocating generous peace terms for the Austrians. But this wasn’t because he was looking to bring back the monarchy. Carnot was a staunch Republican. It was simply that he had been the guy running the war for three years, knew intimately how destructive and destabilizing it had been, and when it was put to bed, he wanted it to stay in bed. He believed that the hard line advocated by the triumvirate would simply sow the seeds of the next war. Bonaparte himself seems to have recognized that Carnot had been swept up in something that he should really not have been swept up in. Cornot would be recalled from Switzerland in 1800 to briefly serve as Minister of War and then in the Legislative Councils of the Consulate. But then, for the rest of Napoleon’s reign, Carnot would have an on-again/off-again relationship with the Little Corporal. Carnot finally retired from public life in protest when Napoleon crowned himself Emperor, but then later came back to serve in the War of the Sixth Coalition and then the Hundred Days. He was exiled but not killed for being a regicide after the Restoration and died in Prussia in 1823.
Now, we’ll get into the broader impact of the Fructidor coup next week when we talk more about the Directorial Terror that is about to unfold. But just so you know, historians use Fructidor to divide the Directory from the Second Directory. The Directory was a constitutional government that lasted from August 1795 to September 1797. The Second Directory was a revolutionary government that simply did whatever it took to stay in power, engineering and annulling elections to suit its own purposes, until it itself was taken down by the coup organized by Bonaparte and Talleyrand in November 1799.
We’ll wrap up today with the treaty that finally does end the War of the First Coalition, because after this treaty, there will be no more coalition. Now, as I said, in the end, this final treaty wound up modeled entirely on the preliminaries at Leoben. It seems that both the British and the Austrians had been stringing out negotiations to see how the political situation in Paris unfolded. When that political situation unfolded into the coup of Fructidor, the British and Austrians had opposite reactions. The British broke off peace talks and decided to carry on with the war. The Austrians, meanwhile, signed basically the same deal they had agreed to at Leoben. Meeting at Campo Formio in October 1797, Bonaparte and an Austrian diplomat, whose name I won’t trouble you with, signed the Treaty of Campo Formio. In a mixture of nine public and eleven secret clauses, the French got all the territory west of the Rhine, the Austrians got Venice, and everyone recognized the independence of the new Italian Republics.
Also included in the treaty was the release of certain prominent prisoners of war, including, as I mentioned way back in Episode 3.24, the Marquis de La Fayette. Frail but in good spirits after five years in captivity, La Fayette was let out of jail and reunited with his family. Hooray for Lafayette!
With Austria out of the war and the war on the continent now over, only the British stood against France. When the conflict had started in 1792, the British had done everything in their power to avoid getting involved. But now that they were involved, they were going to stay involved, allies or no allies.
Next week, the Directory, the Second Directory, will recall Bonaparte from Italy and order him to prepare an invasion of the British Isles. But as we will see, Bonaparte will survey the prospects for victory in the British Isles and say, yeah, this is not really a good idea. If you really want to hit the British, you’ll let me invade Egypt!
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