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The Napoleonic Wars 1792-1815

'Europe is not to be saved by any single man'

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'Europe is not to be saved by any single man'

Postby jf42 » June 30th, 2015, 7:09 pm

I came upon reference to this speech by William Pitt in Elisabeth Longford's biography of Wellington. I think Pitt's closing remark sets in contemporary context modern notions of 'perfidious Albion' performing the role of some Machiavelian spider in the successive alliances against France.

"I return you many thanks for the honour you have done me; Europe is not to be saved by any single man. England has saved herself by her exertions, and will, as I trust, save Europe by her example."

Speech at the Guildhall, City of London, 9 November 1805. This was Pitt's last speech in public.
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Re: 'Europe is not to be saved by any single man'

Postby Josh&Historyland » June 30th, 2015, 9:40 pm

Pitt could turn a phrase alright.
Britain's coalitions were a strategy, and as they say, all is fair in war. I have never seen how they were any less perfidious than the Continental System, or the network of alliances that was created by it to invade Russia. The idea of British puppeteering rather paints the great powers as so many dumbly smiling marionettes or unwilling enemies of France, which was far from the case. Essentially Britain's foreign policy was just another weapon in her arsenal. Pitt spoke well.

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Re: 'Europe is not to be saved by any single man'

Postby Andrew » July 1st, 2015, 6:37 pm

As I've said before, I'm rather reluctant to get drawn into a debate I feel unqualified to participate in. I have done most of my work presenting a French perspective, but do not consider myself a French or Napoleon apologist. However, I continue to feel that we were all as bad as each other, and even now we can be victims of the propaganda of the age. I am for objective history. I struggle to feel superior to the French when the successive coalitions were funded by Britain; effectively bank-rolling others to almost fight our wars for us; wars they could not have afforded to fight without this financial aid. If we agree that all is fair in war, then how can we condemn France/Napoleon for fighting against all the powers of Europe in the best way they/he could? Whilst I do believe Napoleon was an imperialist, all the powers of Europe wanted France subdued because the revolution threatened the ancien regimes of all of them. They were then quite happy to carve up Europe between them in no less a imperialist way as Napoleon attempted to do by force of arms. Whilst the coalitions were no less perfidious than the continental system, the Congress of Vienna was no less imperialist than Napoleon's wars (if you believe it was him that started them all)... :?
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Re: 'Europe is not to be saved by any single man'

Postby Josh&Historyland » July 1st, 2015, 9:14 pm

Personally I agree that superiority is a pointless standpoint. It doesn't matter to us the way it did then. The bankrolling of the coalitions and the continental system were indeed strategies, Napoleon needed to bleed Britain dry & Britain didn't have the troops to confront Napoleon in Central Europe. I too think that Napoleon was an imperialist, and Vienna was a necessary piece of counter imperialism once he had been put away. However we should bear in mind that this was a war of imperialists, a series of wars to uphold the right of Kings. Because he became emperor Napoleon ended up a generally negative influence outside of France, whose presence created a de facto reson d'être for conflict. Napoleon was the imperialistic embodiment of the revolution, therefore could only be seen as a usurper, essentially because the Bourbons were still around. However I wholeheartedly agree that objectivity is the greatest asset our distance can deploy.

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Re: 'Europe is not to be saved by any single man'

Postby Kev » July 4th, 2015, 7:58 am

Mr Pitt was an interesting character indeed. From my limited understanding he died quite young with a lot of personal debt and was a heavy drinker? Mr Pitt was an alcoholic albeit through medicinal needs? I believe alcohol even contributed to his death?

Objectivity is very good indeed and that is where the term "perfidious Albion" strays from objectivity and not a term I would use despite my admiration for the Emperor. I think the fact that Britain was bankrolling wars against France is an important point and a major factor in the development of the ill fated and flawed Continental System? Again, another important point.

I recently read a book which had an introduction that made me smile. Basically the book comments, following Napoleons removal "as Britain embarked on new adventures in its bid to expand its empire". The book epitomises the fact that objectivity is often overlooked in discussion about Bonaparte. Only my opinion mind you and I am respectful to opinions that differ from mine. Debate is good.
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