Marche Consulaire: A Napoleonic Timeline

Chapter One
Welcome, all. So, after five years and a ton of ideas taken up and discarded in my head, I've finally decided to get off my ass and put something down on paper for the first time. And so, I came up with a Napoleon timeline. That was a long time ago, actually, back before we started getting quite a few of them running around, but I intend to go different places than those, and I hope to stick with this longer than most, so there's that, too.

This one will start in 1805 and end about 1950 or so, and I've at least got some ideas for where to go that whole stretch, although they'll be subject to change as seems reasonable given the butterflies and all. Since it's my first timeline, it'll probably have a rocky start, but I'll appreciate any feedback you guys have to make it seem realistic. Within reason, since I'll probably default to broader strokes in the end. With all that said, let's begin.

Chapter One: A New Europe

Excerpted from The Founding of Modern Europe by Ronald Hansen, 1978.​

Much of the scholarship surrounding the French Revolution and the wars that followed tends to focus on the years 1805 and 1806. There are several reasons for this: for connoisseurs of tactics, the campaigns against Austria, Russia, and Prussia showcased the Grande Armée and its commander at their zenith in terms of skill and maneuver. That is why Ulm and Austerlitz and Erfurt remain popular case studies at war colleges to this day. For French nationalists, there has never been so great a display of their nation’s military might than in these two years, when their Emperor confronted the other Great Powers of the Continent and triumphed. And for allohistorical enthusiasts, the missteps of the Third Coalition are more glaring than those of any other set of Napoleon’s rivals. Because of this, they see abundant opportunities for better decision-making, resulting in any number of alternative worlds.

All of these differing emphases stem from a greater truth, of course: namely, that at no other point in the Napoleonic Wars did the Emperor face such daunting odds, and come as close to total ruin as he did in the late Fall and early Winter of 1805. The stunning French victory at Ulm left the road to Vienna open, allowing the Austrian capital to be captured with scarcely a shot fired. Despite the magnitude of this achievement, however, Napoleon soon found himself the victim of his own success, for on November 2nd, not two weeks after the surrender at Mack’s army at Ulm, the Kingdom of Prussia officially joined the Third Coalition, declaring war on France. [1] With the Prussian army beginning to mobilize, reaching a peak strength of 200,000 men in early 1806, it became imperative for Napoleon to defeat the Austrian and Russian forces in front of him in order to turn north and face the new threat.

This proved a frustratingly difficult task, however. Although Napoleon’s corps commanders were able to interpose themselves between Mikhail Kutuzov’s force and the sanctuary of Prussian territory, preventing him from joining up with the forces being raised there, the Russian general managed to escape east instead. [2] Deceptive diplomacy and delaying actions from Generals Kutuzov and Bagration stalled the French pursuit long enough for a combined Russo-Austrian force to take up defensive positions at Olmutz. There, they would wait for more reinforcements, as well as for the Prussian army to finish mobilization and advance south, to envelop the French with the weight of overwhelming numbers.

Had this strategy been adhered to, it is difficult to envision a French victory in the campaign. Olmutz was a well-fortified city, and a siege would only buy time for the Prussians to arrive and turn the tables. It was at this time that Napoleon made use of his signature talent, to turn his many enemies against each other, and against themselves. Kutuzov could not be lulled into deviating from the Allied plan – if anything, he would have preferred abandoning Olmutz for an even more secure position.

The same could not be said of the young Tsar Alexander, who had accompanied the Allied army and was eager to confront his French counterpart. Napoleon opted to conceal portions of his own army to accentuate its apparent vulnerability, leave the remainder seemingly vulnerable to an attack, all the while sending out peace feelers to his enemies and feigning nervousness. The true masterstroke in this charade came during an interview the Emperor had with one of the Tsar’s envoys, where he let slip a remark about how he feared to face the might of the Prussian army. The Russian diplomat dutifully relayed this tidbit to his master along with his general impressions, and Tsar Alexander snapped at the bait, suddenly quite conscious of the importance of besting the French army quickly, lest the Prussians arrive and claim credit for the victory.

The result of Alexander’s bout of impetuousness was the Battle of Austerlitz, which remains among the most well-documented battles in history. The resounding French victory spelled the end of Austria’s participation in the Third Coalition, but the greater strategic difficulty remained. To make matters worse, the remnants of the Russian army escaped again, eventually succeeding in reaching Prussian territory and rendezvousing with Prussian forces. For his part, Napoleon decided it would be foolish to face the Coalition forces again so soon, and withdrew into friendly Bavaria to wait out the winter and resupply. Once his men were rested and reinforced, he could resume the offensive.

Prussian passivity during this period is puzzling to some observers. The sluggish mobilization of their army prevented them from interceding during the Austerlitz campaign, but even after their forces were ready, Frederick William’s forces made few moves to openly contest the French. A small force was dispatched to Dresden to coerce the Kingdom of Saxony into joining the Coalition, but otherwise, no other moves were made during the winter months. Mindful as they were not to allow another defeat in detail, the Prussians intended to fight defensively, drawing French forces into their own territory and, with the help of steady reinforcements from Russia, wear them down through attrition. As such, the Allied attempt to avoid repeating the mistake of Austerlitz handed the initiative back to the French, and in early February, Napoleon struck.

The 1806 campaign demonstrated the strength and ferocity of French arms even more than the previous year had, as the Grande Armée outmaneuvered slower Prussian forces and methodically picked apart their defenses. The reasons for the poor Prussian performance have been expounded on at great length in the years since, but most of the problems boil down to a lack of initiative at all levels of the Prussian army. The Prussians had yet to adopt permanent corps or divisions, making effective combined arms tactics difficult to execute. The Prussian high command, despite having a general strategic vision laid out for the campaign, dithered over details, and reacted slowly to developments. On an individual level, the age of the Prussian officers, and, at least in the case of the Duke of Brunswick, borderline defeatism, also took its toll on the Prussian ability to react vigorously to the French offensive. All told, the army remained mired in the antiquated methods of the 18th Century, like a creature frozen in amber, and just as lethargic.

Napoleon’s army pushed into Saxony first, driving back token Coalition resistance, before finally meeting the bulk of the Duke of Brunswick’s army at Erfurt. The decisive victory there set the Prussians reeling, retreating across the Elbe to regroup. This did them little good, because not only were French forces at their heels, but the Emperor had also made use of the winter lull to cultivate allies in the Prussian rear. Led by Jan Henryk Dąbrowski, a renowned Polish general in the service of the French, the people of Poland seized the moment to rise up against their Prussian and Russian occupiers. By February 15th, Poznan and Kalisz were in flames.

As well-led and executed as this insurgency was, however, the timing was mishandled, as Napoleon had urged Dąbrowski to commence his uprising with all haste. Although the Prussians had already suffered serious reverses, the Duke of Brunswick managed to extricate his troops in reasonably good order. [3] This complication, combined with the inflow of Russian troops to aid their Coalition partner, as well as the inopportune capture of General Dąbrowski by a Prussian patrol while travelling between cities, all contributed to the downfall of the Polish rebellion, which was put down after three weeks of heavy fighting.

As February gave way to March, Napoleon continued his efforts to disperse the Prussian army and drive it eastwards. This proved slower going than the first month’s offensives, as fatigue began to take its toll on the French forces, but the Allied strategy of relying on Russian reinforcements had been stymied by the unrest in Poland, which forced a reallocation of manpower to restore order. As such, the superior mobility and flexibility of the French army made its mark. On March 20th, Berlin fell into in French hands, and by mid-April, a vigorous campaign in East Prussia saw the remains of Prussian and Russian resistance routed, finally forcing the two kingdoms to sue for peace.

The failure of the Greater Poland uprising is often overlooked, because of its resemblances to abortive Polish revolts both before and afterwards. However, this one carried a greater significance in the form of the potential that was lost when it was suppressed, and its leaders executed. The promises Napoleon made to Dąbrowski need to be taken with some degree of skepticism, but it seems that he was mulling the idea of restoring Poland, both as a source of troops and as a buffer between his rivals in Prussia and Russia.

The death of Dąbrowski, combined with the failure of the Polish rebels led the Emperor to reconsider his options. If a revived Polish state was unviable, than buying the Tsar's future cooperation might yield better results. So when Napoleon invited Frederick William and Alexander to Tilsit to negotiate peace terms, he came with a framework that would guide the course of European politics for over a century.

[1] This is, of course, the POD. Frederick William seemed to play a will he, won’t he game through a lot of 1805 and 1806 before finally deciding on war, so making the jump sooner isn’t a huge stretch. We can say it’s a panicked reaction to the Austrian defenses crumbling so quickly. Of course, the POD is only an indirect means to what I really wanted to get at here.

[2] Here you can see that I’m kind of struggling with figuring out how an altered campaign should work, so I compensate by leaving some of the finer details vague. It’s important for Napoleon to try and snuff out Kutuzov just like OTL, of course, and he winds up failing like OTL, but here he also needs to worry about the Russians maybe escaping into allied territory, so I just have Napoleon rewrite some marching orders accordingly to try and prevent that. This same lack of expertise also means that my timelines for campaigns might not make a ton of sense, so I invite whatever input you guys have on dates and such.

[3] This is really what I wanted to build towards. From what he said on the subject, Napoleon would likely have abandoned the Poles if the 1806 uprising failed. My problem was that it was well-planned, well-led, well-executed, and the Prussians were already clearly screwed when it began, so I couldn’t just magic it into failure. Hence, the POD, which turns the OTL campaign on its head and forces some hasty re-adjustments on Napoleon’s part.

He hastily calls for the Poles to rise, if only to buy himself extra time, and between that and the altered Coalition strategy, there are enough reserves around to put down the rebels. And because of butterflies, Brunswick doesn’t die in battle like OTL, so he provides more steady leadership during this period. From that defeat, Napoleon’s new plan is the most logical course of action given his short-term interests. If Poland’s a no-go, he’ll try harder to bribe Alexander. And you guys get to see what that involves in Chapter Two.
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A most interesting premise. Please continue.

Thanks for the early feedback, guys. I've got a second chapter written, and I'll probably post it tomorrow after proofreading it. I'll eventually scale back to an update a week, probably, but early, I think it'll be important to get a good amount of content out quickly, so there's something to discuss.

On another note, I have no experience with or knowledge of mapmaking, so if someone wanted to volunteer their services for that, PM me. I think I'll want a world map for 1815, which will be quite a few updates from now, but I may as well ask around early. Otherwise, stay tuned for Chapter Two.
Chapter Two: The Continental System
Update time, guys. Here's Chapter 2. This will be a lot more experimental, since I'm doing an entire (half of a) campaign that didn't happen IOTL, so my grounding will be a lot less firm. Again, I'll take whatever constructive criticism I can get. Enjoy.

Chapter Two: The Continental System

Excerpted from The Founding of Modern Europe by Ronald Hansen, 1978.​

The Treaty of Tilsit was actually a set of two treaties, one each with Russia and Prussia. Together, they laid out Napoleon’s vision for the future of Europe. Ever the classical scholar, the Emperor opted to revive an old Roman practice, dīvide et īmpera, to play his two erstwhile enemies’ interests against each other, and this is reflected in the stark contrast in the treaty terms relating to the two countries.

Prussia was, in a word, emasculated. The once-proud kingdom saw large tracts of territories parceled out to other powers. Cottbus was ceded to Saxony, and the lands west of the Elbe became incorporated into Napoleon’s new satellite state in Westphalia. Most jarring of all, however, were the cessions to Russia. Because Napoleon had abandoned his plans to revive a Polish state, he decided to award all of the lands Prussia had gained in the Partitions of Poland to the Russian Empire. All told, Frederick William lost over half of his subjects. Combined with draconian arms reductions and reparations, these provisions reduced the kingdom to a third-rate power overnight.

Russia, by contrast, could almost consider itself a beneficiary of the Treaty. In exchange for ceding the Ionian islands to France, Tsar Alexander added sizable portions of Poland to his domain, as well as extracting a promise from Napoleon to assist him in a war against the Ottoman Turks. This was the crux of Napoleon’s political strategy – by allowing one rival to profit at the expense of the other, he could hinder future cooperation between them. As at Austerlitz, Napoleon used Alexander as the lever with which he would pry the European powers apart, and elevate France above its neighbors. [1]

The second part of his strategy was the creation of the Continental System, a joint embargo of British trade, which he intended to impose on all of Europe. The Treaty of Tilsit compelled both Prussia and Russia to join. Along with Napoleon’s own possessions, plus those of his allies in Spain, this meant that most of Europe’s markets would now be closed off to the British. Over time, this policy developed into a severe political albatross, as the Emperor was forced to rely on brute force and intimidation to ensure compliance. It also inflicted severe economic damage throughout Europe, as commerce with the rest of the world slowed to a trickle.

In the meantime, however, Napoleon had an obligation of his own to discharge: the destruction of the Ottoman Turks. Russian forces had evicted the Turks from Moldova already, and having secured peace with France, Alexander began to prioritize this theater. Napoleon concentrated the bulk of his Grande Armée in newly ceded Dalmatia, ready to strike a death blow against the embattled Ottoman Empire. Britain, for its part, was not ready to allow the Sultan’s domains to be partitioned between their old enemy and their former ally. Sicily and its Bourbon rulers remained under British protection, and as the threat of a French invasion of Turkey loomed, it became the destination for a British expeditionary force, ready to come to the Sultan’s defense. By August 1806, General John Stuart had nearly 30,000 British and Sicilian troops on high alert for the inevitable French move.

That move never came. The Russian advance through the Balkans continued unabated, but Napoleon’s own forces stayed put. Although the publicly announced terms from Tilsit mandated a joint effort against the Turks later in the year, this was an elaborate ruse to distract from the Treaty’s secret provisions between Napoleon and Tsar Alexander. Russia would be allowed to take whatever concessions it could extract from the Turks, and by having his own army assemble on the border with Turkey, Napoleon could divert troops away from the front, assisting the Russians without firing a shot. In the meantime, Franco-Russian cooperation would be focused on a different target. [2]

The two monarchs agreed that depriving Britain of resources was the best means to coerce London to make peace, and one particular material the country needed was timber, the backbone of the Royal Navy. To this end, they envisioned a joint invasion of Sweden, one of the last British allies on the continent. With the war in Turkey, along with Napoleon’s main army demonstrating on the Turkish border, British attention would be focused on the Mediterranean, and hopefully overlook the buildup in the Baltic until it was too late.

The two-pronged Franco-Russian offensive would hit Sweden from two directions. Alexander’s forces would advance into Finland, while a Franco-Danish force under Louis Davout would invade Scania from the south, proceeding overland to Stockholm from there. The Danes valued their neutrality, but Napoleon was able to win their cooperation with the threefold argument that Britain had already disrespected Danish neutrality in the past, and likely would again in the future, that Scania would be restored to Denmark in exchange for an alliance, and that France and Russia made better allies (and more dangerous foes) than Britain and Sweden did. On August 10th, 1806, Alexander made the first move, calling on the Swedish government to join the Continental System and to close the Baltic to foreign warships. A month later, no reply from King Gustav had been received, so the invasion went forward. [3]

For both the French and Russian forces, the invasion made good early progress. The Swedes were ill-prepared for war, let alone one that pressed them on two fronts. On September 10th, the start of the invasion, the Russians took the town of Lovisa, and on the following day stormed the poorly defended fortress of Svartholm. [4] By mid-October, the Russian advance had reached the western coast of Finland. In the meantime, Davout’s force had beaten Swedish forces north of Karlskrona on September 25th before advancing north to threaten the capital.

The British were slow to react to these developments, both for strategic and political reasons. First, Napoleon’s subterfuge was quite successful, with the British concern about the potential fall of Constantinople superseding other problems. In addition, there were diplomatic difficulties between the British and the mercurial King Gustav. Most importantly, the government was in turmoil, with the death in mid-September of Foreign Secretary Charles James Fox. His successor, Lord Howick, was pessimistic about the odds of success on the continent, and did not believe that Sweden could be saved from Franco-Russian encirclement. Although he was eventually overruled, the debate consumed even more valuable time.

In the end, the news of French involvement galvanized Lord Grenville’s Ministry of All the Talents, and an expedition was dispatched. On October 13th, Sir John Moore’s army, some 20,000 strong, disembarked at Gothenberg, and began marching overland to relieve the beleaguered Swedes. [5] Two days later, a second British force laid siege to Copenhagen, where after a week of resistance, the Danish government was forced to surrender its remaining navy. Lord Cathcart returned home a hero, lauded by the press and the public. [6] Moore, for his part, would not prove so fortunate.

Davout’s army had been able to defeat the Swedish armies sent against him so far, but he had only his own III Corps plus a smaller number of Danish troops, about 35,000 strong altogether. Facing both the British and Swedish simultaneously would be daunting, so like his master, Davout exploited his central position to divide and conquer. After leaving the Danes behind as a covering force, the French army turned southwest, and on October 26th met Moore’s force near the town of Jönköping, on the southern shores of Lake Vättern. [7]

The Battle of Jönköping favored the British initially; with the lake shoring up Moore’s left flank, his troops were able to repel the French assaults with their well-trained musketry. However, Davout had anticipated a stubborn defense, and made the most of his superior cavalry to compensate. A little after 3 P.M., Montbrun’s horsemen emerged from the woods, crashing into Moore’s right rear. At the same time, the French infantry surged forward to turn that same flank, while the artillery concentrated fire on the British center.

These twin blows broke the cohesion of the British army, which surrendered after its troops were driven into the frigid waters of Lake Vättern. Moore himself was killed in action, a victim of the Grande Batterie. This was not the end of the Swedish campaign, which stretched into Summer 1807. However, the British, seeing the worst defeat for their army in over 60 years, declined to lend further aid to their northern ally. By June, the Swedish court, seeing the writing on the wall, replaced the increasingly irrational Gustav with his uncle Karl, who sued for peace.

The Treaty of Vasa was, in accordance with Napoleon’s new diplomatic strategy, a national humiliation for Sweden. To start, Swedish Pomerania was to be incorporated into the Confederation of the Rhine. In the north, all Swedish territory east of the Tornio-Muonio boundary would be ceded to Russia, the gains being incorporated into a quasi-autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland.

In the south, Napoleon pushed for a full repeal of the Treaty of Roskilde from 1658, with Scania and all the other territories Denmark lost a century and a half earlier being returned. The cession of Scania, Blekinge, Halland, and Bohuslän stripped Sweden of any control over the Danish straits. Lastly, the Swedes were obliged to join the Continental System, denying their valuable timber to the Royal Navy.

With the castration of Sweden, the French Emperor meant to send a message to the kings and princes of Europe. Cooperation and compliance with his dictates would be rewarded, quite possibly beyond one’s wildest dreams. Resistance would lead only to national ruin. With that choice laid out clearly, Napoleon needed only to wait, and to allow the nations of Europe to make their choice.

[1] This writer’s style is intentionally a bit more flowery than my own. I’ll eventually use other books for updates, and probably adjust the style accordingly. I’ll note that I intended him to be Canadian, but realized I had goofed on some of those alternate spellings in the first chapter, so that’s ditched.

[2] This is another big concession relative to OTL Tilsit, which forced a ceasefire between the Russians and the Turks. Napoleon has decided to throw the Sultan under the bus too, since Alexander is a more valuable ally. He’s not eager to see the Ottomans fall, but doesn’t think the war will go that far. I’ll get back to this front later.

[3] This diplomatic sequence is pretty different from OTL’s Finnish War, but Napoleon is taking a more personal interest in it, and he wants the element of surprise to get Davout’s men across to Sweden safely, so things need to move quickly.

[4] Svartholm withstood siege for a month IOTL, but the fort was in bad disrepair and the garrison was weak, so I think it could have been assaulted successfully.

[5] Moore got this job IOTL too, but he wasn’t allowed to land. ITTL, the British decide to damn the consequences since the situation is so dire.

[6] The attack on Copenhagen was at least a little controversial IOTL. Here, it’s a lot less so, since the Danes just helped invade Sweden, so there’s the sense they brought this on themselves.

[7] Leaving the exact location a little vague, so terrain issues aren’t nitpicked to death. It’s just on the lake, and with a good number of trees around.
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I suppose I may as well explain my writing/updating process here, so you guys know what to expect with scheduling. I already have Chapter 3 written, and have just started writing Chapter 4. I want to be able to say one chapter ahead of my updates, so I'll post 3 when 4 is finished, and so on. The story will mostly stay in Europe for a while longer, although Chapter 3 touches on Latin America a little. After 1810, I'll post an update focusing on the United States during this time, and then go back to Latin America in more detail, and then back to the Ottoman Empire to see how Alexander's war is going. After all that, there'll be one last update on the end of the Napoleonic Wars, and then I'll explore the post-war world.

At that point, I'll get into more detail on how societies are changing, and probably do the occasional update on cultural stuff, too. Architecture and literature and science, that sort of thing. I think it's important for these more broad-ranging timelines to include details like that to feel more lived-in, so expect stuff on canned food, Gothic literature and Greek Revival architecture, that sort of thing.
Chapter Three: Do Not Interrupt Your Enemy...
Time for a new update, guys. This time, the focus is on British internal politics and strategy. Lots of foreign policy analysis treats states as black boxes, and doesn't delve into their internal workings, or assumes that everyone will agree on a country's best interests, but that's rarely true in real life. And given that IOTL the British government was pretty unstable at this time, with a lot of debate over war conduct, it's only realistic to address this in detail. Also, foreshadowing of Latin American developments for later. Enjoy.

Chapter Three: Do Not Interrupt Your Enemy...

Excerpted from The Founding of Modern Europe by Ronald Hansen, 1978.​

In many ways, British politics faced the end of an era in 1806. The deaths of William Pitt the Younger and Charles James Fox brought about a generational shift in leadership, and it would take some time for normality to reassert itself. This turmoil is reflected in the repeated changes of government during this period.

Lord Grenville’s unity government was likely doomed to failure from the outset, as Fox’s hopes for reaching an accord with Napoleon were dashed by the Carthaginian peace the Emperor enforced on the vanquished Prussians. And with peace foreclosed as an option, the inaptly named Ministry of All the Talents also failed to distinguish itself in military ventures. Whatever accolades the Government received for its swift neutralization of the Danish navy at Copenhagen were promptly invalidated by the reverses in Buenos Aires and Jönköping. The latter defeat became the straw that broke the camel’s back - by January 1807, the government had fallen, leaving the Duke of Portland to take charge of the country. [1]

Portland’s Ministry was home to several quarreling officials, bound together by little more than their loyalty to the late Pitt. The most important of these internal rivalries was the enmity between George Canning and Lord Castlereagh, with each representing a different strategic vision. Ironically, Canning and Castlereagh took stances rather contrary to what one would expect, given the respective positions they held. Canning, as Foreign Minister, was quite averse to dangerous continental entanglements, preferring to exploit British naval supremacy and focus national efforts on the colonial arena, where decisive advantages could be assured. For his part, Castlereagh, as Secretary of State for War and the Colonies, stressed the importance of a coalition to overturn French dominance of Europe. To this end, he argued that Britain should take whatever steps were necessary to reassure potential allies, even to the point of committing the army. [2]

These two strategic frameworks clashed when the Cabinet began to weigh the merits of a second Buenos Aires expedition, intended to avenge the failure of the first and hopefully ignite revolutionary fervor in Spanish America. Castlereagh was vehemently opposed, saying that he feared success more than failure in this quarter. After all, a major coup against the Spanish colonies would permanently damage any hopes of prying the Spanish government away from its alliance with Napoleon. However, Castlereagh’s own ideas tended to hinge on using Sicily as a springboard to invading southern Italy, to draw off French troops in conjunction with an Austrian invasion. With the failure at Jönköping fresh in their minds, and with no Austrian moves immediately forthcoming while that country recuperated from its most recent defeat, the Cabinet discarded this idea.

As such, Canning ultimately won the day, and a second expedition was dispatched in February, targeting Buenos Aires and Montevideo. This was only the spearhead for a more general assault on Spanish possessions, because the Cabinet, for want of other strategic ideas, decided to embrace Canning’s colonial strategy with all due vigor. Expeditions against Spanish colonies were prepared, and with civil disorder brewing in La Plata and elsewhere, overtures were to be made to rebel leaders, to further undermine Spanish authority in the New World.

The second British invasion of La Plata proved just as ineffective as the first. Results elsewhere were, charitably, mixed. Spanish Guinea was occupied with little resistance, but the more populous colonies of Cuba and Venezuela were more difficult propositions. In January 1808, an expedition departed Jamaica bound for Cuba. With 8,000 men under his command, Sir Hew Dalrymple was tasked with capturing Havana. A British force had successfully taken the city during the Seven Years’ War, and Dalrymple intended to reprise that assault, first by storming the high ground overlooking the city. Unfortunately, the British general failed to account for new defenses the Spanish had built to remedy Havana's earlier vulnerability. The fortress of La Cabaña frustrated Dalrymple's attack, repelling his assault force with heavy losses.

Having devised his battle plans on the presumption that he could take the high ground over Havana, Dalrymple apparently had no other ideas for capturing the city. [3] Listless, the general requested reinforcements, and ordered his troops to settle in for a siege. This stalemate lasted a little over a month, before yellow fever set in among the British ranks. By March 10th, Dalyrmple’s notes estimate 3,500 of his 8,000 men were dead or incapacitated by the disease. By the end of March, Dalrymple had been recalled for incompetence, but with the majority of the assault force unfit for action, his replacement decided to call off the siege, returning to Jamaica.

The British invasion of Venezuela was smoother going, in large part due to the greater diligence of Lieutenant-General Sir Arthur Wellesley. A veteran of campaigns in India, he knew the dangers of a diseased army, as well as the importance of thorough reconnaissance before testing a defended position. After his army secured the coastal cities of Caracas, Maracaibo, and Cumaná, Spanish forces retreated into the colony’s interior to continue their resistance. Wellesley was reluctant to pursue, knowing that with May would come the rainy season, and that the further inland he went, the heavier the toll tropical diseases would take on his army. With his most important objectives achieved, Wellesley would stay put for most of the rest of 1808. [4]

When all was said and done, the British campaigns in Latin America were unsatisfactory to Portland’s government. Of five expeditions, three were debacles, and the remaining two were qualified successes only. More importantly, not even Canning could convincingly explain how these campaigns would help defeat the French. An attempted coup by the Anglophilic Crown Prince of Spain had taken place in early 1808, only to sputter out and lose public support when word reached Madrid of the attacks on Havana and Caracas. Carlos IV and Prime Minister Godoy retained power, however precariously, and Spain would remain in the Continental System for the foreseeable future. [5]

Efforts to cultivate rebellion against the Spanish were equally disappointing. In Buenos Aires, general Santiago de Liniers had supplanted Madrid’s appointed governor as the leader of La Plata, the latter having been blamed for absconding from Buenos Aires with the treasury when the British attacked. Liniers, however, had led the forces that expelled the two British expeditions, and was no friendlier to them than his predecessor. Meanwhile in Venezuela, an alliance of convenience had been forged between the prominent agitator Simón Bolívar and Captain General Vicente Emparan. The two men agreed that questions of Venezuelan independence could be postponed until the British invaders had been evicted from the capital and other cities. Independence movements in New Spain and elsewhere shared similar sentiments about British interference in their internal affairs. [6]

Castlereagh, who had narrowly refrained from resigning in protest over the failed expedition to Havana, was back in the ascendant, claiming vindication for his earlier warnings. He persuaded the rest of the Cabinet to impose a moratorium on further hostilities against the Spanish, while focusing the rest of their efforts into assembling a new Coalition on the continent to oppose Napoleon. With the death of Lord Portland later in the year, the Earl of Liverpool became Prime Minister. Castlereagh took leadership of the Tories in the House of Commons, as well as the Foreign Office.

With the Austrian government finally receptive to offers of another alliance, Britain entered 1810 optimistic. The home economy had been hindered by Napoleon’s Continental System, but Europe suffered worse. Although direct alliance with Madrid seemed unlikely for the time being, the Franco-Spanish alliance had frayed due to Napoleon’s actions. And the Hapsburgs had taken advantage of the past several years of peace to reform their armies. Under Archduke Charles, the new Austrian army incorporated corps, the Levée en masse, and other aspects of the French army that had brought Napoleon so many victories, ensuring it would be a much more imposing opponent in the future.

Most of all, there was the sense that the Emperor had become a victim of his own success, overextending his reach and alienating the peoples of Europe with his imperiousness. As the Fourth Coalition prepared to take the field, the continent understood that one way or another, this would be the final act of the Napoleonic Wars.

[1] Grenville’s government didn’t get much done IOTL either, and with the Swedish disaster to contend with, they don’t stand a chance at surviving, to my mind.

[2] Here I’m conjecturing a lot about what Canning and Castlereagh would have wanted in this situation, but I’m basing my speculation on their opposed views of the Walcheren Expedition in 1809. Castlereagh wanted to invade Holland to help out the Austrians, but Canning thought those troops were better off in Spain, where there was a clear avenue of retreat to Torres Vedras if things went wrong. I think this maps out their strategic preferences adequately, as a result.

[3] Moore and everyone else seemed to agree that Dalrymple was an idiot, so this seems like a plausible form of incompetence for him.

[4] I'd planned on killing him with some disease, too, but decided it was too heavy-handed. British involvement on the continent will be limited in the foreseeable future, so there's just no room for him to see action there.

[5] Fernando’s coup attempt doesn’t get exposed in advance, but more British attacks on Spanish colonies lets a lot of air out of his balloon. In the future I intend for divisions in Spanish politics to not correspond neatly to Francophilia or Anglophilia. Politics is rarely so dichotomous.

[6] More on these independence movements in Chapter 6.
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Chapter Four: The Fourth Coalition
As it turns out, Chapter Five was a lot quicker to write than Chapter Four was, so here's another update. This is the longest chapter so far, and we'll be seeing the rest of the world after this, starting with the US next chapter. Again, I'm hoping for some constructive criticism and other speculation, since I can incorporate that stuff into future updates. As usual, enjoy.

Chapter Four: The Fourth Coalition

Excerpted from The Founding of Modern Europe by Ronald Hansen, 1978.​

For Napoleon, the period between 1808 and 1810 is most reminiscent of the brief interlude between the Treaty of Amiens and the inception of the Third Coalition. Although it seems as if the Emperor had adopted a passive stance, waiting for his Continental System to do its work, documented evidence from the period shows that he was anything but idle. Reforms and legislation were enacted during this time, with others being mooted and discarded, and war plans and other strategy also occupied much of Bonaparte’s focus.

The common refrain among Napoleon’s enemies characterizing the Emperor as an addict to conquest has some grounding in his writings from this time and others, with battle plans meticulous and fanciful alike appearing. His main concerns at this time were Austria and Spain. The former was the more pressing concern, being the strongest state on the continent that had yet to be either co-opted or truncated to the point of irrelevance. The Austrians had publicly acceded to the Continental System in 1806, since their army was in no condition to contest the issue. However, while smuggling was commonplace throughout Europe in defiance of Napoleon’s decrees, it was most systematically flouted by the Austrians, where bribes paid out to port inspectors appeared (disguised) on official state ledgers.

Because of Austria’s latent strength and economic double-dealing, Napoleon was tempted at several points to take action. His ideas varied, usually revolving around either removing Francis from the throne and replacing him with a less bellicose ruler, or else tying himself to the House of Hapsburg through a dynastic marriage. For whatever reason, however, neither of these ideas proved alluring enough to warrant a pre-emptive war. When Napoleon did wed Princess Marie-Louise, it was only after he was in a position to truly force the issue.

Spain was a more complicated problem, because the country and its colonial empire were facing significant civil disruption during this time, and that fact by itself seemed to either galvanize Napoleon into wanting to act, or else cause him to recoil from involvement by turns. He distrusted King Carlos, and even more so Carlos’ chosen Prime Minister, Manuel Godoy, who expressed his readiness to abandon the French alliance when the Emperor seemed to face disaster in central Europe in 1805. With that in mind, the abortive coup by Prince Fernando befuddled the Emperor, who does not seem to have understood the depths of Godoy’s domestic unpopularity. It certainly did not register how the populace could see the Prime Minister as Bonaparte’s lackey, when he considered the Spaniard an uncooperative and reluctant partner at best. [1]

As much as Napoleon distrusted the entirety of the Spanish aristocracy by 1808, he seems to have been paralyzed by uncertainty as far as solutions were concerned. Plans to replace Godoy with a more pliant Prime Minister, or to depose the Bourbons altogether in favor of one of his siblings were a common topic of interest in the Emperor’s correspondence and other writings from this time. That none of these plans saw fruition seems to be the result of several factors apart from an uncharacteristic indecisiveness on the part of the Emperor.

One concern was the tenuousness of the Spanish colonial empire, which became highly apparent to Napoleon after the British expeditions in Latin America from 1806 to 1809. So long as the British focused their strength on colonial ventures rather than the Continent, Napoleon was content to allow them their distraction. Revolutionaries like Miguel Hidalgo and Santiago de Liniers posed harder questions, and the Emperor’s thoughts on whether to support these uprisings or to allow their suppression changed from month to month. Another factor may simply have been timing. So long as the Austrian Question remained unresolved, Napoleon was less willing to confront a two-front war where his political ends remained uncertain. Regardless, events in central Europe would soon return to the forefront. [2]

Nearly twenty years of unsuccessful wars against France, along with punitive peace agreements and territorial cessions, had eroded Austrian financial strength. British subsidies were instrumental in allowing the Hapsburg monarchy to continue with retooling its military, but even this largesse had limits, and the Continental System was taking its toll on both nations. Because of these constraints, the Austrian military could only be supported for so much longer. To make use of its reformed army while it was still sustainable, the Austrian Empire agreed to join Britain and the Ottoman Empire to form the Fourth Coalition. Come Spring of 1810, there would be war with France again. Lord Castlereagh had also made overtures to the Russian Empire, but Alexander remained largely satisfied with the territorial gains and political leeway that his alliance with Napoleon had given him, and so rebuffed these advances.

Despite that setback, there were a few advantages the Fourth Coalition enjoyed that its predecessors lacked. First, they were not to be hoodwinked by another strategic deception along the lines of 1805 or 1807, where Napoleon masked the focus of his military efforts. They correctly surmised that the Danube would once again be the target of the Grande Armée. Second, they had finally come to terms with the sheer difficulty of matching the Emperor in the field, even with superior numbers. With these two advantages, the winning strategy was clear: Archduke Charles, the most capable commander available to the Coalition, would hold the Emperor at bay, while a decisive blow was struck where Napoleon himself would least expect it, in Italy. [3]

An Austrian army under Heinrich von Bellegarde would be tasked with breaching the Venetian plain, with Ottoman forces acting in support. In the meantime, John Stuart’s army in Sicily, by now reinforced to 45,000 men, would expel Joseph Bonaparte from Naples. Heavy-handed behavior and looting by French troops had provoked a stubborn and destructive insurgency in Calabria in the past, and it was believed that this could provide the nucleus for a popular uprising that would prove Joseph’s downfall. Once that was done, the remainder of the Neapolitan military could be co-opted, and the allied armies would advance up the peninsula, forcing Napoleon’s less capable subordinates to cope with overwhelming numbers, plus a combination of irregular and conventional warfare.

As is so common in war, neither the Coalition nor Napoleon’s own plans worked as expected. On February 9th, Stuart’s army landed in Calabria as planned, and began the march towards Naples, all the while calling on the populace to rise up against their foreign oppressors. To Stuart’s consternation, these exhortations received only a tepid response from the locals. Joseph Bonaparte was more personable than his brother, and since 1806 had gone to great lengths to win the affections of his subjects. Feudal taxes had been abolished, the educational system modernized, public works projects provided gainful employment, and banditry had been all but eradicated. By 1810, even the most war-torn portions of Calabria preferred the benevolent consensus-building Joseph offered to his Bourbon predecessors. [4]

Despite this unwelcome development, the British force still outnumbered the Neapolitan army nearly two to one, so Marshal Jourdan fought delaying actions only, abandoning Naples. To the north, Marshal Massena led a defensive action against Bellegarde’s army, and was holding out comfortably. Massena was exasperated by Jourdan’s request for reinforcements, but begrudgingly detached two divisions from his own force to assist. With this aid, Jourdan managed to form up a defensive line along the Volturno, checking Stuart. By April, French reinforcements started arriving in Italy in large numbers, allowing Massena to take the offensive against Bellegarde, and Jourdan recaptured Naples on the 6th.

This level of action in Italy had surprised Napoleon, and meant that fresh formations that he had intended to use himself were redirected to the Italian front instead. As a result, when the first pitched battle between his army and the Austrians on March 8th, at Regensberg, the two forces stood at parity in numbers. The city had been captured by the Austrians early in the campaign, and Napoleon intended to recapture it, along with the important Danube crossing it controlled. This proved a difficult task. the Austrian defenders had reinforced the gates with rubble, making bombardment ineffective. It took several attempts, but eventually the French succeeded in scaling the walls and forcing their way into the city. Several hours of street to street combat followed before the embattled garrison finally surrendered.

Regensberg was a costly battle for both sides, with 4,000 French casualties and 6,000 Austrian. Unfortunately, among the wounded was the Emperor himself, his left leg struck by a canister round. He had been swiftly carried to safety by his Imperial Guardsmen, but the word that the Emperor was in no immediate danger reassured the army, giving them the heart to carry the walls on their final assault. Although Napoleon was expected to make a full recovery, he was relegated to commanding from a chaise for the rest of the campaign. Despite his attempts to hide it, observers noticed a tendency to favor his left for the rest of his life. [5]

In the meantime, Charles’ army had retreated into Bohemia, and the French captured Vienna without further complications. The first French attempt at crossing the Danube and drawing the Austrians out to fight resulted in the Battle of Aspern-Essling. If Regensberg had been a prelude of things to come, then Aspern-Essling was the first movement in the symphony of blood that would be 1810. [6] For the better part of two days, the two eponymous villages were captured and recaptured by French and Austrian forces. While Charles’ new army still lacked the flexibility and spontaneity of the French, their sheer tenacity and firepower made up for a lack of finesse. By the end of the second day, the French advance began to run out of steam. In Aspern, Marshal Soult was thrown from his horse by an enemy skirmisher, and his IV Corps inexorably gave way. By the end of the night, the Emperor was forced to concede defeat for the first time in his career, and extricated his army back across the Danube.

As his soldiers recuperated from action, Napoleon took the time to re-evaluate the campaign. In addition to their attempts to decide the campaign in theaters where he was absent, the Coalition also seemed to be taking steps to restrict his room to maneuver, turning the war into one of attrition. This strategy had a fatal shortcoming, however. With the help of his client states, Napoleon now enjoyed numerical superiority over his foes. Even though Alexander had by now concluded peace with the Ottoman Turks, and stood aloof from the Emperor's struggles with the Austrians, he could still win a contest of brute force. [7]

As Napoleon planned his second thrust across the Danube, he also drew in reinforcements to replenish his bloodied army. The subsequent Battle of Wagram was even costlier than Aspern-Essling, as Charles moved to double-envelop the Grande Armée. However, these efforts were unsuccessful, and the Austrians retreated into Bohemia. Rather than pursuing immediately, as he would have during his earlier campaigns, Napoleon decided to wait again, and accumulate even more troops before meeting the Hapsburg army for a final clash on May 1st, at Pressburg.

With fighting on the Italian front decisively in French favor by now, Charles once again felt the need to act aggressively, attempting to pin portions of Napoleon’s army against the Danube and destroy them. For two days, French forces tried advancing east from the river, while the Austrians pushed them back. All the while, canister shot devastated tightly packed formations on both sides. In the end, the Austrian attacks were rebuffed, and on the night of the 2nd, the Archduke conceded defeat, withdrawing further east. Charles had lost 45,000 men to Napoleon’s 32,000, making Pressburg the bloodiest battle of the Napoleonic Wars.

This would be the last major action of the campaign. Emperor Francis had no more confidence in victory, and agreed to meet Napoleon in Vienna to discuss peace terms. To his surprise, Bonaparte was not in a punitive mood, despite the unprecedented levels of bloodshed his army had endured. The Duchy of Salzburg was to be ceded to Bavaria, but the French Emperor was less interested in reparations than he was in alliance. The only obstacle to peace in Europe, Napoleon insisted, was British intransigence, and he himself was largely satisfied with the current state of the continent. To seal this commitment to stability, Napoleon offered to divorce his current wife Josephine and marry into the Hapsburg dynasty. Caught off balance as he was by the French leniency, Francis agreed to allow Napoleon to wed his daughter Marie-Louise. [8]

The royal wedding took place a year after the treaty signing, in May of 1811. On March 4th, 1812, Napoleon’s first son was born. By the time Napoleon II came of age, he could expect an entire continent to inherit as his birthright.

[1] Napoleon’s understanding of internal Spanish politics isn’t really any better than OTL, he’s just a bit more cautious in general.

[2] All of this is attempts by our non-omniscient narrator to explain Napoleon’s passivity from 1808 to 1810. There’s a few reasons that he doesn’t invade Spain like OTL, a lot of them butterfly-induced. The loss of the Danish and Swedish fleets made it impossible to outnumber the Royal Navy for now, so he didn’t seize Portugal’s, and therefore never stationed armies in Spain. Also, his divide and rule strategy means he wants to co-opt Spain into his new European order, but all the civil dissent leaves him unsure of how to do it. In the end, he chooses a wait and see approach.

[3] I want both sides to be at least reasonably competent and try learning from their mistakes. Hence, the Fourth Coalition tries a variation of OTL’s Sixth Coalition’s strategy.

[4] All of that is OTL. Compared with any contemporary monarch, and Joseph was practically a socialist.

[5] Napoleon received a milder wound IOTL at Ratisbon (Regensburg in German). With more even numbers and Regensburg’s gates not getting breached like OTL, the French also suffer double their historical casualties.

[6] I’m finding that writing pretentiously on purpose is actually a lot of fun.

[7] Another theme I want to explore in this timeline is how even if you try learning from past errors, you won’t necessarily learn the right lessons, or else you might make new mistakes in the process. Also, this campaign in general is a reflection of the OTL bloodier parts of the later Napoleonic Wars, where armies got larger and casualties mounted accordingly.

[8] This is the last part of Napoleon’s new divide and rule strategy. In the long run, he intends to sell himself as a guarantor of the status quo, but only after he’s tipped that status quo in France’s favor.
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I am really enjoying your exploration of a different Napoleonic Era, I can't wait to see where you go from here.
Chapter Five: Good Feelings
I am really enjoying your exploration of a different Napoleonic Era, I can't wait to see where you go from here.

Thanks. If I'm being honest, I'm pretty eager by now to be done with the Napoleonic Wars, and to get to the post-war era, where I feel like I'll have more freedom to diverge aggressively. Only a few more chapters to go before we reach that point. And here's one of them, now that I'm done with Chapter Six, which required a ton of research. Here, we start looking at the war's effects around the world, starting with the United States.

Chapter Five: Good Feelings

Excerpted from The First American Party System by Charles Francis Adams, 1871. [1]​

As war raged in Europe at the start of the century, the challenge for this nation, still finding its footing in the years after the Constitution, was how fervently to engage with the world outside its borders, and the degree to which true separation was possible. The sectional disputes that assumed centrality at the end of the 1810’s existed a decade earlier, but were far less incendiary in that earlier time, as evidenced by the unceremonious prohibition of the slave trade in 1808. Questions related to the security of American trade and the northwestern frontier carried far more weight.

Thomas Jefferson’s last official act as President in early 1809 was an admission of defeat with regards to his Embargo Act. In attempting to sever the links of commerce between the United States and the outside world, he had inadvertently demonstrated their importance to the livelihood of Americans, merchants and laborers alike. True isolation of the kind that many of the Founding Fathers had wanted for America was proven an impossible dream. And so Jefferson approved a revision of the original legislation; instead of a boycott of the entire world, the United States would only proscribe trade with Great Britain and France, and only so long as those two nations restricted free trade with the continent. As soon as war concluded and the twin blockades were rescinded, commerce could resume normalcy.

In the meantime, however, American merchants, desperate to resuscitate their own enterprises, exploited the liberties afforded them by the new ordinance. Trade with the continent remained a risky venture on account of British and French intransigence, but Spanish America represented too vast an expanse for even the Royal Navy to patrol. In theory, the Spanish crown forbade trade between its colonies and foreign nations, but flouting such regulations was by this point in history a longstanding tradition. And with ongoing war with England, enforcement was exceptionally lax. By 1810, American ships were common sights in harbors from Havana to Buenos Aires, plying their myriad wares. [2]

Among the goods exported from the United States to its southern neighbors in this period, agricultural goods were included, but ultimately drew smaller profits than manufactured ones. Indeed, what Huxley and his fellow travelers now call the industrial revolution seems to have made its mark in America during this brief window. [3] The small village of Slatersville, Rhode Island, rose to prominence on account of the Slater Brothers and their textile mill. A far larger operation arose in Boston in 1813, incorporating English technological advancements and to spin cloth with remarkable efficiency. With English goods in short supply in Spanish America while those two kingdoms remained at war, American industry exerted great influence over a vast market.

The manufacture of weapons also became highly profitable during this period. The revolutionary struggles of Spanish America began in earnest in 1807, with the upheaval in La Plata, and the demand for quality firearms rose accordingly. Again, this development proved a godsend for certain cities and towns in New England, which had suffered greatly under embargo. Pistols from Middletown, Connecticut, and muskets from Springfield, Massachusetts found their way onto schooners in Boston or New Haven, and from there to customers in Veracruz or Buenos Aires. [4] Both the gunsmiths who manufactured these weapons and the ship owners who transported them remained studiously incurious about their intended use. So long as gold or silver were at hand to pay for them, the American merchants were satisfied.

This influx of trade with Spanish America did much to alleviate the economic damage that America had suffered under Jefferson’s Administration. The wheels of industry began to turn once more in New England, and that good fortune spread to shipping interests in those same states, as well as to cotton and tobacco growers in the southern states. As Americans returned to good spirits, they rewarded James Madison with a second term as President in 1812, throwing the national viability of the Federalist Party further into question. That the Democratic-Republicans would become victims of their own success, and be obliged to address questions of sectionalism once they had come to encapsulate sectional disputes within their own Party, would become obvious only later. For the time being, this was the Era of Good Feelings.

The other source of American concern during this period was on its frontiers, where Indian wars tasked the limited resources of the Army. A charismatic Shawnee chieftain named Tecumseh traveled the frontier, calling for a Confederation of Indian tribes to resist encroachment on their lands by American settlers. In 1808, he and his brother, known to the tribes as The Prophet, founded the village of Tippecanoe on the banks of the Wabash. For the next several years, tensions rose between the two chiefs and territorial governor William Henry Harrison. Tecumseh sought to curtail Harrison’s efforts to draw American settlers into what he considered his peoples’ homeland.

During meetings between the two men, the Shawnee warned that his people would have British support in the event of war with the Americans. From what archival evidence exists, it is difficult to judge the veracity of this claim. Indeed, authorities in Canada had approached Tecumseh about a possible alliance, but the latter was reluctant to commit himself in such a fashion. It is possible that the Shawnee's threats were a mere negotiation tool to give Harrison pause. Unaware as he was of this, however, the Governor received the warning with all due gravity.

Matters came to a head in 1811, when a warning reached Harrison from the Miami tribe. [5] They were the rightful owners of the land where Tippecanoe stood, although their leadership disavowed association with Tecumseh's Confederacy. They had cause to believe that the Shawnee leader was readying for war, and that tribes farther south might answer his call to arms. Upon receiving leave from Washington to act, Harrison mustered a force of just over a thousand regulars and militia, and set forth for Tippecanoe.

On November 10th, the American force arrived, and Harrison met with Tecumseh and The Prophet under a flag of truce. Tecumseh expressed some willingness to evacuate the settlement and disperse his followers, but also appealed for time, committing to little in the immediate future. Harrison was conscious of the other’s tactic, as well as the infeasibility of keeping his militiamen encamped for too long, particularly with winter approaching. After several more days of fruitless discussion, on the 14th Harrison finally decided to resort to force.

The Battle of Tippecanoe was a bloody affair, far more so than the last confrontation with an Indian league at Fallen Timbers. Both leaders knew the importance of rallying the spirits of their men, with Tecumseh appearing several times in the thick of the melee, while Harrison led two charges at the head of his cavalry. This boldness proved their undoing, however, and both leaders, along with The Prophet, fell on the field. The leader of the regulars, one Major Floyd, did what he could to maintain the force’s discipline, but a bloodlust had taken hold of them. The retreating Indians were given no quarter, and the town itself succumbed to flames. With it, the last hope for unified Indian resistance to the United States also perished.

Secretary John Gibson became acting Governor of the Indiana Territory after the battle. Although over a hundred militiamen fell alongside Harrison, with many more wounded, there was little else to reproach about the results. Without leadership, the Shawnee and their allies drifted apart, ensuring a modicum of peace in the northwest for the next few years. With Andrew Jackson’s subsequent intervention on the side of the Lower Creek in the Creek Civil War, the last remnant of Tecumseh’s dream was snuffed out.

The burning of Tippecanoe ensured the destruction of whatever evidence may have linked Tecumseh’s Confederation with Canadian authorities, and although Henry Clay and other hawks needed no such evidence to suspect collusion, there was also a reduction in concern over possible connections between the British and Indians. The decision by London to repeal its 1807 Orders in Council in late 1812 removed yet another impetus for war with England. In his official reply to the British note, Madison thanked the Earl of Liverpool for his act of fairness, but reiterated his commitment to an embargo until such time as hostilities on the continent were terminated. [6] Little did the President suspect, of course, that the end of the war in Europe was close at hand.

[1] And finally we move onto a new writer and book. Charles Francis Adams was the son of John Quincy, and as a historian wrote a biography of his grandfather’s Presidency. I try my best to capture 19th Century voicing, but considering I was using a stuffy writer to begin with, I kind of have an uphill battle.

[2] Jefferson altered the Embargo Act as I described IOTL too. The big opportunity here is that, thanks to Napoleon staying out of Spain, they remain at war with the UK. I think the Continental System was a huge blunder, but it would have been a lot less so had the British not gained the opportunity to trade with Latin America so soon after it was imposed. Here, the US seizes the opportunity to undercut some of their trade, and makes out like a bandit in the process.

[3] Huxley is still a biologist ITTL, but I’ll get to what he and Charles Darwin are up to down the line. As a hint, they'll try their hands at some sociology, with some major unintended consequences.

[4] Springfield was (and remained so until 1968) the National Armory and made the Army’s muskets at this time. Middletown was a port in its own right and made pistols. It was also the biggest city on Connecticut at this time, oddly enough. In general, all the industrial development I mention here is OTL, but will be doing better with more access to markets in this window. Actually, industrialization will be another big theme I'll explore a lot ITTL, with different approaches in different countries. This marks some of the beginnings in the United States, at least that gets noticed on a national level.

[5] This course of events is a little different from OTL, where Tecumseh was in the south gathering support when Harrison was recalled by his acting Governor and went for Tippecanoe. One result is that Tecumseh doesn’t make quite as much progress in his cause before he goes into combat and dies.

[6] In addition to the end of Tecumseh making the western states less fearful, the victory on the Orders in Council strengthens the hand of moderates who think that diplomatic and economic pressure can work against Britain. Famously, the message that Britain would abandon the Orders only arrived in the States after war was declared IOTL, of course. Here, Madison is perfectly happy to continue presiding over a peaceful recovery instead of a war where most of the American grievances have now been resolved.
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By the way, if anyone's curious about the story title, it refers to this song here, which actually replaced La Marseillaise as the French national anthem during Napoleon's rule:

We can expect La Marseillaise to reclaim its status eventually, but the when and how of that...well, you guys'll have to wait and see.
Chapter Six: Misanthropy and Repentance
Time for a new update, guys. Sorry it's taken longer than usual, but I've been distracted by that nuisance called real life. Anyways, time to avert the Nothing Happens in South America cliche. And hopefully, this won't come across as amateurish ignorance, since this really isn't my area of expertise. Enjoy, guys!

Chapter Six: Misanthropy and Repentance [1]

Excerpted from The First Wave: Independence Movements of the Napoleonic Era by Juanita Perez, 1984​

As always seems to be the case, the seeds of rebellion in Latin America had taken root years or centuries beforehand. Despite their best efforts, the Spanish had never quite succeeded in extinguishing the native cultures of the lands they conquered, and even by the 19th Century, pockets of resistance carried on in remote parts of Central and South America. More importantly, the internal contradictions in the colonial regime pitted the interests of the colonists against those of Spain itself. And with the revolutions in the United States and France serving as inspiration, all that was needed was a spark.

Although Britain remembers it primarily as an embarrassing failure, from which the government in London took all of the wrong lessons, the 1806 expedition to Buenos Aires marked a sea change, the moment that Spanish America was put to rest, and the spirit of Latin America was born. Because of Spain’s isolation from its own colonies following the defeat at Trafalgar, La Plata and other territories were left to fend for themselves. In order to cope, they created new social, political, and military arrangements that exposed how inessential Madrid was to the lives of La Platans, Mexicans, or Venezuelans. [2]

In all of these early rebellions, the social divide between the Peninsulares and native-born Criollos played a central role, with the latter becoming increasingly resentful over their lack of influence. In Buenos Aires and Montevideo, the Criollos defied longstanding decrees, forming their own militias to resist the British invasions. The victories won by these outfits earned power and prestige for their commanders, elevating men like Santiago de Liniers and Cornelio Saavedra to prominence at the expense of Madrid’s appointed officials. Having proven they could stand on their own two feet, the citizens of La Plata would only tolerate Spanish rule in exchange for more benefits and social dignity than they had been traditionally afforded.

The forces of conservatism wouldn't cede their privileged status so easily, of course, and in 1809, a conspiracy between Peninsular officers and merchants attempted to overthrow Liniers. This coup was defeated by the same loyal troops who had expelled the British two years earlier, and galvanized the public, strengthening their support for Liniers even more. Tensions finally reached a boiling point in 1810, when Madrid, having reached a temporary accord between King Carlos and Crown Prince Fernando, decided to bring its colonies back into line. In La Plata, this meant an order for Madrid’s appointed Viceroy, Rafael de Sobremonte, to be reinstated. [3]

Sobremonte had been disgraced in the eyes of his constituents during the British invasion years before; while Liniers and others led armed resistance against the invaders, Sobremonte had fled the city with its treasury, leading many to brand him a coward. This was unfair to the man, who had taken steps to fortify Montevideo, thinking that city was the most likely target of attack, and whose retrieval of the treasury was in accordance with Spanish law. Nevertheless, the image stuck, and the people of Buenos Aires recoiled at replacing the heroic Liniers with the craven Sobremonte. Encouraged by Saavedra and other advisers, Liniers called for an Open Cabildo to discuss the new orders from Madrid. [4] This Cabildo took place on March 9th, 1810. The main point of contention for the meeting would be whether Liniers should stand aside and allow Sobremonte to reassume his office.

Although he had called the meeting, Liniers himself leaned towards a nonviolent resolution of the standoff with Madrid. In any case, he also wanted a consensus behind whatever actions would be taken, and so gave little lead during the Cabildo’s proceedings. The discussion was instead dominated by Juan José Castelli, a Criollo lawyer who wanted an end to absolute monarchy. Earning his later title of Speaker of the Revolution, Castelli gave a half-hour speech, detailing at length the failures of Sobremonte and Godoy in prosecuting the war with Britain.

“Here there are no conquerors or conquered; here there are only Spaniards,” Castelli said. “The reason and the rule must be equal for all. The king rules from Madrid not because Madrid is conquered, but because Madrid is protected, protected by Spaniards. Buenos Aires is protected not by Spaniards from Spain, but by Spaniards from Buenos Aires, from Montevideo, and other parts of America.” [5]

According to Castelli, necessity had already forced La Plata to create its own government, and its own military. Madrid could recognize these, and negotiate with them over the territory’s status, but if it refused to do so, then a new nation already existed, only needing to be declared. Eventually, a plan of action was hammered out between Castelli, Saavedra, and Liniers: A Junta would be formed, with Liniers acting as its President. Saavedra would lead the military, and until such time as the Spanish crown acknowledged the legitimacy of the Viceroyalty’s self-government, they would resist attempts to reinstate unilateral control from Madrid. Diplomats were dispatched to Montevideo and other key cities to invite delegations to join the new Junta. The March Revolution had begun. [6]

Buenos Aires turned out to be just the spark that the continent had been waiting for, and by the end of 1810, several major uprisings against Spanish rule had begun. In New Granada, a Junta modeled after the one on Buenos Aires was founded by the Criollo lawyer Camillo Torres Tenorio. In Mexico, Miguel Hidalgo led a working-class revolution, known from their standard as the Martyrs of Guadalupe. At the end of October, the Martyrs met the Governor’s forces at the Battle of Monte de las Cruces, routing them. Two weeks later, they had taken Mexico City, deposing the Governor and installing Hidalgo’s trusted military leader, Ignacio Allende, as the Viceroy of New Spain. [7]

In this, we can see a fundamental difference between Hidalgo’s rebels and those in Argentina. Castelli was a radical, inspired by the Enlightenment, and his end goal was an independent republic in South America. Whatever compromises he made were still geared towards that ultimate end. Hidalgo, by contrast, had more immediate grievances related to callous governance from Mexico City and the plight of the poor. He didn’t intend to throw the Spanish monarchy, or its authority in America into question. Having taken power, at least temporarily, he and Allende set about enacting land reform and other measures to help farmers and other struggling members of the underclass, but made few changes to the machinery of government the way that the Argentine rebels intended to. This passivity likely contributed to their ultimate undoing.

On July 24th, 1812, Carlos IV of Spain passed away peacefully in his sleep at the age of 63. After years of conflict between him and his father, Prince Fernando could finally assume the throne. Although he was no friend of Napoleon, the new king had also become disenchanted with the British over the past five years, blaming them for the disorder in the New World. Now that he had the throne, Fernando set out to pursue a third path for Spain, one that would have it beholden to neither the British nor the French. And his first order of business was to neutralize the rebellion unfolding overseas.

The first steps to suppressing these uprisings had already begun, with an expedition dispatched earlier in the year to Mexico. Backed by 30,000 regular troops, General Francisco Castaños made smooth progress from Veracruz towards Mexico City, retracing the steps of Cortez and scattering all before him. Hidalgo and Allende tried frantically to negotiate, protesting their ultimate loyalty to the monarchy. But Castaños’ orders were to give rebels no quarter, and his sizable regular force was more than enough to crush the ill-trained and organized forces that the Martyrs of Guadalupe could send against him. By the time Fernando was crowned on July 27th, the royal army had recaptured Mexico City and put an end to the rebellion. Overjoyed by the success, the new king rewarded his victorious general with the position of Viceroy. [8]

Despite this early victory, and a similar success in New Granada in 1813, Buenos Aires was a more difficult proposition. Thanks to their experience against the British, the Junta in Buenos Aires were well accustomed to facing amphibious assault, and both that city and Montevideo were fortified against direct attack, with earthworks dug and cannons ready to return fire against any bombardment. An attempt in May 1813 to land troops outside Buenos Aires and seize the city on foot was repelled with heavy casualties. With their coast secure for the time being, the Junta, led by Castelli, Saavdra and an increasingly reluctant Liniers, began to look outward.

The rebellious Argentinians may have been willing to negotiate with Madrid initially, but they were chilled by the heavy-handed treatment of Hidalgo, whose aims were far less radical than theirs. If there was no hope of reconciliation with Fernando, then a successful revolution was the only way for the ringleaders in Buenos Aires to save themselves. And for the revolution to succeed, it needed to expand. Montevideo and other coastal towns, conscious of the need for security against the British or other invaders, had joined the new government, but communities farther inland and across the Andes were more reticent. If these places would not accept revolution when the opportunity presented itself, then it would have to be imposed by force. Should things go well, all of Spanish-speaking South America would be united under a guiding republic, and a new age of freedom would begin.

[1] This was the title of a German play performed in Buenos Aires after they requested a more “topical” one not be done. Seemed like it fit the theme well.

[2] One thing I learned doing my research for this is that the invasion of Spain was just this momentous, era-defining event in the Spanish-speaking world. I intended to avoid it for Napoleon to win, but that left me the question of how to handle Spanish and Latin American history afterwards. The tensions that led to revolution were still there, of course, and so I look to other OTL signposts like British invasions of Buenos Aires to center things.

[3] Most of the stuff I described here is OTL (with omissions due to no Peninsular War, of course), but them trying to reinstate Sobremonte is an invention of mine. IOTL, the Juntas that replaced the Bourbons in fighting Napoleon in Spain sent their own guy, but that wouldn’t happen ITTL, so I figured Carlos would favor continuity. And of course from his perspective, Sobremonte didn’t do anything wrong.

[4] Poor Liniers. IOTL, he was too moderate/conservative for his own good, and got executed fighting against the rebels. ITTL, he’s maybe a bit more ambitious, a bit more irritated at how tone-deaf Madrid has to be to try bringing Sobremonte back, and therefore listens to Saavedra and others more.

[5] I paraphrased some of his OTL remarks and rearranged them to make a different argument. Here, his point is that governments derive authority by right of protection, not conquest, and Godoy is derelict.

[6] By this point, things will have gotten way out of hand for Liniers, but he’s reduced to being a figurehead for more radical figures, and he’s afraid to lose his head if he steps out of line.

[7] The Cry of Dolores seemed a little contingent on happenstance, so I have them take their name from their battle standard, which had the Virgin of Guadalupe. Also, Hidalgo IOTL didn’t exploit his victory at las Cruces, despite Allende begging him to go for Mexico City. Here, he listens, and decides he’d rather let Allende take the spotlight instead of him.

[8] I feel like Carlos would try to converge on some of Fernando’s positions later in his rule to try and forestall another coup. Certainly, the arch-conservative Fernando is in no mood to negotiate with terrorists.
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A victorious but humbled Napoleon? Subscribed.

That's the general idea, yeah. The first idea I had for a POD was actually Mack escaping encirclement at Ulm, and turning the 1805 campaign into a joyless slog. I thought that might be enough to moderate Napoleon's victory disease and lead to more reasonable peace offers. But then I read more and more about the campaign, and how cagey he was in his dealings with the Polish rebels, and how big of a problem the Grand Duchy became between him and Alexander, and I realized I had a much better idea there.

Just so everyone knows what's up, the next chapter will detail Russia, Persia, and Turkey during this time, and then chapter 8 will be the end of the Napoleonic Wars. Then I'll post a world map for 1815, so you guys can see all the changes.
Chapter Seven: Changing of the Guard
Next step a united latin America? Wow

Well, you shouldn't jump to conclusions just yet. I don't think it spoils much to say that Castelli's ambitions exceed his country's capabilities. And most of Latin America is back under Spanish control. For now. That said, expect things over there to get worse before they get better. And on that note, here's Chapter Seven.
Chapter Seven: Changing of the Guard
Excerpted from The Founding of Modern Europe by Ronald Hansen, 1978.​

The lynchpin of Napoleon’s post-Tilsit designs for Europe was the alliance he cultivated with Tsar Alexander of Russia. This partnership was in large part one of convenience, with Napoleon encouraging his Russian counterpart to extend his influence into areas where it would be inconvenient or impolitic for France to do so. Alexander himself seems to have been well aware of this, and as the Russian economy began to suffer the effects of the Continental System, the Tsar scaled back his campaigns of conquest accordingly.

After securing peace with the French at Tilsit, Russian planning for the ongoing campaigns against the Ottoman and Persian Empires took precedence. More troops and better officers were dispatched to take charge in the Balkans and the Caucasus. By Summer of 1809, General Bagration’s forces had expelled the Turks from Dobruja, as well as capturing the cities of Rustchuk and Silistra on the south bank of the Danube. [1]

At this point, British diplomats began approaching Selim III about an alliance against France, advising him to make peace with the Tsar, so as to only face one enemy at a time. Accepting this rationale, the Sultan reluctantly agreed to a peace deal. The subsequent Treaty of Bucharest confirmed the loss of eastern Moldova, along with a recognition of Serbian autonomy. With the Russian threat neutralized, Selim opted to collect immediately on Castlereagh’s promises. Ever since he took the throne in 1789, the Sultan had been interested in reforming his country and military, but in doing so, had to tread lightly.

Much like the Praetorian Guard of old, the Janissary Corps had fallen far from their former glory as the Ottoman Empire’s elite shock troops. By the turn of the 19th Century, they were less interested in defending the Empire and more in protecting their own privileged position. These formerly enslaved soldiers became landholders and tradesmen, while also making enlistment into their numbers hereditary, entrenching themselves as masters of the Ottoman Empire rather than its servants.


This museum display commemorates the 1804 massacre of Serbian nobles by a Janissary junta, in defiance of the Sultan.

Selim’s ambitions to reform the military would upset this status quo, and he feared a coup. Therefore, his price for entry into the Fourth Coalition was twofold; first, the British would assist him with funds and advisers to modernize the Turkish army. Second, they would assist him in destroying the Janissaries. The first obligation was fulfilled by Sir John Malcolm, an old India hand who traveled with several other officers to Constantinople. Malcolm’s mission would spend several years there drilling and reorganizing soldiers. [2]

Fulfillment of the second obligation would follow shortly. Twelve years earlier, the Sultan had introduced the Nizam-i Djedid Army, a new force equipped with modern rifles and artillery, as well as being drilled along European lines. By 1809, this force numbered 40,000 strong, its strength preserved by Selim’s reluctance to risk them against the Russians. With the arrival of Malcolm’s mission, he now felt confident enough to take action against his internal enemies. On August 14th, the Sultan announced the disbanding of the Janissary Corps, ordering all units back to their barracks to surrender their weapons. [3]

As expected, the Janissaries defied this order, and fighting broke out across the capital. Selim had prepared for this insurrection, however, and the city was heavily garrisoned by loyal Nizam-i Djedid soldiers, as well as by Kapikulu sipahis, the traditional nemeses of the Janissaries. To fulfill their promise to the Sultan, the British contributed the elite troops of the 95th Foot. By the 16th, the Sultan’s forces had secured the city. Although the surrendering Janissaries feared execution for their mutiny, Selim showed some clemency, ordering officers who participated in the coup to death, while the rank and file would be incorporated into the Nizam-i Djedid army. [4]

Selim’s rule was still not entirely secure. Provincial governors varied widely in their degree of loyalty to the Porte, and Selim's reforms had angered conservative elements throughout Ottoman society besides the Janissaries. He nevertheless felt secure enough to participate in the War of the Fourth Coalition the following year, answering his treaty obligations to the British. Despite his earlier friendship, the Sultan had grown disillusioned with Napoleon following Tilsit, and wanted the French advance curtailed before it could encroach further upon his possessions. The Ottoman contribution to the Coalition was light, but the Nizam-i Djedid soldiers gave a good account of themselves against the French under Bellegarde and Stuart.


Sultan Selim inspects the Nizam-i Djedid on parade.

With the peace of Schönbrunn ending hostilities between France and Austria, Selim hastily sought a separate peace with Napoleon as well. Because of the limited involvement of the Turks against him, the French Emperor was content to exact a token indemnity and no territorial cessions. Despite this leniency, some suspect that this episode spurred Napoleon to entertain later action against the Ottomans, thoughts which saw fruition the following decade. In the meantime, the Sultan had finally lucked into some breathing room, buying time for further internal reforms. He had no intention of facing such losing wars again. [5]

Tsar Alexander was willing to accept moderate gains from the Turks in 1809, in no small part because his spies had informed him of the Turkish contact with British and Austrian envoys. Despite his arrangements with Napoleon, Alexander was unwilling to make France’s enemies his own. This restraint was not applied to Persia, however, and it was not until Russian forces reached the River Aras in Autumn 1812 that they entertained offers of peace. The subsequent Treaty of Nakhichavan set the Aras as the new border between Russia and Persia, all but expelling the latter from the Caucasus.

This reversal evinced great anguish from Fath-Ali Shah, not least because his foreign diplomacy had been unable to alleviate his predicament. Like the Sultan, he had treated with the British for aid and protection from his rivals. Because of the advice of his envoy, Sir Harford Jones, he had been under the impression that the British crown would assist him in the defense of his realm. Unfortunately for the Shah, Jones spoke not for London itself, but for the British East India Company, and the Company stood at odds with Downing Street on the Russian Question. [6]

Lord Melville, then President of the Board of Control, feared that the Franco-Russian alliance born at Tilsit presented a threat to British India. To forestall invasion, he sought friendly relations with the Company’s neighbors, including the Shah. If relations deteriorated, he would stand with the Persians against the Tsar. Needless to say, the Earl of Liverpool saw things differently. After 1810, his Government was largely casting about for new allies and a new strategy to continue the war against Napoleon. Castlereagh was especially vocal about keeping Britain’s options open, and attempting to sway members of the Continental System away from the French orbit. With this imperative in mind, there was no question in Liverpool’s Cabinet that potential mending of relations with Russia would be far more valuable than the friendship of Persia. And the fact that their treaties with the Shah were predated by his war with Russia gave them ample pretext not to help.

After a distraught Sir Harford did his best to explain the political complexities involved, the Shah had little choice but to accept his current situation. His country and military were in no condition to redress the losses he’d sustained. That said, he also grasped the importance of keeping himself as well-apprised as possible of European affairs. If the British continued to be ineffective allies, then perhaps a relationship with France could provide better results.

[1] IOTL, Turkish reinforcements forced Bagration to retreat from Silistra. Here, he has more troops himself, and feels confident enough to stick with the siege until it succeeds.

[2] Malcolm was an envoy to Persia IOTL, so not a big change, and well up his alley.

[3] In 1806 IOTL, the army had 25,000 troops. It’s unusual for Selim to crack down on his enemies like this given his OTL behavior, but with Napoleon betraying him, he’s looking at things differently, and wants to make the most of an alliance with Britain while he can.

[4] And that move of charity seemed more in character with OTL Selim.

[5] Just because he wants no more losing wars doesn’t mean he’ll get none, of course. But he’s safe for the time being.

[6] Jones was pretty idealistic in denouncing the annexation of Sind IOTL, so I figure it’s in character for him to advocate making friends with Asian rulers and keeping promises.
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So the Iranians align with the French then? Hmm, good. The French will be ecstatic to have an ally on the border of their nemesis's most prized possession. So the French will certainly try to modernize the Iranian Armed forces to make certain that the British and the Russians face a true challenge in the region and not see it as some side-theater to the wider war in Europe.

And well with the Ottomans shaking off dead weights, it's time for the Iranians to do the same with French help, and within one and a half decade we might be in for a fight between the two arch-enemies over Mesopotamia.
Did the British just made a blunder? A Paris-aligned Persia is exactly the biggest threat to British India. That's the plan when Napoleon went to Egypt in OTL.

Yes, they have the Ottomans on their side, but this ensures that Russia will not join any more of London's coalition.
So the Iranians align with the French then? Hmm, good. The French will be ecstatic to have an ally on the border of their nemesis's most prized possession. So the French will certainly try to modernize the Iranian Armed forces to make certain that the British and the Russians face a true challenge in the region and not see it as some side-theater to the wider war in Europe.

And well with the Ottomans shaking off dead weights, it's time for the Iranians to do the same with French help, and within one and a half decade we might be in for a fight between the two arch-enemies over Mesopotamia.

Did the British just made a blunder? A Paris-aligned Persia is exactly the biggest threat to British India. That's the plan when Napoleon went to Egypt in OTL.

Yes, they have the Ottomans on their side, but this ensures that Russia will not join any more of London's coalition.

Interesting thoughts. I'll level with you guys - certain elements of this timeline are planned meticulously in advance, but stuff involving Persia aren't among those, so I'll be winging it in terms of what happens there. I will point out that they don't exactly border British India at this time. Among other things, Sindh and the Punjab stand in the way, and there will be diplomatic rivalries between the British, French and Russians in those places as well.

Once I post Chapter 8 and the following world map, some of this stuff will hopefully get clearer. In the meantime, I fully encourage more speculation, it keeps timelines going when updates aren't coming in as fast.
Chapter Eight: The World Turned Upside Down
Time for a new update, this one the last of the Napoleonic Wars. I've mentally divided this story into phases, and the epilogue-ish Chapter Nine will conclude the first of these phases. As for what comes after, well, I'm honestly in the mood to write about Gothic horror, so probably a cultural update first, and then we'll see what comes next. In the meantime, enjoy!
Chapter Eight: The World Turned Upside Down
Excerpted from The Founding of Modern Europe by Ronald Hansen, 1978.​

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Napoleonic Wars ended with a whimper rather than a bang. There never was a Fifth Coalition, despite the best efforts of the Earl of Liverpool and Lord Castlereagh. From 1811 to 1814, the Foreign Secretary approached a multitude of candidates, making whatever promises necessary to cobble together another alliance against the French.

Unfortunately for Castlereagh, Napoleon’s own political and diplomatic maneuvers frustrated his own. Prussia was ill-equipped to resume hostilities. Although their practical military strength exceeded that prescribed by the Treaty of Tilsit, and Berlin had introduced some important reforms, including the first modern General Staff, their ability to mobilize their own armies was extremely limited. As General Scharnhorst explained in a letter, French and allied German troops could be in Berlin before the Prussian army could be fully mobilized. Furthermore, Frederick William and the Prussian court remained resentful of Tsar Alexander’s profit at their expense at Tilsit. This made any proposals for a Russo-Prussian alliance extremely difficult.

Alexander himself was equally uncooperative. Although the level of smuggling between his country and Britain had increased over the past several years, the Tsar had taken an interest in internal reform, and was losing interest in more foreign adventures for the time being. He told British diplomats that he didn’t see the same urgency that they did for overturning the state of affairs on the continent, and suggested they consider alternative solutions to the French Question.

With the death of King Carlos in Spain, Castlereagh became hopeful that he could broker a deal with the more Anglophilic Fernando. Fernando's dismissal of Prime Minister Godoy immediately upon assuming the throne was another sign that the new king intended to steer his country in a different direction from his father. Although the king initially presented a cold shoulder to British advances, by 1814 he was becoming more receptive to the idea. But the king made it quite clear that he would only entertain an alliance if it came in conjunction with Austria, Russia, or both, and that he also wanted reparations for previous British attacks on Spanish colonies.

Liverpool’s Government was willing to grant the reparations, and a deal seemed close at hand in Spring of 1814. However, Castlereagh soon found himself outflanked by a move from his French counterpart, Charles Talleyrand. In a secret dispatch to Pedro Cevallos, the new Spanish Prime Minister, Talleyrand confided that the Emperor had promised to end the Continental System once hostilities with Britain were over. This was only a half-truth; Napoleon had confessed as much to Talleyrand, but he had done so several years earlier. The French statesman had kept the revelation a secret until a critical moment, when it could have the most impact. [1]

This promise from Paris had the desired effect on Cevallos. After the failures of previous Coalitions, the Spaniard had already been skeptical of the idea of joining a new one. To him, an opportunity to rescind the economically disastrous Continental System with France’s blessing was a far greater offer than anything the British could propose. And so Cevallos took it upon himself to thwart the proposed Anglo-Spanish alliance for the greater good of his country. In his next dispatch to Castlereagh, Cevallos said that circumstances had changed, and that Spain would require more considerations from London as a token of good faith. In effect, he demanded that the agreed upon reparations be doubled, and Gibraltar returned, in exchange for an alliance.


Prime Minister Cevallos saw continued alignment with the French as a safer option than joining a Coalition against them.

Liverpool’s Cabinet was startled by this sudden about-face from the Spanish. At the same time, they were well-aware of the most likely cause for Cevallos’ new demands, correctly surmising that the French had made their own offer. Unfortunately, they had only conjecture to rely on in determining what exactly Napoleon had promised the Spanish in exchange for their continued friendship. Spencer Perceval, Chancellor of the Exchequer, gloomily suggested that the Emperor had promised to restore Gibraltar. It fit with his pattern of co-opting his neighbors through territorial aggrandizement, Perceval argued. And for the Spanish, this new offer ensured that regardless of whether Britain or France won the larger war, they could still claim their prize.

Perceval’s deduction failed to convince the entire Cabinet, but that particular question was academic in the end. Regardless of what the Spanish had been promised, ceding Gibraltar to them was a non-starter. That left only Austria as a worthwhile target for diplomacy. Unfortunately, the new Austrian foreign minister, Klemens von Metternich, was also proving difficult. Unbeknownst to Liverpool’s Government, Empress Ludovica was currently on her deathbed from tuberculosis. By the end of 1814, the 26-year-old Empress would succumb to the disease. Without her to lead the hawks, the more cautious Metternich and Archduke Charles had gained supremacy in Francis’ court. [2] Convinced as he was that another war with France would be futile, Metternich resolved to greet the British with deliberately unreasonable demands.

Like Fernando, Metternich placed a heavy emphasis on there being a second front, if Austria was to fight France at all. If Spain could not be convinced to join a new Coalition, the Austrian told the British ambassador, then Britain would have to invade Italy or the Netherlands again. In addition, Prince Metternich requested truly exorbitant sums of money in order to finance another war effort. Frustrated with Metternich’s intransigence, the ambassador finally exploded, declaring that “Should Austria insist on such extravagant expectations, then its friendship will be of little use to England.”

Metternich fired back, saying that “So long as England sits aloof behind its wooden walls, its friendship is of little use to anyone.”

With their efforts at acquiring continental allies having come to naught, the Earl of Liverpool and his Cabinet began serious discussions about whether the war against France could be continued any further. Despite widespread smuggling, the Continental System had cut trade with the Continent and with Spanish America roughly in half. This was a significant drain on import and export businesses, but also had another less obvious economic impact. With European trade officially forbidden, investment capital had nowhere to go during this period, and this fueled speculative bubbles in Britain’s domestic economy.


This 1817 painting depicts riverine commerce at East Bergholt, Essex.

Canal Mania had first arisen as a phenomenon in the 1790’s, as the Duke of Bridgewater’s famous canal cut the price of coal in Manchester in half. The advent of the London Stock Exchange in 1801 further exacerbated public euphoria about the potential profitability of canals. By 1808, the bubble began in earnest, with the price of shares in the Grand Junction Canal rising from £96 to £314 in just over a month. By 1811, the price had declined to £200, but the following year, it began to rebound. Share prices peaked in July 1813, at just over £400 each. And come October, the dam finally burst. [3]

Over the course of just two weeks, the Grand Junction Canal lost nearly 90 percent of its value, plummeting to a paltry 50 pounds a share. As is typical when a speculative bubble collapses, investors panicked, hastily selling off securities not only in Grand Junction, but also in other canals, and even in unrelated businesses, intent on rescuing their money before it was too late. Many marginal or less profitable canals, such as Herefordshire and Gloucestershire, went under during this panic, and would remain inactive for years after. Work on the ambitious Grand Western would never be completed.

More broadly, the British economy was devastated by the rupturing of the Canal Bubble. Although unemployment figures from this time are incomplete or unreliable, workhouse administrators note a multitude of new supplicants during this period. In addition, they observed a surge of wife selling in the Winter of 1813-1814. By the time Liverpool’s Cabinet convened to discuss the state of the war in May 1814, the situation at home had grown extremely tenuous. [4]

Despite the frail economy, the Government was even more concerned about the military situation. Army recruitment rose following the Panic of 1813, but many of the new recruits were malnourished or diseased, and the Duke of York flatly informed the Cabinet that it would be several years before Britain could field a force capable of contesting the French in the field, if ever. With government finances in shambles after years of subsidizing continental allies, that much time couldn’t necessarily be counted on. Worse, there was the fear that should hostilities continue, Napoleon would eventually manage to out-build the Royal Navy.

The Government hadn’t concerned itself with a French invasion for almost ten years by this point. The decisive victory against the French and Spanish navies at Trafalgar had gutted their capabilities, which even before then had paled in comparison to what Britain had to offer. Years of blockading Europe and contending with the Continental System had eroded the Royal Navy’s strength, however. At the same time, Napoleon had been conducting a systematic effort to rebuild his country’s naval strength. By 1814, the Royal Navy still had the edge, with 142 ships of the line, compared to 106 French and Dutch ships. [5]

Years of attrition also made it increasingly difficult to crew British warships, and the deterioration in seamanship was made all the more apparent by an upset French victory in the southwestern Indian Ocean in 1810, where French frigates destroyed a British squadron at Grand Port with little cost to themselves. The specter of a cross-channel French invasion could no longer be ignored. [6]


The French exploited their knowledge of the local anchorage to outmaneuver the Royal Navy at Grand Port on Isle de France.

With all of this in mind, the Cabinet debated at length. Although opinions differed on the long-term geopolitical outlook, they could not avoid the same basic conclusion: the war could not be continued with any hope of success. On May 21st, 1814, the Earl of Liverpool’s Government approached the French via Spain, regarding terms of peace. Napoleon accepted the offer, and met with Liverpool in Madrid to discuss a conclusive treaty to end the war. [7]

The British could at least content themselves with some colonial gains during the long war, which were set in stone by the Treaty of Madrid. Napoleon agreed to abandon all claims to India, which, combined with wartime gains against the Mughals, meant that the British had become the predominant power on the Indian subcontinent by far. London also claimed the Cape Colony, and Spanish Guinea. In general, however, the British were still averse to alienating the Spanish too heavily, and so abandoned their foothold in Venezuela. In addition, Santo Domingo, which had been captured from the French in 1809, was returned to Spanish control. The French were returned Martinique, Guadalupe, and the Séchelles, the latter because of the local superiority the French unfortunately enjoyed in the area.

Southern Italy was a fraught question, because both Joseph in Naples and the Bourbons in Sicily claimed kingship over the other’s domains. In the end, the negotiating parties decided to do nothing on this front. Sicily would remain a Bourbon realm under British protection, Joseph’s Naples under French protection, and the competing claims would simply stand. What was most important of all, of course, was Britain’s tacit recognition of the state of affairs on the continent, and of French annexations over the past two decades. Lastly, the French Continental System was rescinded, allowing freedom of trade between the United Kingdom and Europe again. After twenty-two years, Europe could finally enjoy peace again.

[1] I’m honestly surprised it took this long for me to bring good old Talleyrand into this story. His loyalty certainly wavered a lot ITTL, especially post-Tilsit, but by 1814, he’s decided that Napoleon will probably win, and that ending the war as soon as possible is the best thing he can do for France.

[2] Ludovica dies two years sooner than OTL of the same disease. Charles leading a battle at Pressburg is really important here, because IOTL he cut his own peace after Wagram, which led his brother to sack him. Here, he stays at the head of the Austrian military, with a commensurate amount of influence in the Hapsburg court.

[3] All of these price movements are OTL or close to it, except IOTL there wasn’t a rise again right after 1811. Here, with British capital bottled up, the Canal gets bid higher and higher until it bursts.

[4] Yeah, you read that right. Wife selling was an OTL practice in British poorhouses.

[5] IOTL, the figures in 1814 were 150 British and 102 French ships. Napoleon didn’t annex Holland ITTL, but those were the numbers I had, so I lumped them together anyways because of their alliance.

[6] The French victory at Grand Port is OTL, too. The only difference here is that the British decide they can’t afford a second Mauritius expedition.

[7] And that’s all she wrote for the Napoleonic Wars. With everything that went wrong for them, I think I was actually pretty generous in terms of how long the British could finance a war effort. Napoleon not invading Spain made TTL’s Continental System bite a lot harder, though, and with the economic and social turmoil, Liverpool’s Cabinet just don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel anymore.
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