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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

England had supplied Paoli with munitions and arms


In

spite of the French occupations, from 1708 to 1756, in spite of the refusals with which Cardinal Fleury had but lately met their appeals, the Corsicans, newly risen against the oppression of Genoa, had sent a deputation to Versailles to demand the recognition of their republic, offering to pay the tribute but lately paid annually to their tyrannical protectress.

The hero of Corsican independence, Pascal Paoli, secretly supported by England, had succeeded for several years past not only in defending his country's liberty, but also in governing and at the same time civilizing it. This patriotic soul and powerful mind, who had managed to profit by the energetic passions of his compatriots whilst momentarily repressing their intestine quarrels, dreamed of an ideal constitution for his island; he sent to ask for one of J. J. Rousseau, who was still in Switzerland, and whom he invited to Corsica. The philosophical chimeras of Paoli soon vanished before a piece of crushing news. The Genoese, weary of struggling unsuccessfully against the obstinate determination of the Corsicans, and unable to clear off the debts which they had but lately incurred to Louis XV., had proposed to M. de Choiseul to cede to France their ancient rights over Corsica, as security for their liabilities. A treaty, signed at Versailles on the 15th of May, 1768, authorized the king to perform all acts of sovereignty in the places and forts of Corsica; a separate article accorded

to Genoa an indemnity of two millions.

A cry arose in Corsica. Paoli resolved to defend the independence of his country against France, as he had defended it against Genoa. For several months now French garrisons had occupied the places still submitting to Genoa; when they would have extended themselves into the interior, Paoli barred their passage; he bravely attacked M. de Chauvelin, the king's lieutenant-general, who had just landed with a proclamation from Louis XV. to his new subjects. "The Corsican nation does not let itself be bought and sold like a flock of sheep sent to market," said the protest of the republic's Supreme Council. Fresh troops from France had to be asked for; under the orders of Count Vaux they triumphed without difficulty over the Corsican patriots. Mustering at the bridge of Golo for a last effort, they made a rampart of their dead; the wounded had lain down amongst the corpses to give the survivors time to effect their retreat. The town of Corte, the seat of republican government, capitulated before long. England had supplied Paoli with munitions and arms; he had hoped more from the promises of the government and the national jealousy against France. "The ministry is too weak and the nation too wise to make war on account of Corsica," said an illustrious judge, Lord Mansfield. In vain did Burke exclaim, "Corsica, as a province of France, is for me an object of alarm!" The House of Commons approved of the government's conduct, and England contented herself with offering to the vanquished Paoli a sympathetic hospitality; he left Corsica on an English frigate, accompanied by most of his friends, and it is in Westminster Abbey that he lies, after the numerous vicissitudes of his life, which fluctuated throughout the revolutions of his native land, from England to France and from France to England, to the day when Corsica, proud of having given a master to France and the Revolution, became definitively French with Napoleon.


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