Continental system and downfall of Napolean

 2/18/2018  280

 After his Navy was destroyed at Trafalgar in 1805, Napoleon realized that if his empire was ever going to be secure, he would have to defeat Britain. With his navy gone, Napoleon knew a direct assault on island (Britain) was for the time impossible, so he decided to wage economic war against the "nation of shopkeepers", as he called the British. His plan to bring Britain to its knees was called the Continental System
In November 1806 he issued the Berlin Decrees, which declared that Britain was in a state of blockade and that no vessel coming directly from Britain or her colonies would be allowed into any port under French control.
However, so long as Russia refused to implement the Continental System, British goods could still get access to Europe via the Baltic Sea and Adriatic Sea. This therefore accounts for the clause in the Treaty of Tilsit, signed between France and Russia in 1807, where the Czar promised to implement the Continental System.
The Continental System had some success in hurting British trade and economic interests. By some estimates, British trade declined by as much as fifty percent. It also benefited the some parts of the French manufacturing sector by acting essentially as a protective tariff, making British imports unavailable or unaffordable in France and its territories. This stimulated the growth of some local manufacturing and many French capitalists and industrialists made large profits as a result of the embargo on British goods. However it also killed off many trade based industries and deeply hurt the economies of major French ports such as Marseilles. Moreover, the Continental System could not be strictly enforced.
Causes of the Failure of the Continental System
1. It was an impossible scheme. Every country was not expected to bear the innumerable stresses by following this scheme.
2. French navy was not so powerful to control the vast sea.
3. Most of the European countries including France depended British goods and they could not possibly live without these goods. But after the supply of these articles was stopped, people had to face great difficulties and they began to oppose this scheme vehemently.
In 1807 Napoleon himself purchased fifty thousand overcoats from Great Britain through Holland at the time of the battle of Eyleau.
4. The smuggling of goods became widespread in the entire Europe and Napoleon could not check this black marketing due to his weak navy.
5. Portugal and Spain also did not join this scheme and extended their cooperation to England.
6. Napoleon lost the sympathy of people. They began to hate for his selfish and tyrannical rule. Napoleon failed to cope with the rising tide of public opinion.
Continental system and downfall of Napolean
Napoleon’s ambition to implement the continental system dragged him to the peninsular war which he called “an ulcer that destroyed me”. The Portuguese and Spaniards turned and united against him at the battle of Trafalga. This defeat proved to the world that Napoleon could be defeated, over 20,000 of his soldiers surrendered and it also weakened Napoleon’s military strength. This led to the downfall of Napoleon in 1815 .
The Moscow campaign(1812)
The continental system entangled Napoleon into disastrous Moscow campaign which was the turning point in his military and political career in France and Europe. He experienced the heaviest military loss in the history of the world. It led to his downfall in that; He lost over 580,000 troops which weakened Napoleon military that is why he was defeated by the 4th and 5th coalitions
Hazen writes: "The continental system was a great blunder on the part of Napoleon.
So we can say continental system played an important role in the downfall of Napoleaon.

 

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Harmanjot Singh The Continental System (also known as the Berlin Decree, or the Continental Blockade) was the name given to a system of economic sanctions established during the Napoleonic Wars, by France against Britain, her colonies and her allies. These measures were implemented by Napoleon as part of his struggle against Britain and in retaliation for the British blockade of French ports by the British navy. The Continental System was established by Napoleon's “Berlin decree” of Nov. 21, 1806, which declared the British islands in a state of blockade, and prohibited all commerce or communication with them. British shipping was forbidden from entering any European port and all European ships were forbidden to sail to Britain or any territory she controlled. Violators were subject to the seizure and forfeiture of their ship and cargoes. In addition, any British citizen found in any country occupied by France or her allies was declared to be a prisoner of war, even if that person was not a member of the armed forces. This meant that any merchant or trader could be arrested. The system was to be absolute and prevented even non-commercial communication between Britain and the European mainland, such as the movement of mail. The Effects of the Blockade England retaliated with economic sanctions against Napoleon by imposing a blockade of its own. Britain issued an Order in Council on January 7, 1807 which prohibited all vessels belonging to neutral nations from entering any port belonging to France or her allies, or under her control. Any vessel violating this prohibition would be confiscated together with its cargo. British efforts to prevent American ships from trading with France were one of the factors leading to the War of 1812. The French responded with even stricter economic sanctions. Any commercial vessel which allowed itself to be searched by a British warship, or which paid any tax or duty to the British was deemed to be denationalized and was treated as if it were treated as if they were British and could therefore be seized. Further decrees ordered the burning of all English imported goods any where that they might be found within the territory of France or its allies. The primary purpose of the Continental System was to damage the British economy, which was largely export oriented and therefore needed foreign markets, and also needed to import raw materials. As an island nation, Britain depended on seaborne trade to maintain its economy and provide its war effort with resources. Napoleon believed that if he could isolate Britain, he could destroy its ability to continue fighting. This tactic is reminiscent of later efforts by the Germans during World War 1 and 2 to impose a submarine blockade on Britain. The Continental System had some success in hurting British trade and economic interests. By some estimates, British trade declined by as much as fifty percent. It also benefited the some parts of the French manufacturing sector by acting essentially as a protective tariff, making British imports unavailable or unaffordable in France and its territories. This stimulated the growth of some local manufacturing and many French capitalists and industrialists made large profits as a result of the embargo on British goods. However it also killed off many trade based industries and deeply hurt the economies of major French ports such as Marseilles. Moreover, the Continental System could not be strictly enforced. British control of the sea meant that British goods continued to be smuggled in, and many French allies only paid lip service to the blockade and turned a blind eye to British imports. The economic blockade also had some unintended negative repercussions. It prevented the importation of goods and so many items became scarce or extremely expensive, leading to inflation. The Continental System in general hurt the economies of the European countries who enforced it. As a result of rising prices and growing scarcities, the measures were very unpopular with ordinary citizens and affected morale and public opinion. But the Continental System's most significant impact, was its role in Napoleon's downfall; for in order to enforce the sanctions against the British, Napoleon gambled and lost his empire. The first test of the system came when Portugal refused to enforce the Continental System. In retaliation, Napoleon attempted to seize the Portuguese fleet and the Royal Family. The Portuguese royal family escaped by sea to the Portuguese colony of Brazil. Meanwhile fighting continued in Portugal as Portuguese forces held out against the French with British help; this would lead to a long drawn out war encompassing not only Portugal but also Spain, which became known as the Peninsular Campaign. The fighting drained France of much needed manpower and resources. Most significantly, by 1810, Russia's Czar Alexander I had had enough of the Continental System and was beginning to reopen trade with Britain. One of Russia's chief exports to Britain at the time was timber for use in ship building, which in turn allowed the British to build and maintain the warships which allowed them to remain masters of the sea and harass the coastal areas of Napoleon's empire. Napoleon sought to bring Russia to heel and force it to comply with the blockade. Napoleon realized that if Russia broke away from the Continental System other European nations would follow, and this would cause the entire System to collapse. He therefore decided to make an example of Russia and assembled one of the largest armies that the world had ever seen, in order to invade Russia. He had expected that Russia would quickly sue for peace, but instead the French expedition ended in a disastrous defeat for the French from which they would never recover. Of the 600,000 men who marched with Napoleon into Russia, fewer than ten percent returned. France had lost the cream of its army and it could not replace these losses. Now the territories of the French Empire, which only a few months before had seemed securely within Napoleon's control, all slipped away as his enemies closed in. Paris itself was occupied and Napoleon was forced to abdicated.

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