May 20 1815: Duke to Prince

On May 20 1815, the Duke of Wellington writes to His Highness Prince Metternich of Austria.

Sir, I beg leave to congratulate your Highness upon the success of your operations in Italy, which promise to bring the affairs in that country to a happy conclusion in a short period of time. Their prosperous state will likewise materially forward our ulterior views in another quarter.

From all that I hear and see, I hope that there exists no doubt of our military success. With the force which is assembling in all quarters, it appears to me impossible that with common prudence and arrangement, we should fail in our military operations; but I imagine that our difficulties will commence on the day that we shall have completely succeeded in them, and shall have attained the object which we propose to ourselves in our treaty.
‘Your Highness will receive from other quarters the accounts of the state of affairs in France and at Ghent, and the effect produced by the opinions supposed to prevail at Vienna. There are certainly some things to be regretted in the conduct of the Government and of the Princes in the last fortnight of the month of March; but upon the whole I wish that our Government and yours had found themselves in a situation to let their people know for what they were to fight; and that we had not been induced to hold out to their imaginations the possibility that the people of France, having had a fair opportunity of choosing whom they pleased for their governor, under what form they pleased, in the year 1814, might perform the same ceremony again in the year 1815. However, I cannot judge so well upon this point as those upon the spot; and probably neither you nor we could venture to depart, although only in words, from the principle on which we had acted in the former war.

But, although we have departed in words from our principle, I trust we shall both adhere to it in reality. I have frequently told your Highness, and every day’s experience shows me that I am right, that the only chance of peace for Europe consists in the establishment in France of the legitimate Bourbons. The establishment of any other government, whether in the person of , or in a Regency in the name of young Napoleon, or in any other individual, or in a republie, must lead to the maintenance of large military establishments to the ruin of all the Governments of Europe, till it shall suit the convenience of the French Government to commence a contest which can be directed only against you, or others for whom we are interested. In this contest we shall feel the additional difficulty, that those who are now on our side will then be against us, and you will again find yourself surrounded by enemies.

I am convinced that the penetration of your Highness will have shown you the danger of all these schemes to the interests of the Emperor; and that you will defeat them all by adhering firmly to that line of conduct (in which you will find us likewise) which will finally lead to the establishment in France of the legitimate Government, from which alone Europe can expect any genuine peace.
‘I will not trouble your Highness farther upon this subject; but, as I was writing to congratulate you upon your successes in Italy, I could not avoid to advert to that which is the object of all our anxieties here.
‘I have the honor to be, &c. ‘His Highness ‘Wellington.

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