“Let every power begin by restoring the conquests which it has made during the last fifty years. Let them reestablish Poland, restore Venice to its senate, Trinidad to Spain, Ceylon to Holland, the Crimea to the Porte, the Caucasus and Georgia to Persia, the kingdom of Mysore to the sons of Tippoo Saib, and the Mahratta States to their lawful owners; and then the other powers may have some title to insist that France shall retire within her ancient limits. It is the fashion to speak of the ambition of France. Had she chosen to preserve her conquests, the half of Austria, the Venetian States, the States of Holland and Switzerland and the kingdom of Naples would have been in her possession. The limits of France are, in reality, the Adige and the Rhine. Has it passed either of these limits? Had it fixed on the Solza and the Drave, it would not have exceeded the bounds of its conquests.”
In September, 1806, the Prussian army, two hundred thousand strong, commenced their march for the invasion of France. Alexander had also marshaled his barbarian legions and was eagerly following, with two hundred thousand of the most highly disciplined Russian troops in his train. Napoleon contemplated with sorrow the rising of this new storm of war and woe; but with characteristic vigor he prepared to meet it. As he left Paris for the campaign, in a parting message to the senate he said,
“In so just a war, which we have not provoked by any act, by any pretense, the true cause of which it would be impossible to assign, and where we only take arms to defend ourselves, we depend entirely upon the support of the laws, and upon that of the people whom circumstances call upon to give fresh proofs of their devotion and courage.”
In the battle of Jena, which took place on the 14th of October, the Prussian army was nearly annihilated, leaving in a few hours more than forty thousand men in killed, wounded and prisoners. In less than a month the conquest of entire Prussia was achieved, and Napoleon was pursuing Frederic William, who, with the wreck of the Prussian army was hastening to take refuge in the bosom of the Russian hosts which were approaching. December had now come with its icy blasts, and Napoleon, leading his victorious troops to the banks of the Vistula, more than a thousand miles from France, established them in winter quarters, waiting until spring for the renewal of the campaign.
Alexander, terrified by the destruction of his Prussian allies, halted his troops upon the other side of the Vistula, and from his vast realms collected recruits. For a few weeks the storms of winter secured a tacit armistice.
In February, 1807, Alexander assumed the offensive and endeavored to surprise Napoleon in his encampment. But Napoleon was on the alert. A series of terrific battles ensued, in which the French were invariably the victors. The retreating Russians, hotly pursued, at last rallied on the field of Eylau. Napoleon had already driven them two hundred and forty miles from his encampment on the Vistula.