France and America in the Revolutionary Era: The Life of Jacques-Donatien Leray de Chaumont, 1725-1803

By Thomas J. Schaeper | Go to book overview

11
TWILIGHT YEARS

BETWEEN TWO REVOLUTIONS

W hen the Franklin family departed from Passy in July 1785, Chaumont was 60 years old. The remaining 18 years of his life cannot have been happy ones. The financial troubles that besieged him starting in 1780 continued through the decade. Disputes with Silas Deane and John Holker over who owed whom money refused to go away and never were resolved.1 The royal commission investigating whether Chaumont had been overpaid for his services in the grain trade in the 1770s still met irregularly.2

At the château of Chaumont-sur-Loire, the sculptor Nini died in May 1786. Apparently the partnership between the Italian and Chaumont had been earning modest profits up to that time. Chaumont thereupon leased the pottery business to a Frenchman named Mercier. Over the next couple of years, however, Chaumont had to fend off legal charges from Nini's family concerning supposed debts to the deceased artist.3

Chaumont himself was owed considerable sums by various business associates, but his own debts were even greater. Each year he provided the government with evidence of sincere efforts to pay his creditors, and each year the crown renewed his arrât de surséance. This protected his property and other assets from seizure. The final arrêt came on 11 July 1789.4

Chaumont still dreamed of commercial enterprises that would help him recover his old wealth and prestige. For example, in 1785- 1786 he corresponded with the French navy about the possibility of supplying treenails and lumber. He hoped these would be

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France and America in the Revolutionary Era: The Life of Jacques-Donatien Leray de Chaumont, 1725-1803
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations vii
  • Abbreviations vii
  • Preface viii
  • 1 - CHAUMONT'S FIRST FIFTY YEARS 1
  • 2 - FRANCE AND THE COMING OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION 38
  • 3 - CHAUMONT ENTERS THE PICTURE 63
  • 4 - BENJAMIN FRANKLIN'S LANDLORD 92
  • 5 - CHAUMONT AS FRIEND, ASSOCIATE, AND ENEMY 122
  • 6 - CONGRESSIONAL SUPPLIES 156
  • 7 - PRIVATE TRADE WITH AMERICA 194
  • 8 - JOHN PAUL JONES: FRIEND 227
  • 9 - JOHN PAUL JONES: ENEMY 254
  • 10 - FINANCIAL RUIN 290
  • 11 - TWILIGHT YEARS 319
  • Appendix 348
  • Bibliography 349
  • Index 377
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