Great Britain: Treaty of Amiens: Marquis Cornwallis, British Plenipotentiary at Amiens

Great Britain: Treaty of Amiens: Marquis Cornwallis, British Plenipotentiary at AmiensGreat Britain: Treaty of Amiens: Marquis Cornwallis, British Plenipotentiary at Amiens
Great Britain: Treaty of Amiens: Marquis Cornwallis, British Plenipotentiary at AmiensGreat Britain: Treaty of Amiens: Marquis Cornwallis, British Plenipotentiary at Amiens
Form: Circular
By: J.G. Hancock / Peter Kempson and Samuel Kindon of Birmingham
Date: 1802
Ref:  BHM: 539; Eimer: 942; Laidlaw: 0565b;
38 mmSilver$680
38.6 mmBronze29.6 gm$200
38.4 mmWhite Metal20.5 gm$90

Edge: Plain.

Obverse: Bareheaded bust of the Cornwallis in uniform, left, hair in queue. Legend above: “MARQUIS CORNWALLIS” and below: “BRITISH PLENIPOTENTIARY AT AMIENS”. Signed: “I.G.H” on the truncation of the bust and below: “K.&.K.”

Reverse: On the left, Britannia seated with her back on a tree trunk and branch above holding a crown and shield bearing head of King George III on her lap, her right hand supporting the British Union shield and trident. Hanoverian arms on shield hanging for a sword hilt behind tree. On the ground, lion with lamb and sheath of wheat. Facing Britannia, a cherub holding a tablet inscribed with the names (partly obscured) people involved with the Treaty: “[AD]DINGTON / [H]AWK[E]SBURY / [COR]NWALLIS / (line) / [BONO]NPARTE / OTTO”. To the right man plowing field, distant hills and radiant sun. Legend: “POST NUBILA PHOEBUS (sunshine after clouds)”. In the exergue: “DEFINITIVE TREATY / CONCLUDED 1802”

Notes: Charles Cornwallis, 1st Marquess Cornwallis KG (1738-1805) was a British Army officer and colonial administrator, best remembered as one of the leading British generals in the American War of Independence. Close to the end of his life he was sent to France to finalise the Treaty of Amiens. The two other people on the British side, partially name on the reverse, were the Prime Minister, Henry Addington, and his foreign secretary, Robert Jenkinson (Lord Hawkesbury).

The Treaty of Amiens temporarily ended hostilities between the France and Britain during the Napoleonic Wars. A preliminary agreement was signed in London on 30 September 1901 by Lord Hawkesbury (Britain) and Louis Guillaume Otto (France) and the Definitive Treaty of Peace was signed at Amiens in France on 25 March 1802 by Joseph Bonaparte (Napoléon’s brother) and the Marquess Cornwallis (Britain). The Peace of Amiens lasted only 14 months and the uneasy truce ended when Britain declared war on France on 18 May 1803.

The Napoleonic Wars and the Treaty of Amiens in particular had a major influence in the early development of South Africa. In 1652 the Dutch East India Company (VOC) had established a settlement in Table Bay. By 1795 the settlement had effectively become a Dutch colony extending over the present-day Western Cape Province but still governed by VOC and had attained vital strategic importance internationally in the sea trade between Europe and the Far East. In that year The Netherlands fell to the French army under the leadership of Napoléon Bonaparte and was restructured as a French client-state called the Batavian Republic. Prince William V of Orange fled to Britain and a campaign was launched to secure Dutch colonial possessions from falling into French hands. Britain dispatched an expeditionary force to the Cape led by Vice-Admiral Sir George Keith Elphinstone and with troops under the command of General Sir James Henry Craig. The outcome, after the battle of Muizenberg and skirmishes between June and September, was that the Dutch Governor Abraham Josias Sluysken surrendered the Cape to the British.

The significant part of the Treaty of Amiens for South Africa was that British should hand back the Cape to the Dutch. The transfer took place in February 1803 and the Cape became an official Dutch colony of the Batavian Republic under Commissioner-General Jacob Abraham de Mist and the Governor of the Cape of Good Hope, Lieutenant-General Jan Willem Janssens. These two men brought enlightenment to the new Colony and instituted reforms in government, agriculture, trade, coinage, settlement, religion and race relations.

The collapse of the Treaty in May 1903 put the Dutch sovereignty of the Colony under threat. However, the strength of the French Navy deterred any action by the British. The Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October 1805, in which Admiral Lord Nelson defeated the combined navies of France and Spain, changed the balance of sea power. The defence of the Cape could no longer adequately be supported and British warships were sent to recapture the Cape. At the Battle of Blaauwberg near Cape Town on 8 January 1806 the British commander, Lt Gen Sir David Baird, gained a decisive victory and the Articles of Capitulations were signed by Governor Janssens on 18 January. British forces occupied the Cape until 13 August 1814, when the Netherlands ceded the colony to Britain as a permanent possession. It remained a British colony until it was incorporated into the Union of South Africa on 31 May 1910.