Protector of the Confederation of the Rhine

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The German princes render homage to the protector Napoleon, shortly after the ratification of the Confederation treaty. This lithograph by Charles Motte was possibly made in the 1820s. The depiction should not be read literally; some princes were represented by envoys. Confederation of the Rhine swearing-in 1806.jpg
The German princes render homage to the protector Napoléon, shortly after the ratification of the Confederation treaty. This lithograph by Charles Motte was possibly made in the 1820s. The depiction should not be read literally; some princes were represented by envoys.

Protector of the Confederation of the Rhine was a title and a function in the Confederation treaty of 1806. The term in French was Protecteur de la Confédération, in German Protector des rheinischen Bundes. The title described the specific way in which the French emperor Napoleon was linked to the Confederation of the Rhine.

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

Napoléon Bonaparte was a French statesman and military leader of Italian descent who rose to prominence during the French Revolution and led several successful campaigns during the French Revolutionary Wars. He was Emperor of the French as Napoleon I 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 much of 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.

Confederation of the Rhine confederation of client states of the First French Empire

The Confederation of the Rhine 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 at the Battle of Austerlitz. The Treaty of Pressburg, in effect, led to the creation of the Confederation of the Rhine, which lasted from 1806 to 1813.

The Confederation treaty was an international treaty between the emperor and some German princes. The treaty text mentions the emperor only once explicitly:

Art. 12. His Majesty the Emperor of the French will be called Protector of the Rhenish Confederation, and in this virtue the same will appoint the successor of the prince-primate after every departure.

The prince-primate was the chair of the Federal Assembly, the unrealised convention of the member states. The treaty remains silent about the function of the federal protector. For example, the treaty does not say that the protector guarantees the territorial integrity of the member states, although the treaty adjusts a number of territorial changes. [1]

For Napoléon the Confederation of the Rhine was an instrument to secure the military support of the Rhenish states when necessary. The power balance was one-sided; France alone decided when to mobilize (Art .36). France and the Rhenish states were allowed to negotiate international treaties, including with states outside of the Confederation. The protector usually did not consult with his allies at the important peace settlements of the time.

The treaty says that the Rhenish states had to be independent from foreign powers. They were allowed to decline their souvereignity in total or partially only to other Rhenish states (Art. 7, Art. 8). In 1810 and 1811 the member states Westphalia and Berg yielded territory to France. As France was no member of the Confederation, they violated Art. 8. [2]

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References

  1. Michael Kotulla: Deutsches Verfassungsrecht 1806–1918. Eine Dokumentensammlung nebst Einführungen. Volume 1: Gesamtdeutschland, Anhaltische Staaten und Baden, Springer, Berlin et al. 2006, p. 21.
  2. Michael Kotulla: Deutsches Verfassungsrecht 1806–1918. Eine Dokumentensammlung nebst Einführungen. Volume 1: Gesamtdeutschland, Anhaltische Staaten und Baden, Springer, Berlin et al. 2006, p. 24.