Sunday, December 9, 2007

Commissary Urges Negotiations with the British

From: Copies of original letters from the army of General Bonaparte in Egypt, intercepted by the fleet under the command of Admiral Lord Nelson. With an English translation (London, J. Wright, 1798-1800, 3 vols.), vol. 3, pp. 88-91.



E. POUSSIELGUE(1), Comptroller of the Expences of the Army, and Administrator-general of the Finances of Egypt, to Citizen MERLIN, Memmber of the Executive Directory.

Citizen Director,

SINCE the delivery to Citizen Barras of the first dispatch which I had the honour to address to you, the particular conferences which have taken place with the Effendi, who is returned from Damascus, have afforded us, notwithstanding the letter of the Grand Vizier, some glimpses of a plan of accommodating matters, which may, in its consequences, become extremely important for the Republic; its final success, however, depends entirely on the part which the English may think proper to take in it.

General Kleber is now engaged in arranging for the Directory the notes which contain the substance of the conference. To me it is evident that the Grand Vizier would be disposed to do every thing we could wish; if he were not afraid that the instant his communications with us were discovered, Ruffia would suddenly fall upon the Ottoman Empire, which is at this time in no state of defence. But, if the Porte were sure of a powerful alliance, which would support her feeble efforts at the outset, and finally render her victorious, she would not hesitate an instant in forming her resolution. After all, these measures, as I have already said, cannot be put in execution unless the English become a party in them, and unite with the Porte and with us.

Now as the French Republic has nothing to apprehend from the English, which is not trifling when compared with the losses she must inevitably sustain from the establishment of the Ruffians in the Mediterranean; as there is not a chance of recovering from the English any part of what they have taken from us during the present war, but by an immediate treaty, which should hold out to them equivalent advantages elsewhere; and, on the supposition that they would agree to no restitution, there would be no present purpose answered by continuing the war, and no inconvenience sustained by adjourning our claims (reclamations) to a happier period; the Executive Directory, if it should relish the plan resulting from the notes which General Kleber is preparing to send home, may early remove every difficulty; and by an alliance with England and the Porte, deliver, at one stroke, the French Republic from these two powerful enemies, and from all the others, whose fall their defection from the alliance would necessarily ensure.

At all events, IT IS INDISPENSABLE TO OPEN NEGOTIATIONS IN THE MOST EARNEST MANNER WITH THE ENGLISH AND THE PORTE; EVEN IF NO OTHER ADVANTAGE SHOULD RESULT FROM THEM THAN GAINING TIME, AND GIVING OFFENCE TO RUSSIA; such offence as should induce her to declare war against the Grand Seignior, to an opportunity of doing which she seems to look forward with impatience.

Health and respect.



[British Translators' Notes]

(1)The name of Poussielgue is familiar to the readers of the intercepted correspondence. They have seen and admired his accurate description of the victory of Aboukir: he appears here in a new light; and though his views for this country cannot be considered as evincing much knowledge of our character or connexions, yet his observations, as far as they respect France, must be allowed to be judicious. It would be superfluous to dwell on the importance of this letter, or to call the reader’s attention to the hopeless situation of the French affairs in the Mediterranean. The defultory whining of Le Roy showed that their commerce was annihilated there; the strong and conclusive representations of Poussielgue prove that their military influence will not long survive it.

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