Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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SOULE, Pierre, statesman, born in Castillon, in the French Pyrenees, in September, 1802; died in New Orleans, 26 March, 1870. His father held the inherited post of a magistrate when the French revolution began. He then entered the army of the new republic, and rose to high rank, but finally returned to the bench. Pierre, his youngest son, was sent to the Jesuits' college at Toulouse, to be prepared for ecclesiastical orders; but the rigid discipline was repugnant to him, and he returned home in 1816 The following year he was sent to the city of Bordeaux to complete his education ; but he took part in a plot against Louis XVIII., was detected, and fled on foot to the mountains of the ancient Bearn country, where, disguised--as a shepherd, he remained a year. The government pardoned him, and he returned to Bordeaux, where he taught in an academy, and he then removed to Paris, where he earned support as a tutor while completing his education, and then studied law. In 1824 Soule's pen found access to the Paris Liberal journals, and introduced him to the intimacy of the Liberal leaders. In 1825 he was an editor of "Le Nain jaune," a paper noted for its extreme liberal ideas and the bitterness of its attacks upon the ministers of Charles X. One of the severest of these articles was traced to Soule, and he was arrested and tried before the cour correctionnelle. Soule's lawyer sought rather to soften the severity of the impending sentence than to defend his client's course, whereupon Soule, indignant at this surrender of his honest convictions, rose in court and defended them boldly, frankly, and eloquently. His sentence was only the more severe--close Confinement in the prison of St. Pelagie and a fine of 10,000 francs. The only escape from this was self-exile. Soule left Paris, with the passport of his friend, the poet Barthelemy, who closely resembled him. He had an offer from the president of Chili to become his private secretary, and he intended to sail from England with the Chilian charge d'affaires, but when he had crossed the channel the ship on which he was to embark had departed. Soule now was reduced to such a strait that he returned to France, prepared to face the dungeon. At Havre, just as he landed, he was met by a friend, afterward a French admiral, who persuaded him to embark for Hayti, where he arrived in September, 1826. He was kindly received by President Boyer, to whom he bore letters of introduction, but, finding no opening, sailed in October for Baltimore, and thence went to New Orleans toward the close of the year. He found a knowledge of English indispensable, and went to Tennessee to study it, becoming for a while a guest of General Andrew Jackson. Afterward he went to Bardstown, Kentucky, where, falling sick and being without funds, he obtained employment as a gardener, and while engaged in that capacity learned English and studied the elements of American law. On his return to New 'Orleans, Soule studied Louisiana law in the office of Moreau Lislet, speedily passed his examination in English, and then became Lislet's partner. He rose rapidly in his profession, and for many years he was associated in the conduct of most of the celebrated civil and criminal cases in the Louisiana courts; but he was more distinguished for originality, power, and brilliancy as an advocate than for profundity as a jurist. He entered polities, in the first presidential campaign after he began his legal career, as a public speaker on the Democratic side. Under the new constitution of 1845 Mr. Soule was elected to the state senate. In 1847 Governor Isaac Johnson appointed him to the United States senate to fill a vacancy, and in 1849 he was elected to that body by the legislature for the full term. In all public measures affecting the south he espoused the extreme southern view. He took an active part in the long debates upon Henry Clay's compromise bill of 1850, and led his party in opposition to that measure. He frequently challenged Clay and Webster in debate, and advocated secession without delay, foreseeing, as he claimed, that from compromise to compromise the sovereignty of the states would speedily surrender to the supremacy of a central government. In March, 1853, President Pierce offered Soule the mission to Spain, with the special object in view of the acquisition of Cuba. This news preceded him to Madrid, and he was received there very coldly. At a ball in Madrid a remark by the Duke of Alva was accidentally heard by Mr. Soule's son, Nelvil, who considered it offensive to his family, and, though the duke denied any such intention, a duel with swords was the result. Mr. Soule then challenged the French ambassador, the Marquis de Turgot, as responsible for what had taken place under his roof, and crippled him for life. On 28 August, 1854, a revolutionary outburst took place in the streets of Madrid. It has been charged that Mr. Soule favored this with all his power; but there is no evidence to show it, though he doubtless sympathized, as was natural, with the Spanish Liberal party. In 1854, Mr. Soule was one of the ministers that framed the celebrated " Ostend manifesto" (see PIERCE, FRANKLIN), and it was understood that he was the moving spirit in its preparation. At some previous period he had violently attacked Napoleon III., and when on his way to Ostend he was stopped by the authorities at the southern frontier of France; but as soon as the officials at Paris were informed of this they sent him authority to pursue his journey. At the same time French spies followed him to Ostend. Mr. Soule was naturally deeply disappointed by his government's policy of non-action upon the manifesto. He resigned in June, 1855, and returned to New Orleans, where he resumed the practice of law without abandoning politics. In 1856, and again in 1860, he warmly advocated the nomination of Stephen A. Douglas for the presidency. After the election of Abraham Lincoln, Mr. Soule, to the surprise of his friends, opposed secession, and favored "cooperation" of the southern states to secure what they considered their rights. With this view, when Governor Thomas O. Moore called a state convention in January, 1861, Mr. Soule was a candidate for delegate, but was not elected. During the canvass he depicted in the darkest colors the calamities secession would bring, and predicted the defeat of the south, but declared that he would abide by the decision of his state. On the passage of the ordinances of secession he tendered his services to the Confederate government, but, being in failing health, he soon returned to New Orleans, and remained there until the city fell into the hands of the National forces in April, 1862. Shortly afterward he was arrested and taken to Fort Lafayette, New York harbor, where he was imprisoned for several months. Finally he was released and went to Nassau, whence, in the autumn of 1862, he ran the blockade at Charleston and tendered his set-vices to General Beauregard. After serving on his staff for some time as an honorary member, Mr. Soule went to Richmond in 1863, and was commissioned a brigadier-general to raise a foreign legion ; but the plan was not carried out. Mr. Soule then went to Havana. In the summer of 1864 he became connected with Dr. William M. Gwin in the latter's scheme for settling Sonora, in Mexico, with immigrants from California. This was a project patronized by Napoleon III.; the Confederate government had no connection with it. It failed through disagreement between Maximilian and Dr. Gwin. When, at the close of the war, Mr. Soule returned to New Orleans, though his health was broken and his fortune was gone, he resumed the practice of his profession, but in 1868 he had to give up all work. Soule's remarkable powers of eloquence were acknowledged by Henry Clay and Daniel Webster. The effect of his glowing periods was deepened by a strong, clear, and mellow voice and by a massive and imposing form, a noble head, with long, glossy, black locks, flashing black eyes, and an olive-tinted face, which was cast in the mould of the great Napoleon's and was full of expression.
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