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Confederation of the Rhine

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The Confederation of the Rhine in 1812.


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Confederation of the Rhine
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Political structure Confederation
Eugène de Beauharnais

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Historical era Napoleonic Wars
 -  Treaty of the Confederation of the Rhine 12 July 1806
 -  Battle of Leipzig 4 November 1813

The Confederation of the Rhine (German: Rheinbund; French: États confédérés du Rhin, officially "Confederated States of the Rhine", but in practice Confédération du Rhin) was a confederation of client states of the First French Empire. It was formed initially from 16 German states by Napoleon after he defeated Austria and Russia in the Battle of Austerlitz. The Treaty of Pressburg, in effect, led to the creation of the Confederation of the Rhine. It lasted from 1806 to 1813.[1]

The members of the confederation were German princes (Fürsten) from the Holy Roman Empire. They were later joined by 19 others, all together ruling a total of over 15 million subjects providing a significant strategic advantage to the French Empire on its eastern front. Prussia and Austria were not members.

Napoleon sought to consolidate the modernizing achievements of the revolution, but he wanted the soldiers and supplies these subject states could provide for his wars. The most important accomplishments include the introduction of the Napoleonic Code, the establishment of religious toleration (especially for Jews), and the abolition of feudal rights. It used a constitution written along French lines. Napoleon required it to supply 63,000 troops to his army. The success of the Confederation depended on Napoleon's success in battle; it collapsed when he lost the battle of Leipzig in 1813.

Formation

On 12 July 1806, on signing the Treaty of the Confederation of the Rhine (German: Rheinbundakte) in Paris, 16 states in present-day Germany joined together in a confederation (the treaty called it the états confédérés du Rhinelande, with a precursor in the League of the Rhine).[2] Napoleon was its "protector". On 1 August, the members of the confederation formally seceded from the Holy Roman Empire, and on 6 August, following an ultimatum by Napoleon, Francis II declared the Holy Roman Empire dissolved. Francis and his Habsburg dynasty continued as emperors of Austria.

According to the treaty, the confederation was to be run by common constitutional bodies, but the individual states (in particular the larger ones) wanted unlimited sovereignty.[1] Instead of a monarchical head of state, as the Holy Roman Emperor had had, its highest office was held by Karl Theodor von Dalberg, the former Arch Chancellor, who now bore the title of a Prince-Primate of the confederation. As such, he was President of the College of Kings and presided over the Diet of the Confederation, designed to be a parliament-like body although it never actually assembled.[1] The President of the Council of the Princes was the Prince of Nassau-Usingen.

In return for their support of Napoleon, some rulers were given higher statuses: Baden, Hesse, Cleves, and Berg were made into grand duchies, and Württemberg and Bavaria became kingdoms. States were also made larger by incorporating the many smaller "Kleinstaaten", or small former imperial member states. They had to pay a very high price for their new status, however. The Confederation was above all a military alliance: the members had to maintain substantial armies for mutual defense and supply France with large numbers of military personnel. As events played out the members of the confederation found themselves more subordinated to Napoleon than they had been to the Habsburgs.[3]

After Prussia lost to France in 1806, Napoleon cajoled most of the secondary states of Germany into the Confederation of the Rhine. Eventually, an additional 23 German states joined the Confederation. It was at its largest in 1808, when it included 36 states—four kingdoms, five grand duchies, 13 duchies, seventeen principalities, and the Free Hansa towns of Hamburg, Lübeck, and Bremen.[1] Only Austria, Prussia, Danish Holstein, and Swedish Pomerania stayed outside, not counting the west bank of the Rhine and Principality of Erfurt, which were annexed by the French empire.

In 1810 large parts of what is now northwest Germany were quickly annexed to France in order to better monitor the trade embargo with Great Britain, the Continental System.

The Confederation of the Rhine collapsed in 1813, in the aftermath of Napoleon's failed campaign against the Russian Empire. Many of its members changed sides after the Battle of Leipzig, when it became apparent Napoleon would lose the War of the Sixth Coalition.

Member monarchies

The following table shows the members of the confederation, with their date of joining, as well as the number of troops provided, listed in parentheses.[4]

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File:Rheinbund 1806, political map.png
Member states of the Confederation of the Rhine, 1806.
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Member states of the Confederation of the Rhine, 1808.
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Member states of the Confederation of the Rhine, 1812.

The College of Kings

Flag Member monarchy Year joined Notes
File:Coat of arms of Baden.svg Grand Duchy of Baden 12 Jul 1806 Co-founder; former margraviate (8,000)
23x15px Kingdom of Bavaria 12 Jul 1806 Co-founder; former duchy (30,000)
23x15px Grand Duchy of Berg 12 Jul 1806 Co-founder; absorbed Cleves, both formerly Duchies (5,000)
File:Flagge Großherzogtum Hessen ohne Wappen.svg Grand Duchy of Hesse-Darmstadt 12 Jul 1806 Co-founder; former landgraviate (4,000)
23x15px Principality of Regensburg 12 Jul 1806 Co-founder; formerly Prince-Archbishopric and Electorate; after 1810 the Frankfurt Grand Duchy of Frankfurt (968 of 4,000)
23x15px Kingdom of Saxony 11 Dec 1806 Former duchy (20,000)
23x15px Kingdom of Westphalia 15 Nov 1807 Napoleonic creation (25,000)
File:Flag of Württemberg before 1809.svg Kingdom of Württemberg 12 Jul 1806 Co-founder; former duchy (12,000)
23x15px Grand Duchy of Würzburg 23 Sep 1806 Napoleonic creation (2,000)

The College of Princes

Flag Member monarchy Year joined Notes
23x15px Duchy of Anhalt-Bernburg 11 Apr 1807 (700)
23x15px Duchy of Anhalt-Dessau 11 Apr 1807 (700)
23x15px Duchy of Anhalt-Köthen 11 Apr 1807 (700)
23x15px Duchy of Arenberg 12 Jul 1806 Co-founder; mediatized 13 December 1810 (379 of 4,000)
23x15px Principality of Hohenzollern-Hechingen 12 Jul 1806 Co-founder (97 of 4,000)
23x15px Principality of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen 12 Jul 1806 Co-founder (193 of 4,000)
23x15px Principality of Isenburg 12 Jul 1806 Co-founder (291 of 4,000)
23x15px Principality of Leyen 12 Jul 1806 Co-founder; former countship or graviate (29 of 4,000)
23x15px Principality of Liechtenstein 12 Jul 1806 Co-founder (40 of 4,000)
File:Wappen Deutsches Reich - Fürstentum Lippe.png Principality of Lippe-Detmold 11 Apr 1807 (650)
File:Armoiries Mecklembourg-Schwerin.svg Duchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin 22 Mar 1808 (1,900)
File:Grossherzogswappen Mecklenburg (Schwerin&Strelitz).PNG Duchy of Mecklenburg-Strelitz 18 Feb 1808 (400)
23x15px Duchy of Nassau (Usingen and Weilburg) 12 Jul 1806* Union of Nassau Usingen Nassau-Usingen and Nassau-Weilburg Nassau-Weilburg, both co-founders (1,680 of 4,000)
23x15px Duchy of Oldenburg 14 Oct 1808 annexed by France 13 December 1810 (800)
23x15px Principality of Reuss-Ebersdorf 11 Apr 1807 (400)
23x15px Principality of Reuss-Greiz 11 Apr 1807 (400)
23x15px Principality of Reuss-Lobenstein 11 Apr 1807 (400)
23x15px Principality of Reuss-Schleiz 11 Apr 1807 (400)
23x15px Principality of Salm (Salm-Salm and Salm-Kyrburg) 25 Jul 1806 Co-founder; annexed by France 13 December 1810 (323 of 4,000)
File:Armoiries Saxe.svg Duchy of Saxe-Coburg 15 Dec 1806 (Saxon duchies total 2,000)
File:Armoiries Saxe.svg Duchy of Saxe-Gotha 15 Dec 1806
File:Armoiries Saxe.svg Duchy of Saxe-Hildburghausen 15 Dec 1806
File:Armoiries Saxe.svg Duchy of Saxe-Meiningen 15 Dec 1806
File:Armoiries Saxe.svg Duchy of Saxe-Weimar 15 Dec 1806
23x15px Principality of Schaumburg-Lippe 11 Apr 1807 (650)
23x15px Principality of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt 11 Apr 1807 (650)
23x15px Principality of Schwarzburg-Sondershausen 11 Apr 1807 (650)
23x15px Principality of Waldeck 11 Apr 1807 (400)

Aftermath

The allies opposing Napoleon dissolved the Confederation of the Rhine 4 November 1813. After its demise, the only attempt at political coordination in Germany until the creation on 8 June 1815 of the German Confederation was a body called the Central Administration Council (German: Zentralverwaltungsrat); its President was Heinrich Friedrich Karl Reichsfreiherr vom und zum Stein (1757–1831). It was dissolved on 20 June 1815.

On 30 May 1814 the Treaty of Paris declared the German states independent.

In 1815, the Congress of Vienna redrew the continent's political map. In fact, most surviving members had only minor border changes, and the resulting German Confederation consisted more or less of the same members as the Confederation of the Rhine, with the important addition of the two German great powers of Austria and Prussia.

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d Hans A. Schmitt. Germany Without Prussia: A Closer Look at the Confederation of the Rhine. German Studies Review 6, No. 4 (1983), pp 9-39.
  2. ^ For the treaty (in French), see here
  3. ^ Germany at Encyclopaedia Britannica
  4. ^ Creation of the Confederation of the Rhine, 12 July, 1806

Sources and external links

Template:States of the Confederation of the Rhine

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