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Eylau: Precis Des Travaux de la Grande Armee

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Eylau: Precis Des Travaux de la Grande Armée

Report from Talleyrand to Napoleon on Prussia: 3 October 1806

First Report addressed to H. M. the Emperor and King, by the Minister of  Foreign Relations, October 3, 1806.


Your Majesty, with the first news that was learned of the armings of Prussia, he went a long time without accepting it.  Forced to believe in it, he had hoped for them it was a misunderstanding.  He hoped that this misunderstanding would promptly be cleared up, and that at once these armings would cease.

The hope of Y. M. had their source in his constant love for peace.  They were misled.  Prussia is not contemplating any more on war, it did it:  for what reasons?  I am unaware of it, and I do not know of any to tell him.

If Prussia had some subject of complaint, some objection, some reason to arm, would even a stubborn person to conceal them?  Wouldn’t the minister of Y. M. in Berlin have been informed of it?  Wouldn’t Mr. de Knobelsdorff have been charged to make them known?  Quite the contrary, Mr. de Knobelsdorff brought to Y. M. only one letter of the king, extremely friendly, and he received also friendly spoken insurances even of Y. M.  The minister of Y. M. in Berlin saw the preparations continuing, a measure that Y. M. showed more moderation and impassibility.  But if he asked what could be the objections of Prussia, one did not articulate any, no, one did not give him any explanation; so that his presence had become useless in Berlin; so he was nothing any more but the witness of processes and contrary measures to the dignity of France.

By supposing that absurd rumblings, accommodated with an inconceivable credulity, had inspired with the Prussian cabinet vain alarms.  Y.  M. who had done everything to prevent them had also done everything to dissipate them.

Of which dangers did Prussia want to protect herself from?  France, far from threatening it, had never given him but the most announced evidence of its friendship; with which sacrifices did she want to withdraw to herself?  Y.  M. asked him for anything; of which denial of justice did he have to complain?  All that it had asked that was just, Y. M. was prepared to grant to them; but they did not make any request, because they did not have any to make. 

Is this the future for the Confederation of the Rhine?  Are these arrangements which took place in the full light of Germany, which carried Prussia to take the weapons–one cannot even suppose it.  The court of Berlin declared that it did not have anything to object to these arrangements.  It recognized the Confederation; it was occupied to join together with it in a similar confederation, with the States that border it.

Y. M. declared admittedly that the Hanseatic cities were to remain independent and isolated from any confederation.  He still declared that the other states of the north of Germany were only to be free to consult on their policy and their suitabilities;  but these declarations, founded on the justice and the general interest of Europe, could not provide to Prussia a reason for war, nor even a pretext which they can acknowledge.

The war, on behalf of Prussia, is therefore without any real reason.

However the Prussian armies exceeded their borders; they invaded Saxony;  they threaten the territory of the Confederation of the Rhine, the inviolability of which Y. M. is guarantor.  The same troops of Y. M. are threatened; with the labored arrival in front of our outposts, the Prussian troops committed an act of war; they refused French officers the entry of Saxony, and the war was started, without the court of Berlin making known which causes for dissatisfaction it claimed to have, without it trying the means of conciliation, without it doing anything to avoid a rupture.

A silence so obstinate, so very unnatural, so incomprehensible on the one hand; and on the other, a precipitation no less inconceivable, proof enough that one should think apparent to myself, what is only the result of a deplorable intrigue.

Two parties, one of which wants the war, the other peace, have for a long time Prussia.  The first, for whose the attempts have been constantly thwarted, feeling that it could succeed only by the artifice, has only the one thought, that of an intention, that of a goal; to excite distrusts, to present as necessary measures which were to force France to assume similar ones;  to draw aside any explanation then, to prevent that both governments cannot be understood, and to place them in a situation such, that the war became an inevitable consequence from it;  unhappy project, carried out with a success which its same authors could be one day forced to call disastrous.

No, the present war does not have any other causes.  It exists for no other reason than its blind passions which have misled so many of the cabinets, that Prussia preserved for a long time, but it seems that providence condemned it to also be victim, by delivering it to the councils those which count for nothing the calamities war, because they must share the dangers of them, and are always ready to sacrifice to their ambition, their fears, their prejudices, with their weaknesses, the rest and the happiness of the people.

If however these passions are not the single motivation of the cabinet of Berlin, and if some reason for personal interest made him take up arms, it is incontestably and only the desire to control the Hanseatic cities and Saxony, and to draw aside or surmount the obstacles that the declarations of Your Majesty made him fear to meet in the execution of such a intention.  War then, whatever regrets that Your Majesty suffers not to have been able to prevent it, will offer him at least a prospect worthy of it, since by defending the rights and the interests of its people it will preserve from an unjust domination of the States whose independence imports, not only in France and its allies, but still in all Europe.

Signed CH. MAUR.  TALLEYRAND, prince of Bénévent.


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