The 1717 Convention of Amsterdam according to French Diplomatic Archives
Keywords:Amsterdam Treaty; Peter the Great; international protocol; international relations of the early 18th century; diplomatic history
The Amsterdam Convention, a treaty marking the alliance and mutual guarantees between France, Russia and Prussia and signed in Amsterdam on 15 August 1717, was, over the coming centuries, celebrated in France as the cornerstone of a permanent alliance which would withstand the vicissitudes of the revolutionary and imperial periods. While the impact of the treaty was limited in the short run, it was nevertheless the result of the tsar’s wish to integrate Russia into the new European order determined by the Treaties of Utrecht (1713) and Rastatt (1714) at the end of the War of Spanish Succession. In proposing this alliance, Peter I wished to detach Sweden from France, his ally from the time of Richelieu, or even take Sweden’s place in a diplomatic game where France needed to find a counterweight to the Holy Roman emperor’s power on the continent. He enlisted Prussia to assuage the misgivings of the regent and his minister Dubois, who were first concerned about preserving the triple alliance formed on 4 January 1717 in The Hague with their erstwhile enemies England and Holland. The analysis of the treaty documents kept in the Archives of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs provides valuable data as to the conditions of the first official negotiations between the two countries as well as what set them apart: Peter’s firm ambition to be legally recognised as a sovereign with power equal to that of the European princes. The seal of this triple alliance thus found itself confronted with a ceremonial issue: due to the refusal of the tsar and the Prussian king to give precedence to the other, the treaty did not take the form of three copies of a single text with three signatures on each, but a more complex form of six copies signed by the representatives of only two powers in order to uphold the principle of equality. The file kept in the French Diplomatic Archives thus contains two instruments with identical texts, one signed by France and Prussia, the other by France and Russia: it is this inseparable pair of documents that gave power to the triple alliance. The six articles and three secret articles of the text provided for a “close union” between the three sovereigns and brought their people together through trade advantages as the most privileged nation. However, the instrument still reflects France’s initial reservations, namely that the convention should not challenge the English alliance and France would only commit to acting as a mediator for re-establishing peace in the north (secret articles). It did, however, create favourable conditions for opening permanent embassies in the two countries.
Archives du ministère des Affaires étrangères. Traité d’alliance et de garantie réciproque. Amsterdam. 15 août 1717. Traités bilatéraux Russie. TRA17170003.
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