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Eylau: Precis Des Travaux de la Grande Armee

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Eylau: Precis Des Travaux de la Grande Armée

Fox’s Response to Tallyrand’s Letter of 16 April 1806: April 21, 1806

Dowing-S reet, 21 April 1806.[sic][1]

No. VII – Sir, I received yesterday the dispatch of Y. Exc., from the 16th of  this month.

After having read it and having read it again with all possible attention, I find no argument sufficient to induce our government to change the opinion that it already stated; to know, that any negotiation where Russia would not be included as an equal party, is absolutely inadmissible.

Not that we don’t want peace; but we want nothing which detracts from the dignity of our sovereign, or the honor and the interests of the nation.

However, if we form a treaty without Russia, considering the close links which link us with this power, we believe ourselves exposed to reproach for having forgotten the scrupulous fidelity in our engagements, which have been glorious for us;  while on the other hand, while persisting in our request, that Russia is allowed, we do not believe there is anything contrary to the principle of equality that we claim both to want. 

When the three plenipotentiaries are together, how can one believe they could carry anything but the plurality of voices?  or even as a similar assembly nothing in common with the course a general congress had?  There would be indeed only two parts there:  on a side, France; other, two allied powers. 

Furthermore, if one sees so many advantages in a business of this nature there being two against one, there would be no objection that you utilized those of your allies that you would judge in the same way. 

Sincerely desiring to avoid useless arguments, I do not allow myself to enter the discussion of the consequences only Y. Exc. draws from the events of the last campaign.  I will notice only in passing, that I do not see by which reason an alliance must be considered as null compared to the powers which are due to it, because one those which made it up, in was separated by misfortunes of the war.

As for the overtures that Russia made you; we do not know what they are; but that is our nature, we are persuaded that this court will never act so as to compromise the recognized honesty of its character, in a way to weaken the confidence and bonds of friendship that remain between it and England. 

To return to the point, Y. Exc. says that in the negotiation suggested, it sees only three possible forms of discussion; the first appears inadmissible to you.

According to what I had the honor to write to you; you must judge, Sir, that third is incompatible as well with our fundamental ideas of justice and the honor, as with our outline of the interests of our country, the second is not perhaps bad in its principle; but in addition to the deadlines which it would cause, it would hardly be practicable in the current economic situation. 

It is thus with good deal of regret that I must clearly declare with Y. Exc., that I do not see no hope of peace from this moment further, unless you accept as a premise that one does not prepare oneself to make a treaty in the form which we proposed. 

I believe it my duty to add that this form is essential for us, not only for the reasons which I had the honor to develop to Y Exc., but as it could give birth to others the very suspicions that in fact you maintained the chimerical project that you reproach us of (wrongly, as I like it to believe), to exclude us from any relationship with the powers of the continent of Europe, and even as such an idea is less revolting for us, so it should not be it and that it is not it indeed.  It cannot be necessary to declare, to a minister as enlightened as Y. Exc., that England can never grant an exclusion which would degrade it to a level that it held up to now, and which it always believes within its capacity to hold among the nations of the World. 

The thing finally is reduced at only a point:  Does one want to deal jointly with Russia?  yes.  Is it wanted that we deal separately?  no. 

Although we did not succeed in the large object that we proposed, the two governments do not have that to pay for the honesty and frankness, which throughout characterized the discussion of, their differences; and I owe you on my private account, Mr., the thanks in the kind way Y Exc. has expressed with my regard.

I request agreement from you in the insurances of my most distinguished consideration. 

I have the honor to be, of Y Exc., the humble one and very-obedient servant, C. T. Fox.

Editor’s Comments:

[1] The date of this letter, as published in the book, is 11 April 1806. This must be a mistake since Fox is referring to Tallyrand’s letter of 16 April.


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