See also: Blockade (homonymy)
Important episode of the history of the First Empire, the continental Blocus is the name given to the policy pursued by Napoleon which tried to ruin the the United Kingdom by preventing it from trading with the rest of Europe, initiated by the Décret of Berlin in November 1806.
During the signature of the Peace of Amiens between the France and the United Kingdom, the Napoleonean empire is almost at the top of its glory. In addition to the confirmation of the possession of the Belgium and port of Antwerp, this agreement returns its colonies to him, thus confirming the empire like commercial and political world power.
The rupture of the peace, generally allotted to the United Kingdom, largely will change gives it. The United Kingdom indeed seizes the French colonies again, destroyed quasi-totalement the French fleet with Trafalgar and makes sure the control of the oceans.
Napoleon then will recognize impossibility of fighting on the maritime field and, as he declares it in a letter addressed to his brother, Louis, king of Holland, to reconquer the colonies by ground, and to overcome the sea by the ground by depriving the United Kingdom of his allies and by moving the combat on the financial and commercial field.
Since 1806, the French ports as well as the mouths of the Ems, the Weser and the Elba are closed with the British goods. However, those are introduced on the continent by other ways and Napoleon must find means more rigorous to arrive to his ends. The United Kingdom itself shows him the way by declaring all the ports between Brest and Hamburg in a state of blockade, including for the neutral nations. This declaration will cause a strong reaction of the emperor, leading to the concept of continental blockade.
Motivations of Napoleon
When it introduces the concept of blockade against the United Kingdom, the emperor is not certainly the first to use this weapon. Indeed, since the appearance of the maritime Trade, of very many declarations of blockade were pronounced, even in times of peace (let us quote for example the blockade of 1756, at the time of the Guerre Seven Year old). However, it quasi totality of them remained dead letters, simply because of technical impossibility to completely close the outlets of a nation.
The first difference between this blockade and the previous versions “traditional” come from the dimension of this one. Indeed, in the past, only a City or (more rarely) a Pays was subjected to a blockade. In this case, it is the whole of the continental Europe which is concerned.
The second difference relates to the direction of the blockade. Traditionally, the blockade consists in preventing the Ravitaillement city or country concerned. In this case, although the British Isles are declared in a state of blockade, it is impossible to prevent the goods British and colonial to leave the British ports (Empire not laying out or more than one fleet worthy of this name), it must thus be impossible to him to unload those to sell them.
In this manner, the emperor thus hopes to prevent, during a few years, the United Kingdom to run out his goods and thus to cause a massive rise of stocks, causing a general Inflation and a fall of the Purchasing power. Actually applied, the blockade should put in danger broad sides of the British economy, so much for the Importation (of Céréale S, weapons and ammunition) that for the Exportation (of colonial produce and mainly of the Coton and the Laine which, with them two, represent more than 50% of the total of British exports). In fact, although the blockade was never completely effective, the British Crédit will lose up to 20% of its value between 1808 and 1810.
The escape aheadWhen it promulgates the decree of Berlin (followed by that of Milan), Napoleon knows that its blockade can succeed only if the whole of the continent respects it. However, at end 1806, the decree is carried out only in France and in the allied kingdoms and occupied countries, namely Italy, Spain, Tuscany, Rome, Naples, Holland, the High one and Low-Germany as well as Denmark.
In the following years, the whole of the efforts of Foreign policy of the Empire will converge with an aim of extending the blockade to the whole of Europe that it is by treaties (with Russia, Prussia or Sweden) or by military invasions (Portugal or Sicily).
The continental systemApplied in a small State, the decree of Berlin would have fatally choked it. However, the French Empire is then a giant extending from Bayonne to Danzig and of Reggio to Hamburg leaving with its products an immense market including/understanding more than 80 million consumers. The installation of a vast organization making it possible to open the European market with the companies and the local productions (mainly French) will be carried out the application of the blockade parallel to. This organization will take the name of continental system and will have like result a deep change in the commercial practices of France and thus of Europe.
Without dispute, France is large the recipient of the continental system. The allied and conquered countries were to buy gross products or processed coming from the Manufacture S Frenchwomen. This system involves, in parallel, the development of several great inventions such as the manufacture of the beet sugar, the mechanical spinning mill of the flax or the preparation of the garance and the Pastel. On another side, the large ports such as Nantes, Bordeaux or Marseilles deplore the ruin of their economy.
In the remainder of the Empire
The countries allied or integrated into the Empire will undergo full whip the Economic recession related to the blockade. Obliged to buy their products in France at important prices, subjected to heavy taxes at the time of the export of their own products, their economy largely goes péricliter until in 1812. In particular, the large wearing of Holland, from Germany and Italy will know a fall of activity without precedents.
It is thus not astonishing that the majority of them followed the directives only to back-plate, the symptomatic example being the kingdom of Holland, however directed by the proper brother of Napoleon, who will show so much unwillingness to apply the imperial decisions (see low, the chapter smuggling) that the emperor, exceeded, will have to finally annex this country in France.
In the United Kingdom
Since the beginning of the century, the United Kingdom sees its European trade declining. Indeed, exports to the continent pass from 55% to 25% of their full value between 1802 and 1806. With the beginning of the year 1807, the British develop their relations with Russia, the United States Portugal and the States Scandinavian.
After the conclusion of the treaty of Tilsit, the first steps of the crisis awaited so much by Napoleon seem to take shape: British exports fall indeed of 20% and unemployment starts to touch the spinning mills, private cotton. However, the demonstrations remain very limited (in particular in the Lancashire) and the good harvest of 1807 makes it possible to avoid importing corn.
As from 1809, from share the generalization of the licenses and following the peace signed with the Ottoman Empire, the situation is improving and the bad harvest of 1809 arrives too late whereas the difficulties of the former years are regulated.
The word of the end is allotted to the Genevese Francis d' Ivernois which concludes in 1809 its work on the Effects of the Continental Blockade by its words:
“ Your blockade does not block
And thanks to your happy address
those which you starve unceasingly
will perish only of plumpness… ”
In the rest of the world
For reasons of legibility, the dates of the revolutionary Calendrier were converted
- June 1st: Creation by the Constituent of the Governed Customs (including a tariff of the rights to perceive at the entry and the exit of the Kingdom).
- August 22nd: Publication of the Code of the Customs.
- March 21st: Treaty with the Spain
- September 16th: Creation of the Head office of the Customs. Its first director is Jean-Baptiste Henry Collin, future count de Sussy.
- September 29th: Treaty with the Portugal
- October 9th: Treaty with the Russia
- April 8th: Sale of the Louisiana to the the United States
- April 28th: Vote by the legislative Body new tariff of the customs of the year ⅩⅠ.
- May 13rd: Resumption of the war with the United Kingdom.
- June 6th: Annexation of Genoa, Parma and Pleasure.
- October 21st: Victoire of the British fleet with Trafalgar.
- February 22nd: Publication of a decree prohibiting the cotton fabrics of the United Kingdom.
- March 4th: Publication of a decree taxing the colonial produces.
- March: Re-establishment of the tax on the salt.
- April 30th: Promulgation of the law on the tariff of the customs.
- November 21st: Decree of Berlin founding the continental Blockade.
- July 7th: Treaty of Tilsit, Russia and the Prussia adhere to the continental blockade.
- October 29th: Treaty of Fontainebleau between the France and the Spain to invade the Portugal.
- September 6th: The United Kingdom bombards Copenhagen, the Scandinavian countries adhere to the continental blockade except for Sweden.
- November 23rd: Invasion of Portugal by France and Spain.
- November 23rd: Decree of Milan ordering the seizure and the confiscation of any building having touched the United Kingdom.
- April: Installation of the system of the licenses distributed by the ministry for the Interior.
- January 6th: Peace treaty with the Sweden which adheres to the continental blockade.
- March 1st: Complaint of the United States of America against the British and French blockades.
- July 9th: Meeting of the Holland in France and annexation of the Hanseatic cities.
- August 5th: Reform system of licenses maintaining directly distributed by the emperor, and promulgation of the decree of Trianon, striking all the colonial produces, except those of the French colonies, of a customs tax being able to reach 50% of their value.
- September 27th: Complaint of the Chamber of commerce of Amiens to the ministry for the Interior, denouncing the “scandalous traffic” related to the licenses
- October 19th: Decree of Fontainebleau ordering the brûlement seized British goods.
- December 13rd: Russia denounces the Traité of Tilsit and gives up has to apply the blockade.
- April 28th: Decree révocant the decrees of Milan and Berlin for the the United States.
- June: Creation of the ministry for Manufactures and the Trade.
- January 12th: Promulgation of a law authorizing the entry in France of the goods prohibited against a right of 40%.
- April 4th: the Provisional government in an address with the French, declares “That the trade charged with obstacles takes again its freedom”, putting thus officially fine at the continental Blockade.
- Treated of Fontainebleau
Related articlesNapoleonean Wars
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