Wellingon's dispatch to Lord Bathurst, 2 July 1815
Headquaters 'Gonesse, 2nd July, 1815.
The enemy attacked the advanced guard of Marshal Prince Blücher's corps at Villers Cotterets on the 28th, but, his main body coming up, they were driven off with the loss of six pieces of cannon and about one thousand prisoners.
It appears that these troops were on the march from Soissons to Paris, and, having been driven off that road by the Prussian troops at Villers Cotterets, they got upon that of Meaux. They were attacked again upon this road by General Bülow, who took from them 500 prisoners, and drove them across the Marnc. They have, however, got into Paris.
The advanced guard of the allied army under my command crossed the Oise on the 29th, and the whole on the 30th, and we yesterday took up a position, with the right upon the height of Richebourg, the left upon the Bois de Bondy.
Field Marshal Prince Blücher, having taken the village of Aubevilliers, or Vertus, on the morning of the 30th of June, moved to his right, and crossed the Seine at St. Germain's as I advanced; and he will this day have his right at Plessis Piquet, his left at St. Cloud, and the reserve at Versailles.
The enemy have fortified the heights of Montmartre and the town of St. Denis strongly; and, by means of the little rivers, Rouillon and la Vieille Mer, they have inundated the ground on the north side of that town; and water having been introduced into the canal de l'Ourcq, and the bank formed into a parapet and batteries, they have a strong position on this side of Paris.
The heights of Belleville are likewise strongly fortified, but I am not aware that any defensive works have been thrown up on the left of the Seine.
Having collected in Paris all the troops remaining after the battle of the 18th, and all the depots of the whole army, it is supposed the enemy have there about 40,000 or 50,000 troops of the line and guards, besides the national guards, a new levy called les tirailleurs de la garde, and the Fédérés.
Under these circumstances I am inclined to doubt the expediency of our attacking the enemy in their fortified position; more particularly as, having reason to believe that Marshal Prince Wrede's corps was at Nancy on the 26th, we suppose it is this day at Chalons, and it may be here in four or five days.
On the day after I last wrote to your Lordship, viz., on the 29th, I had an interview at Etrées with five Commissioners, — —, — —, the — de —, — —, and — —, who had been sent from Paris to negotiate with me a suspension of hostilities.
I told them that I had already written to the other Commissioners upon this subject, and that I had nothing to say in addition to what I had written in that letter; that it was impossible for me to consider the whole transaction of the abdication in any other light than as a trick; and that I could not stop my operations with a view to any benefit likely to result from such an arrangement to the object the Allies had in view in the war.
The Commissioners then said that they had every reason to believe that Napoleon had quitted Paris; and, in case he had not, various schemes were proposed, in order to get rid of him, of which one was to send him to England, another to hand him over to his father-in-law, the Emperor of Austria. To which I answered, that I had no authority to talk of such schemes; that I was quite certain that, if he was sent to England, the Prince Regent would keep him to be disposed of by the Allies by common accord, and I had no reason to doubt that the Emperor of Austria would do the same; and that, if they intended really to dispose of him in that way, they had much better send him to Marshal Blücher or me at once.
They then said that it was probable he was gone to Rochefort to embark for America, or that he would go as soon as he should hear of the near approach of the armies, and before they could send to Paris; and they asked whether in that case I would stop my operations. I told them that, besides Napoleon, there were his adherents, who were the declared enemies of the Allies; and that, before I could stop my operations, I must see some steps taken to re-establish a government in France which should afford the Allies some chance of peace.
After some hesitation they begged I would tell them what would satisfy the Allies upon this point. I answered that I had no authority to talk upon the subject, even from my own Government, much less from the Allies; and that all 1 could do was to give them my private opinion, which, unless otherwise instructed by my own Government, I should certainly urge upon the Allies with all the influence which I might be supposed to possess.
I then told them that I conceived the best security for Europe was the restoration of the King, and that the establishment of any other government than the King's in France must inevitably lead to new and endless wars; that Buonaparte and the army having overturned the King's Government, the natural and simple measure, after Buonaparte was prisoner or out of the way, and the army defeated, was to recall the King to his authority, and that it was a much more dignified proceeding to recall him without conditions, and to trust to the energy of their constitution for any reforms they wished to make either in the government or the constitution, than now to make conditions with their sovereign; and that, above all, it was important that they should recall the King without loss of time, as it would not then appear that the measure had been forced upon them by the Allies.
The Commissioners professed, individually and collectively, their earnest desire to see the King restored in the manner I had mentioned, which they said was likewise the desire of the Provisional Government; —— —— was, however, of opinion that the two Chambers could not be brought to recall the King without conditions; and he mentioned, as those upon which they would probably insist, and upon which it was desirable the King should give way, the responsibility of the administration and the alteration of the constitution, so far as that the initiative in making the laws should be vested in the assemblies, and not in the King.
I told them, regarding the first point, that I had every reason to believe that the King had determined to form a ministry which should be individually and collectively responsible for all the acts of the Government; and that I did not doubt that His Majesty would not oppose himself to the wishes of the French people, if it was desired that the initiative in framing the laws should be vested in the assemblies: that, however, I had no authority to speak on this subject, and recommended to them not to look after little points of difference, and, if they really wished to restore the Government of their King, to do it at once and without any conditions.
In the course of this conversation they stated that the Assemblies had proclaimed Napoleon II. as Emperor only to conciliate the officers and soldiers of the army, who had come into Paris in such numbers after the battle, that they had been apprehensive of a civil war in Paris if this measure had not been adopted.
While we were discussing the conditions to be proposed to the King, and the evils and inconveniences which the mode of making the laws, and the want of responsibility and power in the Ministers had occasioned, I received from Sir Charles Stuart the King's Declaration of the 28th, countersigned by M. de Talleyrand; which I immediately communicated to the French Commissioners, and pointed out to them the King's promise to make the alteration in his administration which they had proposed, and the probability that His Majesty would not object to that proposed to be made in the constitution.
They objected to certain paragraphs in the declaration referable to the exclusion of certain persons from the King's presence, to the intention announced to punish some of those concerned in the plot which had brought back Buonaparte, and to that of calling together the old houses of the legislature, upon which, at their desire, I wrote to M. de Talleyrand a letter, of which Sir Charles Stuart will probably have sent to England a copy, which I communicated to the Commissioners before I sent it.
I then told them that I could not talk more upon the suspension of our operations, which they urged in the most earnest manner, in order to give them time to take their measures to recall the King, until I should see Marshal Blücher, to whose headquarters I promised to go that evening.
Before I set off, the Commissioners asked me whether the appointment of a Regency to conduct the affairs of the Government in the name of Napoleon II. was likely to satisfy the Allies, and would be such an arrangement as would induce me to stop my operations? I answered, certainly not; that I conceived the Allies, after their declaration, would never treat with Napoleon or any of his family; that the appointment of Napoleon II. was to be attributed to Napoleon I., and the acknowledgement of him to the desire to conciliate the army, and that I should not stop my operations in consequence of such an arrangement.
They then asked me what would be the case if any other Prince of a Royal house were called to the throne of France? To which I said that it was impossible for me to answer such loose questions; that, as an individual, I had made them acquainted with my opinion of what it was best for them to do, and it rested with them either to follow this opinion or not.
One of the Commissioners, before I went away, took occasion to tell me that he wished I had given a more positive answer to this last question, and I determined to take another opportunity of doing so before the Commissioners should report this conversation to Paris.
I left them at Etrées and went to the headquarters at Le Plessis to give the orders for the movement of the troops in the morning, and I overtook them again in the night at Louvres. I then told them that I had considered their last question since I had seen them, and that I felt no objection to give them my opinion upon it, still as an individual; that, in my opinion, Europe had no hope of peace if any person excepting the King were called to the throne of France; that any person so called must be considered an usurper, whatever his rank and quality; that he must act as an usurper, and must endeavour to turn the attention of the country from the defects of his title towards war and foreign conquests; that the Powers of Europe must, in such a case, guard themselves against this evil; and that I could only assure them that, unless otherwise ordered by my Government, I would exert any influence I might possess over the Allied Sovereigns to induce them to insist upon securities for the preservation of peace, besides the treaty itself, if such an arrangement as they had stated were adopted.
The Commissioners replied that they perfectly understood me, and some of them added — Et vous avez raison.
I went on to Marshal Prince Blüchcr, who was at the time upon the point of attacking the French post at Vertus, and who for that reason could not consent to a suspension of hostilities; and he agreed in opinion with me, that as long as Napoleon remained at Paris we could not stop our operations without insisting upon his being delivered over to us.
I wrote accordingly, in concert with the Marshal, to the French Commissioners a letter, of which I enclose the copy; and they reported to their Government that night.
In consequence, however, of Marshal Blüchcr's attack upon Vertus, or for some other cause, the officer they sent with their letter was not received at, and was fired upon by, the French outposts, and he did not reach Paris by Bondy till a late hour in the evening of the 30th, and returned only yesterday morning with the report that Napoleon had quitted Paris to embark for the United States at four o'clock on the 29th.
They called upon me yesterday morning with this report, and I told them that, the great obstacle to the armistice being removed, there remained only a question about the terms, which appeared to me should be, that we should halt in our positions, and not advance farther; that the French army should retire from Paris across the Loire, and that Paris should be held by the national guards of the town until the King should order otherwise.
I told them that, if they agreed to these terms, I would immediately send to prevail upon Marshal Blücher to halt, and to send here an officer to settle the details.
They contended against sending away the army, notwithstanding that they had admitted in the conversation of the 29th that Napoleon II. had been proclaimed by the Assemblies solely to conciliate the army; but I told them that I would not consent to suspend hostilities as long as a soldier remained in Paris.
In fact, if they were to restore the King, and His Majesty were to return to Paris, the troops remaining there, His Majesty would be entirely in the hands of the Assemblies and of the army, who cannot be considered in any other light than as the creatures and instruments of Napoleon. We must get rid of the army, therefore, and we may then hope that the King will be recalled without conditions, and that he will have it in his power to carry on his Government without the assistance of foreign Powers.
In the course of this meeting I read to the Commissioners the letter from Prince Metternich and Count Nesselrode, of the 26th, which I had just received, and of which I enclose the copy.
I likewise enclose the copy of a letter which I received yesterday from the Prince d'Eckmuhl, and the copy of my answer regarding a suspension of hostilities; and your Lordship may depend upon it that, if Prince Blücher consents to suspend his operations, which I imagine he is as sensible as I am of the necessity of doing, till joined by Prince Wrede, I shall urge him to adopt the terms which I propose, without which I will not consent to any suspension.
In consequence of the conversation I had with the Commissioners on the 29th, I recommended to the King to come on to Roye, where His Majesty arrived on the 30th.
I have great pleasure in informing your Lordship that Le Quesnoi surrendered to His Royal Highness Prince Frederick of the Netherlands on the 29th of June. I enclose the copy of His Royal Highness's report upon this subject, in which your Lordship will observe with satisfaction the intelligence and spirit with which this young Prince conducted this affair.
I likewise understand that Bapaume has surrendered to the officer sent there by the King of France to take possession of that town.
I have the honour to be, &c.