Convention of Alessandria

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Convention of Alessandria
Signing of the Convention of Alexandria (1800).jpg
Signing of the Convention of Alexandria (by Michel Martin Drolling)
Contextafter the defeat of the Archduchy of Austria by the French First Republic in the War of the Second Coalition
Signed15 June 1800 (1800-06-15)
Location Alessandria
PartiesFlag of France (1794-1815).svg  French First Republic
Banner of the Holy Roman Emperor (after 1400).svg Austria
Wikisource-logo.svg Convention of Alessandria at Wikisource

The Convention of Alessandria (also known as the Armistice of Marengo) was a treaty signed on 15 June 1800 between the French First Republic led by Napoleon and Austria during the War of the Second Coalition. Following the Austrian defeat at the Battle of Marengo, they agreed to evacuate Italy as far as the Mincio and abandon strongholds in Piedmont and Milan. Great Britain and Austria were allies and hoped to negotiate a peace treaty with France, but Napoleon insisted on separate treaties with each nation. The negotiations failed, and fighting resumed on 22 November 1800.

Treaty express agreement under international law entered into by actors in international law

A treaty is an agreement under international law entered into by actors in international law, namely sovereign states and international organizations. A treaty may also be known as an (international) agreement, protocol, covenant, convention, pact, or exchange of letters, among other terms. Regardless of terminology, all of these forms of agreements are, under international law, equally considered treaties and the rules are the same.

French First Republic republic governing France, 1792-1804

In the history of France, the First Republic, officially the French Republic, was founded on 22 September 1792 during the French Revolution. The First Republic lasted until the declaration of the First Empire in 1804 under Napoleon, although the form of the government changed several times. This period was characterized by the fall of the monarchy, the establishment of the National Convention and the Reign of Terror, the Thermidorian Reaction and the founding of the Directory, and, finally, the creation of the Consulate and Napoleon's rise to power.

Napoleon 18th/19th-century French monarch, military and political leader

Napoléon Bonaparte was a French statesman and military leader who rose to prominence during the French Revolution and led several successful campaigns during the French Revolutionary Wars. He was Emperor of the French from 1804 until 1814 and again briefly in 1815 during the Hundred Days. Napoleon dominated European and global affairs for more than a decade while leading France against a series of coalitions in the Napoleonic Wars. He won most of these wars and the vast majority of his battles, building a large empire that ruled over continental Europe before its final collapse in 1815. He is considered one of the greatest commanders in history, and his wars and campaigns are studied at military schools worldwide. Napoleon's political and cultural legacy has endured as one of the most celebrated and controversial leaders in human history.



The Battle of Marengo Lejeune - Bataille de Marengo.jpg
The Battle of Marengo

The War of the Second Coalition was the second war against revolutionary France by various European monarchies. The Second Coalition was led by Britain, Austria and Russia, and included the Ottoman Empire, Portugal, Naples, various German monarchies and several other minor European states. Its aim was to contain the expansion of the French Republic and to restore the monarchy in France. [1] [2] [3] [4]

French Revolution social and political revolution in France and its colonies occurring from 1789 to 1798

The French Revolution was a period of far-reaching social and political upheaval in France and its colonies beginning in 1789. The Revolution overthrew the monarchy, established a republic, catalyzed violent periods of political turmoil, and finally culminated in a dictatorship under Napoleon who brought many of its principles to areas he conquered in Western Europe and beyond. Inspired by liberal and radical ideas, the Revolution profoundly altered the course of modern history, triggering the global decline of absolute monarchies while replacing them with republics and liberal democracies. Through the Revolutionary Wars, it unleashed a wave of global conflicts that extended from the Caribbean to the Middle East. Historians widely regard the Revolution as one of the most important events in human history.

French troops returned to Italy in 1799, following a brief period of absence which had precipitated the collapse of their Italian client republics. [5] Napoleon Bonaparte, who had seized power in the Coup of 18 Brumaire, [6] carried out a crossing of the Alps with his Army of the Reserve (officially commanded by Louis-Alexandre Berthier) in May 1800. [7] [8] This move, made almost before the passes were open, threatened Austrian General Michael von Melas' lines of communications in northern Italy. The French army then seized Milan on 2 June, followed by Pavia, Piacenza and Stradella, cutting the main Austrian supply route eastward along the south bank of the Po river. Bonaparte hoped that Melas' preoccupation with the Siege of Genoa, held by French General André Masséna, would prevent the Austrians from responding to his offensive. However, Masséna surrendered the town on 4 June, freeing a large number of Austrians for operations against the French. [9]

Coup of 18 Brumaire coup that brought Napoleon to power

The Coup of 18 Brumaire brought General Napoleon Bonaparte to power as First Consul of France and in the view of most historians ended the French Revolution. This bloodless coup d'état overthrew the Directory, replacing it with the French Consulate. This occurred on 9 November 1799, which was 18 Brumaire, Year VIII under the French Republican Calendar.

Louis-Alexandre Berthier Marshal and Vice-Constable of France

Louis-Alexandre Berthier, 1st Prince of Wagram, Sovereign Prince of Neuchâtel, was a French Marshal and Vice-Constable of the Empire, and Chief of Staff under Napoleon.

Michael von Melas Austrian general

Michael Friedrich Benedikt Baron von Melas was a Transylvanian-born field marshal of Saxon descent for the Austrian Empire during the Napoleonic Wars.

On 9 June French General Jean Lannes beat Austrian Feldmarschallleutnant Peter Ott in the Battle of Montebello. Bonaparte subsequently convinced himself that Melas would not attack and, further, that the Austrians were about to retreat. As other French forces closed from the west and south, the Austrian commander had withdrawn most of his troops from their positions near Nice and Genoa to Alessandria on the main Turin-Mantua road. [9] The Battle of Marengo was fought on 14 June 1800 between Bonaparte and Melas near Alessandria. Towards the end of the day, the French overcame the Austrian surprise attack. [10]

Jean Lannes Marshal of France

Jean Lannes, 1st Duc de Montebello, Prince de Siewierz, was a Marshal of the Empire. He was one of Napoleon's most daring and talented generals. Napoleon once commented on Lannes: "I found him a pygmy and left him a giant". A personal friend of the emperor, he was allowed to address him with the familiar "tu", as opposed to the formal "vous".

Battle of Montebello (1800)

The Battle of Montebello was fought on 9 June 1800 near Montebello in Lombardy. During the lead-up to the Battle of Marengo, the vanguard of the French army in Italy engaged and defeated an Austrian force in a "glorious victory".

Nice Prefecture and commune in Provence-Alpes-Côte dAzur, France

Nice is the seventh most populous urban area in France and the capital of the Alpes-Maritimes département. The metropolitan area of Nice extends beyond the administrative city limits, with a population of about 1 million on an area of 721 km2 (278 sq mi). Located in the French Riviera, on the south east coast of France on the Mediterranean Sea, at the foot of the Alps, Nice is the second-largest French city on the Mediterranean coast and the second-largest city in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region after Marseille. Nice is approximately 13 kilometres (8.1 mi) from the principality of Monaco and 30 kilometres (19 mi) from the French-Italian border. Nice's airport serves as a gateway to the region.


Land ceded by the Convention of Alessandria
Ceded to France
Neutral territory
Retained by Austria Convention of Alessandria map.png
Land ceded by the Convention of Alessandria
  Ceded to France
  Neutral territory
  Retained by Austria

At 4:00 am on 15 June 1800, von Melas sent General Johann Ferdinand von Skal and two captains to the French encampment with a flag of surrender. Napoleon, who had expected the Austrians to continue fighting, quickly accepted the surrender. [11] [12] A cease-fire was signed a few hours later. In the agreement, the Austrians agreed to evacuate to the left bank of the Bormida, and that hostilities would cease for forty-eight hours. The Austrians initially hoped to give up only Piedmont and Genoa, but Napoleon demanded they retreat to behind the Po and Mincio. The final agreement was formalized and signed as the Convention of Alessandria. [13] [14]

Bormida (river) river in Italy

The Bormida is a river of north-west Italy.

Piedmont Region of Italy

Piedmont is a region in northwest Italy, one of the 20 regions of the country. It borders the Liguria region to the south, the Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna regions to the east and the Aosta Valley region to the northwest; it also borders France to the west and Switzerland to the northeast. It has an area of 25,402 square kilometres (9,808 sq mi) and a population of 4 377 941 as of 30 November 2017. The capital of Piedmont is Turin.

Genoa Comune in Liguria, Italy

Genoa is the capital of the Italian region of Liguria and the sixth-largest city in Italy. In 2015, 594,733 people lived within the city's administrative limits. As of the 2011 Italian census, the Province of Genoa, which in 2015 became the Metropolitan City of Genoa, counted 855,834 resident persons. Over 1.5 million people live in the wider metropolitan area stretching along the Italian Riviera.

On 15 June, the Convention was signed. It caused the fighting to end, [15] and the Austrians agreed to evacuate Italy as far as the Mincio and abandon all of their strongholds in the Piedmont and Milan, [16] losing all that they had gained in 1798 and 1799. [17] The Austrians agreed to give the French Tortona, Alessandria, Milan, Turin, Pizzighetone, Arona, and Piacenza by 20 June. They agreed to surrender by 24 June the fortress of Coni, the castles of Seva and Savona, and the city of Genoa; and the city of Urbino by 26 June. The land between the Chiesa, the Oglio, and the Po rivers was ceded to the French, and that between the Chiesa and the Mincio was designated a neutral zone, not to "be occupied by either of the two armies." [15] The Austrians retained control of Tuscany, [18] and retained the bulk of their army, with the French letting their soldiers retreat. [19]

Mincio river in Italy

Mincio is a river in the Lombardy region of northern Italy.

Milan Italian city

Milan is a city in northern Italy, capital of Lombardy, and the second-most populous city in Italy after Rome, with the city proper having a population of 1,372,810 while its metropolitan area has a population of 3,244,365. Its continuously built-up urban area has a population estimated to be about 5,270,000 over 1,891 square kilometres. The wider Milan metropolitan area, known as Greater Milan, is a polycentric metropolitan region that extends over central Lombardy and eastern Piedmont and which counts an estimated total population of 7.5 million, making it by far the largest metropolitan area in Italy and the 54th largest in the world. Milan served as capital of the Western Roman Empire from 286 to 402 and the Duchy of Milan during the medieval period and early modern age.

Tortona Comune in Piedmont, Italy

Tortona is a comune of Piemonte, in the Province of Alessandria, Italy. Tortona is sited on the right bank of the Scrivia between the plain of Marengo and the foothills of the Ligurian Apennines.


Allegory Representing the Convention of Alessandria after Napoleon's Victory at the Battle of Marengo by Giuseppe Longhi Allegory Representing the Convention of Alessandria after Napoleon's Victory at the Battle of Marengo.png
Allegory Representing the Convention of Alessandria after Napoleon's Victory at the Battle of Marengo by Giuseppe Longhi

On 17 June, Napoleon left for Paris after the signing of the Convention. [20] He stopped in Milan that same day, [21] and was greeted as a hero, with large crowds celebrating his arrival. The Cisalpine Republic was again established as a French client republic, and a temporary government was put in place until the signing of a peace treaty with Austria. Many strongholds listed in the convention were given up by the Austrians and their fortifications dismantled by the French, including Genoa on 24 June. Napoleon left Milan the same day, and stopped briefly in Turin and Lyon before arriving in Paris on 2 July. [22] [23] The victory consolidated Napoleon's political position in Paris as First Consul. [10] French historian François Furet noted that the battle served as "the true coronation of [Napoleon's] power and his regime". [24]

General Officer Count Joseph Saint-Julien was sent to deliver the convention to Francis II, [lower-alpha 1] [26] and it was soon ratified by the Court of Vienna, [27] [13] It proved to be only a temporary cease-fire, as Johann Amadeus von Thugut (and the Austrian government) refused to accept the terms and give up any of Austria's Italian holdings. [28] [27] Francis II, several hours before receiving the Convention on 20 June 1800, had signed a treaty with Britain, in which Britain agreed to give Austria two million pounds sterling in exchange for Austria continuing the war with France. The treaty also prohibited negotiations between Austria and France without the involvement of Britain before 1 February 1801. [29] [30]

Austria soon dispatched Saint-Julien to travel to Paris, carrying news of the treaty's ratification, and to further consider the terms of it. [lower-alpha 2] [29] [30] He arrived on 21 July and began negotiations. [23] On 22 July he attended a meeting of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at which Saint-Julien was persuaded to assume the position of an accredited diplomat and sign several preliminary articles on 28 July. [32] Saint-Julien and Géraud Duroc were dispatched to deliver the news to Vienna. On 4 August, they arrived at Alt Oettiugen, the headquarters of Paul Kray. [33] The negotiations were disavowed by Austria due to their treaty with Britain. Duroc was turned away and Saint-Julien was arrested for negotiating without instructions. On 29 September, the Convention of Castiglione was signed, extending the Convention of Alessandria; [29] [30] but further negotiations at Lunéville were fruitless, as Napoleon demanded separate peace treaties with England and Austria. [34] On 22 November 1800 hostilities resumed. [28]

Historical opinion

British general and military historian John Mitchell later argued in 1846 that the French would have accepted many fewer concessions and wrote that "nothing equal to this ill-fated convention had ever been known in military history." [14] The treaty was described by British historian Thomas Henry Dyer in 1877 as "one of the most disgraceful capitulations in history." [35] David Bell concluded in 2014 that a bulk of the Austrian army had survived the Battle of Marengo, and Melas was still in a position that he could have continued fighting. Prussian historian Dietrich Heinrich von Bülow "the keenest contemporary observer of the 1800 campaign," [36] said of the convention: "Bonaparte did not seize success; Melas threw it away." [12] According to historian David Hollins, the victory allowed Napoleon to "secure his political power for the next 14 years." [21]


  1. With a note from Napoleon, expressing his desire for a more permanent peace treaty. [25]
  2. Saint-Julien was sent to placate Napoleon and buy time for the Austrians, and had been instructed not to negotiate so as to avoid angering Britain. [13] He had a letter from the Austrians, addressed to Napoleon that contained "a ratification of the armistice both in Italy and Germany, and invited explanations in reference to the bases of future negotiation." [31]

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The Battle of Marengo was fought between the French army of First Consul Napoleon Bonaparte and an Habsburg Austrian army led by General der Kavallerie Michael von Melas. With Napoleon's army lying across the Austrian army's line of communications to the west, Melas resolved to attack. Early in the morning, the Austrian army advanced from the city of Alessandria and took the French army by surprise. It was not until 9:00 am before Melas' army completely moved through a bottleneck at the Bormida River bridges. At first the Austrian attack stalled, slowed by bitter French resistance. By 3:00 pm, the Austrian army compelled their outnumbered opponents to retreat. Sore from having two horses killed under him, Melas handed over command of the pursuit to a subordinate and went to the rear. Later in the afternoon, a newly-arrived French division suddenly attacked the pursuing Austrians. Combined with a quick burst of cannon fire and a well-timed cavalry charge, the surprise assault caused a complete collapse of the Austrian center column, which fled to the temporary safety of Alessandria. The French suffered at least 7,700 casualties, including two generals killed and five wounded. The Austrians admitted losing 9,416 killed, wounded and missing, but some estimates range as high as 11,000–12,000 casualties. The Austrians lost one general killed and five wounded. The next day, Melas requested an armistice. The victory gave Bonaparte enough bargaining leverage to gain control of northwest Italy during the subsequent negotiations.

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  10. 1 2 Hollins 2006, pp. 605–606.
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  12. 1 2 Dwyer 2013, p. 43.
  13. 1 2 3 Massey 1865, p. 258.
  14. 1 2 Mitchell 1846, p. 558.
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  26. Sainsbury 1936, p. 258.
  27. 1 2 Ritchie 1802, p. 258.
  28. 1 2 Ryan 2003, pp. 109–110.
  29. 1 2 3 Dyer 1877, p. 134.
  30. 1 2 3 Massey 1865, p. 259.
  31. Deans 1882, p. 707.
  32. Deans 1882, pp. 707–708.
  33. Clarke 1816, pp. 475–476.
  34. Bright 1837, p. 1226.
  35. Dyer 1877, p. 132.
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