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Choiseul, ÉTienne Francois, Duc De -1785

French statesman; born June 28, 1719; became a lieutenant-general in the army in 1759; and was at the head of the French ministry when, in 1761, cabinet changes in England threatened to diminish the power of that government. He was minister of foreign affairs, and in January, 1761, became minister of war, and annexed those departments to the marine. Like Pitt, he was a statesman of consummate ability. He was of high rank and very wealthy, and was virtually sole minister of France.

When the British had despoiled France of her American possessions Choiseul eagerly watched for an opportunity to inflict a retaliatory blow; and he was delighted when he perceived that a rising quarrel between Great Britain and her American colonies foreshadowed a dismemberment of the British Empire. Choiseul determined to foster the quarrel as far as possible. He sent the Baron de Kalb to America in the disguise of a traveller, but really as a French emissary, to ascertain the temper of the people towards the mother-country. The report of the baron did not warrant the hope of an immediate rupture.

But Choiseul waited and watched, and in the summer of 1768 he saw reasons for expecting an almost immediate outbreak of rebellion in America. He wrote to the French minister in London that facts and not theories must shape French action at that crisis. He proposed to make a commercial treaty with the discontented colonies, both of importation and exportation, at the moment of rupture, the advantages of which might cause them at once to detach themselves from the British government. He believed the separation must come sooner or later, and wished [149] to hasten the hoped — for event. He perceived the difficulties that stood in the way of the consummation of his scheme, weighed their evils, but still persisted. He said to the minister, “I firmly believe and hope this government will so conduct itself as to widen the breach” ; and he was sanguine that his plans would result in gratifying the wishes of every Frenchman. But Choiseul had to wait seven years before these wishes were gratified, and then he was dismissed from office by the successor of the old King (Louis XV.) whom he had ruled so long. He died in Paris, May 7, 1785.

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