Documents upon the Confederation of the Rhine
The destruction of the Holy Roman Empire, begun in the treaties of Basel and Campo Formio (Nos. 48 and 55), was finally completed by the organization of the Confederation of the Rhine. The most important feature of document A is the relationship which it creates between France and each of the confederated states. By subsequent acts of accession nearly all the German states, except Austria and Prussia became members. In the other documents the important features are the explanations for the action that is taken.
De Clercq, Traites, II, 171-179.
His Majesty the Emperor of the French, King of Italy, of the one part, and of the other part their Majesties the Kings of Bavaria and of Wurtemburg and Their Serene Highnesses the Electors, the Archchancellor of Baden, the Duke of Berg and of Cleves, the Landgrave of Hesse-Darmstadt, the Princes of Nassan-Usingen and Nassau-Weilburg, the Princes of Hohenzollern-Heckingen and Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, the Princes of Salm-Salm and Salm-Kirburg, the Prince of Isneburg-Birstein, the Duke of Aremberg and the Prince of Lichenstein, and the Count of Leyen, wishing, by suitable stipulations, to assure the internal peace of the south of Germany, for which experience for a long time past and quite recently still more has shown that the Germanic Constitution can no longer offer any sort of guarantee...
De Clercq, Traites, II, 183-184.
Translation, James Harvey Robinson, University of Pennsylvania Translations and Reprints.
The undersigned, charge d'affaires of His Majesty the Emperor of the French and King of Italy at the general Diet of the German Empire, has received orders from His Majesty to make the following declarations to the diet:
Their Majesties the Kings of Bavaria and of Wurtemberg, the Sovereign Princes of Regensburg, Baden, Berg, Hesse-Darmstadt and Nassau, as well as the other leading princes of the south and west of Germany have resolved to form a confederation between themselves which shall secure them against future emergencies, and have thus ceased to be states of the Empire.
The position in which the Treaty of Pressburg has explicitly placed the courts allied to France, and indirectly those princes whose territory they border or surround, being incompatible with the existence of an empire, it becomes a necessity for those rulers to reorganize their relations upon a new system and to remove a contradiction which could not fail to be a permanent source of agitation, disquiet and danger.
France on the other hand, is directly interested in the maintenance of peace in Southern Germany and yet must apprehend that, the moment she shall cause her troops to recross the Rhine, discord, the inevitable consequence of contradictory, uncertain and ill-defined conditions, will again disturb the peace of the people and reopen, possibly, the war on the continent. Feeling it incumbent upon her to advance the welfare of her allies and to assure them the enjoyment of all the advantages which the Treaty of Pressburg secures them and to which she is pledged, France cannot but regard the confederation that they have formed as a natural result and a necessary sequel to that treaty.
For a long period successive changes have, from century to century, reduced the German constitution to a shadow of its former self. Time has altered all the relations in respect to size and importance which originally existed among the various members of the confederation, both as regards each other and the whole of which they have formed a part.
The Diet has no longer a will of its own. The sentences of the superior courts can no longer be executed. Everything indicates such serious weakness that the federal bond no longer offers any protection whatever and only constitutes a source of dissension and discord between the powers. The results of three coalitions have increased this weakness to the last degree. An electorate has been suppressed by the annexation of Hanover to Prussia. A king in the north has incorporated with his other lands a province of the Empire. The Treaty of Pressburg assures complete sovereignty to their majesties the Kings of Bavaria and of Wurtemberg and to His Highness the Elector of Baden. This is a prerogative which the other electors will doubtless demand, and which they are justified in demanding; but this is in harmony neither with the letter nor the spirit of the constitution of the Empire.
His Majesty the Emperor and King is, therefore, compelled to declare that he can no longer acknowledge the existence of the German Constitution, recognizing, however, the entire and absolute sovereignty of each of the princes whose states compose Germany today, maintaining with them the same relations as with the other independent powers of Europe.
His Majesty the Emperor and King has accepted the title of Protector of the Confederation of the Rhine. He has done this with a view only to peace, and in order that by his constant mediation between the weak and the powerful be may obviate every species of dissension and disorder.
Having thus provided for the dearest interests of his people and of his neighbors, and having assured, so far as in him lay, the future peace of Europe and that of Germany in particular, heretofore constantly the theatre of war, by removing a contradiction which placed people and princes alike under the delusive protection of a system contrary both to their political interests and to their treaties, His Majesty the Emperor and King trusts that the nations of Europe will at last close their ears to the insinuations of those who would maintain an eternal war upon the continent. He trusts that the French armies which have crossed the Rhine have done so for the last time, and that the people of Germany will no longer witness, except in the annals of the past, the horrible pictures of disorder, devastation and slaughter which war invariably brings with it.
His Majesty declared that he would never extend the limits of France beyond the Rhine, and he has been faithful to his promise. At present his sole desire is so to employ the means which Providence has confided to him as to free the seas, restore the liberty of commerce and thus assure the peace and happiness of the world.
De Clercq, Traites, II, 185-186.
The undersigned, Ministers Plenipotentiary to the General Diet of the Germanic Empire, have received orders to communicate to Your Excellencies, in the name of their most high Principals, the following declaration:
The events of the last three wars which almost without interruption have disturbed the repose of Germany, and the political changes which have resulted therefrom, have put in broad daylight the sad truth that the bond which ought to unite the different Members of the Germanic Body is no longer sufficient for that purpose, or rather that it is already broken in fact; the feeling of this truth has been already a long time in the hearts of all Germans; and however painful may have been the experience of latter years, it has in reality served only to put beyond doubt the senility of a constitution respectable in its origin, but become defective through the instability inherent in all human institutions; Doubtless it is to that instability alone that the scission which was effected in the Empire in 1795 must be attributed, and which had for result the separation of the interests of the North from those of the South of Germany. From that moment all idea of a fatherland and of common interests was of necessity bound to disappear; the words war of the Empire and peace of the Empire became devoid of meaning; one sought in vain for Germany in the midst of the Germanic Body; The Princes who bordered upon France; left to themselves and exposed to all the evils of a war to which they could not seek to put an end by constitutional means, saw themselves forced to free themselves from the common bond by separate peace arrangements.
The Treaty of Lunéville, and still more the Recez of the Empire of 1803, should no doubt have appeared sufficient to give new life to the Germanic Constitution, by causing the feeble parts of the system to disappear and by consolidating its principal supports. But the events which have occurred in the last six months; under the eyes of the entire Empire, have destroyed that hope also and have again put beyond doubt the complete insufficiency of the existing Constitution. The urgency of these important considerations has determined the Sovereigns and Princes of the South and West of Germany to form a new Confederation suited to the circumstances of the time. In freeing themselves, by this declaration, from the bonds which have united them up to the present with the Germanic Empire, they are only following the systems established by anterior facts, and even by the declarations of the leading States of the Empire. It is true, they might have preserved the empty shadow of an extinct constitution; but they have believed that it was more in conformity with their dignity and with the purity of their intentions to make frank and open declaration of their resolution and of the motives which have influenced them.
Moreover, they would flatter themselves in vain upon attaining the desired aim, if they were not at the same time assured of a powerful protection. The Monarch whose views are always found to be in conformity with the true interests of Germany charges himself with that protection. A guarantee so powerful is tranquilizing under a double aspect. it offers the assurance that His Majesty the Emperor of the French will have at heart, as well for the interest of his glory as for the advantage of his own French Empire, the maintenance of the new order of things and the consolidation of the internal and external tranquility. That precious tranquility is the principal object of the Confederation of the Rhine, of which the Co-States of the sovereigns in whose name the present declaration is made will see the proof in the opportunity which is left to each of them to accede to it, if his position makes it desirable for him to do so.In discharging this duty, we have the honor to be,...
[Signed by the representatives of thirteen sovereigns.]
Translation, James Harvey Robinson, University of Pennsylvania Translations and Reprints.
We, Francis the Second, by the Grace of God Roman Emperor Elect, Ever August, Hereditary Emperor of Austria; etc., King of Germany, Hungary, Bohemia, Croatia, Dalmatia, Slavonia, Galizia, Lodomeria and Jerusalem; Archduke of Austria, etc.
Since the peace of Pressburg all our care and attention has been directed towards the scrupulous fulfillment of all engagements contracted by the said treaty, as well as the preservation of peace so essential to the happiness of our subjects, and the strengthening in every way of the friendly relations which have been happily reestablished. We could but await the outcome of events in order to determine whether the important changes in the German Empire resulting from the terms of the peace would allow us to fulfill the weighty duties which, in view of the conditions of our election, devolve upon us as the head of the Empire. But the results of certain articles of the Treaty of Pressburg, which showed themselves immediately after and since its publication, as well as the events which, as is generally known, have taken place in the German Empire, have convinced us that it would be impossible under these circumstances farther to fulfill the duties which we assumed by the conditions of our election. Even if the prompt readjustment of existing political complications might produce an alteration in the existing conditions, the convention signed at Paris, July 12th, and approved later by the contracting parties, providing for the complete separation of several important states of the Empire and their union into a separate confederation, would entirely destroy any such hope.
Thus, convinced of the utter impossibility of longer fulfilling the duties of our imperial office, we owe it to our principles and to our honor to renounce a crown which could only retain any value in our eyes so long as we were in a position to justify the confidence reposed in us by the electors princes, estates and other members of the German Empire, and to fulfill the duties devolving upon us.
We proclaim, accordingly, that we consider the ties which have hitherto united us to the body politic of the German Empire as hereby dissolved; that we regard the office and dignity of the imperial headship as extinguished by the formation of a separate union of the Rhenish States, and regard ourselves as thereby freed from all our obligations toward the German Empire; herewith laying down the imperial crown which is associated with these obligations, and relinquishing the imperial government which we have hitherto conducted.
We free at the same time the electors, princes and estates and all others belonging to the Empire, particularly the members of the supreme imperial courts and other magistrates of the Empire, from the duties constitutionally due to us as the lawful head of the Empire. Conversely, we free all our German provinces and imperial lands from all their obligations of whatever kind, towards the German Empire.
In uniting these, as Emperor of Austria, with the whole body of the Austrian state we shall strive, with the restored and existing peaceful relations with all the powers and neighboring states, to raise them to the height of prosperity and happiness, which is our keenest desire, and the aim of our constant and sincerest efforts.
Done at our capital and royal residence, Vienna, August 6, 1806, in the fifteenth year of our reign as Emperor and hereditary ruler of the Austrian lands.
Fyffe, Modern Europe, I, 303-306 (Popular ed., 204-260); Fournier, Napoleon, 335-340; Rose, Napoleon, II, 69-72; Sloane, Napoleon, II, 259-262; Lavisse and Rambaud, Histoire Generale, IX, 503-505.
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