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French Revolutionary Wars

Second Coalition

Meanwhile, France again aroused the anger of the European powers by creating the Cisalpine Republic and the Roman Republic and by invading Switzerland, which was transformed into the Helvetic Republic. Under the leadership of Czar Paul I a Second Coalition was formed by Russia, Austria, Britain, Turkey, Portugal, and Naples. France defeated Naples and transformed it into the Parthenopean Republic (Jan., 1799), but in N Italy the Austrians and the Russians drove out the French, and in Aug., 1799, General Suvorov crossed the Alps into Switzerland, where Archduke Charles had already won (June 4–7) a victory at Zürich over Masséna. However, disunity between the Austrians and the Russians resulted in disastrous defeats in Switzerland, and Suvorov, after a masterly retreat through the Alps, returned to Russia (Sept.–Oct., 1799).

At this juncture Bonaparte returned from Egypt and by the coup of 18 Brumaire became First Consul (Nov., 1799). The coalition was weakened by Russia's withdrawal, and Napoleon feverishly prepared a campaign to recoup French losses. The campaign of 1800 was decisive. In Italy, Napoleon, after crossing the St. Bernard Pass, crushed the Austrians at Marengo (June 14); in Germany, Moreau crossed the Rhine and demolished allied opposition at Hohenlinden (Dec. 3, 1800). With the Peace of Lunéville—a more severe version of the Treaty of Campo Formio—Austria was forced out of the war (Feb. 9, 1801).

Great Britain, however, continued victorious, taking Malta (Sept., 1800) and compelling the French to surrender in Egypt (Aug., 1801). When Denmark, encouraged by France, defied British supremacy of the seas, Lord Nelson destroyed the Danish fleet in the battle of Copenhagen (Apr. 2, 1801). Nevertheless, the British were war-weary and, after Pitt's retirement, consented to the Treaty of Amiens (Mar. 27, 1802), by which all conquests were restored to France. But the absence of a commercial agreement and Britain's refusal to evacuate Malta was to lead to the resumption of warfare in 1803. Peace had already been made with Naples (Mar., 1801) and with Portugal (Sept., 1801), and in Oct., 1802, France signed a treaty restoring Egypt to the Ottoman Empire.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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