Research Subjects: Napoleon Himself




Discourse at the Opening of the Legislative Body

Address to the Legislative Body, December, 1813


Napoleon's Addresses: 1813

Compiled By Tom Holmberg


Discourse at the Opening of the Legislative Body

Palais Des Tuileries, Feb. 14, 1813

"I entered Russia.  The French armies were constantly victorious on the fields of Ostrono, Polotsk, Mohilef, Smolensk, Moskova, Malo-Yaroslavetz.  Nowhere could the Russian armies stand before our eagles.  Moscow fell into our power.

"When the Russian borders were forced and the powerlessness of their arms was recognized, a swarm of Tartars turned their parricidal hands against the most beautiful provinces of the empire they had been called upon to defend.  Inside a few weeks, in spite of the grief and despair of the unfortunate Muscovites, they set fire to over four thousand of their most prosperous villages, and more than fifty of their most beautiful cities; thus gratifying their ancient hatred, and, on the pretext of retarding our progress, surrounding us by a desert waste.

"But we triumphed over all these obstacles; even the conflagration of Moscow, where, in four days, they destroyed the fruits of the toil and thrift of forty generations, in no way changed the prosperous condition of my affairs.  But the rigor of an extreme and premature winter laid the weight of a terrible calamity upon my army.  In a few nights every thing changed.  I met with great losses.  My soul would have been crushed beneath their weight had I been accessible to any other feelings than the interest, the glory, and the future of my people.

"At sight of the evils that beset us, England's joy was great.  Her hopes knew no bounds.  She offered our finest provinces as a reward for treachery.  As a condition of peace she proposed the extinction of this beautiful empire; which was in other terms a proclamation of perpetual war.

"The energy shown by my people under such grave circumstances, their devotion to the integrity of the empire, the love they have shown me, have dissipated all these chimeras and have brought our enemies to a more just appreciation of affairs.

"The misfortunes occasioned by the severity of the frosts demonstrated to their full extent the grandeur and solidity of this empire, founded upon the exertions and love of fifty million citizens, and upon the territorial resources of the most beautiful countries in the world."

Address to the Legislative Body, December, 1813

"I have suppressed your address, it was incendiary.  I called you round me to do good—you have done ill.  Eleven-twelfths of you are well intentioned, the others, and above all, M. Lainé, are factious intriguers, devoted to England, to all my enemies, and corresponding, through the channel of the advocate Désege, with the Prince Regent.  Return to your departments and feel that my eye will follow you; you have endeavored to humble me, you may kill me, but you shall not dishonor me.  You make remonstrances; is this a time, when the stranger invades our provinces, and two hundred thousand Cossacks are ready to overflow our country?  Thee may have been petty abuses; I never connived at them.  You, M. Renouard, you said that Prince Massena robbed a man at Marseilles of his house.  You lie! The general took possession of a vacant house, and my minister shall indemnify the proprietor.  Is it thus that you dare affront a marshal of France who has bled for his country, and grown gray in victory?  Why did you not make your complaints in secret to me?  I would have done you justice. We should wash our dirty linen in private, and not drag it out before the world.  You call yourselves representatives of the nation.  It is not true; you are only deputies of the departments; a small portion of the Senate, inferior to the Senate, inferior even to the Council of State.  he representatives of the people!  I am alone the representative of the people.  Twice have twenty-four millions of French called me to the throne—which of you durst undertake such a burden?  It had already overwhelmed (écrasé) your Assemblies, and your Conventions, your Vergniands and your Guadets, your Jacobins and your Girondins.  They are all dead!  What, who are you? nothing—all authority is in the throne; and what is the throne?  This wooden frame covered with velvet? No, I am the throne.  You have added wrong to reproaches.  You have talked of concessions—concessions that even my enemies dared not ask.  I suppose if they asked [for] Champagne, you would have given them La Brie besides; but in four months I will conquer peace, or I shall be dead.  You advise! how dare you debate on such high matters (de si graves interêts)!  You have put  me in front of the battle as the cause of war.  It is infamous (c'est une atrocité).  In all your committees you have excluded the friends of the Government, extraordinary commission, committee of finance, committee of the address, all, all my enemies.  M. Lainé, I repeat it, is a traitor; he is a wicked man, the others are mere intriguers.  I do justice to the eleven-twelfths; but the factions I know and will pursue.  Is it, I ask again, is it while the enemy is in France that you should have done this?  But nature has gifted me with a determined courage—nothing can overcome me. It cost my pride much, too—I made that sacrifice; I—but I am above your miserable declamations.  I was in need of consolation, and you would mortify me,—but, no, my victories shall crush your clamors; in three months we shall have peace, and you shall repent your folly.  I am one of those who triumph or die.

"Go back to your departments.  If any one of you dare to print your address, I shall publish it in the Moniteur with notes of my own.  Go, France stand more in need of me than I do of France.  I bear eleven-twelfths of you in my heart.  I shall nominate the deputies of the two series which are vacant, and I shall reduce the legislative body to the discharge of its proper duties.  The inhabitants of Alsace and Franche-Comté have a better spirit than you; they ask me for arms.  I send them, and one of my aides-de-camp will lead them against the enemy."



Napoleon's Addresses: Selections from the Proclamations, Speeches and Correspondence of Napoleon Bonaparte. Edited by Ida M. Tarbell. (Boston: Joseph Knight, 1896.)


Placed on the Napoleon Series: March 2003



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