April 17 1812: Napoleon's Peace Offer

On April 17, 1812, Duc de Bassano, the French Foreign Minister, wrote to Lord Castlereagh with a peace proposal from Napoleon. The main terms in the offer was a French guarantee of the independence of Portugal under the House of Braganza and the integrity of Spain. The offer came as Napoleon was about to leave for war with Russia. It is doubtful that Napoleon intended the offer to be anything other than a political ploy. The peace proposal did not represent any real concessions. Wellington had already secured Portugal's independence. As for Spain, Napoleon intended to keep his older brother, Joseph-Napoleon Bonaparte, as king.  As a consequence, the British did not take the offer seriously but did respond on April 23. Excerpts from the proposal are reproduced below: 

The calamities under which Spain, and the vast regions of Spanish America suffer, should naturally excite the interest of all nations, and inspire them with an equal anxiety for their termination.--I will express myself, Sir, in a manner which your Excellency will find conformable to the sincerity of the of the step which I am authorised to take; and nothing will better evince the sincerity and sublimity of it than the precise terms of the language which I have been directed to use. What views and motives should induce me to envelope myself in formalities suitable to weakness, which alone can find its interest in deceit? The affairs of the Peninsula, and the Two Sicilies, are the points of difference which appear least to admit of being adjusted. I am authorised to propose to you an arrangement of them on the following basis:--The integrity of Spain shall be guaranteed. France shall renounce all idea of extending her dominions beyond the Pyrennees. The present dynasty shall be declared independent, and Spain shall be governed by a National Constitution of her Cortes.--The independence and integrity of Portugal shall be also guaranteed and the House of Braganza shall have the Sovereign authority.--The kingdom of Naples shall remain in possession of the present Monarch, and the kingdom of Sicily shall be guaranteed to the present family of Sicily.--As a consequence of these stipulations, Spain, Portugal, and Sicily shall be evacuated by the French and English land and naval forces.-- With respect to the other objects of discussion, they may be negociated upon this basis,  that each power shall retain that of which the other could not deprive it by war.  

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