Eylau: Precis Des Travaux de la Grande Armée
Report from Talleyrand to Napoleon: 15 November 1806
Report of the Minister of Foreign Relations to H. M. the Emperor and King.
Lord, a fourth coalition was formed: in less than one month, it was confounded; in less than one month Prussia saw its army, its fortified towns, its capital and its provinces fall into the possession of Y. M.; and now it beseeches peace.
In the preceding coalitions, each enemy of France, as soon as it was overcome, also asked and obtained peace. It was hoped that particular and successive peaces would lead to a general peace, honorable and sure. Three times this hope were disappointed; three times the process showed that while following the same system of moderation and generosity, France would constantly be misled. Each destroyed coalition gave birth to a new coalition, and France was threatened by an eternal war.
The French Empire came to a degree of power and size that Y. M. was not eager for. Attacked at all sides with a fury without example, and placed in the alternative to perish or overcome, France fought only for its safety, and, victorious, it hasn’t used the victory to break its moderation. It did not destroy those which wanted to destroy it; it had made immense conquests, it kept only one small part of it; it would have kept even less, if the blind men who howled around it, had not put it in the need for enlarging itself to preserver. Today that it is attacked for the fourth time with the same spirit of hatred and with the same aim of destruction, Y. M. has another goal to only recover what is essential for the prosperity of its people. But it is a goal that it could reach only while benefiting from all the size of its advantages, and by reserving its conquests like objects of compensation in the arrangements of general peace.
Two enemy powers of the rest of Europe were linked to perpetuate the discord and the war there. The objects of their ambition are different; but the same hatred animates them against France, because they know that France cannot cease being opposed to the achievement of their pernicious intentions. Unceasingly occupied to search to make enemies for him, they employ for this purpose all the means of artifices and intrigues, the menaces, the caresses, corruption, calumny; and, when they aspire with all to invade, with all to oppress, with all to control, it is France who they claim aspires to this.
England tends to sail exclusively on the seas. It assumes the monopoly of all the trade and all industries, and all the times that the irresistible force of the events obliged France to intervene in the businesses of the small States its neighbors, and to intervene there for their peace, England leveled charges and complaints. First it sounded the alarm, and because some cities or some countries subjected for centuries to the influence of France, were still subjected there, it presented France as threatening the independence of the larger States. Was this for the small States, which were subjected for centuries to its influence, and as involved in its sphere of activity? wasn’t this on the contrary for States considered at all the principal times of Europe, that England exerted its violence, when the Northern powers, which had been linked to defend the eternal principles of neutrality, were forced of pride, with their own interests, and the dearest interests of France? Then the independence of the nations was not only threatened; it was attacked, violated, and as much as it depended on England, destroyed. Of what that England had been obliged to recognize, by the convention as used at St. Petersburg, a small number of principles that, neither its seductions, nor its threats had been able to make the give up? Immediately after, it overtly pressed them with the feet, or eluded them, while misusing, in the manner of the most tyrannical and at the time foolish, for the right of blockade. This right cannot, according to the reason and the treaties, be applied to these invested places and in danger of being taken. It claimed to extend it to the havens, into the mouth of the rivers, then the whole coast, and finally a whole Empire. Admittedly, France was never invaded or in danger to be taken by England, and in truth the whole of France was declared in a state of blockade. While acting in this manner, doesn't England highly announce that it does not recognize any law, that treaties are nothing to them, that it admits to only the rights of force, and that it considers legitimate all that it can do with impunity?
The government of Russia, when it should be occupied only with the care to vivify its immense States, and expiated by the benefits of an aged legislation and a paternal administration, the crime which reduced in one day from the level of the independent nations, an old nation, populous, illustrious and dignified of a better fate, covets and threatens to still absorb the vast and superb empire of Ottomans. The same operations that it employed against Poland, it employs today against Turkey. It incites in its provinces the spirit of sedition and revolt. It excited, it arms, it supports Serbians against the Porte. It renews, in Moravia, the attempts that it had made, but without reward, in 1778. Walachia and Moldavia were controlled by two disloyal and treacherous heads; the Porte had declared them such by an affirmation, and had them deposed. Russia, unhappy to give them asylum, let loose troops on Dniester, and, menaced the Porte to declare a war on them, as it required their re-establishment. The Porte had the pain to be seen forced to return their positions his declared enemies, and to depose the men of his choosing. Thus, its independence violated by an attack in summer, wounds for all time, the dignity of all the thrones. Since it does not have any more the choice of its governors, it is not any more a sovereign, it is a vassal, or rather Walachia and Moldavia do not belong to him any more except in name; and these two large and rich provinces, controlled by men bought by Russia, became for at this time a true conquest.
With such enemies, whose moderation of H. M. could not disarm from hatred, and who, notwithstanding his victories, always go to their goal, listening to only their passion, and not respecting any right, Y. M. is not free to follow the movements of your generosity. The same penchant that the Door desires peace, would deprived it of any of its conquests, which the whole and absolute independence of the Empire ottoman, independence who is the first interest of France, is not recognized and is guaranteed; that the Spanish, Dutch and French colonies, whose diversion operated by the four coalitions only involved the loss, are not restored, and that a general Code is not adopted, in conformity with the dignity of all the crowns, and able to ensure the rights of all the nations on the seas.
The justice and the need for this determination will be universally felt; it will be a benefit for the allies of Y. M., and for all the commercial cities of its empire, which were stripped only with the favor of these same wars whose events put at the capacity Y. M. so many of these vast states. In any other system, the interests of these allies and so much of populated cities would be abandoned, the fruit of the most astonishing victories would be lost, and France, in the milieu of unheard of triumphs, after so many exploits which increased and filled with glory, would not have any prospect for rest; it would not foresee the time where it could deposit the weapons, to devote themselves to the peaceful occupations of industry and the trade, to which nature calls it, and to make, on another theatre, of the conquests less bright, but softer, which it would not have bought by the overflowing of a blood which is so expensive to him, and which equalizing its happiness with its glory, would not cost humanity so many tears.
Signed, CH. M. TALLEYRAND, Prince of Bénévent.
Berlin, November 15, 1806.
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