Treaty of Amiens


The Peace of Amiens is the name given to the period of peace that began with the Treaty of Amiens, signed on March 25, 1802 between the United Kingdom on the one hand and France, Spain and the Batave Republic on the other.

The peace lasted only thirteen months and ended on May 18, 1803. It is the only period of general peace in Europe during the wars of Coalitions, i.e. from the opening of hostilities between France and the Holy Roman Empire in the spring of 1792 until the first abdication of Napoleon I in 1814. This period separates the wars of the French Revolution (1792-1802) and the Napoleonic wars (1803-1815).

After the victories of Bonaparte at Marengo, of Moreau at Hohenlinden and of Brune and Murat in Italy (plain of the Po and Tuscany), the Austrians separated from the Second Coalition and signed the treaty of Lunéville with France on February 9, 1801. Naples then signed the peace in Florence, and the Russia of Paul I distanced itself until his successor Alexander I concluded a secret peace agreement with Bonaparte on October 10, 1801.

In the United Kingdom, William Pitt was overthrown on March 13, 1801. The British were isolated and contemplated peace. Bonaparte awaited the results of the Egyptian expedition, which ended in a stalemate after the assassination of Kléber. The army taken over by Menou could not resist the Anglo-Ottoman counter-offensive.

Negotiations opened in London, led, on the French side, by Louis-Guillaume Otto, and the preliminaries were signed on October 1, 1801 (9 Vendemiaire an X). The Congress of Amiens began on December 5. It brought together the French Republic, the Kingdom of Spain and the Dutch Republic (former United Provinces) on one side and the United Kingdom on the other. France was represented, as in Lunéville, by Joseph Bonaparte, Spain by José Nicolás de Azara and the Batave Republic by Rutger Jan Schimmelpenninck, the United Kingdom by Cornwallis, who also committed himself in the name of the Ottoman Empire, his ally.

The treaty was concluded on March 25, 1802 (4 germinal year X), then signed on the 27th at the town hall of Amiens.

The treaty stipulates the restitution of the possessions that were taken during the war (Martinique, Tobago and St. Lucia) except the island of Trinidad and Ceylon, which are left to the British.

In Africa, the Cape Colony returned to the Netherlands.In South America, the boundaries were set between Guyana and Brazil, the Republic of the Seven Islands (Ionian Islands) was recognized, while in North America, the rights of Newfoundland fisheries and on the wood of St. Pierre and Miquelon were delimited, the rights of the House of Nassau in the Netherlands were compensated, and the status of Malta and the Knights of St. John provided for their independence from the United Kingdom and France.

Naples and Rome must be evacuated by France. And above all, this Peace of Amiens allowed the return of Martinique to France, after a short British occupation.

Portoferraio had to be evacuated by the United Kingdom, which, however, did not recognize the territorial changes resulting from the French Revolution.

For the islands returned to France where the abolition of 1794 had never been applied (in particular Martinique), the law of 20 May 1802 confirms not only the practice of the slave trade but also slavery “in accordance with the laws and regulations prior to one thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine” by its first article, while article 2 goes further by extending the law to the Mascareignes (Bourbon Island – now Reunion Island -, Île-de-France – now Mauritius – and the rest of the archipelago), where the abolition of 1794 had never been applied due to the opposition of the colonists and the lack of reaction from the Republic.

Adopted a few weeks after the treaty of Amiens, the law of 30 Floréal Year X (20 May 1802) did not de facto re-establish slavery, but not legally, contrary to the decree of 27 Messidor Year X (16 July 1802), which remained in manuscript, was not published in the Bulletin des lois, and was communicated only to the Minister of the Navy, and dealt with slavery in Guadeloupe, and the decree of 7 December 1802, which dealt with Guyana.

The First Consul declared before the Chambers and the Senate: “In Saint-Domingue and Guadeloupe, there are no more slaves, everything is free and everything will remain free,” but he hinted in his secret instructions to General Leclerc that slavery would have to be re-established: in Martinique, which had been taken by the British during the Revolution and returned to the French after the Treaty of Amiens, the principles were different. Martinique retained slavery and slavery would be retained there. Legally, this text did not re-establish slavery in Guyana, Guadeloupe or Santo Domingo.

Deeming the defense of French America too difficult against the British because of its remote location and British naval supremacy, Bonaparte sold the immense territory of Louisiana to the United States in 1803, only three years after negotiating its return to France with Spain.

Moreover France did not respect all the clauses of the signed treaties: the French armies still occupied Holland, whose evacuation was planned since 1801, Rome and Naples, which were to be evacuated following the Peace of Amiens. Far from stabilizing the situation, Bonaparte continued the annexations (Piemont) and the interventions in the principalities of Germany. The British ultimatum on the subject of the evacuation of Holland was left without answer.

The peace was broken after William Pitt the Younger returned to power, organized the Third Coalition and declared war on France. The army of the emigrants threatened France again, and the intrigues to restore Louis XVIII developed, added to the conspiracy of Georges Cadoudal against Bonaparte.


  1. Paix d”Amiens
  2. Treaty of Amiens
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