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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Roderigue Hortalez and Company was a fictitious business set up by the Ancien Régime in France under King Louis XVI of the House of Bourbon as a front organization to secretly fund the American Revolution in early 1776.[1] The ruse was organized by Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais, a playwright, watch-maker, inventor, musician, politician, fugitive, spy, publisher, arms-dealer, and revolutionary.

Weapons and materials were procured to help the Americans fight the British, enemies of France at the time, through the fake business.

Contents

Background

After the 7 Years' War, France had lost much of her North American colonial possessions and had been badly humiliated by the British. Spain, who had been an ally of France, also lost many colonial possessions. England, meanwhile, had many colonies throughout North America.

In 1774, Charles Gravier, Comte de Vergennes was appointed the foreign minister of France by Louis XVI. Vergennes was strongly anti-England, at one point declaring "England is the natural enemy of France."[1] His chance to strike at England came through Pierre Beaumarchais.

In 1773, a jealous nobleman got into a scuffle with Beaumarchais, resulting in the playwright spending ten weeks in jail and losing his citizenship rights.[2] He pledged his services to Louis XV and Louis XVI in order to restore his civil rights.[3]

The company in operation

Beaumarchais, working as a secret agent, had traveled to the Virginia colony to discover how to best strike back against England. After meeting with Virginian businessman Arthur Lee he suggested to his government that it encourage the rebellion in the Thirteen colonies by sending secret military aid disguised as a loan. Beaumarchais believed England's economy would be significantly crippled without the thirteen colonies. Louis XVI and Vergennes agreed. Spain wanted revenge and promised to provide matching contributions. Both states were unwilling to openly show their support, at least until after the rebellion was successful.[1] Beaumarchais was granted 1 million livres from France and 1 million livres from Spain in May 1776 to start Roderigue Hortalez and Company to secretly fund the Revolution.[1][4]

Before the Declaration of Independence was even signed, weapons and other necessities were already flowing. Muskets, cannons, cannon balls, gunpowder, bombs, mortars, tents and enough clothing for 30,000 men were sent. This assistance kept American hopes alive during the spring of 1776.[5]

Opposition

The only major opposition to the plan came from French minister of finance Baron Turgot. He insisted that American independence would occur whether or not France financed the rebellion.[1] He said the funding would add to the already heavy burden of a general French military and naval buildup and would lead to bankruptcy. Turgot eventually resigned in protest.[5]

References

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