Prussian coin celebrating victory over France

By the middle of January 1871 the armies of the provinces and Paris had been defeated and to a large extent destroyed .The French population was war weary and the Germans were overextended with an army of 800,000 in France . There were growing strains in the Prussian-south German alliance and Bismark feared possibly entry of other European powers on the side of France . Moltke and Bismarck were arguing on the future course of the war. Farve left Paris for the German headquarters at Versailles on the 23rd after a stormy debate as to whether the armistice should be for Paris or all of France . The question was not decided and Farve was sent to see what terms the Germans would offer.

Bismarck, Favre and Thiers at the armistice

negotiations in late February


Bismarck agreed to end the siege and allow food convoys to immediately enter Paris (including trains carrying millions of German army rations), on condition that the Government of National Defence surrender several key fortresses outside Paris to the Prussians. Without the forts, the French Army would no longer be able to defend Paris. Although public opinion in Paris was strongly against any form of surrender or concession to the Prussians, the Government realized that it could not hold the city for much longer, and that Gambetta's provincial armies would probably never break through to relieve Paris. President Jules Trochu,who swore never to surrender, resigned on January 25 and was replaced by Jules Favre, who signed the surrender two days later at Versailles, with the armistice coming into effect at midnight.

Several sources claim that in his carriage on the way back to Paris, Favre broke into tears, and collapsed into his daughter's arms as the guns around Paris fell silent at midnight.

At Tours, Gambetta received word from Paris on January 30 that the Government had surrendered. Furious, he refused to surrender and launched an immediate attack on German forces at Orleans which, predictably, failed. A delegation of Parisian diplomats arrived in Tours by train on February 5 to negotiate with Gambetta, and the following day Gambetta stepped down and surrendered control of the provincial armies to the Government of National Defence, which promptly ordered a cease fire across France. Thiers was elected at an Assembly to decide matters on the war and left with Farve as his foreign Minister for Versailles on Feb 21st. At first, Bismarck wanted Lorraine, including Metz, Alsace, Belfort and 6,000,000,000 francs. The 6,000,000,000 was a bargaining ruse and Bismark accepted 5,000,000,000. Thiers threatened to walk out and let Bismarck govern France himself if he insisted on retaining Belfort, and Bismarck yielded on this .

On Feb 26, Bismarck, Thiers,Favre and representatives of the German states signed a preliminary of peace.France was to pay 1,000,000,000 francs in 1871 and the rest within three years .The Germans would leave an occupation force till the indemnity was paid .There was no attempt to control the internal affairs of France nor a limiting of the size of the French military. Many in Germany felt Bismarck left France too strong and many agitated for some of the French overseas colonies .The French National Assembly passed the peace treaty with great speed by 546 to 107. There were few calls to resume the war .There was a by the Third Army down the Champs Elyees with some jeering and rock throwing. Later the army retired on the quarters along the Seine and mixed with their former enemies for the most part on amicable terms . As the troops marched out on March 3rd, riots were already beginning. Two weeks later the Commune seized power . The Germans sped up the return of prisoners so the French could supress the revolt .

The Treaty of Frankfurt was signed 10 May, marking the end of the Franco-Prussian War. The war had lasted 5 months and cost 88,488 German around 150,000 French lives .

France was able to repay the huge indemnity in two years, thanks in part into the boom in wine exports  after the development of the pasteurization of wine by Louis Pasteur.


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