Research Subjects: Napoleon Himself


Letter to Champagny: November 15, 1807

Letter to the Emperor of Austria: October, 1808

Letter to the American Minister, Armstrong: 1809


Napoleon's Addresses: 1807 - 1808

Compiled By Tom Holmberg


Letter to Champagny: November 15, 1807

"Since America suffers her vessels to be searched, she adopts the principle that the flag does not cover the goods.

"Since she recognizes the absurd blockades laid by England, consents to having her vessels incessantly stopped, sent to England, and so turned aside from their course, why should not the Americans suffer the blockade laid by France?  Certainly France is no more blockaded by England than England by France.  Why should not Americans also suffer their vessels to be searched by French ships?  Certainly France recognizes that these measures are unjust, illegal, and subversive of national sovereignty; but it is the duty of nations to resort to force, and to declare themselves against things which dishonor them and disgrace their independence."

Letter to the Emperor of Austria: October, 1808

"Sire my Brother:—I thank your Royal and Imperial Majesty for the letter you have been so good as to write me, and which Baron Vincent delivered.  I never doubted your Majesty, but I nevertheless feared for a moment that hostilities would be renewed between us. There is, at Vienna, a faction which affects alarm in order to drive your Cabinet to violent measures, which would entail misfortunes greater than those which are passed.  I had it in my power to dismember your Majesty's monarchy, or at least to diminish its power.  I did not do so.  It exists as it is by my consent.  This is a plain proof that our accounts are settled; that I have no desire to injure you.  I am always ready to guarantee the integrity of your monarchy.  I will never do anything adverse to the important interests of States.  But your Majesty ought not to bring again under discussion what has been settled by a fifteen years' war.  You ought to avoid every proclamation or act calculated to excite dissension. The last levy in mass might have provoked war if I had apprehended that the levy and preparations were made in conjunction with Russia.

"I have just disbanded the camp of the Confederation. I have sent a hundred thousand men to Boulogne to renew my projects against England.  I had reason to believe when I had the happiness of seeing your Majesty, and had concluded the treaty of Presburg, that our disputes were terminated forever, and that I might undertake the maritime war without interruption.  I beseech your Majesty to distrust those, who, by speaking of the dangers of the monarchy, disturb your happiness and that of your family and people.  Those persons alone are dangerous; they create the dangers they pretend to fear.  By a straightforward, plain, and ingenious line of conduct, your Majesty will render your people happy, will secure to yourself that tranquillity of which you must stand in need after so many troubles, and will be sure of finding me determined to do nothing hostile to your important interests.  Let your conduct bespeak confidence, and you will inspire it.  The best policy at the present time is simplicity and truth.  Confide your troubles to me when you have any, and I will instantly banish them.  Allow me to make one observation more—listen to your own judgment—your own feelings—they are much more correct than those of your advisers.  I beseech your Majesty to read my letter in the spirit in which it is written, and to see nothing in it inconsistent with the welfare and tranquillity of Europe and your Majesty."

Letter to the American Minister, Armstrong: 1809

"The seas belong to all nations.  Any vessel, sailing under whatsoever flag, recognized and avowed by her, should be as much at home in the midst of the seas as if she were in her own ports.  The flag floating from the mast of a merchant vessel should be respected as much as if it floated from the top of a village spire.

"In case of war between two maritime powers, neutrals should follow the legislation of neither one.  Every vessel should be protected by its flag.  Every power which violates a flag declares war against the power to which it belongs.  To insult a merchant vessel which carries the flag of a power, is the same thing as invading a town or colony belonging to that power.  His Majesty declares that he considers the fleets of nations as floating colonies belonging to those nations.  In consequence of this principle, the sovereignty and independence of a nation is a property of its neighbors.  If a French citizen was insulted in an American port or colony, the Government of the United States would not deny that it was responsible for it.  In the same way the Government of the United States must be responsible for the violation of French property on board of a ship or floating American colony; otherwise, this Government, not being able to gaurantee the integrity of its rights and the independence of its flag, his Majesty considers the American vessels which have been violated by visits, by taxes, and other arbitrary acts, as no longer belonging to the United States, and as denationalized.

"But whatever the Government of the United States shall order its vessels armed to repulse the unjust aggressions of England, to sustain its rights, against the refusal of this power to recognize the great principle that the flag covers the ship, and against its unjust pretension of searching neutral vessels, his Majesty is willing to recognize them and treat them as neutrals."



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: February 2003



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