Eylau: An Abstract of the Chronological Exploits of the Grand Army
Tallyrand’s Response to Fox’s Letter of 8 April 1806: April 16, 1806
Paris, April 16, 1806.
No. VI. – Sir, I have just taken the orders of S.M. the Emperor and King under the eyes of whom I had hastened to put of dispatch, that your Exec. honored me by writing on April 8.
It appears to S.M., that while accepting, as you say, the principle of the equality, you however persist in asking for a form of negotiation that does not agree with this principle. When between two equal powers, one of them calls for the intervention of a third; it is obvious that it tends to break this balance so favorable to the right and free discussion of their interests. It is manifest that you do will not be satisfied with the advantages and the rights of the equality. I dare say, Sir, that while reconsidering last once this discussion, I will manage to persuade in your Exec. that for no reason, Russia must be called in the negotiation suggested between France and England.
When the war burst between the two States, Russia was at peace with France. This war did not change anything in the relations that existed between it and us. It initially proposed its mediation and then by the strange circumstances with the war which divides us, the coldness having occurred between the two cabinets of Saint-Petersburg and Tuilleries, in this connection the Emperor Alexander decided to suspend his political relations with France, but at same time, he declared in the most positive way that there was an intention to remain out of the existing debates between us and England.
We do not think that the conduct that Russia has only held for recently has changed anything with this determination. It admittedly concluded a treaty of alliance with you; but this treaty, it is easy to determine by some of what was made public, that the object which it kept in mind and more still by the results, had no relationship with the war which existed for nearly two years between us and England. This treaty was a pact of participation in a war of a different nature, wider and more general than the first. It is of this war that was born in the Third Coalition in which Austria was principal Power, and Russia, power auxiliaries, and England did not participate in this war; we did not have to fight its forces joined together with those of its allies. Russia showed itself there only in a minor way. No declaration was addressed to France came to tell us that it was at war with us, and it was not that on the battle fields or the Third Coalition was destroyed, that we were officially informed that Russia had formed part of it.
When British S.M. declared the war on France, it had a goal that it made known by its proclamations. This goal constituted the nature of the war. When, 18 months after, British S.M. now allied with Austria, Russia and Sweden, it had other objectives in sight: it became a new war, of which it is necessary to seek the reasons in the official papers which were published by the various powers. For these reasons, it has never been a question of the immediate interests of England. These two wars thus do not have any link together; England really did not take part in that which is finished. Russia never took a share–neither direct nor indirect–to that which still lasts. There is thus no reason that England should not only finish the war that it made upon us.
If S.M. the Emperor adopted the principle of negotiating now with England linked with its new allies, he would be admitting implicitly that the third coalition still exists, that the war of Germany is not finished, that this war is the same one as that which France supports against England, it would accept implicitly, for basis of the negotiation, the conditions of Mr. de Novosilzoff, which excited the astonishment of Europe and raised the French prestige, and as winner over the coalition, the Emperor would be voluntarily placed in the position of victor.
Today the Emperor does not have anything more to discuss with the coalition; he has the right to ignore the connections which you had with it, and while negotiating with you, he can only question the goal and interests of the war undertaken before with your alliances, and which survived them.
Though it has been only six months that the veil which covered the secret machinations of the last war, was torn, it is however true that the Continent is in peace. The main body of your allies, Austria, made its separate peace. Prussia, whose armies were sometimes on a war footing, negotiated an offensive and defensive alliance with us. Sweden does not deserve any mention. As for Russia, there exist between it and us direct proposals for negotiations. By its power, it does not need the protection of anybody, and it can claim the intervention of any court to finish the disagreements that divide us. By its distance, it is so much out of our range, outside the center of harm that the state of war or the state of peace does not produce in our respective relations, that purely diplomatic changes would. If, in such a situation, the Emperor agreed to negotiate, jointly with England and Russia, does he not ignore all his advantages? wouldn’t it suppose the existence of a war which it gloriously finished? was it not finally him in England who already agreed that the principle of equality between us would not given up? After a little examination, Sir, with the understanding which I know belongs to you, of the considerations which I have the honor to expose you, you will agree that such a negotiation would be much more prejudicial to us than the war and even as a congress.
Indeed, in a congress, if England, Sweden and Russia discussed to make prevail the principles that were used as a basis for the Third Coalition, Prussia, Denmark, the Porte (Ottoman Empire), Persia and America would object to these principles, and demand equal laws of navigation, and an equitable division of the sea lanes. Undoubtedly, in this discussion, one would often vote for the reduction in the capacity of France, but often also one would vote for the reduction in the capacity of England. Powers would claim the balance of the South of Europe: but of others also reclaim the balance of North. A great number would deal with balance of Asia; all would be interested in balance of the seas; and if, at the center as well of stormy and complicated discussions, it is possible to hope to be left with a result there, this result would be right, because he would be complete; and certainly, S.M. declared in all circumstances, he will not be loath to make sacrifices for public peace, when England, Russia and all the great powers–each one–are prepared to recognize the established rights, to protect the weak States, and to adopt principles of justice, moderation and equality; but the Emperor knows men too well, to let himself be lured by dreams, and he recognizes that he would be misled, to seek peace in a maze of ten years of debates, which, during this time, would perpetuate the war and would do nothing but make its term more dubious and more difficult to reach. It would then be necessary to change road and to make as one made in Ultrecht, to leave the allies frozen in interminable debates and uselessness, to only deal alone, to debate, as we established, the interests of the two powers and those their respective allies; to finally make peace for oneself, and that it be rather equitable and honorable so that it could not fall short of approval by all the interested powers. Appropriately then, not in ten years, but today, two powers, such as England and France, should finish the disagreements which divide them, and lay down in at the same time their legal provision and that of the interests of their allies.
To summarize myself, Sir, I see in the negotiation suggested only three possible forms of discussion. Negotiation with England and the allies which it acquired during the formation of the Third Coalition; negotiation with all the powers of Europe, by joining the Americans to it; negotiation with England alone. The first of these forms is inadmissible, because it would subject the Emperor to the influence of the Third Coalition that does not exist any more. The Emperor had negotiated thus if it had been beaten. The second form of negotiation would perpetuate the war, if the inevitable incidents that it would multiply with all the cases, and immeasurable passions that it would unchain would not fail to break apart with an explosion the discussion, a few years after it had established. Third is thus the only one that holds for those who truly desire peace. S.M. is persuaded in the right and moderate provisions which she appreciatively recognizes in the tone and the language of the assistant minister of the British S.M., approves with her desires, the peaceful sentiments of which she is more than ever finding evident to her friends and even to her enemies, the exhausted people of the efforts of a war, whose interest is as difficult to feel as the true objectives is difficult to know, will finally see leaving the negotiation suggesting a peace which is founded by all their needs and by all their wishes. Agreeably, Sir, etc.
Signed CH Maur. Talleyrand,
Prince of Bénévent.
© Copyright 1995-2012, The Napoleon Series, All Rights Reserved.