CHAPTER 6 Ruler of All He Surveys
"Power is my Mistress."
- Caesar Napoleon I
Caesar Napoleon I was having a delightful time in 1808 and 1809. With Britain in self-inflicted tatters, and his own cult of personality growing daily, nothing seemed to dampen his plans. It was as if the Gods of Ancient Rome had descended and handed him the fate of Europe, like something from an old legend. With its main ally Britain on ice and dealing with the disgrace of the monarchy, Portugal knelt to the Imperial Throne of France under force of arms, a huge defeat for those resisting the Continental System and also a main source of Britain's ongoing economic collapse. The Portuguese Confederation was formed. The Corsican's growing empire was becoming a colossus, brow-beating neighbors such as Prussia into submission with the threat of brute force, also known as the Grand Army. Austria was crushed at the Battle of Wagram in the summer of 1809, and the Continental System was imposed on the former Holy Roman Empire. In the fall, Austria was finally defeated and a treaty was signed at Schönbrunn Palace, in Vienna. In order to understand the expansion of the French Empire during this period, and the later events in the centuries following, we must look at, in more depth, the powers Napoleon wielded at this point.
On the 21st of November, 1806, Napoleon signed the Berlin Decree in response to the British Royal Navy blockading his coast. While at first the strategy did not seem to be working, it really kicked in during the following year, after the George IV Regicide-Suicide. The other countries started to regard Britain as something of a stale old joke that was quickly ceasing to amuse. Stories, sometimes utterly false, were released by France's propaganda industry that told of the drunken debauchery of the British nobility. Still others claimed King William was illegitimate, or perhaps a homosexual, or even both! Catholic Austria, France's main rival, had never had a good relationship with the British Isles, going back several hundred years. They, too, now looked upon the British government as incapable. The British Royal Navy still ruled the Atlantic, but the Mediterranean was nothing short of a French pond. Royal Navy sloops and some other smaller ships patrolled North Africa to some degree, but it was only a token force protecting land the French Emperor was not interested in (at the moment).
In 1808, British citizens' own growing reluctance to rally around their throne hugely aided the Continental System. Some historians say that the entire collapse of the British economy was caused by these seeds of doubt in their goverment, with Napoleon jumping to take credit. Russia, a reluctant friend of France, was satisfied that Britain was falling, and thus strengthened their alliance to bring about the "Final Defeat of the Lobsterbacks."
While Britain was still singing the praises of its own Indian cotton, Georgia doubled production in North America. It was protected from Britain by being locked in an area with allied European and neutral American regions. The sale of Napoleon-approved Georgian cotton to Europe was a devastating blow to Britain during a time when it needed more cash to continue the war effort.
This, however, led to another problem. The Confederation of the Carolinas, still under Andrew Jackson's benevolent fist, asked to be a trading partner with France, with cotton and tobacco as the major products. Carolina was the largest non-British tobacco provider in the world, and Europeans were willing to pay Carolina's prices rather than smuggle in British tobacco. In fact, Jackson was asked by Napoleon to deliberately lower his tobacco prices to undercut Britain, even if only for a while, with promises of losses being paid in full by France at a later date, upon the ruination of Britain. What was the problem then?
Britain did not like the "colonists" hacking into their payday. King William finally had had enough and ordered the Royal Navy to start confiscating American goods. In late 1808, one Georgian and two Virginian trade ships loaded from stem to stern with supplies were sunk by the Brits after attempting to run a blockade off northern Spain. In the first show of collective support since before the Treason Trials, the American countries, with the exception of the Republican Union, pulled together to issue a unanimous declaration of war against Britain for violating their "wartime neutrality." Though the Union refused to go to war for fear of Canada invading (as well as the general dislike of the Southrons), it agreed to build ships for Napoleon's American allies in its New England shipyards. The Union struggled along economically while the South prepared to set up a "new era of industry" for itself. This is a pivotal moment in the North-South rivalry that would continue for generations.
The exact date of Britain's total economic ruin cannot be pinpointed, but it certainly began around the time of the Berlin Decree, and was close to the end by the time William took the throne. The Napoleonic Wars were not over, and neither was Britain, but the Pound might as well have been minted out of feces by 1810.
Never, since the days of the Roman Empire, had such a massive, energized, multi-ethnic army won so many victories. Napoleon's personal obsession with all things military led him to christen his forces the Grand Army in 1805. A Roman-style eagle became the symbol which men from over a dozen different major countries and regions would carry to "Glory Eternal" on the battlefields of Europe. Prussians, Russians, Bavarians, Austrians, Americans, Saxons, and even some English were all common sights in the ranks during the height of French power. The Grand Army brought utter destruction to all who opposed it, from Austria to Prussia. Any time a French "ally" got ideas to violate agreements or go to war again, it was the fighting men of the Grand Army that went in to put them down like dogs.
This tactic, though, was not wildly popular with the citizens of other nations. Rebellions were common, such as those in Prussia in 1809. These revolts were to be crushed on the Emperor's order by the home country. If they failed, the Grand Army would invade. One means the genius Corsican came up with to keep the populace in check was to conscript or hire as many foreigners as possible, for, as he put it, "A man is much less likely to raise arms against an occupying force when his own brothers and fathers wear the occupiers' uniforms and carry their Imperial Eagles." After a while, sometimes those brothers and fathers even started to like wearing them.
Needless to say, essentially all of Europe was allied to or conquered by Napoleon at this point. 1810 was what the Emperor declared "A new dawn. The beginning of an era of peace." Peace after "Britain's total destruction," that is.
Empire of France (areas bowing directly to the French throne):
Duchy of Warsaw Kingdom of Italy Kingdom of Holland Kingdom of Etruria Principality of Lucca and Piombino Kingdom of Naples Swiss Confederation Confederation of the Rhine Portuguese Confederation
Spain Kingdom of Denmark Kingdom of Sweden Chesapeake Republic of Maryland Ottoman Empire Austrian Empire Republic of Virginia Empire of Russia Confederation of the Carolinas Kingdom of Prussia Qajar Persia West Florida Republic Republic of Georgia
The Republican Union Green Mountain Republic of Vermont