The Objects

23rd May 1815

Source: M. S. Anderson Collection, Senate House Library, University of London, with permission.

Rewriting History in the 100 Days

Contributed by: Karen Attar

John Hampdon’s History of the Northern War covers the period from 1812 until the Vienna Congress of 1815. The book is obscure and scarce, printed and published provincially, in Newcastle upon Tyne), by an otherwise unknown writer. It was originally intended for publication in 1814, a chronology of the principal events in Napoleon’s life (p. 594) ending with his arrival at Elba on 8 May 1814. But the final chapter, “Congress at Vienna”, notes a delay in publication occasioned by the desire to print notification of the termination of the congress.

Such a delay, of course, was extended further by Napoleon’s escape from Elba in February 1815, which disrupted any attempt to give a neat conclusion to the account. This uncertainty over Europe’s trajectory is clear in a speech paraphrased by Hampdon at the end of the book, and given in the House of Commons on 20 March 1815 by Lord Castlereagh (until February 1815 Britain’s representative at the Congress).: “If Bonaparte succeeded in re-establishing his authority in France, peace must be despaired of … The question now was, whether … Europe was again to become a series of armed nations, and whether Great Britain among them was … again to struggle for the independence of the world? These were questions of no small magnitude … depending upon a new and unexpected contest, in which the liberties of mankind were once more assaulted and endangered. … Upon these points there could exist only one feeling, and his lordship trusted that Providence would ordain only one result.” (p. 608).

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