Causes of the Failure of the Continental System

Causes of the Failure of the Continental System:

It is true that Europe was under the influence of Napoleon when he implemented his continental system. But he ignored the fact that England had built her own colonies and it was trifling to ban her import and export in Europe. Britain would acquire raw materials from her colonies and sell her finished products there. Therefore, it was useless to expect the success of the continental system until effective restrictions were imposed upon British colonies which were spread all over the world. In the absence of a fleet, it was impossible for France to defend its sea coasts which extended to thousands of miles. France did not possess a massive and powerful fleet of ships that could capture other ships in the open sea. For want of a huge army, it was not possible to put an effective check on imports through the vast frontiers of Europe.

It was an impractical scheme. It was quite insensible to expect that every country would follow his scheme which was fraught with unbearable suffering. The states dominated by Napoleon accepted his scheme under duress but others overthrew it at the earliest opportunity. Black marketing and smuggling to acquire goods imported from England thrived in entire Europe. Napoleon waged battle against many countries in order to compel them to accept his scheme. Consequently, all the countries became Napoleon’s sworn enemies.

There was a scarcity of food grains in England. But with a view to fleecing England of her money, Napoleon continuously supplied food grain to England at exorbitant rates. If Napoleon had not fed England by supplying foodgrains, people might have died of starvation and England would have signed the treaty under great compulsion.

Napoleon thought that economic restrictions would benefit French industries and they would be able to meet the needs of Europe. However, it was not possible to develop French industries in such a short time. Besides, the goods supplied by France to the markets of Europe were expensive and poor in quality. In order to earn profit, Napoleon allowed the import of certain goods subject to the payment of fixed duties. But when Russia wanted to do so, he became angry. That policy fomented the fury of the states of central Europe.

Becuase of corrupt officers, restricted goods were smuggled into Europe on a large scale and it ascertained the failure of his scheme.

Napoleon’s scheme was impracticable. He made unremitting efforts to fulfill the multifarious demands of European countries but he had to depend upon England for the supply of leather shoes, woolen coats, and other articles. In order to accomplish his scheme, he entangled himself in European wars so closely that he lost track of his goal. It needed a long time to affect England with the consequences of his system. His system could not affect British trade in the short run unless the reserved resources of England had been exhausted. As a dictator, Napoleon could have implemented any law in his own country but it was not possible to continue the imposition of restrictions over other countries for a long time.

On the whole, the wars with Prussia, Russia, and Spain that ensued with the implementation of the continental system aborted his scheme. With his continental system, Napoleon had not only roused the people of Europe against the Empire but had also lost the confidence of the French middle classes, which had put him to power. To put it in a nutshell, his scheme was a fiasco and became the chief reason for his downfall.

Important Links:

Intellectual Enlightenment
Political Causes of the French Revolution
Economic Causes of the French Revolution
Beginning of the French Revolution
Functions of the Constituent Assembly
Unsuccessful Attempt of the Royal Family to Flee the Country
Phases of the French Revolution
Role of Philosophers in the French Revolution
Nature of the French Revolution
Correlation Between the Objectives and Achievements of the French Revolution
Do you agree that the French Revolution achieved far less than what it intended to achieve?
Importance of the French Revolution
French Revolution of 1848
The Foreign Policy of Louis Philippe
Causes of the Revolution of February 1848
Napoleon Ascendency
Consulate Rule and Constitution of 1799
Reforms of Napoleon
Napoleon Concord With Pope
Napoleonic Code
Continental System
The United States and the French Revolution, 1789–1799