TALLEYRAND Charles Maurice - Letter Signed 1799 regarding a French prisoner released by the English
Charles Maurice TALLEYRAND, Prince de Benevent (1754-1838)Letter Signed and annotated (“approuvé Talleyrand”) as Minister for Foreign Affairs under the Directory approving a certificate for a prisoner of war released by the English.
1 page folio in French, with a large vignette depicting “liberty of the seas”, Paris, 17 floreal an 7 [6 May 1799].
Trans: “Citizen Achard, Captain in the 2nd battalion of St. Lucia, requests a certificate as his name is on a list of 300 French prisoners of war returned from English prisons on the English Parliamentarian [a ship bearing the flag of truce] the Ariel, which arrived at Le Havre on the 2nd Complementary day Year 5 [18 September 1797].
This officer having indeed been inscribed as a Captain on this list, I ask the Minister to grant him the certificate which he requests.”
Britain and France had been at war since 1793 and the most important naval battle of the conflict prior to this date had been the Battle of the Nile, less than a year earlier. In view of the date of his return to Le Havre, however, it would appear that Captain Achard had not been present at that battle.
Talleyrand had taken refuge from the more extreme excesses of the French Revolution, first in Britain then in America, where he visited other French emigrés, became acquainted with several American political figures, and made a certain amount of money in financial speculation. With the help of Madame de Staël, he succeeded in having his name removed from the list of emigrés after the fall of Robespierre. Talleyrand returned to France in the summer of 1796, and a year later, again with some help from Madame de Staël, he was appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Always known as a master of intrigue, and as someone who would be found elsewhere when the intrigue reached its conclusion, Talleyrand’s most important achievement would come six months after this letter, as one of the principal figures in the coup d’état which brought Napoleon to power as First Consul.
The letter has been very slightly trimmed at the left margin, but it is a remarkably attractive piece.
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