BUONAPARTE AND TALLEYRAND
ON THE SUBJECT OF
Well – as every thing goes on so favourably on the Continent, not a moment must be lost in humbling these proud islanders.
I prefectly agree with your Majesty that the subjugation of England must be effected with all possible dispatch ; for while that country is able to contend with France, your Majesty’s empire cannot secure.
As soon therefore as the army can be brought home, let the preparation for the invasion be resumed with the utmost activity.
I beg permission to explain myself freely on the subject. Having the ruin of England no less at heart than your Majesty, I do not think invasion the most likely means of attaining that object. The success of such an attempt requires the concurrence of a thousand chances, an dits failure might be productive of the most serious consequences. Your Majesty’s troops, in my opinion, may be much more usefully employed in the eastern part of Europe.
Would you then abandon the design upon England ?
By no means, Sire ; I would pursue that design by means, the success of wich must, I think, be infallible.
I hate the name of peace. It is by war that my arms have acquired that glory wich is the strength of my empire and the terror of the world.
I beg your Majesty to consider, that by peace I mean nothing more than that state of things, which may the more effectually ensure the triumph of your arms ; and in this sense it must be owned, that peace has contributed not a little to the present most auspicious state of Europe. And surely your Majesty cannot already forget the happy effects of the late short interval of peace, or the fair prospect it afforded, if it had been sufficiently prolonged, of obtaining that success which the war seems only to place at a greater distance ?
Certainly not ; but since then my power is greatly increased, the Continent is now at my mercy, and England is in a state of consternation at the events which have just to take place. When can there be so favourable a moment to strike a blow ?
It must be remembered, that England is no less elated at her naval successes than depressed by the disasters of her late allies, and that her superiority at se ais now so decided, that France cannot hope again to oppose her on that element during the present war. This her ascendancy on the ocean not only inspires her with confidence, but operates most disadvantageously on all Majesty’s views. It increases, beyond calculation, the difficulty and hazard of invasion ; it distresses the commerce and revenues of France, which are in so languishing a state, that the most serious consequences are to be apprehended, and the total ruin of which would be inevitable, without the aid which is afforded them by neutrals, and which it is in the power of the enemy to cut off whenever he pleases. Nor is this all ; the superiority of the British flag, notwithstanding the terror every where inspired by your Majesty’sname, retards the complete subjugation of the Continent, the remaining powers of which will never abandon the hope of the successful resistance, so long as the flag tyrannizes over the ocean ; and in the mean while, in order to awe the Continent into submission, your Majesty is under the necessity of erecting new states, and of intrusting them with a degree of power, which may in time become formidable even to France.
All this is but too true. But how will peace correct the evil ?
I implore your Majesty’s patience while I explain, at some lenth, and with great frankness, my views of the beneficial effects which may be expected from peace with England. In the first place, peace alone can deprive her of that maritime superiority which makes her the mistress of the ocean. So great is that superiority, in consequence of Trafalgar, and of subsequent successes, that, during the present war, France cannot hope again to oppose her at sea.. On the contrary, the navy of France is reduced to so low a state, that while the war lasts it must every year experience fresh losses ; and the disparity will of course increase, until it become so great that the enemy will be able to reduce his naval force, and, consequently, the expenses of the war, and still maintain the dominion of the sea. But peace will soon restore the French navy, by supplying what alone it wants – seamen and stores. Master of all the ports and forests of the Continent, your Majesty can build as many ships of war as you please. But the carcases of ships do not constitute a navy ; and this cannot be had while a vigilant enemy is master of the sea. But immediatly after the signature of peace 20,000 sailors, now languishing in the prisons of England, will be restored to France, and the French arsenals will soon be so plenteously stored, that if hostilities should be renewed in a year, your Majesty would again have the means of carrying on a naval war. I do not, however, propose that peace shall be of such short duration ; on the contrary, I mean that it shall continue (which will entirely depend upon us) until it shall have produced its full operation on the two countries. And I crave the permission to show how favourable that operation will be in advancing your Majesty’s ultimate designs.
First, as to France. The naval advantages which this country will derive from ever so short an interval of peace must increase with its continuance until all things shall be ripe for an open rupture. Delivered from a contest which consumes her very vitals, restored to the possession of her colonies, and being in the uninterrupted enjoyment of an extensive and boundless commerce, the energies of such a country as France must in a very short time restore her to a state of internal strengh and prosperity. Her manufactures will again flourish – her finances will be recruted – and her trade to both the Indies, and from the German sea to the Adriatic, will every year form numberless seamen for the use of her navy. Your Majesty will, however, understand me to value the benefits to be derived from peace, only as they furnish the means of renewing the war with the greatest possible advantage ; which, in a great military empire like France, must ever be the sole object of peace. In the mean time, pacification with England, instead of interrupting, will enable your Majesty to pursue, without opposition, and with greater vigourand effect, your continental projects. By the peace Great Britain will be as completely insulated from the continent in connection, as she is in locality – (for on no other terms can I advise your Majesty to treat) – she will therefore have no right to complain of the further changes which will then take place, although they must evidently increase the power which will ultimatly be employed for her own destruction. The great defect of the peace of Amiens was, that it recognised the right of England to intermeddle with the affairs of the Continent. This defect must not be suffered to exist in the next treaty.
All this is doubtless satisfactory. But I am impatient to learn how you expect peace to operate with regard to England.
In one respect only can peace be beneficial to that country – by enabling her to recruit her finances ; and this is a consideration which will operate most powerfully in disposing her government to negociate. For since the death of Pitt, her extreme difficulty in finding resources to carry on the war is obvious to the whole world, and her present harlequin Administration is altogather unequal to a task, which that most dangerous foe to your Majesty and to France seemed to perform with the utmost ease. But peace will not be attended with so much advantage, even in this respect, as the English Ministry flatter themselves it will produce : for the further aggrandizement of France, and the rapid increase of her naval resources, though not affording, according to the tenour of the treaty, any just ground of complaint, will be to England a constant source of alarm, and will keep her in so feverish a state, that she will think it necessary to maintain her military establishments upon a large and expensive scale. In some respects peace will operate injuriously to the resources of England. That commerce which she now enjoys almost exclusively, and which, if her ministry were not too timid to avail themselves they might derive frm a resistless navy, she might monopolize, would then be more equally shared with us ; and what we should gain by the peace, she must lose. Hence her revenues would be diminished almost as musch as her expenses. She will have a formidable navy ; but that navy will take no prizes to console its seamen for being kept from their homes, without even the pretext of war. France, moreover, by again obtaining a footing in the East Indies, will not only enjoy a large portion of a lucrative trade, but, what is of infinitely greater importance, will have once more an opportunity of exciting the native powers of that vast continent, and of giving a mortal blow to England, in the part where she is most susceptible of injury, and whence she derives her principal strength. But the moral effects of peace upon England will be still more conducive to the accomplishmentof your Majesty’s views upon that devoted country, than all the political advantages with which it can be attended. To the part of the inquiry I solicit your Majesty’s particular attention. It is the war alone that keeps up the spirit of the British people, and prevents them from sinking into utter despondency, at the total failure of all their efforts to preserve the continent of Europe from the dominion of France. But elated at the naval victories, proud of their maritime greatness, they think themselves, and, while the war lats, I fear but too truly, invincible. Their martial ardour, their military exercises, and, above all, the dominion of the sea, keep alive their courage, and render them insensible to fear. But in peace this causes will cease to operate. In peace thse lords of the ocean will feel their inferiority to France, and they will be despised by the rest of the world. In peace they will abandon themselves to those pleasures of which their wealth and luxury have made them so fond, and which, in a short time, will make them supine, slothful, and effeminate. In peace their intercourse with France will plunge them every day still deeper in vice and debauchery ; their nobility and gentry will flock here in crowds to squander their wealth, to augment our resources, and to imbibe our vices, which they will carry home to infect their countrymen. In peace they will repeal their alien bill, an dit will be my part to send them shoals of visitors, of both sexes, who, besides being useful in political intrigues, will complete the corrption of their morals. As they become more vicious, they will, in the same proportion, be disinclined to war, until their government, unable to rouse them from their lethargy, will be obliged, for the sake of popularity, to persevere in a pacific system, and even to make concessions and sacrifices for the shake of the peace . As they become more vicious, they will be discontented, factious, and turbulent, disposed to thwart and resist their government, and enfeebled by intestine divisions ; for a vicious people, though the most easily kept in subjection by a strong government, are ever restless and untractable under a weak one. Therefore it is that the profligacy of the French nation proves one of the most powerful means of promoting your Majesty’s grand scheme of universal empire. It is a two-edged sword, and cuts different ways. It ensures the submission to France to the absolute will and disposal of your Majesty, while it enables her, by example, by association, and by intrigue, to contaminate her neighbours, to render them vicious, venal, and weak, and thereby at length to reduce them to her yoke. The English are just in a state to be acted upon by such means. Ever fond of imitating the manners and fashions of France, the last peace proved that the revolutionary changes which had taken place among us, and which, if they were not blind, would fill them with horror, served only to stimulate their curiosity ; to gratify which they came here in infinitely greater numbers than ever. Notwithstanding their public poverty, they abound in private wealth, and their riches have already rendered them dissipated and dissolute. What then must be the effect of their intercourse with such a nation as France ? Your Majesty, as a philosopher, will, I am confident, feel the full force of these considerations, and will see that the moral effects of peace will contribute still more than those of a merely political kind, to reduce these proud islanders to subjugation.
Certainly, I have now to learn the superoir force of moral causes in the production of great events. Of their efficacy, the revolution has afforded the most astonishing proofs ; and I have not been sparing in the use of them myself. I am aware that peace will afford abundant occasion of employing them against England. But, alas ! their operation is slow, and I pant to avenge myself on those ferocious enemies, and to make them a terrible example to the rest of the world of the effects of my wrath.
Sire, if there were any other means of vanquishing this haughty nation, I should not oppose myself to that desire of glory by which your Majesty is no nobly fired. But in the present war England is invulnerable, and, as I have already suggested, an unsuccessful attack upon her might be attented with disagreeable results. Peace, however, will not be so tardy as your Majesty seems to suppose in achieving her ruin. Should it last but a year, its advantages will be altogether on the side of France, as it will enable your Majesty again to carry on a naval war ; but with good management on our part, it may easily be prolonged until all things are ripe for action. It will be the policy of France to refrain from affording any pretext for renewing the war ; and this, when England shall have abandoned the Continent to its fate, will not be difficult. I twill be the policy of France, by professions of a desire to remain at amity with a generous and high-spirited nation, to lull those apprehensions which the increasing greatness of France may tend to excite, and to inspire confidence in your Majesty’s pacific intentions. That this may easily be done, the last peace afforded a striking proof, when, though France was rather unguarded in displaying her views, a few professions had a visible effect on the mind of Mr. Fox, who, as I have good reason to believe, was duped by them when he visited this capital to pay his respects to your Majesty. If this policy be pursued, I am confident that, at no very distant period, the thid Punic war will complete the destruction of the modern Carthage.
But what say you as to terms ?
Such is, I believe, the eagerness of the prevaling party in the British Cabinet to negociate, that peace, I doubt not, may be procured on terms which your Majesty would not disapprouve ; especially if England can be separated from Russia in the negociation, which is not improbable, as the new British Cabinet are known to have disgusted the Emperor Alexander, and to have slighted the Russian alliance. Mr. Fox has pledged his Sovereign not to give up Hanover, and the stress which he has laid upon this point will afford France great advantages in the negociation. But immediatly upon a rupture Hanover mau ber e-occupied. Your Majesty will regain the French colonies, which it is impossible to retake ; and should England insist upon Malta and the Cape, it should be remembered that these settlements cannot be wrested from her. Malta to ois much diminished in importance (for reasons which I need not state) by the possession of Dalmatia. For Sicily I should advise your Majesty most strenuously to contend – but rather than lose the opportunity of concluding a treaty, while the present Ministry are in power, I think even Sicily should be given up – for the present. But all these considerations are of a little moment in comparison with the great object of a peace – the acquiescence of England in the changes which have taken place in Europe. By recognising those changes England will, in effect, abandon the Continent to its fate, and your Majesty may then proceed, without fear of interruption, to complete its organization – cetera desunt.
J. Hatchard, Bookseller to her Majesty
N° 190, opposite Albany House, Piccadilly