1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Kersaint, Armand Guy Simon de Coetnempren, Comte de

1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 15
Kersaint, Armand Guy Simon de Coetnempren, Comte de

KERSAINT, ARMAND GUY SIMON DE COETNEMPREN, Comte de (1742–1793), French sailor and politician, was born at Paris on the 29th of July 1742. He came of an old family, his father, Guy François de Coetnempren, comte de Kersaint, being a distinguished naval officer. He entered the navy in 1755, and in 1757, while serving on his father’s ship, was promoted to the rank of ensign for his bravery in action. By 1782 he was a captain, and in this year took part in an expedition to Guiana. At that time the officers of the French navy were divided into two parties—the reds or nobles, and the blues or roturiers. At the outbreak of the Revolution, Kersaint, in spite of his high birth, took the side of the latter. He adopted the new ideas, and in a pamphlet entitled Le Bon Sens attacked feudal privileges; he also submitted to the Constituent Assembly a scheme for the reorganization of the navy, but it was not accepted. On the 4th of January 1791 Kersaint was appointed administrator of the department of the Seine by the electoral assembly of Paris. He was also elected as a député suppléant to the Legislative Assembly, and was called upon to sit in it in place of a deputy who had resigned. From this time onward his chief aim was the realization of the navy scheme which he had vainly submitted to the Constituent Assembly. He soon saw that this would be impossible unless there were a general reform of all institutions, and therefore gave his support to the policy of the advanced party in the Assembly, denouncing the conduct of Louis XVI., and on the 10th of August 1792 voting in favour of his deposition. Shortly after, he was sent on a mission to the armée du Centre, visiting in this way Soissons, Reims, Sedan and the Ardennes. While thus occupied he was arrested by the municipality of Sedan; he was set free after a few days’ detention. He took an active part in one of the last debates of the Legislative Assembly, in which it was decided to publish a Bulletin officiel, a report continued by the next Assembly, and known by the name of the Bulletin de la Convention Nationale. Kersaint was sent as a deputy to the Convention by the department of Seine-et-Oise in September 1792, and on the 1st of January 1793 was appointed vice-admiral. He continued to devote himself to questions concerning the navy and national defence, prepared a report on the English political system and the navy, and caused a decree to be passed for the formation of a committee of general defence, which after many modifications was to become the famous Committee of Public Safety. He had also had a decree passed concerning the navy on the 11th of January 1793. He had, however, entered the ranks of the Girondins, and had voted in the trial of the king against the death penalty and in favour of the appeal to the people. He resigned his seat in the Convention on the 20th of January. After the death of the king his opposition became more marked; he denounced the September massacres, but when called upon to justify his attitude confined himself to attacking Marat, who was at the time all-powerful. His friends tried in vain to obtain his appointment as minister of the marine; and he failed to obtain even a post as officer. He was arrested on the 23rd of September at Ville d’Avray, near Paris, and taken before the Revolutionary Tribunal, where he was accused of having conspired for the restoration of the monarchy, and of having insulted national representation by resigning his position in the legislature. He was executed on the 4th of December 1793.

His brother, Guy Pierre (1747–1822), also served in the navy, and took part in the American war of independence. He did not accept the principles of the Revolution, but emigrated. He was restored to his rank in the navy in 1803, and died in 1822, after having been préfet maritime of Antwerp, and prefect of the department of Meurthe.

See Kersaint’s own works, Le Bon Sens (1789); the Rubicon (1789); Considérations sur la force publique et l’institution des gardes nationales (1789); Lettre à Mirabeau (1791); Moyens présentés à l’Assemblée nationale pour rétablir la paix et l’ordre dans les colonies; also E. Chevalier, Histoire de la Marine française sous la première République; E. Charavay, L’Assemblée électorale de Paris en 1790 et 1791 (Paris, 1890); and Agénor Bardoux, La Duchesse de Duras (Paris, 1898), the beginning of which deals with Kersaint, whose daughter married Amédée de Duras.  (R. A.*)