March 5 1815: Napoleon’s Proclamations On His Return

Napoleon’s Proclamation to the French People on His Return from Elba, from Gap on March 5, 1815

“Frenchmen: The defection of the Duke of Castiglione (Augereau) delivered 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, Montmirail, Château-Thierry, Van Champs [Vauchamp], Mormons [Mormans], Montereau, Craone [Croanne], Reims [Rheims], Arcy-sur-Aube [Arcis-sur-Aube] and Saint-Dizier, the rising of the brave peasants of Lorraine and Champagne, of Alsace, Franche-Comté and Burgundy, and the position which I had taken at 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 only consulted 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.”

Proclamation to the Army 

“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 never forget that we have been the masters of nations; but we must not suffer any to intermeddle with 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 Eckmuhl, at Essling, at Smolensk, at the Moskowa, at Lutzen, at Wurtchen, at Montmirail. The veterans of the armies if 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 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 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 your 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 upon it.’ Honor to those brave soldiers, the glory of their country!”

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