FILIPPO ANTONIO PASQUALE DI PAOLI FRS (Italian pronunciation: ;
French: Pascal Paoli; 6 April 1725 – 5 February 1807) was a Corsican
patriot and leader, the president of the Executive Council of the
General Diet of the People of Corsica. Paoli designed and wrote the
Constitution of the state.
Corsican Republic was a representative democracy asserting that
the elected Diet of Corsican representatives had no master. Paoli held
his office by election and not by appointment. It made him
commander-in-chief of the armed forces as well as chief magistrate.
Paoli's government claimed the same jurisdiction as the Republic of
Genoa . In terms of de facto exercise of power, the Genoese held the
coastal cities, which they could defend from their citadels, but the
Corsican republic controlled the rest of the island from Corte , its
Following the French conquest of
Corsica in 1768, Paoli oversaw the
Corsican resistance. Following the defeat of Corsican forces at the
Battle of Ponte Novu
Battle of Ponte Novu he was forced into exile in Britain where he was
a celebrated figure. He returned after the
French Revolution which he
was initially supportive of. He later broke with the revolutionaries
and helped to create the
Anglo-Corsican Kingdom which lasted between
1794 and 1796. After the island was re-occupied by France he again
went into exile in Britain where he died in 1807.
* 1 Biography
* 1.1 Early years
* 1.2 President of the
* 1.3 French invasion
* 1.4 First exile
* 1.5 President of the department of
* 1.6 President of the British protectorate
* 1.7 Second exile
Pasquale Paoli and
* 3 Paoli commemorated in the United States
* 4 See also
* 5 References
* 6 Further reading
* 7 External links
Paoli was born in the hamlet of Stretta,
Morosaglia commune, part of
the ancient parish of Rostino,
Haute-Corse , Corsica. He was the
second son of the physician and patriot Giacinto Paoli , who was to
become one of three "Generals of the People" in the Corsican
nationalist movement that rebelled against rule by the Republic of
Genoa , which at that time they regarded as corrupt and tyrannical.
Prior to that century Corsicans more or less accepted Genoan rule. By
1729, the year of first rebellion, the Genovese were regarded as
failing in their task of government. The major problems were the high
murder rate because of the custom of vendetta , the raiding of coastal
villages by the
Barbary pirates , oppressive taxes and economic
In the rebellion of 1729 over a new tax, the Genovese withdrew into
their citadels and sent for foreign interventions, first from Austria
and then from France. Defeated by professional troops the Corsicans
ceded violence but kept their organisation. After surrendering to the
French in 1739 Giacinto Paoli went into exile in
Naples with his then
14-year-old son, Pasquale. An older brother, Clemente, remained at
home as a liaison to the revolutionary diet, or assembly of the
Corsica was subsequently distracted by the War of the Austrian
Succession during which troops of a number of countries temporarily
occupied the cities of Corsica. In
Naples Giacinto perceiving that he
had a talented son spared no effort or expense in his education, which
was primarily classical. The enlightenment of which Pasquale was to
become a part was neo-classical in its art, architecture and
sentiments. Paoli is said once to have heard an old man on the road
Vergil , walked up behind him, clapped him on the back, and
resumed reciting at the point where the other had left off. In 1741
Pasquale joined the Corsican regiment of the royal Neapolitan army and
Calabria under his father.
Corsican exiles in Italy were seeking assistance for the revolution,
including a skilled general. In 1736 the exiles of Genoa had
discovered Theodor von Neuhoff , a soldier of fortune whom they were
willing to make king, but he was unsuccessful and in 1754 languished
in debtors' prison in London. The young Pasquale became of interest
when in opposition to a plan to ask the Knights of Malta to assume
command he devised a plan for a native Corsican government. In that
year Giacinto decided that Pasquale was ready to supplant Theodore and
wrote to Vincente recommending that a general election be held. The
subsequent popular election called by Vincente at Caccia made Pasquale
General-in-Chief of Corsica, commander of all resistance.
Corsica at that time was still under the influence of feuding clans,
as a result of which only the highland clans had voted in the
election. The lowlanders now held an election of their own and elected
Mario Matra as commander, who promptly attacked the supporters of
Paoli. Moreover, Matra called on the Genovese for assistance, dragging
Paoli into a conflict with them. Matra was killed shortly in battle
and his support among the Corsicans collapsed.
Paoli's next task was to confine the Genovese to their citadels. His
second was to design a constitution which when ratified by the
population in 1755 set up a new republic, a representative democracy.
Its first election made Paoli president, supplanting his former
Pasquale Paoli by
Henry Benbridge , 1768
From a book by
Edward Joy Morris , published 1855
Oil by Sir
William Beechey , about 1805
PRESIDENT OF THE CORSICAN REPUBLIC
Flag of the
Corsican Republic (1755–1769) Main article:
In November 1755, the people of
Corsica ratified a constitution that
Corsica a sovereign nation, independent from the Republic
of Genoa. This was the first constitution written under Enlightenment
principles. The new president and author of the constitution occupied
himself with building a modern state; for example, he founded a
university at Corte .
Main article: French Conquest of
Seeing that they had in effect lost control of Corsica, Genoa
responded by selling
Corsica to the French by secret treaty in 1764
and allowing Genovese troops to be replaced quietly by French ones.
When all was ready in 1768 the French made a public announcement of
the union of
Corsica with France and proceeded to the reconquest.
Paoli fought a guerilla war from the mountains but in 1769 he was
defeated in the
Battle of Ponte Novu
Battle of Ponte Novu by vastly superior forces and
took refuge in England.
Corsica officially became a French province in
'A literary party at Sir Joshua Reynolds's'. Use
a cursor to see who is who.
In London, Paoli attracted the attention of the
almost immediately for which his expansive personality made him a
natural fit. By the time Paoli entered the scene it had in part taken
the form of The Club of mainly successful men of a liberal frame of
mind. Such behaviour as Paoli showing his bullet-ridden coat to all
visitors and then demanding a gratuity for the observation were
amusing to the group, which had begun when its members were starting
their careers and according to its chronicler
James Boswell were
Paoli's memoirs were recorded by Boswell in his book, An Account of
After a series of interviews with King
George III , Paoli was given a
pension by the crown with the understanding that if he ever returned
Corsica in a position of authority he would support British
interests against the French. This was not, however, a cynical
arrangement. Paoli became sincerely pro-British and had a genuine
affection for his new friends, including the king, a predisposition
that in the
French Revolution led him into the royalist camp. The
arrangement also was not a treaty of any sort, as at the time neither
George III would have any idea of future circumstances.
PRESIDENT OF THE DEPARTMENT OF CORSICA
By the time of the
French revolution the name of Paoli had become
something of an idol of liberty and democracy. In 1790 the
revolutionary National Assembly in Paris passed a decree incorporating
Corsica into France, essentially duplicating the work of 1780 but
under a new authority. It granted amnesty to exiles, on which Paoli
embarked immediately for Corsica. He arrived in time for the election
of departmental officers at Orezza, ran for President, and was elected
Napoleon Bonaparte , organiser of the elections and
active Jacobin , did not run at this time, but he was as much an
admirer of Paoli as anyone.
Napoleon, on leave from his artillery regiment, returned to the
Auxonne , where he was working on a history of Corsica.
Writing to Paoli he asked his opinion on some of it and for historical
documents. The differences between the two men became apparent. Paoli
thought the history amateurish and too impassioned and refused the
documents; Napoleon at this point had no idea of Paoli's regal
connections in Britain or moderate, even sympathetic, sentiments about
PRESIDENT OF THE BRITISH PROTECTORATE
Paoli split from the
French Revolution over the issue of the
execution of the king and threw in his lot with the royalist party. He
did not make these views generally known, but when the revolutionary
government ordered him to take
Sardinia he put his nephew in charge of
the expedition with secret orders to lose the conflict. In that case
he was acting as a British agent, as the British had an interest in
Sardinia they could not pursue if the French occupied it.
He had however also sent
Napoleon Bonaparte as a colonel in command
of two companies of Corsican guard (unofficially reinforced by 6000
Marseille ), which participated in the assault on
La Maddalena Island in February 1793. It failed because the commander,
Pietro Paolo Colonna-Cesari, failed to take appropriate military
action, because the island had been reinforced just prior to the
attack, and because the defenders seemed to know exactly where and
when the revolutionaries were going to strike.
Napoleon perceived the situation during the first confrontation with
his commander and assumed de facto command but the attack failed and
he barely escaped. Enraged, after having been a strong supporter and
admirer of Paoli, he and the entire Bonaparte family denounced Paoli
as a traitor before the
French National Convention . Arrest warrants
were issued and sent to
Corsica along with a force intended to take
the citadels from the royalists, who had supplanted the Genovese after
the sale of Corsica. Combining together the Paolists and royalists
defeated the Bonapartes and drove them from the island.
Paoli then summoned a consulta (assembly) at Corte in 1793, with
himself as president and formally seceded from France. He requested
the protection of the British government, then at war with
revolutionary France. In 1794 British sent a fleet under Admiral
Samuel Hood . This fleet had just been ejected from the French port of
Toulon by a revolutionary army following the plan of Napoleon
Bonaparte, for which he was promoted to Brigadier General. The
Toulon also had requested British protection. Napoleon
was now dispatched to deal with Italy as commander of the French
For a short time,
Corsica was a protectorate of King
George III ,
chiefly by the exertions of Hood's fleet (e.g. in the Siege of Calvi
), and Paoli's co-operation. This period has become known as the
Anglo-Corsican Kingdom " because
George III was accepted as sovereign
head of state, but this was not an incorporation of
Corsica into the
British Empire. The relationship between Paoli's government and the
British was never clearly defined, resulting in numerous questions of
authority. At last the crown invited Paoli to resign and return to
exile in Britain with a pension, which, having no other options now,
he did. Not long after, the French reconquered the island and all
questions of Corsican sovereignty came to an end until the 20th
Cenotaph of Pasquale Paoli, at
Westminster Abbey (London).
Paoli set sail for England in October 1795, where he lived out his
final years. Pascale Paoli died on 5 February 1807 and was buried in
Old St. Pancras
Old St. Pancras Churchyard in London. His name is listed on the 1879
Burdett-Coutts Memorial amongst the important graves lost.
A bust was placed in
Westminster Abbey . In 1889 his bones were
Corsica in a British frigate and interred at the family
home under a memorial in the Italian language.
Pasquale never married and as far as is known had no heirs.
Information about his intimate life is mainly lacking; however, it is
believed he had an affair with
Maria Cosway . However, Robert Harvey
claims he was homosexual, when discussing how
Carlo Buonaparte became
Paoli's personal secretary.
PASQUALE PAOLI AND ITALIAN IRREDENTISM
Italian irredentism was a political or historical
Pasquale Paoli lived long before its time and did not have
anything to do with the movement that ended with the occupation of
Corsica by Italian fascist troops in late 1942, during
World War II
World War II .
There is no question, however, that Paoli was sympathetic to Italian
culture and regarded his own native language as an Italian dialect
(Corsican is an
Italic language closely related to Tuscan , Sicilian
and, to some extent,
Sardinian language ). He was considered by
Niccolò Tommaseo , who collected his Lettere (Letters), as one of the
precursors of the
Italian irredentism . The "Babbu di a Patria"
(Father of the fatherland), as was nicknamed
Pasquale Paoli by the
Corsican Italians , wrote in his Letters the following appeal in 1768
against the French invaders: Monument to Pasquale Paoli, the
Corsican hero who made Italian the official language of his Corsican
Republic in 1755
We are Corsicans by birth and sentiment, but first of all we feel
Italian by language, origins, customs, traditions; and Italians are
all brothers and united in the face of history and in the face of God
... As Corsicans we wish to be neither slaves nor "rebels" and as
Italians we have the right to deal as equals with the other Italian
brothers ... Either we shall be free or we shall be nothing... Either
we shall win or we shall die (against the French), weapons in hand ...
The war against France is right and holy as the name of God is holy
and right, and here on our mountains will appear for Italy the sun of
("Siamo còrsi per nascita e sentimento ma prima di tutto ci sentiamo
italiani per lingua, origini, costumi, tradizioni e gli italiani sono
tutti fratelli e solidali di fronte alla storia e di fronte a Dio…
Come còrsi non-vogliamo essere né schiavi né "ribelli" e come
italiani abbiamo il diritto di trattare da pari con gli altri fratelli
d'Italia… O saremo liberi o non-saremo niente… O vinceremo con
l'onore o soccomberemo (contro i francesi) con le armi in mano... La
guerra con la Francia è giusta e santa come santo e giusto è il nome
di Dio, e qui sui nostri monti spunterà per l'Italia il sole della
Pasquale Paoli wanted the
Italian language to be the official
language of his Corsican Republic. His
Corsican Constitution of 1755
was in Italian and the short-lived university he founded in the city
of Corte in 1765 used Italian.
PAOLI COMMEMORATED IN THE UNITED STATES
Sons of Liberty movement were inspired by Paoli.
Ebenezer McIntosh , a leader of the Sons of Liberty, named his son
Paschal Paoli McIntosh in honour of him. In 1768, the editor of the
New York Journal described Paoli as "the greatest man on earth".
Several places in the United States are named after him. These
Paoli, Pennsylvania , which was named after "General Paoli's
Tavern" a meeting-point of the
Sons of Liberty and homage to the
"General of the Corsicans".
* History of
* ^ A B Gregorovius, Ferdinand (1855). Corsica: Picturesque,
Historical, and Social: with a Sketch of the Early Life of Napoleon
and an account of the Bonaparte, Paoli, Pozzo di Borgo, and other
Edward Joy Morris (trans.). Parry & M'Millan. pp.
* ^ Lear, Edward (1870). Journal of a Landscape Painter in Corsica.
London: Robert John Bush. p. 260. Downloadable Google Books.
* ^ Boyle, Edward (1977). Biographical Essays, 1790–1890. Ayer
Publishing. Chapter 5, Pasquale Paoli. ISBN 0-8369-0237-8 .
* ^ Nabulsi, Karma (1999). Traditions of War: Occupation,
Resistance, and the Law. Oxford University press. pp. 205–206. ISBN
* ^ Williams, Nicola; Oliver Berry; Steve Fallon; Catherine Le
Nevez (2007). France. Lonely Planet. p. 942. ISBN 1-74104-233-X .
* ^ Baring-Gould, Sabine (2006). The Life of Napoleon Bonaparte.
Adamant Media Corporation. p. 4. ISBN 0-543-95815-9 .
* ^ \'A literary party at Sir Joshua Reynolds\'s, D. George
Thompson, published by Owen Bailey, after James William Edmund Doyle,
published 1 October 1851
* ^ Boswell, James (1768). An account of Corsica, the journal of a
tour to that island, and memoirs of Pascal Paoli (1769). London: E.
and C. Dilly.
* ^ Baring-Gould, page 38.
* ^ Baring-Gould, page 40.
* ^ "La Maddalena, 22/25 February 1793". Military Subjects: Battles
& Campaigns. The Napoleon Series. 1995–2004. Retrieved 29 May 2008.
* ^ "The removal of the mortal remains of PASCAL PAOLI from this
Corsica took place on Saturday, in accordance with the
expressed desire of the famous patriot's countrymen". The Morning
Post. London. 2 September 1889. p. 4. access-date= requires url=
* ^ The War of Wars, Robert Harvey, Constable and Robinson Ltd,
2006, pp. 59
* ^ N. Tommaseo. "Lettere di Pasquale de Paoli" (in Archivio
storico italiano, 1st series, vol. XI).
* This article incorporates text from a publication now in the
public domain : Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Paoli, Pasquale".
Encyclopædia Britannica . 20 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
James Boswell 's Account of
Corsica and Memoirs of P Paoli (1768)
* N Tommaseo, "Lettere di Pasquale de Paoli" (in Archivio storico
italiano, 1st series, vol. xi.), and Della Corsica, etc. (ibid., nuova
serie, vol. xi., parte ii.);
* Pompei, De L'état de la Corse (Paris, 1821); Giovanni Livi,
Lettere inedite di
Pasquale Paoli (in Arch. stor. ital., 5th series,
vols. v. and vi.);
* Bartoli, Historia di Pascal Paoli (Bastia, 1891); Lencisa, P.
Paoli e la guerra d'indipendenza della
Corsica (Milano, 1890).
John Ralston Saul
John Ralston Saul , Voltaire's Bastards: The Dictatorship of