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Meeting of the two emperors in a pavilion set up on a raft in the middle of the Neman River.

The Treaties of Tilsit were two agreements signed by Napoleon I of France in the town of Tilsit in July, 1807 in the aftermath of his victory at Friedland. The first was signed on 7 July, between Tsar Alexander I of Russia and Napoleon I of France, when they met on a raft in the middle of the Neman River. The second was signed with Prussia on 9 July. The treaties ended war between Imperial Russia and the French Empire and began an alliance between the two empires which rendered the rest of continental Europe almost powerless. The two countries secretly agreed to aid each other in disputes — France pledged to aid Russia against Ottoman Turkey, while Russia agreed to join the Continental System against the British Empire. Napoleon also convinced Alexander to enter into the Anglo-Russian War and to instigate the Finnish War against Sweden in order to force Sweden to join the Continental System. More specifically, the tsar agreed to evacuate Wallachia and Moldavia, which had been occupied by Russian forces as part of the Russo-Turkish War, 1806-1812. The Ionian Islands and Cattaro, which had been captured by Russian admirals Ushakov and Senyavin, were to be handed over to the French. In recompense, Napoleon guaranteed the sovereignty of the Duchy of Oldenburg and several other small states ruled by the tsar's German relatives.

Napoleon in Tilsit.

The treaty with Prussia stripped the country of about half its territory: Cottbus passed to Saxony, the left bank of the Elbe was awarded to the newly-created Kingdom of Westphalia, Białystok was given to Russia (which led to the creation of the Belostok Oblast), and the rest of the Polish lands in Prussian possession since the Second and Third Partitions became the quasi-independent Duchy of Warsaw. Prussia was to reduce the army to 40,000 and to pay 100,000,000 francs. Talleyrand had advised Napoleon to pursue milder terms; the treaties marked an important stage in his estrangement from the emperor.

Many observers in Prussia and Russia viewed the treaty as unequal and as a national humiliation. The Russian soldiers refused to follow Napoleon's commands, as the Lisbon Incident demonstrated to all Europe. Napoleon's plans to marry the tsar's sister were stymied by Russian royalty. Cooperation between Russia and France eventually broke down in 1810 when the tsar began to allow neutral ships to land in Russian ports. In 1812, Napoleon crossed the Neman river and invaded Russia, ending any vestige of alliance.

Territorial and population losses suffered by Prussia

The Prussian state was diminished by nearly one half under the terms of the treaty of Tilsit. Instead of ten million inhabitants, no more than five million remained within the new boundaries of Prussia. The state revenue, which formerly amounted to forty million dollars per annum, was decreased in a still greater proportion; since the ceded provinces were exactly those which were the richest and the most fertile, and on whose improvement many millions had been expended. Almost all that Prussia had gained by the partition of Poland was taken from her. Saxony, a former confederate of Prussia, was the recipient of these provinces; and Russia, the more powerful of her erstwhile allies, gained territory with a population of 200,000. The following is a tabulation of the territorial and population losses that Prussia suffered under the terms of Tilsit treaty:[1]

Westphalian Possessions[2] German sq. miles Inhabitants
County of Marie, with Essen, Werden, and Lippstadt, 51 148,000
Principality of Minden, 18.5 70,363
County of Ravensberg, 16.5 89,938
Lingen and Terklenberg, 13 46,000
Cleve, on the German side of the Rhine, 20.5 54,000
Principality of East Friesland, 56.5 119,500
Principality of Munster, 49 127,000
Principality of Paderborn, 30 98,500
Possessions in Lower Saxony German sq. miles Inhabitants
Magdeburg, with that pare of the duchy on the left bank of the Elbe, Halle, &c. 54 160,000
County of Mantfeld, 10 27,000
Principality of Halberstadt, 26.5 101,000
County of Hohenstein, 8.5 27,000
Territory of Quedlinburg 1.5 13,400
Principality of Hildesheim and Goslar, 40 114,000

Notes and references

  1. ^ The New annual register, or General repository of history, politics, and literature: To which is Prefixed, the History of Knowledge ..., Published by Printed for G.G.J. and J. Robinson, Pater-noster-Row., 1808. p. 276. See the footnote
  2. ^ Some of the Westphalian Possessions were ceded at an earlier period, and no compensation was paid for these losses under the terms of the treaty of Tilsit.
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