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HISTORY. 1768: Paoli warned of a conspiracy threatening his person by Colonel de Ludre who had just capitulated to Borgu

Charged with holding his position in the village of Borgu, Colonel de Ludre, commander of the Royal Legion, must capitulate for want of food. The next day, October 9, this barely 27-year-old officer went to Paoli with 40 officers and 700 troopers. The conditions of this capitulation are described in an exchange of letters between the French colonel and the Corsican general. Paoli gives orders from his headquarters in the convent of Lucciana: “Officers will be assigned a place where they will have to live under their word of honor.” Soldiers whose security cannot be secured for this condition will be kept in some particular convent or house. » The Marquis de Chauvelin will get from Paoli “The passport to transport food to them on mules”.

Confined to Corte with his staff, Colonel de Ludre against all expectations, cultivates a privileged relationship with Paoli who will make it possible to soften his captivity to the point of making it available to him. «Turkish», the horse that the bey of Tunis had offered him. The fact that Colonel de Ludre is Choiseul’s nephew probably owes nothing to this favorable treatment, for the reason for this unexpected rapprochement is elsewhere.

Colonel de Ludre was in fact in a hurry to inform his jailer of the plot against him. Namely that Marbeuf and Chauvelin, exasperated by their defeat at Borgu, now plan to capture Paoli dead or alive, thinking that his elimination would put a stop to the resistance of the islanders.

Or, “As soon as he became aware of it, Colonel de Ludre, who did not share the feelings of hatred of Marbeuf and the Marquis de Chauvelin towards the Corsicans and their leader, immediately informed him of the danger that threatened him.” » (1)

An investigation in the general’s entourage allows the young Matteo Massesi to be implicated, who is none other than the own son of the great chancellor Giuseppe Maria Massesi, an important figure, author of all the laws concerning Corsica. “Despite his victory, the situation is almost impossible for the general.” French money buys the island chiefs, one after the other. And the Massesi case clearly reveals that one seeks to physically eliminate him like Gaffori. »(2)

On December 4, 1768, Paoli, mortified at the discovery of the plot hatched against him, wrote to Count Rivarola: “They never set traps for me to kill me.” Now that they see their machinations uncovered, they condemn such processes. The gallant man who warned me of the betrayal of the young Massesi, has just informed me that Chauvelain is ill, I believe he must be, because he has seen his blow missed once more. He had expressly delayed his departure for France. He believes he is better off after my death; he is wrong. »

“Strangled in his dungeon at night”

Betrayed by his family, Paoli confides his bitterness to his friend Cocchi, denouncing in a letter “The odious betrayal of the young Massesi, signaling the magnificent gesture of generosity of Colonel de Ludre, a worthy continuator of the virtues of the famous Fabricius.” »(3)

What fate will be reserved for Matteo Massesi who worked in the shadows for the loss of the general? Choosing between condemnation and forgiveness is Paoli’s terrible case of conscience. Massesi is sentenced to death by a military court, his mother begging in vain for his son’s forgiveness. For once the betrayal was proved, it was difficult for Paoli to grant the slightest indulgence. Many examples in history, beginning with the terrible end of Sampiero, give little encouragement to meekness.

Impunity for a guilty of high treason would have been misunderstood.

“Paoli, for a moment, was shaken, leaving justice to its own devices. Too soft an indulgence towards the guilty, which, moreover, was not too much in his character, would have presented dangers. » (4)

Paoli ne pouvant “listen to pity without breaking the law,” the son of the Grand Chancellor Giuseppe Maria Massesi, convicted, was executed in February 1769. Not in the open in public, but tortured out of sight, in a barbaric ritual: “Massesi was strangled in the dungeon of Corte during the night, in the pale glow of a lamp, between a monk of St. Francis and a detachment of the general’s guard.” Her father lost both Paoli’s seals and confidence. » (5)

As a result, Chancellor Massesi resigned. “Marbeuf then had him appointed a member of the superior council, the supreme court in charge of the administration of justice in the name of the king.” As such, he is in charge of the inventory of the archives of the Corsican government, which probably explains the disappearance of the records of his son’s trial. »(6)

After the French defeat at Borgu, Chauvelin is recalled to be replaced by a more seasoned general and fine connoisseur of the field for having practiced it in 1757, the Count of Vaux. Landing on April 4, 1769 in Saint-Florent with 20,000 men, he would lead a month after a decisive battle, that of Ponte Novu.

“I will not go to Corsica,” said the general, “to begin again with the faults which have thwarted previous attempts at occupation.” »

With this principle in mind, Vaux will be careful not to get bogged down in sterile attacks on Bastia and Saint-Florent as his predecessors did. Aiming directly at the heart of Paulist power, he will direct his troops to Corte, the seat of the national government in the center of the island. Its first objective will be to seize the mountain ridge of the Tenda massif.

(1, 3) Pascal Paoli legislator, statesman, administrator. Bulletin de la Société des Sciences (2) Antoine-Marie Graziani. Pascal Paoli father of the Corsican homeland. Tallandier. (4, 5) Arrigo Arrighi. History of Pascal Paoli or the last war of independence. Imprimerie Fabiani frères (6) Jean-Marie Arrighi. Historical Dictionary of Corsica. Albiana.

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