TALLEYRAND Auguste comte de - Autograph Letter Signed 1815 - Switzerland and the aftermath of Waterloo
Auguste, comte de TALLEYRAND (1770-1832)
Autograph Letter Signed (“Cte. Auguste de Talleyrand”) to an unnamed correspondent [identified on the docket as Gouvion, possibly General Count Gouvion], regarding negotiations with Switzerland in the aftermath of Waterloo.
3¼ pages 4to in French, Zurich, 4 July 1815.
An interesting letter from Count Talleyrand, cousin of the great statesman, who was named French ambassador to Switzerland by Louis XVIII at the first restoration in 1814.
Trans: “With regard to the counsel you gave me regarding negotiations to be entered into with the Swiss and with the commanders at Besancon . . . I have written to the Austrian Minister in order to propose this to him, for it is politically of the greatest importance that we do not, through any unconsidered steps, move any of these powers against us. You will see by his answer, a copy of which I enclose [not present] that all negotiations have now become useless, and that Austria itself speaks only of the legitimate sovereign. I wish that the Generals who command in the departments of the Jura and of Doubs will take forthwith the only side which can save their honour, but if they decide otherwise, it is their loss, they no longer have the slightest hope that the current order will continue, nor that one will listen to two unconstitutional chambers, which are discredited throughout Europe by the disorder of their deliberations. I would therefore entreat you to refrain from making any promises whatsoever to anyone. It is up to these military men to choose if they wish to dishonour themselves utterly, or to go back to the path to which their duty calls them while they still have the time.
A fortnight ago, they could have been seen to do well, taken advantage of their position, but now that the outcome has been decided, you can see that one cannot offer them the advantages which would have been accorded to them before the events which have put Paris in the hands of the Allies. By taking up the white flag [of the Bourbon monarchy], they spare French blood, by continuing in their rebellion, they are responsible for all the pointless misery which they run the risk of bringing to our nation.
Believe me, Sir, that I will do all I can to bring to the King’s attention the devotion which you and your brave collaborators have shown for our cause. . .”
Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo soon resulted in the dismantlement of what was left of his empire, a process begun at the Congress of Vienna and only briefly interrupted by Napoleon’s return from Elba. Switzerland, which had been firmly within the French orbit, was declared a neutral state in March 1815 – a neutrality not necessarily of Switzerland’s own choosing, but one imposed upon it as by the other powers as an essential element in the stability of Europe, providing a buffer state between French and Austrian territory. Swiss neutrality has remained in place for over two hundred years, much to Switzerland’s benefit.
The region of the Doubs, with its capital at Besancon, shared a border with Switzerland, hence the comte de Talleyrand’s interest in events in the region, which might impact on negotiations in Switzerland.
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