French Leaders

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Francois Barbe-Marbois (1745 -1837). French consul, early revolutionary, friend of Thomas Jefferson and other important Americans, he belonged to Napoleon's inner circle. As minister of the public treasury he negotiated directly with Livingston and Monroe on price, conditions, and the description of Louisiana Territory. Survived Waterloo, and served under two succeeding French monarchs. Wrote an account of the Purchase, which was published in 1821.

Joseph Buonaparte, later Bonaparte (1768 -1844). Brother of Napoleon I, next oldest brother, felt himself entitled to consideration as heir to the crown. Employed as an occasional diplomat, concluded treaty with U.S. at Morfontaine in 1800. King of Naples briefly, and after that country fell under French rule, King of Spain. Argued against continuation of European conflict by urging his older brother to acquire and maintain an overseas empire, which would include Louisiana. Too weak to be successful in any serious endeavor, he was a refugee in the United States after his brother's final exile to St.Helena.

Lucien Buonaparte, later Bonaparte (1775 -1840). Fiery brother of Napoleon I, active in revolutionary circles and influential with portion of French public. He was a proverbial thorn in Napoleon's side: always argumentative, at odds with prevailing policy and determinedly difficult. His espousal of colonial views may well have alienated his oldest brother from that scheme. After defeat lived in exile in Italy.

Manuel de Godoy (1767 -1851), Duke of Alcudia, later named (some thought ironically) Prince of Peace. He gained this title because he brokered peace between Spain and France at Basel in 1795. Clever and self assured, he was a match for Tallyrand and Napoleon. Sought to block retrocession of Louisiana Territory, or at least to gain some significant advantage from it.

Pierre César Labouchere (1772-1839) and his British brother-in-law, Alexander Baring, were the major banking figures in the negotiations leading to the Louisiana Purchase and to subsequent American payments to European bondholders as the debt was redeemed. Labouchere was the son of Huguenot French parents then living in The Hague. He trained in the cloth business in Nantes at age 13 and moved to Amsterdam in 1789 to apprentice to the Scottish founded, Dutch merchant banking firm of Henry Hope and Company. Within five years, during the turbulent times of the French Revolution and occupation of Holland, he became a full partner in the firm. As conditions warranted, he lived in London or Amsterdam, conducting business diligently wherever he was. As the Peace of Amiens came to an end during the LouisianaPurchase negotiations, Alexander Baring was forced to return to England and Labouchere finalized arrangements for the Purchase.

Labouchere retired to England upon a magnificent estate, well stocked with the art of Dutch Masters, his success founded upon probity and square dealing. His views on financial honesty were well known: "I wish that the House [of Hope & Co.] mightalways have as its motto: 'Honour and Profit.' But if either of these must be erased, I would that it be the latter."

Napoleon I (1769—1821). Son of Corsican official and revolutionary, sent to France as a young teenager to become army officer. Gifted in mathematics, he chose artillery, welcomed revolution, was employed by various factions to control opposition, became member of ruling elite and eventually First Consul in 1798. Directed armies through successful northern Italian campaign and prepared for acquiring French hegemony in Europe. After dallying with the idea of developing overseas empire, decided naval resources were inadequate, and because he was land oriented, decided to sell his new Louisiana acquisition. Whether he did this in order to wean U.S. away from its Anglophilia, to gain a possible ally against England or simply because he need immediate cash to prosecute a new war against a British-led coalition is impossible to know.

Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Periogord (1754 -1838). Descended from old and noble family, he was victim of childhood accident that crippled him. Because some careers were closed to him, he was groomed for the Church, became Bishop and ultimately a moderate revolutionary. Clever, corrupt, he is often described as "glabrous." Napoleon distrusted and perhaps feared him, but employed him because of his talents. During a sojourn in the U.S. caused by The Terror in France, Talleyrand developed disdain for the rustics who had successfully engineered their own break from England. He soon became persona non grata because of his role in the X, Y, Z affair and his later demand for a bribe to broker the Louisiana negotiations. Although he gained and lost power periodically, he was consistent in his wish to cement a Franco-British alliance. His views supported the neo-colonial arguments of Joseph and Lucien Bonaparte and had he gotten his way, Louisiana would have remained French.