Napoleon I’s second speech to his army in Italy (15th. May 1796)

SOLDIERS! You have precipitated yourselves like a torrent from the Apennines. You have overwhelmed or swept before you all that opposed your march. Piedmont, delivered from Austrian oppression, has returned to her natural sentiments of peace and friendship toward France. Milan is yours, and over all Lombardy floats the flag of the Republic.


To your generosity only do the Dukes of Parma and of Modena now owe their political existence. The army which proudly threatened you finds no remaining barrier of defense against your courage. The Po, the Tessino, the Adda, could not stop you a single day. Those vaunted ramparts of Italy proved insufficient; you traversed them as rapidly as you did the Apennines. Successes so numerous and brilliant have carried joy to the heart of your country! Your representatives have decreed a festival, to be celebrated in all the communes of the Republic, in honor of your victories. There will your fathers, mothers, wives, sisters, all who hold you dear, rejoice over your triumphs, and boast that you belong to them.


Yes, soldiers, you have done much; but much still remains for you to do. Shall it be said of us that we knew how to conquer, but not to profit by victory? Shall posterity reproach us with having found a Capfia in Lombardy? Nay, fellow soldiers! I see you already eager to cry “To arms!” Inaction fatigues you! and days lost to glory are to you days lost to happiness.


Let us, then, begone! We have yet many forced marches to make, enemies to vanquish, laurels to gather, and injuries to avenge! Let those who have sharpened the poniards of civil war in France, who have pusillanimously assassinated our ministers, who have burned our vessels at Toulon—let them now tremble! The hour of vengeance has knolled!


But let not the people be disquieted. We are the friends of every people: and more especially of the descendants of the Brutuses, the Scipios, and other great men to whom we look as bright exemplars. To reestablish the Capitol; to place there with honor the statues of the heroes who made it memorable; to rouse the Roman people, unnerved by many centuries of oppression—such will be some of the fruits of our victories. They will constitute an epoch for posterity.


To you, soldiers, will belong the immortal honor of redeeming the fairest portion of Europe. The French people, free and respected by the whole world, shall give to Europe a glorious peace, which shall indemnify it for all the sacrifices which it has borne the last six years. Then, by your own firesides you shall repose; and your fellow citizens, when they point out any one of you, shall say: “He belonged to the army of Italy!”

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