Military Subjects: Battles & Campaigns

 

Eylau: Precis Des Travaux de la Grande Armée

Report from Talleyrand to Napoleon: 20 November 1806

Report of the Minister of Foreign Relations, to H. M. the Emperor and King.

LORD, three centuries of civilization gave to Europe a law of nations that, according to the expression of a famous writer, that human nature isn’t familiar enough with.  This law is founded on the principle, that nations must practice:  in peace the most good, and in the war, the least evil that is possible.  According to the maxim that war is not a dealing of man with man, but a dealing of state to state, in which private individuals are enemy only accidentally, not as men, not even as members or subjects of the State, but only as its defenders, the law of nations does not only allow the right of war, and the right of conquest, it extends to the peaceful citizens and those without weapons who in drift into it, to the dwellings and to the private properties, to the commercial goods, the stores which contain them, with the wagons that transport them, to not only the armed vessels which convey them on,  in a word with all persons and the goods of the private individuals.  This law, born of civilization, supported progress.  It is with it that Europe was indebted to its maintenance and increase in its prosperity, even in the milieu of frequent wars that divided it.  England alone preserved or renewed the uses of the cruel times.  It is by its refusal to give up the maritime race that this unjust and cruel practice was maintained in spite of France which, in times of peace, changed only by ideas of justice and of humanity, had proposed to abolish it.  France did everything to soften an evil to a minimum that it had not been able to prevent.  England on the contrary did everything to worsen it.  Not satisfies to attack the trading ships and to treat as prisoners of war the crews of these disarmed ships, it considered an enemy whoever belonged in the enemy State, and it also made prisoner of war the basis of trade, and the negotiators who traveled for the businesses of their trade.  But it could not suffice for its aim to thus invade private properties, to strip and oppress in particular innocents and those who are peaceful.  Remaining for a long time behind of the nations of the Continent which preceded it on the road to civilization, and while having received all its benefits, it conceived the foolish project to only have them, and to remove them from others.  She would like that it had there was no other industry on the ground, only hers, and no other trade but that which she would do herself.  She felt that, to succeed, it would not be enough for her to disturb, that she must still endeavor to completely stop communications between people.  It is in this sight that, under the name of right of blockade, she invented and put into practice the most monstrous theory.  According to the reason and the use of all organized people, the right of blockade is applicable only to the fortified towns.  England claimed to extend it to the not only fortified places of trade, but the harbors, and the mouth of the rivers.  A place is blocked only when it is invested so much, that one cannot try to approach a little without exposing oneself to imminent danger.  England declared blockaded the places in front of which it did not have even one war ship.  It claimed more; it dared to declare in a state of blockade all the places that even all its forces joined together were unable to block--the immense coasts and all the vast Empire.  Drawing then from a chimerical right and a supposed fact, the result being that it could target its prey precisely, and indeed doing it, by interdicting all that went to put in to the places by a simple declaration of the British Admiralty, and of all that came from it;  it frightened the neutral navigators, and pushed them away from the ports which their interests invited them, and which the law of the nations authorized them to go to.  Thus it made turn to its profit and the detriment of Europe, but especially of France, the audacity with which it has played on all the rights and even insults those with reason.  Against a power which ignores at this point all the ideas of justice and all human sentiments, that can make one, if not to forget them one moment oneself, to force it to violate more?  The right of natural defense makes it possible to oppose ones enemy with the weapons of which it is useful, and if I can thus speak, to react against its own furies and its madness.  Moreover, when the principles of civilization are attacked by companies without example, and that all Europe is threatened, preserving it and avenging it is not only one right, it is still a duty for the only power that has the means to do it.  Since England dared to declare the whole of France in a state of blockade, France declares in its turn that the British Isles are blocked.  Since England considers an enemy any French, that any English or subject of England, found in the countries occupied by the French Armies, is made a prisoner of war.  Since England makes an attempt on the private properties of the peaceful negotiators, all and any English properties and subject of England, in any state they are, are confiscated.  Since England blows to destroy any industry on the Continent, whoever trades in English goods, supports as much as it is in him these intentions, and becomes its accomplice, whom ever trades any English goods is declared illicit, and whatever may be produced by manufacture in one of the English colonies found in the places occupied by the French troops is confiscated.  Since England wants to stop any navigation and any maritime trade, no ship coming from the islands or the British colonies is received neither in the ports of France, nor in those of the countries occupied by the French Army, and that any ship which would try desert to these ports in England will be either seized and confiscated. 

Your Majesty, I feel you, will only take with regret such measures, and I propose them myself only with regret; but the situation of Europe makes them necessary; and besides, once England admits to the law of nations whom follow universally organized people, at once that it will recognize that the right of war is one and the same one on sea as on ground; that this right and that of conquest can extend neither to private properties, nor to the unarmed and peaceful individuals, and that the right of blockade must be restricted to the really invested fortified towns, Y. M. will put an end to these rigorous measures, but not to the injustice;  because justice between the nations is only the result of reciprocity. 

Signed, CH. MAUR.  TALLEYRAND, Prince of Bénévent

Berlin, November 20, 1806

 

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