Dear Brother", 
to the throne by Providence and the will of the Senate, the People
and the army, my greatest wish is for peace. France and England
are exhausting their wealth, for they could fight for centuries.
But are their governments fulfilling their most sacred duty of all?
Surely their consciences must reproach them at the spectacle of
so much blood spilt in vain and to no purpose. I attach no dishonour
to taking the first step; I believe I have offered the world sufficient
proof that I do not flinch from the fortunes of war, nor do I fear
war. Peace is my heartfelt wish, but war has never diminished my
therefore beseech Your Majesty not to reject this happy opportunity
to bring peace to the world, and not to leave this tender pleasure
to your successors, for truly there have never been time and circumstance
more propitious to quiet the passions and heed only the call of
humanity and reason. Should this moment be lost, what limits can
be set to a war that all my efforts could not bring to an end? In
the last ten years, Your Majesty has gained more territory and wealth
than the whole area of Europe. Your nation is at the pinnacle of
prosperity – what could it gain from war? Rally a coalition of continental
powers? The continent will stay calm: a coalition would only add
to France’s greatness and continental supremacy. Foment domestic
troubles? The times have changed. Destroy our economy? An economy
based on the finest agriculture will never be destroyed. Deprive
France of its colonies? Colonies have a secondary importance for
France, and does Your Majesty not already have more than you can
safeguard? If Your Majesty would but reflect, you would see that
war has no purpose and no foreseeable outcome. How sad it is that
nations should go to war, purely in order to fight. The world is
large enough for both our peoples, and reason has the power to find
a compromise on either side, if the will exists. I have, however,
fulfilled a sacred duty that is dear to my heart.
Your Majesty be assured of the sincerity of the sentiments I have
expressed and of my desire to offer proof."
opposed to sincerity
Napoleon could not have suspected, but at the very moment that his
peace proposals were on their way to England, the English ministers
were using every treacherous means to tie up the strands of a third
coalition against France, and from St. Petersburg, Vienna and Berlin
came dispatches announcing that the Russian, Austrian and Prussian
leaders were only too ready to lend a sympathetic ear to the schemes
of the English government.
was but one condition: this fresh war should be financed by English
lives of the men about to be sacrificed mattered little compared
to the interests of the English merchants.
interest shown by the European courts in this possibility for creating
a considerable diversion appeased the fears of the English people.
King of England did not condescend to reply personally to Napoleon,
response clearly shows. On January 14, his Foreign Secretary, Lord
Mulgrave, delivered the reply to his French counterpart, Talleyrand:
Britannic Majesty has received the letter addressed to him by the
head of the French government [author’s emphasis] and dated on the
second of this month.
is no subject dearer to His Majesty’s heart than seizing the earliest
opportunity to bestow upon his subjects the advantages of a peace
founded on principles that are not incompatible with the permanent
security and vital interests of his realms. His Majesty is of the
opinion that this end can only be attained by arrangements that
simultaneously provide for the future security and peace of Europe
and prevent the renewal of the dangers and misfortunes in which
it has been embroiled. In consideration of this opinion, His Majesty
feels he cannot reply more particularly to the overtures addressed
to him until he has had the time to communicate with the nations
of the Continent to whom he is committed by confidential bonds and
accords, and especially with the Emperor of Russia, who has given
the clearest proof of his wisdom, and the noble sentiments that
inspire him, and the lively interest that he takes in the security
and independence of Europe."
note the insulting tone of the English government. While Napoleon
courteously addressed George III as King of England, the London
cabinet, pretending to take no account of Napoleon’s accession to
the throne of France,
addressed its reply to "the head of the French government."
hypocrisy of English concerns for the "security and independence
may be better appreciated by referring to the first part of the
chapter on the Boulogne Camp, which lists the sums that England
paid to bring Europe
its version of peace.
for the Russian Emperor, who seemed likely to side with Napoleon
after suffering two crushing defeats at his hands at Austerlitz
on December 2, 1805, and at Friedland on June 14,1807, his great
"wisdom" and "noble sentiments" suffered a momentary
lapse. Just when, in his own words, he planned no less than to "force
[France] to be moderate", he himself, without right or pretext,
ransacked a part of Armenia, sent a troop of ten thousand men to
the Republic of the Seven Islands in the Ionian Sea despite treaties
between the great powers of Europe declaring the republic a free
and independent state, and was preparing to invade several Persian
provinces bordering Russia’s Asian territories.
the eyes of the English government, however, there could be no better
guarantee of security and independence for Europe
than this disinterested Emperor of Russia with his "noble sentiments."
Rights" against "Human Rights"
may state, without fear of contradiction, that the reply of the
cabinet sealed the fate of Napoleon and of France.
The European monarchies, concerned to protect their prerogatives
bestowed by "Divine Right" from the assault of "The
Rights of Man," would not relent in their struggle against
the man who embodied these ideals, until he fell.
man redeemed the honour of England
by protesting, albeit ineffectually, against Mulgrave’s hypocritical
James Fox (1749-1806)
a champion of liberty and a passionate advocate for peace with France.
A Liberal, he was the founder of the modern Whig party and the most
prominent and influential British statesman of his time with William
Pitt who was his greatest rival. Like Pitt, he was a brilliant orator
and debater and during his years in opposition, the clashes between
the two men were legendry. After the “Peace of Amiens” in 1802,
he went to France
and met the First Consul, Bonaparte, to pave the way for a future
Anglo-French alliance. The two men thought highly of each other
and their relations were based on mutual esteem and goodwill. After
war broke out again in 1805, Fox renewed his virulent attacks in
Parliament against Pitt’s policy and said, not without reason, that
the aggression came initially from England,
had done no more than exert her right of legitimate defence. He
also spoke up vigorously against the subsidies that Britain
paid to the coalition and declared that war was disastrous for the
nation and served no one but the Bourbons. He never varied in his
opinions and represented a large part of the British nation opposed
to war with France.
When William Pitt died shortly after Austerlitz,
he immediately started negotiations with Napoleon and was about
to secure durable peace when he died a few months later. With his
death, hopes for peace were irrevocably dashed and Napoleon always
considered Fox’s death as one of the misfortunes of his career.
give the enemy who offers us peace an evasive reply that is unworthy
of a government that should be mindful of its strength and its honour?
What is the issue? Are we for peace or for war? I shall not examine
here if reasons of trade, the bleakness that pervades our factories
and the disquiet that hangs over the entire population of England
are enough to justify the opinion of those who think it finally
time to bring an end to a war that is merely suspended until it
resumes more fiercely than ever. I admit that war, which overwhelms
us with its evils, is preferable to a peace that would make us happy,
with us; but why not say so openly? Why persist in lying to the
country by seeking to convince it that the enemy wishes war when
he has just offered peace? [author’s
talk of confidential accords with Europe when no report has been
made to us in this respect and when there is no proof that these
accords exist and when, in consequence, England must be rescued
from a new war in which we have embarked because of our ill-conceived
national pride and greed for domination that we would do better
good citizen who delivered this speech in the English parliament
was Charles James Fox. As leader of the Whig Party in opposition
to William Pitt and in favour of an honest and genuine rapprochement
first with Republican France and then with the Empire, it was Fox
who had negotiated the Peace of Amiens with Lord Cornwallis:
half-dozen men like Fox and Cornwallis would be enough to make a
country’s fortune," remarked the Emperor, who had the highest
regard for the two men.
in office in 1806, Charles James Fox died very shortly after, just
when the peace negotiations that he had opened with Napoleon were
about to succeed:
death of Mr. Fox was one of the misfortunes of my career. Had he
stayed alive, matters would have taken a quite different turn; the
People’s cause would have triumphed and we would have created a
new order in Europe,"
remarked Napoleon on St.
order not to arouse false hopes, the French initiative had been
kept secret between the Emperor and Talleyrand, his Minister for
three chambers of the legislature were not informed until February
4, when Napoleon was certain that London’s
evasive reply left not the faintest hope of reaching some agreement.
at the close of the 1804 parliamentary session, announced in forthright
terms that England
would only ever enjoy lasting peace when it had settled issues with
To achieve that, it was necessary to enlist allies to resume the
war on England’s behalf, and pursue it relentlessly. This disgraceful
principle, denounced by Fox, was to prevail for 11 years, until
Convention of St
caricature illustrates the treaty signed at St
initially between Britain
shortly followed by Austria.
When Napoleon wrote to George III with a proposition of peace on
2 January 1805, unbeknown to him the British Prime Minister, William
Pitt, was already engaged in secret negotiations with the Tsar and
the Emperor of Austria to form a third coalition against France
that was to be financed by Britain. In exchange for British gold,
agreed to raise an army of respectively 180 000 and 250 000 men.
The treaty included two important secret clauses, both instigated
by the British Government. One stipulated that the British cabinet
had the power of veto on any negotiation with Napoleon in order
to obtain harsh and humiliating conditions for France.
The second clause
threatened Napoleon in person by stipulating that the coalition
had the right to impose a change of government in France.
infamous "Treaty of Saint Petersburg" against France
negotiations resulted on April 11 in the signing of a treaty under
whose terms, in return for the payment of subsidies, Russia promised
to organize an army of 180,000 men and to form a coalition whose
mission included recapturing Hanover (the possession of the King
of England!) from France, which had taken it in reprisal for the
embargo imposed without notice by England on French merchant ships
around the world.
another of London’s
regular mercenaries, prudently sent Napoleon official congratulations
on his new honours. On the other hand, tempted by the prospect of
several hundred thousand pounds, it lent a ready ear to the English
envoys preaching the crusade against France.
movements took place in the Austrian Empire, where an army had been
assembled in the Adige
region, which stretched 410 kilometres from the Swiss and Austrian
borders to the Adriatic.
of Austrian troops in Italy
were reports of massive Austrian troop movements on the opposite
bank of the river Adige
as the Austrian Army started to assemble. Questioned by the French,
the Austrian Government replied that the troops – 80 000 men - were
only there to establish a “cordon sanitaire” around Livorno
to stop an epidemic of yellow fever from spreading. Meanwhile the
Austrian Cabinet was secretly negotiating with the Tsar and the
British in Saint
Four months later,
influenced by the Tsar, the Austrian Emperor officially joined the
coalition on 9
August 1805, but not before the British Government
had paid 5 million pounds in gold to finance the new war with France.
this unusual build-up of troops was questioned, the Austrian government
responded in total seriousness that the army’s mission was to set
up a cordon sanitaire to confine the spread of an infectious outbreak
that was ravaging Livorno.
columns of the English press were somewhat less discreet than the
diplomatic world and aroused the Emperor’s suspicions, but he resolved
to allow Austria
the odious role of breaking a peace treaty whose signing at Lunéville
on February 9, 1801 it had sought and received as a kindness.
this part of Italy
still under Austrian domination, a troop concentration mustered
on such an unlikely pretext could presage only one thing. When Austria,
despite its hypocritical protestations of peace, decided to join
the newly formed coalition, this was the region where the first
hostilities were to erupt.
French troops garrisoned in Italy
were therefore put on the alert.
with this new threat of invasion by the detested Austrians of whom
had been liberated by the French victory at Marengo, Napoleon decided
the time was ripe to proclaim himself King of Italy, and was convinced
that the country would naturally be elated. Since January 1802,
the Emperor, First Consul at the time, had also been President of
It is important to note that this title had been recognized by Europe
and even by England,
particularly during the negotiations leading up to the treaty of
was an empire, it was quite logical for Italian institutions henceforth
to be aligned with those of the "mother country." Since
French power was not extended in any measure, it was simply a change
of name. It took place six weeks after the principal interested
party, the Emperor of Austria, whose ancestors had held the Italian
crown since the tenth century, formally announced he had joined
the coalition. His sole wish – that the two crowns be separated
– was granted when the title of Emperor of France and King of Italy
crowning ceremony as King of Italy in Milan’s
gothic cathedral on May
was a purely formal affair.
crowned King of Italy
was crowned King of Italy on 26 May 1805
after having twice driven the hated Austrians out of the country
(1796 and 1800). A few days later, on 8 June he appointed his stepson,
Eugène, as Viceroy in a political gesture taken to both reassure
the Austrian cabinet as to France’s
intentions and also to avoid offending the Emperor of Austria. For
the next ten years, Italy was to reap all the benefit of Napoleonic
administration. Important construction and engineering projects
were carried out, roads including major roads through the Alps and bridges were built, monuments were
erected, schools and hospitals were created, ports were enlarged,
agriculture was greatly improved. Many economic and social reforms
were introduced with surprising success, not the least of which
was Napoleon’s “Code Civil” (Code of Civil Law) which unified and
modernised Italy’s feudal law system which had hitherto
often varied from town to town.
Emperor stayed in Italy
from April to July, during which time he first had his son-in-law
Eugène de Beauharnois recognized by the legislature as Viceroy
of Italy, then brought about the changes in public administration
necessitated by the new form of government – the constitution of
the kingdom had been published on June 5. He also visited the main
cities, and made a final decision as to the fate of the ancient
capital of Liguria,
which had sought incorporation into the French Empire. The Genoese
were fully aware that their isolated position, and the threat to
their navy and trade posed by the English stranglehold on the Mediterranean,
prevented them from pursuing the illusion of independence.
High Chancellor of the Empire, was appointed by Napoleon as Governor
General of the new départements into which the territory
had been divided.
de Beauharnais (1781-1824)
was one of Josephine’s two children by her first marriage to General
Alexandre de Beauharnais, who was executed during the French Revolution.
Napoleon was extremely fond of Eugène who he considered as
his own son, and he officially adopted him after Austerlitz. Eugène was a real soldier who
started his military career as aide-de-camp to his stepfather during
the Egyptian campaign and he later proved to be a gifted commander.
He was promoted general in 1804 and appointed Arch-Chancellor of
State, then Prince of the Empire in 1805. Shortly after his coronation
in Milan, Napoleon created Eugène Viceroy
and later said, “He administered Italy
perfectly, I had nothing to do”. In 1806 he married Princess Augusta-Amelia,
the daughter of the King of Bavaria. In 1812, during the Russian
Campaign he proved to be a brilliant tactician and commander. After
Napoleon abdicated in 1814, the allies offered Eugène the
crown of Italy,
but he refused and retired in Bavaria where he died in 1824. Napoleon said
of him, “If I had to cross a ditch, he would be the only one to
stretch out his hand to help me across”.
these important issues and other matters had been settled, Napoleon,
aware that no accord was possible with the English, returned to
to advance his great project: to invade "perfidious Albion."
(To be continued)