Auteur Sujet: the Continental System or the causes of Napoleon's Russian Campaign of 1812  (Lu 2340 fois)

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Napoleon instituted this system  to bring Britain to the negotiating table and to
hurt her financially. Russia was still a wild card. Emperor Paul had been assassinated
and his son Alexander was on the throne. Hurt pride and financial hardship produced
harsh criticism  against Alexander policies at home which went along with accords
reached at Tilsit. By 1811 even Alexander was beginning to wane under public resentment
as well as from his power base; the aristocracy , without it and its officers his rule would
cease to exist. The other card was the Duchy of Warsaw. Napoleon was trying to
keep Russia to form any alliance with Britain, but cement Russia's alliance with France.

"Britain had responded to Napoleon's Berlin decree of 1806 banning her ships
from all ports under his control by declaring that any ship trading with a port from which
her ships were excluded was fair game for confiscation by the Royal Navy. French Dutch
Spanish and German traders tried to get around this by using neutral American vessels
to carry goods. But Britain decreed that no vessel could be considered neutral if it were
carrying goods between hostile ports. In order to get around this, American ships would pick
up their cargoes, take them to an American port, unload them, reload them and take them
to a European port. Britain refused to accept this as legal. Napoleon retaliated in December
1807 by decreeing that any ship which had put in a British port or paid British duty was
automatically liable to seizure. On March 1 1809 the United States closed all its ports to
all British and French shipping, but Napoleon managed to reach an agreement with the
Americans to the detriment of Britain which would ultimately lead to the outbreak of
hostilities between Britain and the United States in 1812.
Russia had no industry and was dependent of imports for a huge variety of everyday items.
These now had to be smuggled in via Sweden or through smaller ports on Russia's Baltic
coastline. Her exports - timber, grain, hemp and so on - were bulky and difficult to smuggle.
The Russian Ruble fell in value against most European currencies by 25 cent which made
foreign imported goods, exorbitantly expensive...Russian noblemen had to pay through the
nose not only for champagne, but for everything they did not produce at home, and they
could not find a market for the produce of their own estates. ... Adding insult to injury
Napoleon decided to recoup some of the cost to France of the system at the expense of others.
He took a leaf from the smugglers' book and licensed a number of merchants to import
goods from Britain (for which they paid a hefty price to his treasury), and these goods were
exported overland, many of them to Russia. Such a procedure left Alexander no option but
to defy the system openly. On 31 December he issued a ukaz opening Russian ports to
American ships, and at the same time imposing hefty tariffs on (French) manufactured goods
imported overland into Russia. British goods were soon pouring into Russia from Germany.
The Continental system was in tatters. Yet Napoleon refused to accept this.
In his determination to control points of import, Napoleon annex the Hanseatic ports.
In January of 1811 he did the same with the Duchy of Oldenburg, whose ruler was the
father of Alexander's brother in law. He(Napoleon) offered him another German province
as compensation but this was refused. Alexander was outraged and felt personally insulted
his supposed ally was now dethroning members of his family...reinforcing the view that
by now Tilsit was not an alliance but a subjugation.
In a letter to Czartoryski, Alexander detailed the troops he had massed on the border to
support the operation, 106,500 in the front line supported by a second line of 134,ooo men
and a third army of 44,000 men supported by 80,ooo recruits 50,ooo Poles and 50,000
Prussians...I would be in a position to reach the Oder without striking a blow.... '

(1812 Napoleon's Fatal March on Moscow. by Adam Zamoyski)


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