Research Subjects: Government & Politics


Introduction

Report of Assassination

Declaration of War

Note from the French Ministers

The Emperor's Answer

To the Deputation of the Empire

To the King of Hungary and Bohemia

Determination to leave Rastadt

To all People and all Governments

Imperial Aulic Decree

Reference


The Conference at Rastadt and the Assassination of French Plenipotentiaries

1799

Introduction.

The Congress of Rastadt (Nov. 1797 - April 1799) was convened to settle difficulties arising from the Treaty of Campo Formio (17 Oct. 1797) between France and the Holy Roman Empire. The estates making up the Holy Roman Empire were required by provisions of Campo Formio to formally consent to their territorial losses (Francis II had signed Campo Formio in his capacity as Archduke of Austria, not as Holy Roman Emperor). The Congress opened on 28 Nov. 1797 (8 Frimaire, Year VI). Besides France and Austria, 90 German states sent representatives to the Congress. Many in the Reichsdeputation had been appointed for the abortive negotiations of 1795. The Austrians imposed ancien regime diplomatic formalities on the negotiations so that formal contact between delegations was carried out by correspondence. Francis II was represented by three embassies, as Holy Roman Emperor, as Archduke of Austria and as Elector of Bohemia. One issue to be settled was the manner in which the losses of the German princes caused by the French occupation of the left bank of the Rhine were to be compensated for by the secularization of almost all of the ecclesiastical Reichsstände. The Austrian Emperor had already agreed in secret articles to urge the estates to approve concessions on the left bank of the Rhine in exchange for Austrian possession of the archbishopric of Salzburg and a portion of Bavaria east of the Inn. As a pamphleteer put it: "The high priests, scribes and Pharisees assembled in a city called Rastadt and held council about how they would by means of subterfuge capture the Reich and kill it."

The Germans were first induced to surrender the principle of the territorial integrity of the empire on 7 Feb. 1798. Then to agree to the surrender of the left bank of the Rhine on 9 March 1798. They further consented to secularization of the ecclesiastical estates to provide compensation to the lay princes on 4 April 1798. On 3 May 1798 the French demanded the surrender of key points on the right back in order to secure their possessions on the left (a concession they did not receive). Austria had already agreed to many of these concessions in secret articles of Campo Formio. Once the floodgates of secularization opened, the imperial Diet at Ratisbon became, in the words of Baron Görtz, "a fair at which lands and souls were traded." Metternich commented of the land rush, "I do not wish to be quoted, but according to my way of seeing things, everything is gone to the devil and the time is come when everyone must save from the wreck what he can."

The principal Austrian negotiator was Ludwig Cobenzl (1753-1809). Napoleon, who supported strengthening France's ties with Prussia at the expense of Austria, arrived at Rastadt on 25 Nov. 1797. He and Cobenzl signed a military convention on 1 Dec. 1797 that arranged for the cession of Mainz to France and Venetia to Austria. Napoleon promptly left Rastadt at 3 a.m. on 2 Dec. with many issues still to be settled between the French and Austrian negotiators. On 18 Jan. 1798 the French Directory demanded the surrender of the left bank of the Rhine. With Napoleon out of the picture, the Congress dragged on with little being accomplished. One historian has characterized Rastadt as a "congress [that] waited for people who never came to settle problems no one dared raise." Klemens Metternich (1771-1859), whose first diplomatic assignment was at Rastadt, wrote that Rastadt was "A congress which from beginning to end was never more than a phantom." The Austrians, in general, held the revolutionary French officials in contempt. Metternich in his letters called the French "ill-conditioned animals," and said, "You would die of fright if you met the best dressed of them in a wood."

On 28 Dec. 1797 General Duphot, at the French embassy in Rome to marry Désirée Clary (the sister of the wife of Joseph Bonaparte —the French ambassador— and future wife of Marshal Bernadotte) was shot to death by papal cavalry on the grounds of the French embassy during a riot. The French responded by an invasion and declaring a Roman republic in Feb. 1798 and arresting the Pope. In early 1798 the French Directory appointed General Bernadotte ambassador to Austria. The Austrian chancellor, Johann Amadeus Franz von Thugut (1736-1818), refused to accept a "Jacobin" ambassador at Vienna and refused to treat with a "revolutionary." "The present French government," Thugut opined, "is incompatible with the old established governments of Europe." (Of the Treaty of Campo Formio, which he reluctantly signed, Thugut said, this is "an unfortunate peace, the infamy of which would make an era in the annals of Austria, unless, what was much to be feared, the annals of Austria did not soon themselves disappear.") Bernadotte, without a passport, arrived in Vienna despite Austrian refusals. An unhappy Thugut reported, "General Bernadotte, after crossing our borders without first requesting or receiving passports, has presented himself unexpectedly here as ambassador of the French Republic. It is easy to see that disagreements, pettiness, and intrigue of all kinds will result from the establishment of such a mission in Vienna." The French attracted both supporters and detractors. The French wore tricolor cockades on the streets and booed in the theaters when the audience began shouting, "Long live the King of France!" Thugut refused to even meet with Bernadotte.

Bernadotte had a large tricolor flag made and flew it from the balcony of the embassy. A mob blocked the street, threw stones through the embassy windows and smashed two carriages. The flag was torn down and burned. Thugut, who was at the time negotiating for another subsidy from Britain, blamed Bernadotte for the incident saying the French general lacked "the necessary education and experience for his post but was plucked instead from the raw, wild, arrogant French officer corps." When the Directors asked Napoleon to lead an army against Austria to avenge the insult to its ambassador and flag, he refused stating that Bernadotte "suffered his temper to master his judgment." And perhaps Bernadotte, who saw his short-lived diplomatic career as a form of banishment, may have wanted to provoke an incident as a way of returning to his military duties.

A separate meeting between the French and Austrians was convened at Seltz, in Alsace. Nicholas François de Neufchateau represented the French (Neufchateau, as a former Director, was forbidden by law from leaving French territory) and Cobenzl the Austrians. Neufchateau confined his representations mainly to demanding compensation for the insult to the French flag and Cobenzl wanted only to discuss Campo Formio. The unsuccessful negotiations in Seltz ended on 5 July 1798. As one historian put it, "All that they agreed upon was that the rosé wine of Éperney is one of the premier wines of France." Cobenzl, discouraged by the outcome, wrote the Austrian Emperor, "There is nothing more for Your Majesty to do but take up arms..."

With the renewal of war and the apparent successes by the allied armies in Italy and Switzerland, the raison d'être for the conference appeared to be at an end. On 7 April 1799 Franz Georg von Metternich announced that the Austrian delegation would leave Rastadt. On 23 April Colonel Barbaczy, commander of the Szechkler hussars, told the remaining delegates that he could no longer guarantee their safety. A detachment of cavalry, led by the somewhat mysterious "Colonel" Burkhardt, arrived on the 28th of April with orders that only the French were to leave the city and a confusion in the issuing of orders ensured that the French didn't leave until after dark, without safe-conducts. Between 9 and 10 P.M. the carriage carrying the French delegates left the city for the Rhine ferry. A half hour later the French were attacked in the dark, two of the French plenipotentiaries were sabered to death and the third, de Bry, who managed to crawl off in the darkness, was seriously injured.

Many contemporaries and some later historians blamed the attack on Thugut, the Austrian minister. The theory is that Thugut hoped to obtain papers proving the Elector of Bavaria had made a traitorous deal with the French. Thugut remarked that "What happened at Rastadt is a fatal event that will give to the Directory and to all the malevolents a good pretext to declaim against and to impute to us the most elaborate horrors." Another theory is that the military authorities, viewing the French deputies as little more than spies, hoped to seize their papers. The commander overstepped his orders and the affair got out of hand. One historian L.O. de Villers (Archives Diplomatique et Consulaires, 1959, 19(9): p. 202-3) placed the blame on specifically on Archduke Charles. Yet another theory placed the blame on French émigrés in Austrian service. Dave Hollins has pointed out that the uniforms of the "13th Light Dragoons, a unit made up of spare squadrons from two Dragoon regiments and the remains of the émigré Hussars (Saxe and Berczenyi/Bercheny)," were remarkably close in appearance to that of 11th Szeckler Hussars (see the Osprey book, Austrian Army of the Napoleonic Wars: Auxiliary, MAA299), which could have led to confusion as to the identity of the unit involved in the incident.

Archduke Charles of Austria convened a military commission to investigate the murder of the French ministers. The report absolved all Austrian personnel in the assassinations and placed the blame on unknown French émigrés. A second report by Charles recommended publicly denying any knowledge of the assassinations and simply letting the matter drop.

By Tom Holmberg

 

Note: In the extracts below "the emperor" referred to is Francis II of Austria.

 

A. The Annual Register's reporting on the assassination of the French Ministers at Rastadt.

It may be here proper to take notice of some events, which, in the history of that ridiculous and fatal council, the sport of France and the disgrace of Germany, may be considered as a kind of episodes.

On the thirteenth of April, 1796, the mass of the people of Vienna had voluntarily taken up arms to defend their city, and the palace and person of their monarch, against the attack of the French army, then supposed to be on its march towards Vienna. This mark of loyalty and attachment was recorded among the public acts of government, and orders were given, by the emperor, that its anniversary should be celebrated with ceremonies of civil pomp and religious solemnity. On the evening of that day, 1798, and during the ferment of those sentiments among the people, the three-coloured flag was displayed, for the first time, in triumph, on the balcony of general Bernadotte's* ["* The conduct of Bernadotte, as well as that of his suite, was marked by an uncommon degree of insolence, from the day of their arrival in Vienna. Bernadotte imitated the conduct of Joseph Bonaparte, at Rome, by demanding that the quarter of the city where he resided should be free, and that all Frenchmen, residing in Vienna, should be amenable to him only for their conduct. He was in the habit of conversing with the Austrian private soldiers and non-commissioned officers, and remarking to them. That it was only under a republican government that a man could rise from the ranks, as he had done, to be a general and an ambassador."], the French ambassador's hotel. - The populace demanded, with loud and repeated cries, that it should be taken down. The flag was torn to pieces, and the standard, to which it was attached, burnt. The resentment of the people, once excited to action, could not stop here. They burst open the gates of the hotel, threatening to sacrifice the ambassador and all his suite to their vengeance. Every thing they found on the ground floor of the hotel, they demolished; laying hold of two of the ambassador's carriages, they dragged them, the one to a neighbouring square, the other to the court of the palace, and broke them to pieces. While they were thus employed, a considerable detachment of military arrived, and availing themselves of the absence of the mob, who had gone to attend the public sacrifice of the carriages, occupied the entrances into the street in which the ambassador's house is situated, and prevented their return. At the same time, the baron Dagelman was dispatched to Bernadotte, by the minister baron Thugut, to express the concern with which the Austrian government had learnt what had happened. Next morning, he dispatched one of his secretaries with a letter to the emperor [of Austria], requiring as conditions of his continuing at Vienna: — 1st. The dismissal of the minister Thugut. 2. The punishment of the mayor of Vienna. 3. The establishment of a privileged quarter in the city of Vienna, for the French mission, and its compatriots. 4. That the emperor should repair, at his own expense, the flag, and flag-staff, and the picture of the French arms. These demands being peremptorily refused, Bernadotte quitted Vienna.

For the ostensible purpose of explanation, and preventing any disagreeable consequences that might arise from this popular explosion, though it was evidently not chargeable on the court of Vienna; a secret conference was opened at Seltz, on the Rhine, opposite Rastadt, between count Cobentzel, on the part of his imperial majesty, and Francis Neufchateau, on that of the [French] directory. The count declared, that, although his imperial majesty was ready to grant ample satisfaction for what had happened in regard to Bernadotte, yet, from a due regard to the sentiments of the people of Vienna, it was necessary to conduct this business without precipitation, and without noise. The interests of both countries, he said, seemed to require that the conferences at Seltz should be chiefly devoted to the settlement of some more material points, which called for a definitive arrangement. Neufchateau having acquiesced in this proposition, count Cobentzel went a step farther, and proposed that, as the congress of Rastadt was a mere farce, acted on the part of the empire under the imperial cabinet and ecclesiastical courts, the negotiation for peace should be carried on entirely, and brought to an issue at Seltz, at the close of which it would be easy to force Prussia and the empire to submit to what had been agreed on between Austria and France. By command of the directory, Neufchateau rejected the latter proposition, but entered into the discussion of other proposals, the first of which was, "that, as cession of Bavaria, stipulated in the secret articles of Campo Formio, seemed to meet with great obstacles, even in regard to the guarantee promised by the directory, Austria would, for the present, desist from this cession, on the condition that such parts of the borders of Bavaria, and the upper Palatinate, as were necessary for the conveniency and safety of the Austrian frontiers, be ceded to Austria, together with Saltzburg, Passau, and Betchtoldsgaden, and all the possessions without exception, formerly belonging to the Venetian republic." This being also rejected, the count offered a second proposition, wherein "he demanded, once more, the cession of the remainder of the ancient Venetian dominions, together with three Roman legations, and the duchy and fortress of Mantua. The treaty of Basle to be rescinded; and neither Prussia nor the house of Orange to receive any indemnification in Germany: on which condition, Austria engaged to relinquish her claim of being indemnified by a part of the German territory." This being also declared to be inadmissible, a variety of other propositions were made, in none of which, the cession to Austria, of all the Venetian territories, and the duchy of Mantua, was forgotten. But after the negociations had been continued for six months, Neufchateau was directed to confine his negociation to the sole point of satisfaction, for the insult offered to Bernadotte, and to declare, that, as all the propositions made on the part of the imperial court, tended merely to aggrandize Austria, at the expense of other powers, unless count Cobentzel could and would agree to give the promised satisfaction, the conferences at Seltz should be broken off: which, as the count declined all satisfaction of any kind, they were accordingly.

After the French ministers had notified, to the deputation of the empire, that they should depart in three days from Rastadt, the baron d'Albini, one of the imperial ministers, wrote to the colonel Barbaczy, commanding the cordon of Austrian advanced posts, demanding escorts for the deputies of the empire, who were ready to depart, and safe conduct for the French plenipotentiaries. The commander, in a note dated at Gernbach, the twenty-eighth of April, said that, as it did not accord with military plans, to tolerate citizens of the French republic, in countries possessed by the imperial and royal army, they should not take it ill if the circumstances of war forced him to signify to them to quit the territory of Gernbach and the army in the space of twenty-four hours. At the same moment, four hundred hussars, entered Rastadt, and took possession of the posts and gates of the town, with an order to suffer no person to enter in, or go out. At night, in the evening of the twenty-ninth, the French ministers were in their carriages: but on coming to the gate of the town, they were surprised to find the passage refused them. But at length permission was obtained to leave the town with two hussars for an escort. The gate being opened, the ministers began their route, but the two hussars remained in town; it was then nine in the evening. At about five hundred paces from the gate, a troop of hussars, on foot as well as on horseback, burst out from a wood that skirted the road, and surrounded the first carriage, in which was Jean Debrie, with his wife and children. Thinking it was some patrole to visit his passport, he held it out at the window, mentioning his name and quality. - He was immediately dragged out of his carriage, and fell, covered with blood, from strokes of sabres, which he received on his arms, head, and shoulders: but he was still able to crawl, unobserved, into the ditch on the side of the road. In the second carriage were Jean Debrie's secretary and valet de chambre, who cried out that they were domestics. They were ordered to alight, and received a few blows, but no other harm was done them. Their carriage was pillaged. In the third carriage was Bonnier, alone. They asked, in French, if he was the minister Bonnier? On his answering in the affirmative, a hussar opened the door of the carriage, took him by the collar, dragged him out of the carriage, and cut of his hand, head, and arms. His carriage was likewise pillaged. The forth carriage was Rosenstiel, the secretary of legation, who seeing, by the light of a flambeaux, what was passing, saved himself by jumping out of his carriage, and got clear off. In the fifth carriage was the minister Roberjot and his wife. The hussars had some struggle with this victim to get him out of the carriage - his wife holding him strongly locked in her arms. They murdered him in this position, cutting off the back part of his head with a sabre. The hussars now went off: and the carriages, with the ladies and servants, turned round and went to Rastadt; whither Rosenstiel also came about eleven the same evening, and Jean Debrie, after passing the night in the wood, the next morning.

The Prussian ministers wrote immediately a letter to Barbaczy, to demand an escort and safeguard, more sure, for what remained of the French legation. The commander expressed his sorrow for what had passed. Jean Debrie, and the other French ministers, left Rastadt on the following day, under Austrian escort, and a still stronger escort of the prince of Baden, accompanied by the Ligurian minister, who had followed them on the night of the 29th, but who, observing what was passing in front, escaped back to Rastadt, leaving his carriage, which was pillaged, like that of the French minister's.

Various were the conjectures respecting the motives which could have urged this assassination. However the court of Vienna might have been inclined to overlook it, when committed, it is by no means credible that they could have been its instigators. It appears to us, in general, to have sprung, like the insult to Bernadotte, from a popular and lively indignation, whether on the part of the Austrians or French loyalists, or both, at the arrogant pretensions of a new and upstart government, which had cemented its power by the blood-royal of Austria, as well as of France [i.e., the guillotining of Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI], and among its deputies to Rastadt, had sent the regicide, Jean Debrie, as well as the rustic Bonnier. Barbaczy, and another officer, Bourkhendt, were arrested, by orders of prince Charles, in order to undergo trial by a court-martial: but, as it was afterwards declared, that the assassins were not Austrians, but French emigrants, under the assumed appearance of hussars, headed by one Danicou, this trial did not take place. The French government had not the same candour or forbearance. For, whoever were the assassins, or by whatever orders the assassination was committed, the court of Vienna was peremptorily charged with the murder, by the directory, who sent a message to the councils, with official notice to the event. The councils adopted a resolution, the principle articles of which were, "that this act should be denounced, in the name of the French nation, to all good men, and to the governments of every country, as commanded by the cabinet of Vienna, and executed by its troops; that funeral solemnities should be performed in honour of the murdered deputies, throughout the republic; that the government, guilty of this assassination, should be consigned to the vengeance of nations, and the execrations of posterity; that, in the place of sitting of every municipal administration, in tribunals, schools, and public establishments, an inscription should be put up, stating, that the Austrian government had caused this assassination to be committed by its troops; that a banner should be sent to every army by sea or land, with an inscription provocative of vengeance against the Austrians, for this murder; which banners were to be carried at the head of each army; and that indemnities should be given to the widows and children of the deceased ministers." His imperial majesty, in an Aulic decree to the German diet, after expressing the utmost abhorrence at the barbarous and atrocious deed, declared. "that an inquiry had been instituted, according to the prescription of the laws, and which was to be conducted with every degree of rigour, that the horrid act might be traced in all its circumstances, its authors and accomplices discovered, and the imputation of the offence be properly fixed: and charged the diet to appoint deputies of their own to be present at the inquiry; thus, by giving its conjoint advice, to convince the whole impartial world, that both the emperor and the empire were animated with the same uniform sentiments, for the execution of the most rigorous justice." After a long examination, there did not appear sufficient evidence to bring home the charge and guilt of assassination to any party. Mystery still hangs about this dark transaction: which, like Gowrie's conspiracy against James VI of Scotland, may, perhaps, even for centuries, remain a subject of curiosity and investigation, to antiquaries and historians. Nevertheless, it excited a very lively sentiment of horror and resentment throughout France, and diverted, for a moment, the public indignation, which was every where poured down on the directory, on account of their profusion and rapacity at home, and their neglect to recruit and strengthen their armies abroad. This suspension and diversion of the public attention and dissatisfaction, was probably the precise object that the directory had in view when they penned the piece just quoted. Whether any thing very prosperous or adverse happened to the nation, it was sure, for a short time, to afford some relief to the directory, by turning the keen edge of the French genius to something else than the former conduct of administration. But it would appear, that, hasty and precipitate as the French are in giving way to their imaginations and passions, the sentiment of horror and resentment, inspired by the accounts they received, with many comments and conjectures from their own countrymen, who had come from Rastadt, were not of long duration. Their passion cooled; they began first to doubt, and then, very probably disbelieve what had been so peremptorily charged against the imperial cabinet. Certain it is, that it did not render decrees, which had passed eleven days before, for making the military conscription general, more popular or effective. It was on the eighteenth of April, a few days before the final rupture of the negociation at Rastadt, that the French government, from a desire of exciting odium against the emperor, for his selfish ambition and inattention to the interests of the Germanic body, and also of augmenting the jealousy entertained of the views of that prince, by the court of Berlin, published a state paper, which they styled, "The Secret Articles and additional Convention of the Treaty of Campo Formio." By this agreement, his imperial majesty was to be assisted by the influence of France, in the acquisition of the archbishopric of Saltzburgh and other territories. In return, the emperor consented to the cession of the left bank of the Rhine, and promised the evacuation of Mentz, Manheim, and other considerable towns and fortresses. From this political digression we return to military operations.

 

B. Declaration of War on France.

Conclusum adopted by the Diet at Ratisbon, 7th of September, 1799, containing a Declaration of War against France.

The three colleges of the empire, after having deliberated on the gracious decree of the imperial committee, of the 13th June, have determined and decreed, That there shall be addressed to his imperial majesty, in the name of the empire, lively and sincere thanks for the paternal and constant solicitude, with which the committee has been occupied, for the welfare and preservation of Germany, and for the new proofs of energetic protection which it has afforded the empire. It has been resolved, besides, in conformity with the considerations stated in the decree of the committee, to make the following declaration:

The empire, in the full conviction that it is placed anew in a state of war, in consequence of the hostilities exercised by France against Germany, during and since the negociations at Rastadt, and which are every day pushed farther; that consequently all the resolutions taken by the diet, since the was has broken out anew, resume this day all their force; and these decisions impose on each state of the empire the strict obligation of contributing with the greatest zeal to the defence of the country, surrounded with dangers, of making the most vigorous efforts, of laying aside all private considerations and sparing no sacrifice; that in execution of measures prescribed by these decisions of the diet, every member of the empire shall hasten, with patriotic zeal, to raise to a quintuple the contingent which it ought to furnish, to the end that, by an energetic co-operation, all the enterprizes and efforts of the enemy may be arrested, and that the exertions of the empire, combined with those of the supreme chief, may lead to a peace, just, honourable, and lasting, which they have not yet been able to obtain, notwithstanding the ardour with which it has been sought on the part of the empire. For the attainment of this great end, the empire grants 100 Roman months for the expenses of the war, to be paid at three equal terms of six weeks each, from the date of the day when his imperial majesty's ratification shall be published.

 

C. Note from the French Ministers at Rastadt, to the Deputation of the Empire.

The undersigned ministers plenipotentiary of the French republic do make this formal declaration to the deputation of the empire that if the diet of Ratisbon should consent to the entry of the Russian troops on the territory of the empire, or even if it does not effectually oppose it, the march of the Russian army through German territory will be regarded as a violation of neutrality on the part of the empire; that the negociation at Rastadt will be broken off; and that the republic and the empire will then be in the same relative situation in which these two powers were, previously to the signing of the preliminaries at Leoben, and the conclusion of the armistice.

To this declaration, dictated by the importance of the circumstances, the undersigned add, with pleasure, the express assurance of their government, for the tranquillity and satisfaction of the empire, both of the sincere desire it has, that an incident so unforeseen as that which is the object of this note, and which might become so destructive of the tranquillity of the interior of Germany, may not take place to destroy the hopes, almost realized, of a perfect reconciliation, and of a perpetual peace between the two nations.

No one can be deceived as to the motives and the aim of the cabinet of Petersburgh: the deputation of the empire particularly is too well acquainted with the affairs of Europe, not to perceive clearly that Russia, after having promoted the war six years, without taking a part in it, now takes such open measures of aggression against France, for the purpose of interrupting the pacification of the continent, and with a view, not less evident, of covering the grand usurpation she has so long mediated.

He undersigned, therefore, do not doubt that the deputation will see, in this proceeding, on the part of the French government, a farther proof of its pacific sentiments, and an opportunity for the empire, in avoiding a personal danger, to acquire additional claims to the friendship of the republic.

[Signed]

Bonnier.
Jean Debry.
Roberjot.

Rastadt, 13 Nivôse (2d Jan. 1799,) of the French republic.

 

D. Substance of the Emperor's Answer, relative to the March of the Russian Troops.

  1. His imperial majesty is surprized that the French ministers should have addressed themselves to the deputation for the pacification of the empire upon a subject with which it has no concern.
  2. His imperial majesty testifies his satisfaction that the deputation has unanimously referred this affair upon which it was not competent to decide, to those who it concerns, and who ought to be acquainted with it.
  3. His imperial majesty will, however, wait for the report which shall be made to him on this subject by the diet of Ratisbon.

 

E. Note of the French Ministers to the Deputation of the Empire.

The undersigned ministers plenipotentiary of the French republic, for the negociations for peace with the German empire, declare to the deputation that they have orders not to receive nor transmit any note, upon any of the points of negociation, until a categorical and satisfactory reply has been given to the note sent on the 13th Nivôse last (2d January.)

[Signed]

Bonnier.
Jean Debry.
Roberjot.

Rastadt, 31st January.

 

F. Note of the French Ministers to the Minister of the King of Hungary and Bohemia.

The undersigned ministers plenipotentiary of the French republic express to the count de Lehrbach, minister plenipotentiary of his majesty the emperor, king of Hungary and Bohemia, minister of Austria, their astonishment at not having received a reply respecting the march of the Russians; a circumstance which announces loudly that it is against the French republic they are directed.

The French government can no longer bear an uncertainty, which compromises the dignity and interests of the republic. The undersigned have been ordered to demand from his majesty the emperor, through the medium of the count de Lehrbach, his minister plenipotentiary, a positive assurance that the Russian troops are evacuating the territory of his majesty the emperor and king, and that orders have been given in consequence. They desire, that in the space of fifteen days, reckoning from this day, the 12th Pluviôse (31st of January,) this assurance be given them; declaring that the farther progress of the Russians will be considered by the French government as aggressive; and that silence, or the want of the assurance demanded by the present note, being a manifest proof that the emperor has acceded to the enterprizes of Russia, will be of necessity considered by the French government as an act of hostility.

The executive directory would receive, with the greatest pleasure, both from the empire and the emperor such a proof of the evacuation of the Austrian territory by the Russians, which could alone announce a frank and firm disposition both to observe treaties concluded, and to hasten in common the conclusion of that which is negociating at Rastadt.

[Signed]

Bonnier.
Jean Debry.
Roberjot.

Rastadt, 12th Pluviôse (January 31.)

 

G. Note of the French Ministers, declaring their determination to leave Rastadt.

The undersigned ministers plenipotentiary of the French republic, for negociating a peace with the German empire, having been officially informed by the baron d'Albini, the directorial minister, of the result of the sitting held the day before yesterday by the deputation of the empire, of which a certified copy has been transmitted to them, cannot but see with great regret, that arbitrary acts, equally contrary to the rights of nations, and the express declaration of the letter of his majesty the emperor, of the date of the 13th of Brumaire, 6th year, together with the mournful prospect of the continuance of these vexatious proceedings, have compelled the deputation to suspend for the present the negociations for peace.

The undersigned could the less expect such a conduct, as a totally different example had been given by the general of the French army, who, passing the Rhine on the 11th of Ventose, to resume his former position, in conformity to the orders of the French government, paid the most inviolable respect to the place where the congress was held, the freedom of its deliberation, the safety and inviolability of its members, and deprived calumny of every pretext.

The undersigned have seen with the greatest astonishment the deputation reduced to less than two-thirds of its members, by several of the states having recalled their envoys, so that it was impossible it should come to any resolutions agreeable to the terms of its instructions. They had supposed, that though the states of the empire had the undoubted right of changing their sub-delegates at the congress, it only appertained to the diet, considered as a body, to withdraw the powers of the states themselves.

In this situation of things and persons, the undersigned, to whom the executive directory, ever disposed to peace, has recommended not to leave the place of congress till the last extremity, eager to seize the hope offered them by the deputation of resuming the course of the negociations, since they are momentarily suspended; persuaded that the excesses which have impeded them, will serve to convince the states of the empire of the lively interest they have taken to remove the scourge of war, and in general, all the obstacles which violence or ill faith may oppose to the peace; considering besides,

1. That the deputation has formally declared in its conclusum, and made it the principal motive of its resolution to quit Rastadt, hat there was no longer either tranquillity or safety for the congress, whence it results that it was in an actual state of oppression:

2. That the existence of a congress between two free states ought to depend upon the will of the contracting parties, and can never be subordinate to the intervention of any foreign force:

They therefore remit to the deputies of the empire the following protestation and declaration:

The undersigned protest, 1st, Against the violation of the rights of nations committed, with respect to them, by the Austrian troops, and of which the object is positively announced in their note of the 30th Germinal.

2dly, Against the answer which the commander of the Austrian troops stationed at Gernbach has returned to the directorial letter of the 1st of Floreal; an answer which the deputation, by making it the ground of its deliberation the day before yesterday, has considered as the expression of the general orders of the Austrian army, and which is conceived in these terms:

"To his excellency the baron d'Albini, intimate counsellor of his imperial majesty, and electoral minister of Mentz, Rastadt.

"I regret much to be under the necessity, in conformity to my duty, of stating, in the answer to your letter remitted to me by counsellor baron Munich, that, in the present circumstances of the war, in which the safety as well of the military as of the county requires that patroles should be placed at Rastadt and in the environs, it is impossible to make any satisfactory declaration relative to the maintenance of the diplomatic body now there: since the recall of his excellency the imperial plenipotentiary, we can no longer, on our part, consider Rastadt as a place which the presence of a congress protects against hostile events; and that city, after this, must feel the necessity of conforming to the laws of war like any other place.

I entreat your excellency, however, to be assured, that except in the case of necessity imposed by the events of war, our military will consider personal inviolability as sacred; and that, on my part, I will continually, to my utmost, testify to you the profound respect with which I am your excellency's most humble servant,

[Signed] Barbaczy, colonel."

They call, in the name of the French republic, insulted in its rights, the serious attention of the diet to an act, equally contrary to its own independence, and subversive of all the principles hitherto practised among civilized nations. They expect a just and full redress.

In fine, in consequence of what has been stated, the under-signed inform the deputation of the empire that in three days they will quit Rastadt; but, wishing to give to Germany a last and signal proof of the forbearance of the French government, and its wish for peace, they declare that they will repair to Strasburgh, where they will wait the recommencement of the negociations, and attend to such propositions of peace as shall be made.

[Signed]

Bonnier.
Jean Debry.
Roberjot.

Rastadt, 6th of Floréal (April 25,) 7th year
Of the French republic.

 

H. The Executive Directory of the French Republic, to all People and all Governments.

The news of an excessive outrage has already resounded in Europe; and the circumstances of a crime the most unheard-of, with which the pages of the history of civilized nations have been stained, are now collecting with horror from all parts. It was at the gates of Rastadt, on the territory of an independent and neutral prince, and in the sight of all the members of the congress violently detained in that town, and forced to be no less impotent than indignant spectators of a crime which affected then in the deepest manner and threatened them all, that in contempt of a sacred character, in contempt of assurances given, in contempt of every thing which constitutes humanity, justice, and honour, the plenipotentiaries of the republic, victims ever to be regretted of the mission of peace with which they were intrusted, and of the unlimited devotion with which they fulfilled the instructions of government, and maintained the national dignity, were massacred in cold blood by a detachment of Austrian troops. But how much more detestable do all the circumstances of this assassination render it!

Already, in the first days of the month of Floréal, the communication of the French legation with the republic had been intercepted; one of its couriers had been carried off, and the spirited remonstrances of the congress had only produced an insolent declaration, which made its separation necessary.

On the 9th Floréal (28th of April,) at seven o'clock in the evening, the colonel of the regiment of Szeklers caused a declaration to be made by a captain to baron Albini, the directorial minister, that the French legation might leave Rastadt in security. The same captain proceeded afterwards to the French ministers, and signified to them an order to depart from Rastadt in twenty-four hours. At eight o'clock they got into their carriages, and were stopped at the gates of the town. So sudden a departure no doubt had not been expected, and the assassination was not completely organized. Another hour was still wanting. At nine o'clock the prohibition against passing the gates was taken off with respect to the French legation only. The French ministers demanded an escort, but the Austrian commander refused to grant it, and answered in the following terms: — "You will be as secure on your journey, as in your apartments." But the legation had scarcely advanced fifty paces, when it was surrounded by a numerous detachment of the same corps, whose commander had just before promised every kind of security. The carriages are stopped; citizen Jean Debry, who was in the first, is forced to alight, and he is asked, "Are you not Jean Debry?" - "Yes," he answers, "I am Jean Debry, minister of France." He instantly falls to the ground pierced with wounds. The citizens Bonnier and Roberjot are stopped in the same manner, and interrogated. - They tell their names, and are killed. Roberjot is massacred in the arms of his wife. The crime being perpetrated, the papers of the legation are carried off, and conveyed to the Austrian commander. In considering these faithful details, who is there that cannot perceive the premeditation of this assassination, and its first author?

Such a sacrilege will doubtless only tend to the accumulation of infamy and execration, and should any other punishment be wanting, history reserves one for those who have been guilty of the crime. It would be in vain for the court of Vienna to attempt to shake off the dreadful responsibility that attaches to this accusation. All its previous conduct now comes forward in evidence against it. It will be recollected, that it commenced hostilities by an outrage of a similar nature, in causing two French ambassadors to be arrested on the territory of the confederacy, who were afterwards thrown into the dungeons of Mantua. It will be remembered that the prisons of Olmutz also received, and confined for three years, representatives of the people, and a minister who was delivered up by treachery. It will be remembered, that Austria was not acquainted with the assassinations committed at Rome on the French, and that it received and protected the authors of them. It will, finally, be recollected, that the first ambassador of the republic at Vienna experienced only outrages and affronts there. These statements are sufficient to impress conviction that the assassination, recently perpetrated at Rastadt, is but the consequence and the horrid completion of a series of atrocities with which Austria has astonished Europe, since Charles the Fifth first furnished the example of stepping beyond all social laws, by causing the ambassadors, whom Francis the First sent to Venice and Constantinople, to be massacred.

The proofs existing in the history of the indignation which was manifested at that period by all the European powers, convince us that a crime still more execrable will also excite more horror and detestation.

And when the constant moderation and boundless generosity of the French republic shall be compared to the crimes of Austria; when it shall be considered, that even in the midst of the violent storms of the revolution, the law of nations has not received the slightest injury in France; that the envoy of the Britannic government entered twice into the territory of France, and departed from it free and respected, although justly suspected to have come rather to excite troubles, than to negotiate peace; that the minister of Naples obtained permission to return to his master, and to continue his journey in a secure and uninterrupted manner, at the very moment when the French general had repulsed the Neapolitan troops, and when he was informed, that the ambassador of the republic had been refused passports to retire by land, and had been compelled to embark at Naples, with a certainty that such a measure was but to deliver him into the hands of the African states; that the cruel treatment to which the French have fallen victims in the dominions of the grand seignior, however great and just the national resentment on that account may have been, has not given rise to any reprisals; when the congress at Rastadt, peaceable and respected as long as the French armies were near it, shall be compared with the congress thrown into confusion, and dissolved on the approach of the Austrians; when the voluntary departure of M.M. de Lehrbach and de Metternich, protected by French passports, shall be compared with the premeditated massacre of the ministers of the republic: these different contrasts, already so odious, will become still more dishonourable for Austria, by the comparison which must be made between its satellites, whose cowardly ferocity is a subject of astonishment even to the people of the north, who have been called upon to co-operate with them, and the agents of the government of England, who, though it is most essential enemy of the French government, and the most determined to injure it, have recently given proofs at Constantinople, that they understand the law of nations, and set a value on preventing the violation of it. Is it possible then, that any people, that any government who may not have abjured every principle of civilization and of honour can hesitate for a moment to declare itself in favour of good faith against perfidy; in favour of continued moderation against unmasked ambition; in favour of abused confidence, against atrocious and premeditated crimes?

It is therefore with the just hope of being attended to with effect, and of obtaining, for the illustrious victims who have been immolated at Rastadt, a deep regret; for the French republic an honourable approbation, and an union of execration against Austria; that the executive directory now addresses this solemn appeal to the conscience and honour of every people and of every government, accepting, thus early, a pledge of the generous determination which will be formed by them, the particular indignation which has been expressed with so much energy at Rastadt by all the members of the congress, and at Paris by the ambassadors and ministers of friendly or neutral powers.

The executive directory decrees, that the preceding manifesto shall be transmitted to all governments, by the minister of the foreign department; that it shall be printed in the bulletin of the laws, and solemnly read, published, and affixed in all the communes of the republic, and be inserted in the orders of all the armies.

[Signed]

Barras, president.
La Garde, sec.-gen.
May 7.

 

I. Imperial Aulic Decree to the German Diet, respecting the late Catastrophe near Rastadt.

His imperial majesty received, on the 3d ult. The melancholy intelligence, in a report signed by the margrave of Baden himself, that the French ministers plenipotentiary, sent to the congress of peace with the empire, were stopped late in the evening of the 28th of April, on their departure in the night from Rastadt (against which they had been advised by several different persons,) at a small distance from the said city, by a troop of people dressed in the imperial military uniform; and that ministers Bonnier and Roberjot, were murdered, by many cuts of sabres, but that the minister Jean Debry, who escaped from death only by a happy accident, had been much wounded, and all of whom were robbed of a great part of their effects.

His majesty is scarcely able to express, by word, the great shock his sentiments of justice and morality have received, and the whole force of impression of abhorrence, which has been excited in him, on the first account of this act of barbarity committed on the territory of the German empire, upon persons whose inviolability was under the special guarantee of the right of nations; nor can his majesty express the indelible impression which this disastrous catastrophe has left in his revolted mind, which always entertains the most inviolable respect for the dignity of man, for morality, and the sacred principles of the law of nations.

It is not by illiberal suspicions and rash conjectures, not by calumnious imputations and partial reports of audacious fictions, nor by the passionate sallies of a depraved heart, and the licentious fabrications of foreign and domestic editors of public journals - it is not by inimical representations, calculated for an increase of power, for exactions of money, or for other secret designs, nor by the furious speeches in conventions, and vindictive proclamations to the French nation, and all other states - but only by a conscientious, fair, and impartial inquiry, instituted according to the prescription of the laws, and conducted with every judicial rigour, that the horrid act may be traced in all its circumstances, its authors, and accomplices be truly discovered, and the imputation of the offence be properly fixed, both in a subjective and objective view.

To this end, the most eligible directions and orders have accordingly been given; and his imperial majesty doth at the same time most solemnly declare before the general diet of the empire, of the whole public of Germany and all Europe together, that nothing short of the most perfect satisfaction, regardless of all other considerations, shall gratify the just feelings of the chief of the empire, respecting him whom the impartial sentence of avenging justice may pronounce guilty.

But it is also the will of his majesty the emperor, that the manner in which this melancholy event happened, an event which his majesty considers in various respects as a national concern of Germany, be not only examined with the most conscientious impartiality, and that the most specific satisfaction be given; but his imperial majesty farther cherishes the most lively wish, and feels himself partly and most urgently induced to it by the domestic and foreign opinions encroaching upon the legal enquiry whose decision is thereby prejudged; that even the possibility of a suspicion of any connivance be removed, so that in this respect no sort of blame, owing to a want of the most deliberate attention, shall be attributed either to the chief of the empire himself, or to the empire, collectively taken.

In order to accomplish this design most effectually, the general diet is hereby charged, upon mature deliberation, to appoint deputies of their own, who are to be present at the enquiry which has been opened, and to advise every thing with a patriotic and noble frankness as to the steps which are to be taken as soon as possible, with regard to whatever the importance of so unheard-of and detestable an event may, in its wisdom and prudence, seem to require: and thus farther to convince the whole impartial world by giving its conjoint advice, that both the emperor and the empire are animated with the same uniform sentiments for the execution of the most rigorous justice, and the granting of the most perfect satisfaction, and by an equal and just abhorrence of so ruthless and infamous an act, as well as by an equal and dutiful respect to morality and the sacred principles of the law of nations.

His roman and imperial majesty expects, therefore, the advice of the empire with all possible speed; and with all the fervency of his wishes, as chief of the empire, his majesty remains in other respects, &c.

[Signed]
Francis, mod.
Done at Vienna, June 6, 1799.

 

Reference

The Annual Register, or, A View of the History, Politics, and Literature for the Year 1799. London: Printed by R. Wilks for W. Otridge and Sons, etal. (Publisher varies by year.) Published for the years 1758-1837 in 80 vols.; illus., maps; 21-23 cm. Alternate titles for some years include: Annual Register, or, A View of the History and Politics of the Year... and New Annual Register, or General Repository of History, Politics, and Literature, for the Year... Succeeded by: Annual Register of World Events.


 

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