Napoleon's Addresses/Part V

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Address to the Troops on the Beginning of the Russian Campaign, May, 1812.

"Soldiers: The second war of Poland has commenced. The first war terminated at Friedland and Tilsit. At Tilsit, Russia swore eternal alliance with France, and war with England. She has openly violated her oath, and refuses to offer any explanation of her strange conduct till the French Eagle shall have passed the Rhine, and, consequently, shall have left her allies at her discretion. Russia is impelled onward by fatality. Her destiny, is about to be accomplished. Does she believe that we have degenerated? that we are no longer the soldiers of Austerlitz? She has placed us between dishonor and war. The choice cannot for an instant be doubtful. Let us march forward, then, and crossing the Niemen, carry the war into her territories. The second war of Poland will be to the French army as glorious as the first. But our next peace must carry with it its own guarantee, and put an end to that arrogant influence which, for the last fifty years, Russia has exercised over the affairs of Europe."

Address to the Troops before the Battle of Borodino, Sept. 7, 1812.

"Soldiers: This is the battle you have so much desired. The victory depends upon you! It is now necessary to us. It will give us abundance of good winter quarters, and a prompt return to our country. Behave as at Austerlitz, at Friedland, at Witepsk, at Smolensk, and let the latest posterity recount with pride your conduct on this day; let them say of you, 'He was at the battle under the walls of Moscow.'"

Letter to Alexander I., Emperor of Russia.

Moscow, Sept. 20, 1812.

"Monsieur, my brother:—Having been informed that the brother of your Imperial Majesty's Minister at Cassel was in Moscow, I sent for him, and we have had a conversation of some length. I have advised his making my sentiments known to your Majesty.

"The superb and beautiful city of Moscow no longer exists. Rostoptchine gave orders to burn it. Four hundred incendiaries were arrested on the spot, all of whom declared that they had received their orders from the governor and the director of the police; they were shot.

"The fire at last appears to have ceased. Three-quarters of the buildings have been burned, the other quarter remains.

"Such conduct is atrocious and useless. Was its object to make way with some treasure? But the treasure was in caves which could not be reached by the fire.

"Moreover, why destroy one of the most beautiful cities in the world, the work of centuries, for so paltry an end? It is the same line of conduct that has been followed from Smolensk, and has left 600,000 families homeless. The fire-engines in Moscow were either broken or made way with, and a portion of the arms in the arsenal given to malefactors, which obliged us to fire a few shots at the Kremlin in order to disperse them.

"Humanity, the interests of your Majesty and of this great city, required that the city should be confided to me as a trust, since it was exposed by the Russian army. It should not have been left without administration, magistrates, and civil guards. Such a plan was adopted at Vienna, Madrid, and twice at Berlin. We ourselves followed out this plan at the time of the entrance of Sonvarof.

"Incendiaries authorize pillage, to which the soldiers surrender themselves in order to dispute the débris with the flames.

"If I imagined for an instant that such a state of affairs was authorized by your Majesty, I should not write this letter; but I hold it as impossible that, with your Majesty's principles, and heart, with the justice of your Majesty's ideas, you could authorize excesses that are unworthy of a great sovereign and of a great nation. While the engines were carried from Moscow, one hundred and fifty pieces of field cannon, 60,000 new muskets, 1,600,000 infantry cartridges, 400,000 weights of powder, 300,000 weights of saltpetre, as much sulphur, etc., were left behind.

"I wage war against your Majesty without animosity; a note from you before or after the last battle would have stopped my march, and I should even have liked to have sacrificed the advantage of entering Moscow. If your Majesty retains some remains of your former sentiments, you will take this letter in good part. At all events, you will thank me for giving you an account of what is passing at Moscow."

Discourse at the Opening of the Legislative Body.

Palais des Tuileries, Feb. 14, 1813.

"I entered Russia. The French armies were constantly victorious on the fields of Ostrono, Polotsk, Mohilef, Smolensk, Moskova, Malo-Yaroslavetz. Nowhere could the Russian armies stand before our eagles. Moscow fell into our power.

"When the Russian borders were forced and the powerlessness of their arms was recognized, a swarm of Tartars turned their parricidal hands against the most beautiful provinces of the empire they had been called upon to defend. Inside a few weeks, in spite of the grief and despair of the unfortunate Muscovites, they set fire to over four thousand of their most prosperous villages, and more than fifty of their most beautiful cities; thus gratifying their ancient hatred, and, on the pretext of retarding our progress, surrounding us by a desert waste.

"But we triumphed over all these obstacles; even the conflagration of Moscow, where, in four days, they destroyed the fruits of the toil and thrift of forty generations, in no way changed the prosperous condition of my affairs. But the rigor of an extreme and premature winter laid the weight of a terrible calamity upon my army. In a few nights every thing changed. I met with great losses. My soul would have been crushed beneath their weight had I been accessible to any other feelings than the interest, the glory, and the future of my people.

"At sight of the evils that beset us, England's joy was great. Her hopes knew no bounds. She offered our finest provinces as a reward for treachery. As a condition of peace she proposed the extinction of this beautiful empire; which was in other terms a proclamation of perpetual war.

"The energy shown by my people under such grave circumstances, their devotion to the integrity of the empire, the love they have shown me, have dissipated all these chimeras and have brought our enemies to a more just appreciation of affairs.

"The misfortunes occasioned by the severity of the frosts demonstrated to their full extent the grandeur and solidity of this empire, founded upon the exertions and love of fifty million citizens, and upon the territorial resources of the most beautiful countries in the world."

Address to the Legislative Body, December, 1813.

"I have suppressed your address, it was incendiary. I called you round me to do good—you have done ill. Eleven-twelfths of you are well intentioned, the others, and above all, M. Lainé, are factious intriguers, devoted to England, to all my enemies, and corresponding, through the channel of the advocate Désege, with the Prince Regent, Return to your departments and feel that my eye will follow you; you have endeavored to humble me, you may kill me, but you shall not dishonor me. You make remonstrances; is this a time, when the stranger invades our provinces, and two hundred thousand Cossacks are ready to overflow our country? There may have been petty abuses; I never connived at them. You, M. Renouard, you said that Prince Massena robbed a man at Marseilles of his house. You lie! The general took possession of a vacant house, and my minister shall indemnify the proprietor. Is it thus that you dare affront a marshal of France who has bled for his country, and grown gray in victory? Why did you not make your complaints in secret to me? I would have done you justice. We should wash our dirty linen in private, and not drag it out before the world. You call yourselves representatives of the nation. It is not true; you are only deputies of the departments; a small portion of the State, inferior to the Senate, inferior even to the Council of State. The representatives of the people! I am alone the representative of the people. Twice have twenty-four millions of French called me to the throne—which of you durst undertake such a burden? It had already overwhelmed (écrasé) your Assemblies, and your Conventions, your Vergniands and your Guadets, your Jacobins and your Girondins. They are all dead! What, who are you? nothing—all authority is in the throne; and what is the throne? This wooden frame covered with velvet? No, I am the throne. You have added wrong to reproaches. You have talked of concessions—concessions that even my enemies dared not ask. I suppose if they asked Champagne, you would have given them La Brie besides; but in four months I will conquer peace, or I shall be dead. You advise! how dare you debate on such high matters (de si graves interêts)! You have put me in the front of the battle as the cause of war. It is infamous (c'est une atrocité). In all your committees you have excluded the friends of the Government, extraordinary commission, committee of finance, committee of the address, all, all my enemies. M. Lainé, I repeat it, is a traitor; he is a wicked man, the others are mere intriguers. I do justice to the eleven-twelfths; but the factious I know and will pursue. Is it, I ask again, is it while the enemy is in France that you should have done this? But nature has gifted me with a determined courage—nothing can overcome me. It cost my pride much, too,—I made that sacrifice; I—but I am above your miserable declamations. I was in need of consolation, and you would mortify me,—but, no, my victories shall crush your clamors; in three months we shall have peace, and you shall repent your folly. I am one of those who triumph or die.

"Go back to your departments. If any one of you dare to print your address, I shall publish it in the Moniteur with notes of my own. Go, France stands more in need of me than I do of France. I bear the eleven-twelfths of you in my heart. I shall nominate the deputies of the two series which are vacant, and I shall reduce the legislative body to the discharge of its proper duties. The inhabitants of Alsace and Franche-Comté have a better spirit than you; they ask me for arms. I send them, and one of my aides-de-camp will lead them against the enemy."

Address to the Guard, April 2, 1814.

"Soldiers: The enemy has stolen three marches on us, and has made himself master of Paris. We must drive him thence. Frenchmen, unworthy of the name, emigrants whom we have pardoned, have mounted the white cockade and joined the enemy. The wretches shall receive the reward due to this new crime. Let us swear to conquer or die, and to enforce respect to the tri-colored cockade, which has for twenty years accompanied us on the path of glory and honor."

Speech of Abdication, April 2, 1814.

"The allied powers having decided that the Emperor Napoleon is the only obstacle to the reëstablishment of peace in Europe, the Emperor Napoleon, faithful to his oath, declares that he is ready to descend from the throne, to leave Europe, and even to lay down his life for the welfare of his country, which is inseparable from the rights of his son, those of the regency of the Empress, and the maintenance of the laws of the empire."

Farewell to the Old Guard, April 20, 1814.

"Soldiers of my old guard, I bid you farewell. For twenty years I have constantly accompanied you on the road to honor and glory. In these latter times, as in the days of our prosperity, you have invariably been models of courage and fidelity. With men such as you our cause could not be lost; but the war would have been interminable; it would have been civil war, and that would have entailed deeper misfortunes on France. I have sacrificed all my interests to those of the country. I go, but you, my friends, will continue to serve France. Her happiness was my only thought. It will still be the object of my wishes. Do not regret my fate; if I have consented to survive, it is to serve your glory. I intend to write the history of the great achievements we have performed together. Adieu, my friends. Would I could press you all to my heart." Napoleon then ordered the eagles to be brought, and, having embraced them, he added: "I embrace you all in the person of your general. Adieu, soldiers! Be always gallant and good."

Proclamation to the French People on His Return from Elba, March 5, 1815.

"Frenchmen: The defection of the Duke of Castiglione (Augereau) delivered up Lyons without defense to our enemies. The army, the command of which I had entrusted to him, was, by the number of its battalions, the courage and patriotism of the troops that composed it, in a condition to beat the Austrian troops opposed to it, and to arrive in time on the rear of the left flank of the army which threatened Paris. The victories of Champ-Aubert, of Montmirail, of Château-Thierry, of Van Champs, of Mormons, of Montereau, of Craonne, of Rheims, of Arcis-sur-Aube, and of St. Dizier, the rising of the brave peasants of Lorraine and Champagne, of Alsace, Franche-Comté and Burgundy, and the position which I had taken in the rear of the hostile army, by cutting it off from its magazines, its parks of reserve, its convoys, and all the equipages, had placed it in a desperate situation. The French were never on the point of being more powerful, and the élite of the enemy's army was lost without resource; it would have found a tomb in those vast plains which it had so mercilessly laid waste, when the treason of the Duke of Ragusa delivered up the capital and disorganized the army. The unexpected misconduct of these two generals, who betrayed at once their country, their prince, and their benefactor, changed the fate of the war; the situation of the enemy was such that, at the close of the action which took place before Paris, he was without ammunition, in consequence of his separation from his parks of reserve. In these new and distressing circumstances, my heart was torn, but my mind remained immovable; I consulted only the interests of the country; I banished myself to a rock in the middle of the sea; my life was yours, and might still be useful to you. Frenchmen: In my exile I heard your complaints and your wishes; you accused my long slumber; you reproached me with sacrificing the welfare of the country to my repose. I have traversed the seas through perils of every kind; I return among you to reclaim my rights, which are yours."

Napoleon's Proclamation to the Army on His Return from Elba, March 5, 1815.

"Soldiers: We have not been conquered; two men, sprung from our ranks, have betrayed our laurels, their country, their benefactor, and their prince. Those whom we have beheld for twenty-five years traversing all Europe to raise up enemies against us, who have spent their lives in fighting against us in the ranks of foreign armies, and in cursing our beautiful France, shall they pretend to command or enchain our eagles?—they who have never been able to look them in the face. Shall we suffer them to inherit the fruit of our glorious toils, to take possession of our honors, of our fortunes; to calumniate and revile our glory? If their reign were to continue all would be lost, even the recollection of those memorable days. With what fury they misrepresent them! They seek to tarnish what the world admires; and if there still remain defenders of our glory, they are to be found among those very enemies whom we have confronted in the field of battle. Soldiers: in my exile I have heard your voice; I have come back in spite of all obstacles and all dangers. Your general, called to the throne by the choice of the people, and raised on your shields, is restored to you; come and join him. Mount the tri-colored cockade; you wore it in the days of our greatness. We must forget that we have been the masters of nations; but we must not suffer any to inter-meddle in our affairs. Who would pretend to be master over us? Who would have the power? Resume those eagles which you had at Ulm, at Austerlitz, at Jena, at Eylau, at Wagram, at Friedland, at Tudela, at Eckmühl, at Essling, at Smolensk, at the Moskowa, at Lutzen, at Wurtchen, at Montmirail. The veterans of the armies of the Sambre and Meuse, of the Rhine, of Italy, of Egypt, of the West, of the Grand Army, are illuminated; their honorable scars are stained; their successes would be crimes; the brave would be rebels, if, as the enemies of the people pretend, the legitimate sovereigns were in the midst of foreign armies. Honors, recompenses, favors, are reserved for those who have served with them against the country and against us. Soldiers: Come and range yourselves under the banners of your chief; his existence is only made up of yours; his rights are only those of the people and yours; his interest, his honor, his glory, are no other than your interest, your honor, and your glory. Victory shall march at a charging step; the eagle, with the national colors, shall fly from steeple to steeple, till it reaches the towers of Notre Dame., Then you will be able to show your scars with honor; then you will be able to boast of what you have done; you will be the liberators of the country! In your old age, surrounded and looked up to by your fellow citizens, they will listen to you with respect as you recount your high deeds, you will each of you be able to say with pride, 'And I also made part of that grand army which entered twice within the walls of Vienna, within those of Rome, of Berlin, of Madrid, of Moscow, and which delivered Paris from the stain which treason and the presence of the enemy had imprinted on it' Honor to those brave soldiers, the glory of their country!"

Proclamation on the Anniversary of the Battles of Marengo and Friedland, June 14, 1815.

"Soldiers: This day is the anniversary of Marengo and Friedland, which twice decided the destiny of Europe. Then, as after the battles of Austerlitz and Wagram, we were too generous. We believed in the protestations and oaths of princes to whom we left their thrones. Now, however, leagued together, they strike at the independence and sacred rights of France. They have committed unjust aggressions. Let us march forward and meet them; are we not still the same men? Soldiers: At Jena, these Prussians, now so arrogant, were three to one; at Montmirail six to one. Let those who have been captive to the English describe the nature of their prison ships, and the sufferings they endured. The Saxons, the Belgians, the Hanoverians, the soldiers of the Confederation of the Rhine, lament that they are obliged to use their arms in the cause of princes who are the enemies of justice, and the destroyers of the rights of nations. They well know the coalition to be insatiable. After having swallowed up twelve millions of Poles, twelve millions of Italians, one million of Saxons, and six millions of Belgians, they now wish to devour the States of the second order among the Germans. Madmen! one moment of prosperity has bewildered them. To oppress and humble the people of France is out of their power; once entering our territory, there they will find their doom. Soldiers: We have forced marches before us, battles to fight, and dangers to encounter; but firm in resolution, victory must be ours. The honor and happiness of our country are at stake! and, in short. Frenchmen, the moment is arrived when we must conquer or die!"

Proclamation to the Belgians, June 17, 1815.

"To the Belgians and the inhabitants on the left bank of the Rhine: The ephemeral success of my enemies detached you for a moment from my empire. In my exile, upon a rock in the sea, I heard your complaint; the God of Battles has decided the fate of your beautiful provinces; Napoleon is among you; you are worthy to be Frenchmen. Rise in a body; join my invincible phalanxes to exterminate the remainder of these barbarians, who are your enemies and mine; they fly, with rage and despair in their hearts."

Napoleon's Proclamation to the French People on His Second Abdication, June 22, 1815.

"Frenchmen: In commencing war for the national independence, I relied on the union of all efforts, of all wills, and the concurrence of all the national authorities. I had reason to hope for success, and I braved all the declarations of the powers against me. Circumstances appear to me changed. I offer myself a sacrifice to the hatred of the enemies of France. May they prove sincere in their declarations, and really have directed them only against my power. My political life is terminated, and I proclaim my son, under the title of Napoleon II., Emperor of the French. The present ministers will provisionally form the council of the Government. The interest which I take in my son induces me to invite the chambers to form, without delay, the regency by a law. Unite all for the public safety that you may continue an independent nation."

Bonaparte's Protest, Written on Board the Bellerophon, August 4, 1815.

"I hereby solemnly protest, before God and man, against the injustice offered me, and the violation of my most sacred rights, in forcibly disposing of my person and my liberty. I came freely on board of the Bellerophon; I am not a prisoner; I am the guest of England. I was, indeed, instigated to come on board by the captain, who told me that he had been directed by his Government to receive me and my suite, and conduct me to England, if agreeable to my wishes. I presented myself in good faith, with the view of claiming the protection of the English laws. As soon as I had reached the deck of the Bellerophon, I considered myself in the home and on the hearth of the British people.

"If it was the intention of Government, in giving orders to the captain of the Bellerophon to receive me and my suite, merely to entrap me, it has forfeited its honor and sullied its flag.

"If this act be consummated, it will be useless for the English to talk to Europe of their integrity, their laws, and their liberty. British good faith will have been lost in the hospitality of the Bellerophon.

"I appeal to history,—it will say that an enemy, who made war for twenty years upon the English people, came voluntarily, in his misfortunes, to seek an asylum under their laws. What more striking proof could he give of his esteem and his confidence? But what return did England make for so magnanimous an act? They pretended to hold out a friendly hand to this enemy; and when he delivered himself up in good faith, they sacrificed him."