EVERYTHING FOR AND BY THE PEOPLE
« For the Honour of France, for the sacred interests of Humanity »
(Napoleon the Great, 17th ventôse Year VIII – Saturday 8th March 1800)
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.