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Eylau: Precis Des Travaux de la Grande Armée

Letter from Talleyrand to Lauderdale Protesting the Breaking Off of Negotiations: 4 September 1806

No XXX.  – Copy of a note addressed by the Minister of Foreign Relations with the Count of Lauderdale.

September 4, 1806.

The undersigned Minister of Foreign Relations, has put under the eyes of H.M. the Emperor, King of Italy, successive notes of H. M. Ex. Mr. Ambassador Plenipotentiary of H. M. of the British, of August 9th, of the 10th, the 11th in the morning, the 11th in the evening, the 14th, the 22nd and the 25th of the same month.  I received the order to address to H. M. Exc. Mr. the Count of Lauderdale, relative to these various notes, the following declaration.

Before the appointment of Lord Lauderdale, the negotiation between France and England presented all the characteristics of a calm and moderate discussion; but on his arrival, it seemed to take all of a sudden an unexpected direction, and H.M. the Emperor could only be extremely surprised to learn of almost simultaneously, the intervention of a second plenipotentiary of H.M. the King of England, and the formal request for passports for his return.

Only one conference had taken place; the second was not mentioned yet; the visits which prescribe the reciprocal regards had not been made by the new ambassador plenipotentiary of H. M. of the British, however the requests for passports renewed themselves hour after hour; in vain the plenipotentiaries of H. M. the Emperor endeavored to be heard; in vain they gave, in vain they asked for explanations; they only suffered more the refusal to continue to listen to all that could tend to a conciliation.

The ministers of H.M. the Emperor had to account to him for the obstacles which they met and of the disgusts that they had to erase; and appraising for H.M. the sights of the plenipotentiary of H. M. of the British by the impropriety of the pressing acts, and one can say it, savage, whom he did not have fears to adopt, had to see with obviousness that the true intention of Lord Lauderdale had been to come to precipitately break a negotiation which, in its principle, announced a prompt and happy outcome. 

However H. Majesty wanting to test if while carrying moderation until, with the extreme degree of the impassibility, the English plenipotentiary might not decide himself to choose more reconciling ways, as we made with the love of peace, accepting the painful sacrifice to tolerate that the minister of an enemy government affected a tone of threat and superiority, even within the center of its capital; but finally the expressions contained in the sixth note, obliged him to recognize the impossibility of concluding a peace with the plenipotentiary from which all the requests are offences, and all the steps from the drafts of hostility, and the undersigned received consequently the order to give to H. Exc. Lord Lauderdale the passports which he so persistently asked. 

But at the same time, H.M. the Emperor and King has enjoined with the undersigned to declare formally that he desires as much as that depends on him, that the negotiation is not stopped, and that it is continued in such place that it either, in a true spirit of conciliation with honest and mutual provision to proceed, and according to uses’ and in the forms agreed upon at all the nations.

Never will H. M. suffer that his ministers submit to anything that could be seen as contrary with their dignity, and which could deviate from the principles of the most perfect equality between great powers.  It is without example in history, that between two nations which cannot assume any right of superiority, that the plenipotentiary dares to dictate with the other the conditions and the forms of a deliberation, and to trace around him the circle of Popilius; and never one who spreads fears to the minister of H. M. the king of England, as if peace was no less a need for England than for France; as if the fortunes of the war were very much against the French nation, and that only, it had about it the support of all the evils.

The undersigned regrets to have to declare to H. Exc. Lord Lauderdale, that so effectively his mission has already broken the advanced negotiation, if he wanted, by making succeed the language soft and reconciling which had brought closer both governments, the pressing tone of reproach and threat, to prolong the calamities that he in his ministry wanted to stop, Lord Lauderdale has the sad glory to have reached his goal:  an advantage, after all, very difficult to obtained; because finally peace between France and England can be only the result of a negotiation made by the men who sense what each one of these two nations owes to its rival, which seek and facilitate, as much that it is in them, combinations and calculations most suitable to reconcile diverging interests, and who attach their personal happiness and the honor of their name not only to finish a fight, of which the duration is a plague, for the two people, but for all the nations of the Universe.  However, to put an obstacle to such a good, there is enough to remain insensitive with glory to cooperate there.

The undersigned must repeat here what he wrote on June 2 to H. Ex. Mr. Fox “That one should never flatter to impose on France neither of the conditions of peace, nor a mode of negotiations contrary to the usual.”

Government French continuous to adhere to this moment, as it did it at that time, that the two basis of negotiation, from which one fell from agreement on both sides, acknowledge:

1.o With the principle drawn from the letter of Mr. Fox, of March 26, that the two States will have as our object:  “That peace that is honorable for them and their respective allies, at the same time that this peace will be likely to ensure as much as they it will be able the rest future of Europe.”

2.o With the principle which establishes:  “a recognition in favor of the one and other power, to have straight of intervention and guarantee for the continental businesses and the maritime businesses.”

The undersigned has the honor of renew, etc.

Signed, CH. Mr. TALLEYRAND, prince de Bénévent.

“circle of Popilius” – Relates to Livy’s History of Rome from it’s Foundation, Book XLV, Chapter 12, where an anecdote of the confrontation between Gaius Popilius Laenas and Antiochus IV outside the gates of Alexandria (168 B. C.) in which Popilius gives Antiochus a senatorial decree which orders him to leave Egypt.  When Antiochus hesitates, saying he needs to speak to his councilors, Popilius draws a circle around him and says he cannot step out of the circle until he has made a decision.  Antiochus obeys the decree.




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