Napoleon Series Discussion Forum

Re: Comparison of Belligerents' Foreign Policies

What Herold actually says is (p17)

'Historians have quarrelled over the question, which of the two, Talleyrand or Bonaparte, initiated the Egyptian venture. Since it turned out to be a disaster, Talleyrand in his later years gave full credit for it to Bonaparte. Actually it was thanks to Talleyrand's efforts rather than to Bonaparte's that the Directory endorsed the plan.'

p18 - Bonaparte and Talleyrand were corresponding on the subject during the latter half of 1797.

p20 'On February 9 (1798) Magallon handed Talleyrand a detailed memorandum on Egypt; on the 14th, Talleyrand presented his plan for a conquest of Egypt to the Directors; on February 23 Bonaparte wrote his pessimistic report to the Directory which favoured abandoning the invasion and suggested, among the alternatives, an expedition to Egypt. A week later the Directors approved that project.'

Looking at the report of Feb 23 (correspondence iii 2429 trans Thompson) you will see that Napoleon actually only suggested, 'Or we might well make an expedition into the Levant, and threaten the commerce of India.'

But back in August 1797 (Correspondance iii.2103) he had written to the Directory ,

'It will not be long before we realize that, if we are effectively to destroy England, we must get hold of Egypt.'

So he had been pushing the idea for several months.

Now of the Directors, only Barras had any military experience and Talleyrand had none. General Bonaparte was the only one who could give an opinion on the risks and problems associated with the venture. If he had not been enthusiastic for it it would not have gone ahead which is why I consider him responsible for what followed.

Susan

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