Littell's Living Age/Volume 144/Issue 1855/Some Victims of French Diplomacy

Littell's Living Age
Volume 144, Issue 1855 : Some Victims of French Diplomacy

Originally published in the Pall Mall Gazette.

Paris, Sept 15.

The disaster at Cabul, which has aroused a great deal of sympathy here, reminds people that French diplomacy has also had its victims. In the days of Louis XIV., when the Duc de Crequi was ambassador at Rome, the pope’s Corsican guard made an attack on his servants, killed one and wounded several others. The French king immediately marched troops to the frontier, and the affrighted pontiff consented to disband his Corsicans, to exile his brother Maria Chigi, to send his nephew the cardinal to apologize, and to raise a monument in Rome recording the offence and the reparation. A century later another outrage was perpetrated in Rome on a French representative—on Hugon de Basseville—who had been sent thither on a mission by the ambassador at Naples in 1792. Nothing would suit Basseville but to drive up and down the Corso in an open carriage, his own hat and his horses’ heads being decorated with tricolor ribbons. The result was an émeute, during which Basseville was wounded by a soldier, and after being dragged some distance by the crowd, he was killed. This event provoked war between France and the Holy See, which only terminated with the Treaty of Tolentino. A few years later a similar scene was enacted in Rome, ending in the death of General Duphot, who was on the staff of the French ambassador, Joseph Bonaparte. The ambassador immediately left the city, which was shortly afterwards occupied by a French army corps commanded by Berthier, who proclaimed the Roman republic. In the same year three plenipotentiaries who had been sent by the Directory to the Congress of Radstadt were attacked on leaving the city by some Austrian hussars. The citizens Robertjot and Bonnier were killed outright, and Jean Debry was desperately wounded. Although the Directory threatened vengeance, this crime remained unpunished; for Bonaparte was in Egypt and French affairs were in a very sorry plight. A little later the citizens De Sémonville and Maret, who were passing through Austria on their road, the first to represent France at Constantinople and the second at Naples, were arrested and thrown into prison, where they remained for thirty months, when they were exchanged for the daughter of Louis XVI. Citizen Maret afterwards served Napoleon as foreign minister, and became better known as the Duc de Bassano. Bernadotte, too, who had been sent as ambassador to Vienna, got into trouble owing to an untoward display of Jacobinism. On an Austrian fête-day he dressed the embassy with tricolored flags, and in spite of the efforts of the police his palace was sacked and his flags burned in the public square. Protected by a strong escort, he left Vienna, thinking the Directory would at once declare war; but the Directory had other matters in hand, and the matter was amicably arranged at Salsburg.

About the same period, war having broken out with Turkey, Pierre Ruffin, French clhargé d’affaires, was flung into prison and there remained for the space of three years. A similar fate at the same time overtook Jean Bon St. André, who was seized and imprisoned by the dey of Algiers. “The Anti-Jacobin” makes out that the head of this Conventionalist was cut off at Tunis, and that he was succeeded by Bernadotte —

          We hear the French Directors
     Have thought the point so knotty,
          That, the Dey having shown
          He dislikes Jean Bon,
     They have sent him Bernadotte.

Bernadotte did not go to north Africa; and Jean Bon St. André, who commenced life as a Protestant clergyman, then sat in the Convention, and fought the English at sea, lived to serve Napoleon for many years as a prefect. There are some other instances of French representatives having been ill-treated. The Marquis de la Chatardie was imprisoned in Russia in the time of the empress Elizabeth for conspiracy; but no notice was taken of this affair, as the ambassador had not presented his credentials. Frederick the Great also treated the Marquis de Fraigne in the same way; but the marquis was regarded rather as the lover of the Princess of Anhalt-Zerbzt, mother of Catherine II. of Russia, than as an envoy. It is recorded, too, that in the days of Francis I., and when that monarch concluded a treaty with the Turks so as to strengthen his hands against Charles V., M. de Rincon, accredited to Soliman II., was made away with at the instigation of the emperor. But this affair has always remained somewhat obscure. The French have generally respected the persons of ambassadors; but under the regency the Prince de Cellemarre (the Spanish ambassador) conspired so boldly that the Duke of Orleans had him arrested and imprisoned at Blois. It is true that at the same time the Duc de Saint Aignan, French ambassador at Madrid, was engaged in a conspiracy to overthrow Philip V. and Cardinal Alberoni; but the duke left Spain before his intrigues were discovered. Under the Restoration a tap of a fan applied to the cheek of the French minister resulted in the deposition of the dey of Algiers and the addition to France of a splendid colony. The last tragedy of a diplomatic nature, as far as France is concerned, occurred a short while ago at Salonica, where the French and German consuls were massacred by an infuriated crowd.