Declaration of Pillnitz

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The meeting at Pillnitz Castle in 1791. Oil painting by J. H. Schmidt, 1791. Pillnitzer Deklaration.jpg
The meeting at Pillnitz Castle in 1791. Oil painting by J. H. Schmidt, 1791.

The Declaration of Pilnite, more commonly referred to as the Declaration of Pillnitz, was a statement issued on 27 August 1791 at Pillnitz Castle near Dresden (Saxony) by Frederick William II of Prussia and the Habsburg Holy Roman Emperor Leopold II who was Marie Antoinette's brother. [1] It declared the joint support of the Holy Roman Empire and of Prussia for King Louis XVI of France against the French Revolution. [2]

Pillnitz Castle château

Pillnitz Castle is a restored Baroque palace at the eastern end of the city of Dresden in the German state of Saxony. It is located on the bank of the River Elbe in the former village of Pillnitz. Pillnitz Castle was the summer residence of many electors and kings of Saxony; it is also known for the Declaration of Pillnitz in 1791.

Dresden Place in Saxony, Germany

Dresden is the capital city and, after Leipzig, the second-largest city of the Free State of Saxony in Germany. It is situated in a valley on the River Elbe, near the border with the Czech Republic.

Saxony State in Germany

Saxony, officially the Free State of Saxony, is a landlocked federal state of Germany, bordering the federal states of Brandenburg, Saxony Anhalt, Thuringia, and Bavaria, as well as the countries of Poland and the Czech Republic. Its capital is Dresden, and its largest city is Leipzig.

Contents

Background

Since the French Revolution of 1789, Leopold had become increasingly concerned about the safety of his sister, Marie-Antoinette, and her family but felt that any intervention in French affairs would only increase their danger. [3] At the same time, many French aristocrats were fleeing France and taking up residence in neighbouring countries, spreading fear of the Revolution and agitating for foreign support to Louis XVI. [4] After Louis and his family had fled Paris in the hopes of inciting a counter-revolution, known as the Flight to Varennes in June 1791, Louis had been apprehended and was returned to Paris and kept under armed guard. On 6 July 1791, Leopold issued the Padua Circular, calling on the sovereigns of Europe to join him in demanding Louis' freedom. [5]

Flight to Varennes

The royal Flight to Varennes during the night of 20–21 June 1791 was a significant episode in the French Revolution in which King Louis XVI of France, his queen Marie Antoinette, and their immediate family unsuccessfully attempted to escape from Paris in order to initiate a counter-revolution at the head of loyal troops under royalist officers concentrated at Montmédy near the frontier. They escaped only as far as the small town of Varennes, where they were arrested after having been recognized at their previous stop in Sainte-Menehould.

Padua Circular

The Padua Circular was a diplomatic note produced by Holy Roman Emperor Leopold II on 6 July 1791. Prompted by the arrest of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette after the Flight to Varennes, the Circular called on the sovereigns of Europe to join him in demanding their freedom. It was followed by diplomatic initiatives in which the Holy Roman Empire looked for rapprochement with its traditional enemy, Hohenzollern Prussia.

Purpose

Calling on European powers to intervene if Louis was threatened, the declaration was intended to serve as a warning to the French revolutionaries to stop infringing on the king's prerogatives and to permit his resumption of power. [6]

The declaration stated that Austria would go to war if and only if all the other major European powers also went to war with France. Leopold chose this wording so that he would not be forced to go to war; he knew the British prime minister, William Pitt, did not support war with France. Leopold issued the declaration only to satisfy the French émigrés who had taken refuge in his country and were calling for foreign interference in their homeland.

William Pitt the Younger 18th/19th-century British statesman

William Pitt the Younger was a prominent British Tory statesman of the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries. He became the youngest UK Prime Minister in 1783 at the age of 24. He left office in 1801, but served as Prime Minister again from 1804 until his death in 1806. He was Chancellor of the Exchequer for most of his time as Prime Minister. He is known as "the Younger" to distinguish him from his father, William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham, called William Pitt the Elder or simply "Chatham", who had previously served as Prime Minister.

(The Pillnitz Conference itself dealt mainly with the Polish Question and the war of Austria against the Ottoman Empire.)

Partitions of Poland Forced partition of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth

The Partitions of Poland were three partitions of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth that took place toward the end of the 18th century and ended the existence of the state, resulting in the elimination of sovereign Poland and Lithuania for 123 years. The partitions were conducted by Habsburg Austria, the Kingdom of Prussia, and the Russian Empire, which divided up the Commonwealth lands among themselves progressively in the process of territorial seizures and annexations.

Austria Federal republic in Central Europe

Austria, officially the Republic of Austria, is a country in Central Europe comprising 9 federated states. Its capital, largest city and one of nine states is Vienna. Austria has an area of 83,879 km2 (32,386 sq mi), a population of nearly 9 million people and a nominal GDP of $477 billion. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Hungary and Slovakia to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the west. The terrain is highly mountainous, lying within the Alps; only 32% of the country is below 500 m (1,640 ft), and its highest point is 3,798 m (12,461 ft). The majority of the population speaks local Bavarian dialects as their native language, and German in its standard form is the country's official language. Other regional languages are Hungarian, Burgenland Croatian, and Slovene.

Ottoman Empire Former empire in Asia, Europe and Africa

The Ottoman Empire, historically known in Western Europe as the Turkish Empire or simply Turkey, was a state that controlled much of Southeast Europe, Western Asia and North Africa between the 14th and early 20th centuries. It was founded at the end of the 13th century in northwestern Anatolia in the town of Söğüt by the Oghuz Turkish tribal leader Osman I. After 1354, the Ottomans crossed into Europe, and with the conquest of the Balkans, the Ottoman beylik was transformed into a transcontinental empire. The Ottomans ended the Byzantine Empire with the 1453 conquest of Constantinople by Mehmed the Conqueror.

Text of the Declaration

"His Majesty the Emperor and His Majesty the King of Prussia (…) declare together that they regard the actual situation of His Majesty the King of France as a matter of communal interest for all sovereigns of Europe. They hope that that interest will be recognized by the powers whose assistance is called in, and that they won't refuse, together with aforementioned Majesties, the most efficacious means for enabling the French king to strengthen, in utmost liberty, the foundations of a monarchical government suiting to the rights of the sovereigns and favourable to the well-being of the French. In that case, aforementioned Majesties are determined to act promptly and unanimously, with the forces necessary for realizing the proposed and communal goal. In expectation, they will give the suitable orders to their troops so that they will be ready to commence activity." [7]

Consequences

The National Assembly of France interpreted the declaration to mean that Leopold was going to declare war. Radical Frenchmen who called for war, such as Jacques Pierre Brissot, used it as a pretext to gain influence and declare war on 20 April 1792, leading to the campaigns of 1792 in the French Revolutionary Wars. [8]

Notes

  1. Schama, S. Citizens p.586 penguin 1989
  2. Chronicle of the French Revolution p.232 Longman Group 1989
  3. Schama S. Citizens p.590 Penguin 1989
  4. Schama, S. Citizens p.586 Penguin 1989
  5. Chronicle of the French Revolution p.225 Longman Group 1989
  6. Karl Otmar von Aretin: Vom Deutschen Reich zum Deutschen Bund. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1993, ISBN   978-3-525-33583-3, p. 24. (in German)
  7. Translation of the text as given in the French Wikipedia, fr:Déclaration de Pillnitz, section La conference
  8. Thomas Lalevée, « National Pride and Republican grandezza: Brissot’s New Language for International Politics in the French Revolution », French History and Civilisation (Vol. 6), 2015, pp. 66-82.

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