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"Comparison of the Belligerents' Foreign Policies" Topic

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Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP18 Jul 2019 4:30 a.m. PST

The usual practice on the different message boards and among some published authors is to vilify Napoleon and France for her aggressiveness and empire building in Europe.

But what of the other warring nations? Russia, Austria, and Prussia, along with Great Britain were all expanding empires and acted accordingly. They were enemies of France and launched coalition after coalition against France and later Napoleon undoubtedly because Napoleon took large chunks of territory when he was successful in 1805, 1806, 1807, and 1809-all wars which were begun by his enemies.

But what of the territory claimed and taken by the allied powers. Great Britain greatly increased her overseas empire at the expense of the Dutch and French. Prussia and Austria both wanted to be dominant in Germany and Austria wanted northern Italy back. All three dismembered Poland during the Revolutionary Wars, and Russia warred against Sweden and Turkey, taking Finland and later the Duchy of Warsaw in 1814.

Seems to me there is enough blame for the wars to go around and to lay the blame only on France the Napoleon is both ahistorical and logically incorrect.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP18 Jul 2019 6:24 a.m. PST

Brechtel, this adds neither information nor reasoning to the argument. Indeed, His Imperial Majesty made a similar defense. Many nations gained territory following WWII at the expense of Germany and Japan, but this is not generally held to lessen the culpability of the Axis powers.

Let me ask you one: do you honestly believe that, had Bonaparte contented himself with the pre-revolutionary French borders, or even the (French-defined) "natural frontiers" Europe would still have had the same fifteen years of slaughter following Marengo and Hohenlinden?

I also note 1808 and 1812 were omitted from the list of war years. It would appear that not declaring war on Napoleon was no way to ensure peace with him.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP18 Jul 2019 8:42 a.m. PST

I tried to keep it simple and you still missed the point.

So, I'll try again:

It is usual here and on other forums to blame Napoleon and France for the wars.

Seems to me there is enough 'guilt' to go around as Great Britain, Austria, Russia, and Prussia conducted wars and territory grabbing as much as France did.

Are you still trying to blame Napoleon for the wars?

As for 1808, Napoleon found correspondence in Berlin from Spain that offered to attack Napoleon if he lost in Prussia. For 1812, Alexander had planned on war since 1810, had been a feckless 'ally' in 1809, and was threatening the Duchy of Warsaw. Wars have begun on less.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP18 Jul 2019 11:36 a.m. PST

You're right: if there's a point there, I'm missing it.

I'm sure you have enough background to list the reasons other powers cited for going to war with France if you were so inclined.

Happens I think Napoleon was to blame for much of the bloodshed of the First Empire, Frederick II was to blame for much of what went on in central Europe in his time, and Philip II and Hitler made the latter 16th and the mid-20th Centuries worse than they might otherwise have been, which does not make other contemporary rulers saints. But no one keeps popping up on TMP to tell me any of the others shouldn't be thought poorly of. And, given that this board is dedicated to miniature warfare and not ethical government, I'm not sure why you do.

Oh, I also think Richard III probably got a raw deal. But I don't post once a month to say that the Lancastrians were scum because it has nothing to do with miniature warfare.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP18 Jul 2019 12:12 p.m. PST

'Happens I think Napoleon was to blame for much of the bloodshed of the First Empire…'

As Napoleon was not the aggressor for most of the wars from the break of the Peace of Amiens by Great Britain to 1815, please explain your reasoning for the above statement.

Factually, it is incorrect.

holdit18 Jul 2019 12:44 p.m. PST

I think it's true to say that if the other European nations had decided to leave France to its revolution and to busy themselves with their own affairs only, then history could well have been very different.

Didn't it start in 1792 with a Prussian army on French soil?

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP18 Jul 2019 2:39 p.m. PST

Holdit, I've been very careful not to blame Napoleon for the wars of the French Revolution, but those stopped at Hohenlinden. My thesis is that the most powerful man in Europe has to take primary responsibility for a set of wars which happen within a year of his crowning himself Emperor or France (or the French?) and King of Italy and which stop as soon as he is neither.

Bechtel. You know, a few entries ago, you pointed out that some of the time he wasn't the one to declare war, and that other times he had a causus bellum (Sp?) I pointed out that the reverse is also true: some of the time he was the person who declared war, and other times he enemies had valid grievances. "Aggressor" is a lot harder to define. It's Napoleon who kept an army basically on hair-trigger, fought the war and garrisoned the army on other people's territories and kept placing family members on thrones even if he had to create new ones for the purpose. And I think back to Kissinger--that certain states just could not be made to feel secure within the existing system. None of the rulers of the major powers of 1814-15 strike me as saints. Most of them weren't notably clever. But absent Napoleon, they settled disputes reasonably peacefully. Why?

My reading is that he could no more accept being one European power among several than he could be one general among many or one Consul of three. Sooner or later, everything had to be done his way. And he was a man who couldn't imagine NOT kicking a man who was down. Bismark tried to warn a later emperor about squeezing the last ounce of humiliation out of an enemy, and someone might have thought of that in 1919. So instead of being the consolidator of the French Revolution, he brought about half a generation of bloodshed, and made a name instead of a dynasty.

But I still don't understand what this has to do with playing with toy soldiers.

4th Cuirassier19 Jul 2019 12:23 a.m. PST

I also note 1808 and 1812 were omitted from the list of war years.

And 1815. The Congress of Vienna declared him an outlaw, which is not the same as declaring war on France. So the fighting that ensued was unnecessary and was initiated by him.

It would appear that not declaring war on Napoleon was no way to ensure peace with him.

And also that the terms he offered to defeated enemies, including most obviously forced compliance with the Continental System, absolutely guaranteed the resumption of hostilities.

He himself refused the offer of natural frontiers repeatedly, believing he could trade others' lives for more territory.

4th Cuirassier19 Jul 2019 3:07 a.m. PST

To the OP's point, I don't see here any actual "comparison". First one must recognise that a revolution in the local superpower may well have effects on neighbours' policies. The relevant comparison would then surely be to consider how the belligerents' policies and war goals differed in the wars of 1792-1815 from some control period(s) before and perhaps after. The further question is whether these differences alone explain the fact, length and human cost of these wars, or whether some other factor does so.

The obvious control periods to take are during and after violent revolutions at other periods in history. If you looked at the period after the English revolution of 1642-49, or after the American revolution of 1775-83, or after the Russian revolution of 1917, or after the German (constructive) revolution of 1933, you find in many cases an initially respectable impetus. There were demands for more democracy, less inequality, fairer taxes, revocation of unfair treaty terms, etc. After a period of turmoil, this often results, however, in the replacement of the previous ruling authority by a more or less identically authoritarian one. Because this regime was militarily established in the first place, and furthermore considers its cause to be moral, it may be both equipped and inclined then to behave with less restraint and to wield more unfettered power than did its predecessor.

The result is a regime that sees itself as unaccountable to any outside party, that frequently expands violently into its neighbours, and may do so over a timescale of decades or centuries.

If it turns out that this course of events is indeed generally the case, then there is little need to point at, for example, the foreign policy of the north American Indian tribes as the proximate reason for their near-elimination from north America, or at Prussian foreign policy before 1806 as the cause of the war in 1806. To do so in any of my cases above is in fact egregiously missing the elephant in the room, which is that this is what always happens after a violent revolution in a neighbouring country, which for the neighbours is almost always bad.

42flanker19 Jul 2019 3:59 a.m. PST

The fact that this same proposition has appeared simultaneously under different pennames on three subject- related internet forums, suggests that the poster, for reasons best known to themselves, is especially eager to rehash this tired old debate- an indicator perhaps that we are entering the 'Dog Days' of summer, or what is known in the UK press as 'the silly season.'

Stoppage19 Jul 2019 4:07 a.m. PST

Droll Troll LOL

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP19 Jul 2019 4:16 a.m. PST

Actually I put the posting on four different forums as I thought it to be thought-provoking and worthy of discussion.

If you don't like it, that's too bad but your opinion is irrelevant.

42flanker19 Jul 2019 7:36 a.m. PST

That, of course, is your opinion.

Paul Demet19 Jul 2019 12:17 p.m. PST


Did you really mean to post "but your opinion is irrelevant" – surely everyone is entitled to express their opinion and members of the forum will decide if they agree or not

von Winterfeldt19 Jul 2019 12:52 p.m. PST

according so some people history is not democracy, which is pretty evident, but neither dictatorship – it is history.

Murvihill19 Jul 2019 2:13 p.m. PST

"Many nations gained territory following WWII at the expense of Germany and Japan…" I'm a little confused by this statement.

42flanker19 Jul 2019 2:38 p.m. PST

' History is not democracy' – Now, who does that remind me of ?

Groucho Marx20 Jul 2019 2:56 a.m. PST

Kevin, give it a rest; it's boring now…

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP20 Jul 2019 5:08 a.m. PST

That was helpful and definitely contributes to the discussion.

Groucho Marx20 Jul 2019 1:43 p.m. PST

Indeed it does, thanks for the comment…

Whirlwind21 Jul 2019 12:15 a.m. PST

I think it's true to say that if the other European nations had decided to leave France to its revolution and to busy themselves with their own affairs only, then history could well have been very different. Didn't it start in 1792 with a Prussian army on French soil?

No. The Revolutionary government declared war on Austria and Prussia.

So the reverse is true. If only France had kept its revolution to itself and kept busy with its own affairs, then history could well have been very different.

42flanker21 Jul 2019 2:41 a.m. PST

They declared war on Britain as well. That was 1793 though, wasn't it?

Britain's strategic concern over the Rhine-Meuse and commercial interests in the Caribbean probably meant that renewed conflict with the historic foe wasn't far off.

Hanoverian concern over the threat that the spirit of revolution posed to the social order, as well as to the security of plucky little Hanover, added mustard to the British position.

von Winterfeldt21 Jul 2019 4:04 a.m. PST

ah the devils the Prussians again, Brechtel forgets conveniently the other nations who invaded France, in support of the French King

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP22 Jul 2019 4:36 a.m. PST

Where did I single out Prussia in the above postings?

custosarmorum Supporting Member of TMP22 Jul 2019 3:19 p.m. PST

If considering foreign policy, should we not try to discern what the various belligerents' political objectives were? What, exactly, did Napoleon want to accomplish? Same for the other great powers.

Regardless of who did what to whom when, it might be more useful to ask who wanted to overturn the international system? It appears that France is interested in doing that very thing -- certainly to most of Europe the creation of the satellite kingdoms was a clear example of this (e.g., the creation of the Confederation as a "third Germany" was of great concern; it elevated several states from dukedoms to monarchies and the creation of Westpalia, his model state, which overthrew a number of traditional rulers --those of Hesse-Kassel, Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, etc.-- and replaced them with a member of the Bonaparte family, allegedly as a constitutional monarch, was clearly a major change to the international system in Germany).

Napoleon might well have been seen as a dangerous non-status quo leader who was not interested in rearranging the deck chairs, but rather in throwing chairs off the deck completely.

Murvihill23 Jul 2019 3:28 a.m. PST

The difference between Napoleon (And Frederick the Great, and Hitler) and the other European monarchs was brinksmanship. All the rulers of Europe were willing to snap up a little territory here and there if it was convenient but they wouldn't start a major war over it but overall they were extremely conservative. Napoleon threw the dice time and again, starting wars that could have been avoided if he wasn't such a gambler.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP23 Jul 2019 4:00 a.m. PST

To which wars are you referring that Napoleon 'started'?

von Winterfeldt23 Jul 2019 4:15 a.m. PST

France and Boney are two different things, France was abused to fulfill the megalomaniac dynastic dreams of him.
I cannot see any anti French sentiments in most posts, discussing this topic. Some of my "heros" Bernadotte, Moreau, Kleber, Lecourbe, Dupont, Marmont are French through and through.
Boney had the chance in 1808 to establish a Pax Napoleonica – but instead he chose to guzzle even more of Europe – he accepted no limits.
In the end he achieved a strong alliance who was hell bent to destroy him to enable to end of seemingly endless wars.
There are overwhelming reasons to see Boney critical and not to cherish him like a God like creature

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP23 Jul 2019 7:33 a.m. PST

I haven't seen anyone 'cherish' Napoleon 'like a God like creature.' That is purely an invention on your part.

Of those French generals that you admire, Bernadotte turned on France and Napoleon as well as the soldiers that he once commanded. Moreau did the same. Dupont was disgraced by his execrable conduct in southern Spain, deservedly so, and Marmont turned traitor with the help of Talleyrand.

What proof of megalomania do you have? I wasn't aware that you were a qualified psychologist or psychiatrist.

And who do you actually believe was responsible for the wars when Napoleon was head of state?

holdit24 Jul 2019 1:27 a.m. PST

I haven't seen anyone 'cherish' Napoleon 'like a God like creature.' That is purely an invention on your part.

Nor have I, but I seen some hate him as if he was Satan himself. I've never needed to think of him as good or evil; interesting is fine, so plenty of scope for praise and criticism, where each is due.

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