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Bible Encyclopedias

1911 Encyclopedia Britannica

Hugues-Bernard Maret

Duc DE Bassano (1763-1839), French statesman and publicist, was born at Dijon. After receiving a sound education, he entered the legal profession and became advocate at the King's Council at Paris. The ideas of the French Revolution profoundly influenced him, and wholly altered his career. The interest aroused by the debates of the first National Assembly suggested to him the idea of publishing them, conjointly with Mejean, in the Bulletin de l'Assemblee. The publicist Charles Joseph Panckoucke (1736-1798), owner of the Mercure de France and publisher of the famous Encyclopedie (1781), persuaded him to merge this in a larger paper, the Moniteur universel, which gained a wide repute for correctness and impartiality. He was a member of the moderate club, the Feuillants; but after the overthrow of the monarchy on the 10th of August 1792 he accepted an office in the ministry of foreign affairs, where he sometimes exercised a steadying influence. On the withdrawal of the British legation from Paris Maret went on a mission to London, where he had a favourable interview with Pitt on the 2nd of December 1792. All hope of an accommodation was, however, in vain. After the execution of Louis XVI. (Jan. 21, 1793), the chief French diplomatic agent, Chauvelin, was ordered to leave England, while the French Convention declared war (Feb. 1, 1793). These events precluded the possibility of success attending a second mission of Maret to London in January. After a space, in which he held no diplomatic post, he became ambassador of the French Republic at Naples; but, while repairing thither with De Semonville he was captured by the Austrians and was kept in durance by them for some thirty months, until, at the close of 1795, the two were set free in return for the liberation of the daughter of Louis XVI. For a time Maret betook himself to journalism; but he played a useful part in the negotiations for a peace with Great Britain which went on at Lille during the summer of 1797, until the victory of the Jacobins at Paris in the coup d'etat of Fructidor (Sept. 1797) frustrated the hopes of Pitt for peace and inflicted on Maret another reverse of fortune. On the return of Bonaparte from Egypt in 1799 Maret joined the general's party which came to power with the coup d'etat of Brumaire (Nov. 9-10, 1799).

Maret now became one of the First Consul's secretaries and shortly afterwards secretary of state. In this position his moderation, industry, good sense, knowledge of men and of affairs, made his services of great value. The Moniteur, which became the official journal of the state in 1800, was placed under his control. He sometimes succeeded in toning down the hard, abrupt language of Napoleon's communications, and in every way proved a useful intermediary. It is known that he had a share in the drawing up of the new constitutions for the Batavian and Italian Republics. In 1804 he became Minister; in 1807 he was named count, and in 1809 he received the title of duc de Bassano, an honour which marked the sense entertained by Napoleon of his strenuous toil, especially in connexion with the diplomatic negotiations and treaties of this period. His personal devotion to the emperor was of that absolute unwavering kind which Napoleon highly valued; it is seen in the attempt to defend the unworthy artifices adopted by the great man in April-May 1808 in order to make himself master of the destinies of Spain. Maret also assisted in drawing up the constitution destined for Spain, which the Spaniards at once rejected.

Maret accompanied Napoleon through most of his campaigns, including that of 1809; and at its close he expressed himself in favour of the marriage alliance with the archduchess Marie Louise of Austria, which took place in 181o. In the spring of 1811, the duc de Bassano replaced Champagny, duc de Cadore, as minister of Foreign Affairs. In this capacity he showed his usual industry and devotion, concluding the treaties between France and Austria and France and Prussia, which preceded the French invasion of Russia in 1812. He was with Napoleon through the greater part of that campaign; and after its disastrous conclusion helped to prepare the new forces with which Napoleon waged the equally disastrous campaign of 1813. But in November 1813 Napoleon replaced him by Caulaincourt, duc de Vicence, who was thought to be more devoted to the cause of peace and personally grateful to the emperor Alexander I. of Russia. Maret, however, as private secretary of the emperor, remained with his master through the campaign of 1814, as also during that of 1815. After the second restoration of the Bourbons he was exiled, and retired to Gratz where he occupied himself with literary work. In 1820 he was allowed to return to France, and after the Revolution of 1830, Louis Philippe, king of the French, made him a peer of France; he also held two high offices for a few days. He died at Paris in 1839. He shares with Daru the honour of being the hardest worker and most devoted supporter in Napoleon's service; but it has generally been considered that he carried devotion to the length of servility, and thus often compromised the real interests of France. This view has been contested by Baron Ernouf in his work Maret, duc de Bassano, which is the best biography.

For Maret's mission to England in 1792 and his work at Lille in 1797, see Augustus W. Miles, Letters on the French Revolution; J. H. Rose, The Life and Times of William Pitt, and for other incidents of Maret's career, the memoirs of Bourrienne, Pasquier, Meneval and Savary (duc de Rovigo), may be consulted. Thiers's account of Maret is in general hostile to him. - (j. HI. R.)

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Bibliography Information
Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Hugues-Bernard Maret'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. 1910.

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