Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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BEAUMARCHAIS, Pierre Augustin Caron de, French author, born in Paris, 24 January 1732 ; died 1S May 1799. He was the son of a watchmaker named Caron, and his inventive and musical talents gained him admission to the court. Through business associations with the financier Duverney he acquired a fortune, which he augmented by a wealthy marriage, His eloquent pleadings in a suit, brought against him by the heir of his part-net Duverney, rendered him conspicuous as a victim of injustice and a champion of liberty. In 1775 he memorialized the king in advocacy of aiding the American colonies in their struggle with the British crown. He held negotiations with Arthur Lee, agent of the colonists, and finally persuaded the prime minister, Maurepas, to sanction a loan of 1,000,000 livres and to secure the advance of an equal sum from the Spanish government. Arms and ammunition for the Americans were delivered from the public arsenals to Beaumarchais, operating under the firm name of Roderique Hor-talez & county, on his entering into an obligation to replace them. In the early part of 1777 he shipped, in three of his own vessels, 200 guns, 25,000 muskets, and 200,000 pounds of gunpowder, and sent over on the "Amphritrite" 50 European officers, among the number La Rouerie, Pulaski, and Baron Steuben. The shipments were continued, but, owing to an erroneous impression that the supplies were a gift from the French government, congress failed to make remittances, and the French government advanced another million francs to relieve Beaumarchais from his embarrassments, and he persevered in forwarding supplies until 1779. The United States were indebted to Beaumarchais at the end of the transactions in the sum of 4,000,000 francs, an obligation which the American government was unable to meet, and which was finally compromised in 1835, by the payment of 800,000 francs to his heirs. He engaged in a variety of financial speculations, such as establishing a national bank of discount, supplying Paris with water, publishing the collected works of Voltaire, etc., which were generally successful, His writings are remarkable for their literary qualities, and some of them for their influence on events. The drama "Eugenie" (1768) was founded on experiences that befell his sister; "Le Barbier de Seville" (1775) was very successful; "Le Mariage de Figaro" (1784) brilliantly satirized the aristocracy. During the French revolution he fell under the suspicions of the Montagnards and fled to England, whence he issued a memoir, entitled "Messix epoques," vindicating his attachment to the cause of liberty. He returned and died suddenly during the directory. See "Beaumarchais and his Times," by M. de Lomenie, Paris, 1856; "Notice sur la vie de Beaumarchais," by Saint-Marc Girardin ; "Vie de P. A. Caron de Beaumarchais," by Cousin d'Avalon (1802); and " Essai sur la vie et les ouvrages de Beaumarchais," by E. Berger. His collected works were published by Gudin de la Brenellerie (7 vols., Paris, 1809; new ed., 1821-'7).
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