Part 1 : Pasquale Paoli – General, Patriot, and Democrat

Pasquale Paoli Nutizie NustralePasquale Paoli (April 6th, 1725 in Merusaglia – February 5th, 1807 in London). Politician, inspired by the philosophical ideas of the Italian Luminati; General, patriot, democrat and leader of the Corsican Independent Nation.

The Corsican rebellion which took place in 1729-1743, and also that of the Corsican Republic in 1755-1769, served as references in the construction of the Corsican identity – allowing us to better comprehend the reasons of the struggle today. Pasquale Paoli is certainly the most renowned emblematic figure of this period.

His personality and his actions indeed interested those beyond the historians and the borders of Corsica. Highly attached to his island and culture, to his ‘homeland’, his notoriety is written within his time as a man of ‘Enlightenment’, who has forged friendships or correspondence throughout the whole of Europe.

His mother Dionisa Valentini, was married first of all to a cousin, Valentini. Compromised in a brawl, Hyacinthe Paoli (Ghjacintu de Paoli), was away from the island. In 1710, and after seven years of absence, Hyacinthe Paoli managed to annul the marriage, thus being able to marry Pasquale’s mother (Filippu Antoine Pasquale de Paoli), who had never had any children. Appointed (along with several notable Corsicans), Head of the Nation, before and after the departure of King Théodore de Neuhoff. He had joined the Corsican rebels a few months after the beginning of the rebellion in 1729 (January 1730). Pasquale, the youngest of his sons was born in Merusaglia – Corsica being under Genoese domination. As a young boy, he follows serious studies at the Observantins du Rustinu Convent. In 1637, with the Versailles Convention, France is committed to intervene in Corsica if Genoa requests it. Gian Francesco II Brignole Sale, a former Genoese chief of the Junta (also Genoese Ambassador) was to consider the demands of the insurgents and under the orders of the Count de Boissieux, received 3000 men from France under his orders. During the first operation (1738-1741), the French troops allied with  Genoa, are defeated in Borgo (December 13th, 1738). The Marquis de Maillebois, sent with reinforcement, obtains the surrender of the insurgents (July, 1740), thus provoking the exile of the leaders of the rebellion – Luiggi Giafferi, Hyacinthe Paoli and his son, Pasquale.

Youth in exile in Naples:

In 1739, Hyacinthe Paoli was forced to leave Corsica by the Genoese; affected by discords since 1729, he chose to find refuge in Naples, bringing Pasquale, who is now fourteen years of age. Being in contact with Théodore de Neuhoff, de Luiggi Giafferi and his father, Pasquale will receive an overview of European culture promoted by the European courts in the trail of royal absolutism of that time (Louis XIV). Through Théodore de Neuhoff, the Paolis will be brought to meet the Italian Luminati. It will be in Italy, and more particularly in Naples, that he will receive part of his training. Student at the Military School of Naples, he becomes a cadet in the Corsican troops of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, commanded by Colonel Simone de Fabiani with Royal Corsica. Thereafter, the relationship between the Paolis and the Fabianis will give way to a deep enmity. He will begin a career in the Royal Regiment of Farnèse. During this period, he will undergo teaching from Antonio Genovesi, holder of the first European Chair of Political Economy and Humanist, placing the interests of the people at the forefront of the legitimacy of power, and advocating the separation of the spiritual and the temporal. In economics, he insists on international commerce as a source of wealth, valuing the work – conceptions that Pasquale Paoli will apply later on. Avid reader of Montesquieu and British thinkers of the time, also showing scientific curiosity and following artillery courses at the Royal Academy. During all of this time, he attentively follows events in Corsica, and the revolt of part of the peasantry supported by the notables, against Genoese power.

The Generalate:

An Anglo-AustroSardinian coalition opposed to the French, the Spanish and the Genoese took possession of Bastia (1745), with the help of Dumenicu Rivarola (head of the Corsican faction). The second French intervention (1746) permitted Genoa to take back the city, taking advantage of the disagreement between the leaders Dumenicu Rivarola, Ghjuvan Petru Gaffory and Mario Matra. This same coalition, supported by the Corsicans, attack Bastia (1748), but must withdraw with peace from Aix-la-Chapelle. The island is administered by the Marquis de Cursay, on behalf of Genoa (1748). The Corsican patriots reject the proposed regulations, adopting a new system of government under the commandment of Ghjuvan Petru Gaffory (October, 1752). The Marquis de Cursay is relieved (Dec.1752). A year later, Ghjuvan Petru Gaffory is assassinated. A Regency led by Clémente Paoli is established. He calls Pasquale Paoli back. On April 20th, 1755, during the Consulta (assembly) which had reunited at the St François Convent in Caccia, Pasquale Paoli is sent for by the main Corsican leaders that rebelled against Genoa. The war that the Republic of Genoa continued to lead against Corsica was at its’ peak, and the representatives of the Nation were to nominate the leaders who would guide the country in this war. On April 20th, 1755, going to the Consulta as Deputy of Merusaglia, in order to become head of the insurrection for the Independence of Corsica, he is elected General of the Corsican Nation. Mariu Emanuellu Matra, who is head of an important party (parish of Fiumorbu, Castellu, Rogna, Alisgiani, Serra and Verde), also aspiring to the Generalate objects, and proposes his own candidacy.

On July 14th, at the St Antoine Convent of Casabianca, the election of Pasquale Paoli is confirmed – he is proclaimed Chief Executive Officer of the Nation and General of the Kingdom of Corsica. He is informed of this decision at home in Merusaglia where he had preferred to wait, allowing the Deputies freedom of speech without his presence.

Dismissed by the Consulta, Mariu Emanuellu Matra proclaims himself General at Alisgiani (August 10th, 1755). With a body of supporters, he marches against Pasquale Paoli. And it is on March 27th, 1757, that he surprises him in the Boziu area, accompanied by a few troops. Pasquale Paoli takes refuge in the Alandu Convent. On March 28th, while Mariu Emmanuelle Matra’s men force their entrance into the convent, Clemente Paoli arrives to help his brother – thus, obliging the attackers to withdraw. Mariu Emanuellu Matra is killed.

Source: Petru Poggioli Doctor of Political Science ©

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