London, May 31: The US was willing to offer Napoleon Bonaparte refuge in America after his defeat in the historic Battle of Waterloo and floated the possibility of the emperor fleeing across the Atlantic, according to newly discovered documents.
In dispatches sent home after Napoleon was "annihilated near Brussels, in an attack of the English under Wellington" on June 18, 1815, Henry Jackson, the American charge d'affaires to Paris, talked about the possibility of Napoleon fleeing to America.
Napoleon, he wrote to James Monroe, the then US secretary of state, would have to submit to British captivity unless he managed to regain control of his army or "the English government judge it prudent to grant him passports [sic] for the United States."
Copies of the original documents, found in leather-bound volumes in the US National Archives, have been presented to the British embassy in Washington to mark next month's 200th anniversary of the battle, The Sunday Times reported.
The documents also show that Jackson had earlier erroneously predicted that Napoleon would be victorious.
"It is highly probable that the coalition will fall a victim to the conjoint influence of the resistance of the French and the mutual recriminations of the powers engaged in it," Jackson wrote two days before news of Napoleon's defeat reached Paris.
But as John Quincy Adams, ambassador to the Court of St James's, wrote from London just over a month later, "The external combination against Napoleon has again overpowered him probably as before with the assistance of internal treachery."
The Battle of Waterloo ended Napoleon's rule as Emperor of France and marked victory for the British-led coalition including the Prussian Army. Stephen Randolph, historian to the US State Department and one of those who found the documents, was quoted as saying, "Poor Jackson was unhappy and sick and living in this maelstrom of rumours and misinformation and drama and not seeing the future."
After Waterloo, Napoleon returned to Paris and abdicated, eventually fleeing to Rochefort, the naval base on France's Atlantic coast, when he learnt Britain and Prussia were determined to install Louis XVIII on the throne, much to the dismay of Jackson, who wrote of the "the foolish obstinacy and weakness of the Bourbons."
But Royal Navy vessels were blockading all ports and Napoleon surrendered to Captain Frederick Maitland on July 15, 1815. If Napoleon had crossed the Atlantic for the New World, the history of the 19th century, and what would become the Anglo-American "special relationship", could have taken a very different turn, the report said.
But it was not to be and Napoleon was exiled to St. Helena, where he died at the age of 51 in 1821. Joseph Bonaparte, Napoleon's elder brother, did make it to America, living in Philadelphia and New York from the proceeds of selling jewels he had plundered from Spain, where Napoleon had installed him as king in 1808.