Open main menu

Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Bonaparte, Joseph

< Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography

BONAPARTE, Joseph, king of Spain, b. in Corte, Corsica, 7 Jan., 1768; d. in Florence, Italy, 28 July, 1844. He was the elder brother of Napoleon Bonaparte, became an advocate in Corsica, and was an early supporter of the French revolution. He was military commissary of Napoleon's army in Italy in 1796, French minister to Rome in 1797, and afterward member of the council of five hundred, of the tribunate, and of the council of state in Paris. By his shrewd statecraft and engaging manners he rendered his brother effective assistance in his political schemes. He negotiated the treaty of peace with the United States in 1800, the treaty with Germany in 1801, and the treaty with Great Britain at Amiens in 1802. He was sent with an army to Naples in February, 1806, and entered the city and assumed, in obedience to Napoleon's commands, the title of king. In 1808 he reluctantly exchanged the throne of Naples for that of Spain. His rule being regulated by his brother's policy and not by his own well-meaning impulses, he was twice driven out of Madrid by hostile armies, and twice reinstated, but in June, 1813, was defeated by Wellington at Vittoria, and soon afterward left Spain. In January, 1814, he was appointed lieutenant-general of the empire in the absence of Napoleon, and in March he consented to the capitulation of Paris. When Napoleon returned in 1815, Joseph went to Paris and exerted himself to obtain the support of his influential friends for a restoration of the empire under constitutional guarantees. He had a single interview with his brother after the battle of Waterloo, arranged to meet him in the United States, and sailed for New York from Royan, 25 July, 1815, under the assumed name of Comte de Survilliers. He bought a mansion in Philadelphia, and a country-seat near Bordentown, N. J . An act to enable him to hold real estate was passed by the legislature of New Jersey in 1817, and when he acquired a summer-place on the edge of the Adirondack forest a similar law was enacted by the New York assembly. He was accompanied to the United States by his two daughters and the prince of Canino, husband of the elder daughter, Zénaïde; but his wife, who was the daughter of a merchant of Marseilles and sister of the queen of Sweden, remained an invalid in Europe. His benevolence and hospitality, his affable and courtly manners, and his knowledge and taste, made him a general favorite. He endeavored to advance the claims of Napoleon II. after the revolution of July, 1830, and in 1832, when the duke of Reichstadt fell ill, he went to Europe, but remained in England upon hearing of his nephew's death. He returned to the United States in 1837, but remained only two years. Obtaining permission in 1841 to reside in Italy, he passed the remainder of his life in Florence. The confidential letters that passed between him and Napoleon I. were published in “Memoires et correspondance politique et militaire du roi Joseph,” by A. du Casse. See also “Mémoires,” by Miot de Melito, and “Biographical Sketch of Joseph Bonaparte” (London, 1833).