Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Choiseul Correspondence, 1777-1781

Finding aid created by
Robert S. Cox, November 1990, and Philip Heslip, February 2010

Summary Information
Title: Choiseul correspondence
Creator: Choiseul, Louis Marie Gabriel César de, 1734-1796
Inclusive dates: 1777-1781
Extent: 15 items
Abstract:
This collection contains 15 letters, in French, mostly to Choiseul to the Marquis de Monteil, during his time in Turin, Sardinia. These document a strong interest in the American Revolution, particularly in naval matters.

Language: The material is in French
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site: www.clements.umich.edu


Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1948, 1985. M-717, M-2202.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.

Copyright:

Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the "We the People" project.

Preferred Citation:

Choiseul correspondence, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


Arrangement

This collection is organized chronologically.


Biography

Louis Marie Gabriel César de Choiseul, baron d'Esguilly, was born in 1734 at Autun, France. His father was César Gabriel de Choiseul, duc de Praslin (1712-1785), French diplomat and statesman. Louis Choiseul entered into armed service as a musketeer in the second company, 1747, and served successively in the King's Regiment (sous-lieutenant, 1750; lieutenant, 1755) and the Gendarmes-Dauphin (capitaine-lieutenant, 1761). From 1757 to 1762 he served in the Seven Years' War, but thereafter his political ambitions took him away from his military career.

In 1765, Choiseul was named ambassador to Turin, then capital of the Kingdom of Sardinia. He is remembered in his diplomatic career for arranging several marriages with political ramifications: the princess of Carignan with the prince of Lamballe (1766); the comte de Provence with Marie-Josephe Louise and the the comte d'Artois with Marie-Thérèse de Savoie (1771-1773), daughters of the Sardinian King; and the Prince of Piémont with Marie Adélaïde Clotilde Xavière (1775). During the course of his long mission, Choiseul was charged with monitoring the situation between Austria and Prussia, until the question of the Bavarian Succession was resolved (1778-1779), and he played an important role in monitoring Sardinian maneuvers relative to French-held Corsica. The French government recognized this service by promoting him to brigadier (1770) and ultimately to maréchal de camp (1780). Between 1778 and 1791, during absences from his post at Turin, Choiseul was replaced by the chargé d'affaires, Nicolas-François Tricot de Lalande.

Choiseul held fairly strong pro-British opinions during the American Revolution, but in the first years of the French Revolution, even while accepting the émigré princes, he appears to have expressed pro-Republican, pro-Democratic views. Choiseul's mission at Turin came to an end in either late 1791 or early 1792. He returned to France to find his property sequestered by the republican government. Choiseul died in 1796.

The Marquis de Monteil (b. 1718) was selected as ambassador to the Republic of Genoa in 1777. He was charged with obtaining a definitive interpretation of the Treaty of Versailles (1768) with respect to French intentions to annex Corsica. During the American Revolution, the Genoese maintained a neutral stance, but allowed the French and Spanish navies to use their ports.


Collection Scope and Content Note

The Choiseul correspondence consists of 13 letters from Choiseul to the Marquis de Monteil, one from Choiseul to "monsieur le comte,” and one letter from [Nicolas François Tricot] de Lalande. All letters are addressed from Turin, Sardinia. More than half of these letters were written between September 1777 and October 1778, with the remainder dated from late 1780 to early 1781. All letters are in French. Typed transcripts are available for 9 letters between Choiseul and the Marquis de Monteil.

Choiseul's letters document a strong interest in the American Revolution, particularly in naval matters. Beginning as early as 1778, Choiseul was pessimistic about British chances for retaining the American colonies, and his pessimism increased after French Admiral Charles-Henri d'Estaing's fleet was sent to aid the Americans' fight against the British at sea. He was opposed to plans circulating among members of the French military command to continue the war with the English. The letters also contain discussions of Choiseul's and Monteil's diplomatic efforts in Sardinia, Genoa, and Piedmont, as well as commentary on the Bavarian Succession.

Subject Terms

    Subjects:
    • Anglo-Dutch War, 1780-1784.
    • Belle-Polue (frigate)
    • Brandywine, Battle of, Pa., 1777.
    • Burgoyne, John, 1722-1792.
    • Byron, John, 1723-1786.
    • Chabot, Louis-Antoine-Auguste, duc de Rohan, 1733-1807.
    • Corsica (France)--History--French Domination, 1768-1794.
    • Darby, George, d. 1790.
    • Diplomatic and consular service, French.
    • Dorchester, Guy Carleton, Baron, 1724-1808.
    • Estaing, Charles Henri, comte d', 1729-1794.
    • France. Marine.
    • France--Colonies.
    • France--Foreign relations.
    • France--Foreign relations--Great Britain.
    • France--Foreign relations--Prussia.
    • France--Foreign relations--Spain.
    • Frederick II, King of Prussia, 1712-1786.
    • Genoa--Foreign relations--Sardinia.
    • Gibraltar.
    • Grasse, François Joseph Paul de Grasse, comte de, 1722-1788.
    • Great Britain. Royal Navy.
    • Great Britain--Foreign relations--France.
    • Guichen, Luc Urbain de Bouecix, comte de, 1712-1790.
    • Howe, Richard Howe, Earl, 1726-1799.
    • Howe, William Howe, Viscount, 1729-1814.
    • Keppel, Augustus Keppel, Viscount, 1725-1786.
    • Knights of Malta.
    • Latouche-Tréville, Louis-René de, 1745-1804.
    • Lennox, George Henry, 1737-1805.
    • Malta--Foreign relations--Sardinia.
    • Malta--Politics and government.
    • Maltese language.
    • Monmouth, Battle of, Freehold, N.J., 1778.
    • Murio, Jerome.
    • Philadelphia Campaign, 1777-1778.
    • Prussia--Foreign relations--France.
    • Rochambeau, Donatien Marie Joseph de Vimeur, vicomte de, 1750-1813.
    • Rodney, George Brydges Rodney, Baron, 1719-1792.
    • Russo-Turkish War, 1787-1792.
    • Sardinia (Italy)--Diplomatic and consular service.
    • Sardinia (Italy)--Foreign relations--Genoa.
    • Sardinia (Italy)--Foreign relations--Malta.
    • Sardinia (Italy)--Politics and government--1708-1861.
    • Ségur, Louis-Philippe, comte de, 1753-1830.
    • Suffren de Saint-Tropez, Pierre André de, 1729-1788.
    • Ternay, Charles Henry Louis d'Arsac, chevalier de, 1723-1780.
    • United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783.
    • United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783--Participation, French.
    • Valperga di Caluso, Tommaso, 1737-1815.
    • Vergennes, Charles Gravier, comte de, 1719-1787.
    • Washington, George, 1732-1799.
    Genre Terms:
    • Letters (correspondence)
    Contents List
       Container / Location    Title
    Box   1  
    Choiseul correspondence [series]:
     
      1777 September 18 : [Louis-Marie-Gabriel-César de] Choiseul, [baron d'Esguilly] ALS to [Charles-Francois Just, marquis de Monteil]. Turin [Kingdom of Sardinia].
    News of losses by the "insurgents" in America; political effects of Sardinian juggling of ambassadors.
     
      1777 December 31 : [Louis-Marie-Gabriel-Cesar] de Choiseul, [baron d'Esguilly] ALS to "monsieur le comte." Turin [Kingdom of Sardinia].
    British chances in America are very poor, peace should come soon; Choiseul does not believe war between France and Britain is imminent.
     
      1778 May 30 : [Louis-Marie-Gabriel-César de Choiseul, baron d'Esguilly] ALS to [Charles-Francois Just, marquis de Monteil]. Turin [Kingdom of Sardinia].
    The English actually want peace; the French should content themselves with the damage the English will suffer from the loss of their colonies.
     
      1778 July 11 : [Louis-Marie-Gabriel-César de Choiseul, baron d'Esguilly] ALS to [Charles-Francois Just, marquis de Monteil]. Turin [Kingdom of Sardinia].
     
      1778 August 9 : [Louis-Marie-Gabriel-César de Choiseul, baron d'Esguilly] ALS to [Charles-Francois Just, marquis de Monteil]. Turin [Kingdom of Sardinia].
    Rumors on the whereabouts of d'Estaing.
     
      1778 August 22 : [Louis-Marie-Gabriel-César de Choiseul, baron d'Esguilly] ALS to [Charles-Francois Just, marquis de Monteil]. Turin [Kingdom of Sardinia].
    Unconfirmed report of a naval battle with the British.
     
      1778 September 2 : [Louis-Marie-Gabriel-César de Choiseul, baron d'Esguilly] ALS to [Charles-Francois Just, marquis de Monteil]. Turin [Kingdom of Sardinia].
    "J'ai de la confiance aux lumieres des anglais, ils finiront par voir que notre guerre est absurde"
     
      1778 October 14 : [Louis-Marie-Gabriel-César de Choiseul, baron d'Esguilly] ALS to [Charles-Francois Just, marquis de Monteil]. Turin [Kingdom of Sardinia].
    Comments on European politics; d'Estaing has an advantage over one of the English fleets.
     
      1778 October 21 : [Louis-Marie-Gabriel-César de Choiseul, baron d'Esguilly] ALS to [Charles-Francois Just, marquis de Monteil]. Turin [Kingdom of Sardinia].
    News of victories by d'Estaing and Washington
     
      1780 August 12 : [Louis-Marie-Gabriel-César de Choiseul, baron d'Esguilly] ALS to [Charles-Francois Just, marquis de Monteil]. Turin [Kingdom of Sardinia].
    The French presence in America has raised American morale.
     
      1780 September 19 : [Louis-Marie-Gabriel-César de Choiseul, baron d'Esguilly] ALS to [Charles-Francois Just, marquis de Monteil]. Turin [Kingdom of Sardinia].
    Ternay, Guichen, and Solano are prepared to deal the English a strong blow in America; peace expected in the Spring.
     
      1780 December 20 : [Louis-Marie-Gabriel-César de Choiseul, baron d'Esguilly] ALS to [Charles-Francois Just, marquis de Monteil]. Turin [Kingdom of Sardinia].
    [Business of Versailles]
     
      1781 January 17 : [Louis-Marie-Gabriel-César de Choiseul, baron d'Esguilly] ALS to [Charles-Francois Just, marquis de Monteil]. Turin [Kingdom of Sardinia].
    Re: Anglo-Dutch war: "le possessions hollandaises seront pour eux…une vache a lait inepuissable."
     
      1781 May 2 : [Louis-Marie-Gabriel-César de Choiseul, baron d'Esguilly] ALS to [Charles-Francois Just, marquis de Monteil]. Turin [Kingdom of Sardinia].
    Events in 1781 will "change the fate of the universe."
     
      1781 November 7 : [Nicholas-Francois-Tricot] de Lalande ALS to [Charles-Francois Just, marquis de Monteil]. Turin [Kingdom of Sardinia].
    Maltese politics
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Partial Subject Index
    Anglo-Dutch War, 1780-1784.
    • 13
    Belle-Polue (frigate)
    • 4
    Brandywine, Battle of, Pa., 1777.
    • 1
    Burgoyne, John, 1722-1792.
    • 2
    Byron, John, 1723-1786.
    • 6, 9
    Chabot, Louis-Antoine-Auguste, duc de Rohan, 1733-1807.
    • 7
    Corsica (France)--History--French Domination, 1768-1794.
    • 8
    Darby, George. [d. 1790].
    • 12
    Diplomatic and consular service, French.
    • 6, 9, 13-15
    Dorchester, Guy Carleton, Baron, 1724-1808.
    • 2
    Estaing, Charles Henri, comte d', 1729-1794.
    • 3, 5-7, 9, 12, 13
    France--Colonies.
    • 2
    France--Foreign relations.
    • 14
    France--Foreign relations--Great Britain.
    • 1-5, 7, 8, 11
    France--Foreign relations--Prussia.
    • 8
    France--Foreign relations--Spain.
    • 11
    France. Marine.
    • 6, 7, 9
    Frederick II, King of Prussia, 1712-1786.
    • 3
    Genoa--Foreign relations--Sardinia.
    • 10-12
    Gibraltar.
    • 10, 11, 14
    Grasse, François Joseph Paul de Grasse, comte de, 1722-1788.
    • 14, 15
    Great Britain--Foreign relations--France.
    • 2-5, 7, 8
    Great Britain. Royal Navy.
    • 6, 7
    Guichen, Luc Urbain de Bouecix, comte de, 1712-1790.
    • 11
    Howe, Richard Howe, Earl, 1726-1799.
    • 5
    Howe, William Howe, Viscount, 1729-1814.
    • 1, 2
    Keppel, Augustus Keppel, Viscount, 1725-1786.
    • 5-7
    Knights of Malta.
    • 15
    Lennox, George Henry, 1737-1805.
    • 3
    Malta--Foreign relations--Sardinia.
    • 15
    Malta--Politics and government.
    • 15
    Maltese language.
    • 15
    Monmouth, Battle of, Freehold, N.J., 1778.
    • 8
    [Murio, Jerome].
    • 7-9
    Philadelphia Campaign, 1777-1778.
    • 1
    Prussia--Foreign relations--France.
    • 8
    Rochambeau, Donatien Marie Joseph de Vimeur, vicomte de, 1750-1813.
    • 10, 11
    Rodney, George Brydges Rodney, Baron, 1719-1792.
    • 10, 12, 13, 15
    Russo-Turkish War, 1787-1792.
    • 2, 3
    Sardinia (Italy)--Diplomatic and consular service.
    • 1, 10
    Sardinia (Italy)--Foreign relations--Genoa.
    • 10-12
    Sardinia (Italy)--Foreign relations--Malta.
    • 15
    Sardinia (Italy)--Politics and government--1708-1861.
    • 4, 12, 15
    Ségur, Louis-Philippe, comte de, 1753-1830.
    • 13
    Suffren de Saint-Tropez, Pierre André de, 1729-1788.
    • 14
    Ternay, Charles Henry Louis d'Arsac, chevalier de, 1723-1780.
    • 11
    United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783.
    • 2, 3, 6, 7
    United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783--Participation, French.
    • 4, 5, 8-11, 15
    Valperga di Caluso, Tommaso, 1737-1815.
    • 13
    Vergennes, Charles Gravier, comte de, 1719-1787.
    • 1, 8-11, 13
    Washington, George, 1732-1799.
    • 2, 9