The Treaties of Paris (May 1814 & November 1815)

The Treaties of Paris (May 1814 & November 1815)

Treat 1814 /

Treaty 1814 /

Just eighteen months separate two important agreements reached in the city of Paris. After the Allies (Britain, Russia, Austria and Prussia) had at last defeated Napoleon, a pact was made with France which, considering the awful damage done to most of Europe, was perhaps over-generous.

Still, France was seen as an ongoing threat to peace in Europe, and representatives of the Allies needed to prevent future French aggression. Wisely, they thought the best way to do this was to treat France leniently – exactly the opposite of international thinking during the later Treaty of Versailles after the Great War.

A sense of grievance among the French people is what the delegates did not want, because the temptation to overthrow the settlement might prove too great, as indeed it did with the German people after 1918. Nor did the Allies wish to make the Bourbons unpopular with an unpopular peace.

The decision was taken to make French boundaries basically as they were in 1792. This meant that France had to renounce territories taken by her during the Napoleonic (and Revolutionary) Wars (q.v.). This meant Belgium and most of the left bank of the Rhine, though she was allowed to retain Avignon, and areas in Flanders and Savoy. Britain got Mauritius, Tobago and St. Lucia. Spain got part of Santo Domingo (Haiti). In the first treaty of 1814 France was not made to pay any indemnity for the ambitions of Bonaparte, nor have to suffer an army of occupation. The lenience of the 1814 Treaty of Paris has been much condemned since.

Treaty 1815 - much less lenient /

Treaty 1815 – much less lenient /

Treaty of Paris (1815)

Students must remember that it was after the Treaty of Paris (1814) that Bonaparte escaped from Elba and the French (including the majority of his Marshals) had flocked to his banner. Waterloo settled his hash at the end of the Hundred Days War (1815), thanks to the British and an energetic Prussia. This time the Allies enforced a different kind of treaty on France.

Her boundaries were now reduced to those of 1789 (the year the Revolution broke out) and this time there was indeed an indemnity – 700 million Francs! Only when this incredible sum was finally paid would the Army of Occupation leave France. Things were very different from 19 months previously. Please note that the colossal indemnity was indeed paid off, and the occupying army duly withdrawn.

Students might argue that this second Treaty of Paris was so harsh that it became one of the reasons for France’s terrific and possibly unreasonable demands after the Great War. There is some truth in this, though Europeans at the time could never understand the bossiness of the United States in 1918/19: the Americans only entered the Great War when it was virtually over, in 1917, and yet such was the strength of mind of the US President that the harshest possible terms were imposed on the German nation, leading directly twenty-one years later to the Second World War.

About the Author:

‘Dean Swift’ is a pen name: the author has been a soldier; he has worked in sales, TV, the making of films, as a teacher of English and history and a journalist. He is married with three grown-up children. They live in Spain.

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