Round-the-world expedition La Perouse
Among the many stories about the Great French Revolution, there is such a legend. 21 January 1793, King Louis XVI last appeared before his former subjects. At his service was not an elegant carriage, decorated with family gold lilies, but a prison carriage in which Louis Capet, as the last monarch of the Old Order officially was called, was carried to death.
Eyewitnesses claimed that the monarch in the last moments of his life was calm and restrained. A few steps before the scaffold steps, he suddenly turned to executioner Charles Henri Sanson: “Brother, tell me, what do you hear about the La Perouse expedition?” , about a ravaged country and a crown that rolls off his head, but the very fact of the existence of such a legend is quite significant. The first traces of the once disappeared expedition of Count Laperuz will be found only a few decades later, and all the details of the fate of its members are still unknown.
French reply to James Cook
Anglo-French maritime rivalry along with the struggle for the colonies, the whole XVIII century permeated the whole series of wars. It did not stop in the peaceful years. Both sides tried to put as much of their newly discovered lands on the globe, and more and more expeditions went to distant seas and poorly known countries.
The sad results of the Seven Years' War and the Paris Peace that followed it significantly reduced French colonial possessions. Huge territories were lost in Canada, New France, and possessions in India were reduced to small patches. Most parts of such a complex structure as the French colonial empire, whose foundations were laid under Cardinal Richelieu, were broken and lost. It was necessary to start anew, if not from the foundation, then, in any case, from the first floor.
In 1766, Louis Antoine despatched to the first French round-the-world trip Bougainville. Behind him, Jacques Surville, Marc-Joseph Marion Dufren set sail for the Pacific Ocean and in 1772, Yves-Joseph Tremarek Kerguelen. The British do not remain in debt: three at short intervals around the world travel undertaken earlier by an unknown lieutenant fleet His Majesties James Cook, make him famous not only in England, but throughout Europe. The significance of the discoveries made by this illustrious navigator can hardly be overestimated, especially since the third odyssey cost Cook his life.
The French are determined to continue their research in the distant seas, and not all the information received by James Cook, become the property of the general public. France needs its own Cook and its own, large-scale, expedition. It was necessary to penetrate into the Pacific Ocean and to make studies for consolidation in this region.
At the court of the new king Louis XVI, there were people who hoped to alleviate the situation of an increasingly tumbling country into the financial abyss through the establishment of intensive maritime trade. The king himself, distinguished by his love of reading, often sat behind geographical maps and atlases, holding in his hands the book of memoirs of James Cook. He not without reason believed that in his country there were sailors no worse.
The American War of Independence, which ended in the 1783 year of the Versailles Peace Treaty, despite a number of concessions on the part of England, did not improve the financial affairs of France. Under similar conditions, the maritime department, under the leadership of the current minister, the Marquis de Castries, and with the full approval of the king, began planning a large research expedition that had, among other things, intelligence purposes.
The most widely involved in the development of the concept was the chief geographer of France, Count Claret de Fleurio. The former Minister of the Navy (still under Louis XV) de Fleuriou was well-versed not only in geography, but also in the maritime business. That he is credited with drawing up plans for the conduct of hostilities at sea against England during the American War. In the middle of 80's. In the 18th century, the count was chief of ports and arsenals. In 1785, de Fleurou was summoned to a meeting with the king, and as a result, a long list of parts of the globe was made where he could still be discovered.
Louis decided that the time had come, and ordered the preparation to begin. It was up to the leader who, due to his large-scale goals, tasks and responsibilities, was supposed to be an extraordinary person - at least a “French Cook”. Maritime Minister de Castries stated with satisfaction that he had such a man.
Count of Languedoc
22 August 1741 was born in the city of Albi. Jean-François de Galo de Laperouse. His family lived in this region of the country for five centuries. The boy’s father, Victor-Joseph de Galo, inherited a large fortune and enjoyed influence. Mother Margarita de Ressegier was a woman who successfully combined refined manners and a deep mind.
From childhood, Jean-Francois loved to read, especially books on voyages, long voyages and discoveries. Already matured, he will get acquainted with the writings of the Englishman James Cook, and this will greatly affect his hobbies and goals in life. For the rest of his life, La Perouse will keep underlined respect and admiration for Captain Cook.
Jean-Francois received a good education, the teachers spoke of him as an ardent, impetuous and intelligent boy. Young Laperuz was so fascinated by the sea, travel and adventure that he did not hesitate in choosing a profession in life. Of course, he wanted to become a sailor. Unlike many parents, who, in their opinion, know better what kind of occupation their offsprings should determine for themselves, La Perouse’s mother and father did not hinder their son: the fleet was so fleet.
In October 1756, the 15-year-old Laperuz becomes a cadet of the maritime academy in Brest. Six months later, France entered the Seven Years' War. Dreams of sea travel began to be realized faster than the youth from Languedoc imagined.
In the spring of 1757, a squadron commanded by Admiral Dubois de la Motte began to form in Brest. Her task was to deliver reinforcements and supplies for the French troops in Canada. Marquis de Montcalmwho launched an operation against the British in this overseas theater, was in dire need of reinforcements. Jean-Francois La Perouse is assigned to the Celebra 64-gun battleship. The squadron left Brest and was able to deliver cargo and troops to Canada. She returned, breaking the English blockade, six months later. Typhus raged in the carriages, and more than six hundred patients were transported to the shore.
The second major clash of this war, in which Laperuz had the opportunity to take the most direct part, was the extremely unsuccessful naval battle at the Cyberon Peninsula 20 November 1759 of the year. France with one blow tried to turn the tide of combat operations against England in its direction, planning to make a landing in Scotland. Blocked in Brest, the French fleet was ordered to break through the blockade and cover the amphibious transports. This inevitably led to the collision with the English squadron of Admiral Edward Hawk with the disastrous result for the naval forces of Louis XV.
Six ships were sunk, and the 80-gun "Formidable" under the pennant of the youngest flagship of Admiral du Verget was captured. It was on this ship that Laperuz served. "Formidable" severely damaged by enemy fire, more than two hundred people from his crew were killed, including Admiral du Verger. Laperuz himself was shot in the arm. After spending some time in captivity, the young man returned to his homeland. As often happened in those days, he was released on parole.
Ile de France, India and marriage
After the end of the Seven Years War, Jean-Francois Laperuz graduated from the Maritime Academy in Brest with the officer rank of sub-lieutenant in 1764. In 1766, the young officer was given command of his first ship, the Adur transport. After several years of service, in the spring of 1772, Laperuz receives an appointment to the East Indies. For almost five years he spent in this region, remote from Europe. The main stronghold of France, not counting the few enclaves remaining in India, was the island of Ильle-de-France.
Laperuz, commanding a small ship "Seine", was subordinate to the governor of this colony. He had to perform a variety of missions and missions. The Indian subcontinent at that time was an extremely unstable region - the British East India Company was trying to get its hands on everything that could be reached using the significant weakening of the main rival. Governor-General Warren Hastings skillfully played on the many contradictions between various local rulers. France had to demonstrate its presence in the few of its possessions that it still had.
On the orders of his leadership, La Perouse made two expeditions to the shores of India: in 1773 – 1774. to the south-east coast, and in 1774 – 1775 - to the west. During the latter, he distinguished himself in the fighting. The ruler of Malabar tried to seize the French fortress of Mahe, but could not accomplish this - largely because of the skillful command of La Perouse with his “Seine” and her cannons. The officer was in good standing with the governor of Ile-de-France and subsequently on his return to France he was awarded the Order of Saint Louis.
La Perouse could make a career in the colonies - at this time several European adventurers were able to achieve a high position in the courts of the Indian rulers. Stories Rene Madek, Walter Reinhart and Modava, who rose from the poor and the ruined nobility to the heights of political power, are worthy of a separate story. However, La Perouse was a disciplined and honest woman. But he met his future wife there.
Heartfelt affairs almost knocked down Laperouse's career, like a chained-off book - a mast. Louise Eleonora Brudu brightly illuminated with its uncommon appearance the tropical everyday life of the colonial backwater. The admiration was mutual - the relationship between Jean-Francois and Louise began to seethe. Everything was fine, but the shadow of the idyll threw the ignoble origin of the girl, who was also a Creole.
Like many determined lovers, Laperouse, in 1775, informed his parents about his desire to end an idle life. Father's house met news with more emotion than Versailles - the news of the defeat at Cyberon. In the realities of the aristocratic environment of that time, it was not customary to marry an uninhabited girl, moreover, a dowry. Mother and Father La Perouse spoke, as they say, in a united front against the threat, which they believed.
Even local colonial authorities in the person of Admiral de Ternet, commander of the fleet base on the Ile de France, showed a striking unanimity. "The main caliber" metal admonitions from France, Father La Perouse: "My son, you made me tremble," - with these words began one of his letters. Mother La Perouse began an urgent casting of suitable candidates for the role of the bride from among the representatives of the provincial nobility.
We must pay tribute to Laperuz, who at that time was already over thirty, he did not give up his feelings, but waited for the right moment until the clouds, thickened around his person, would dissipate. As time went on, Jean-Francois Laperouse returned to France, was awarded and was promoted to lieutenant. The mother, having shown all the advantages of her diverse character, found her son a suitable bride - the daughter of an old friend of the family of a suitable age and position. Nevertheless, La Perouse was not in a hurry to marry, still being tied to Eleonora Brude. The case dragged on until 1783, when the war with England, in which France supported the rebellious North American colonies, ended.
Eleanor arrived at this time in Paris with her parents. Of course, they met with Laperouse and explained. Mademoiselle Brudu threw her entire southern temperament into the battle for the heart of a naval officer, and in the end they got married. The story made a fuss, because the crown Laperuz went without official permission. So, too, was not accepted.
However, the sailor proved to be not only a resolute man, but also diplomatic. He wrote a long and detailed letter to the wife of maritime minister Marquis de Castries. In it, La Perouse, with his inherent eloquence, vividly, colorfully and touchingly described all the vicissitudes of his novel. Like many women, the Marquis was not indifferent to romantic stories, especially with a clear naval tinge. She put in a word with her husband, the minister of the sea, de Castries, and Laperouse’s offense remained without consequences. Especially since the guilty himself, already captain of the 1 rank, perfectly manifested himself in the recent war, participating in numerous operations. Subsequently, the location of the Marquise de Castries played a crucial role in the life of La Perouse - largely thanks to her favor, he was appointed head of the geographic expedition.
The Paris Peace Treaty, which ended the Seven Years War, in fact turned out to be just another truce. The contradictions between England and France, the very spirit of their rivalry has not gone away. Paris was depressed and enraged by the loss of most of its colonial possessions. In London, they were convinced that they could have taken a lot more. Kings and governments changed, but not contradictions.
The next time both monarchies crossed their swords during the revolt of the English colonies in America. Of course, the French did not do so out of admiration for the Declaration of Independence, but rather the desire to sting their old enemy. This was the second war in which Jean-Francois Laperuz took part.
As in the Seven Years' War, the main struggle unfolded over communications in the Atlantic and Indian Ocean. In 1778, Laperuz received the command of the corvette "Amazon", in which a detachment of other ships carried out a raid near the coast of England. In the 1779 campaign of the year he fights in the West Indies and off the coast of North America. Soon, the enterprising and brave Laperuz became the commander of the 50-gun frigate Astraea. In the summer of 1781, for the successful attack on the British convoy, together with the frigate "Hermione" under the command of the already famous Latush-Trevil, he was elevated to the rank of captain of the 1 rank.
In the summer of 1782, La Perouse was ordered to lead an expedition to Hudson Bay to destroy British strongholds on its coast. He coped with this mission successfully - the forts of the Prince of Wales and Fort York were captured and destroyed.
At the same time, La Perouse was so kind that he left some of the food supplies to the conquered Englishmen and weapons. According to him, in such wild lands "civilized opponents" should help each other. Such a nobility was subsequently rather vigorously favored by the British to the accolades. In Europe, they clearly understood the difference in methods and means of warfare, when the enemy had a wig on his head, and not a bundle of feathers. Because of the epidemic that broke out on the ships, the expedition had to be curtailed.
After the signing of the Paris Peace Treaty at the beginning of 1783, Laperuz married and retired in order to enjoy plenty of measured family life with his beloved woman. However, as it turned out, the time allotted by him was short.
His Majesty King Louis XVI, in contrast to his loving grandfather, was no stranger to enlightenment and thirst for knowledge. He would sit for a long time over maps and atlases, read literature on travels and sea discoveries. The king sincerely wanted to make his country better and richer, but, as usual, did not know what to do. One of the ways to improve the well-being of the kingdom entrusted to him, Louis saw in the sea trade. The neighbors on the island did it well, and France was no worse.
In addition, the well-deserved glory of James Cook in Europe rattled his pride. Initially, the project of the research expedition to the Pacific Ocean was discussed at the highest level, and apart from Louis, only the Minister of Maritime de Castries and the head of all ports and arsenals, comte de Fleurieur, who was an authority on geography, were devoted to him.
Who should be put in charge of such a responsible enterprise? France had a whole galaxy of talented and skilled sailors. Among them it was necessary to find an officer, not only well-versed in maritime affairs, but also possessing military, diplomatic and commercial capabilities. De Castries, who still had a fresh and curious story in his memory of the marriage of one capable and stubborn officer to a beautiful Creole, proposed Jean-François de La Perouse’s candidacy. The minister was convinced that such an insistent person would not fail, and Laperuz, who was retired and wasting away unhurried provincial everyday life on his estate, was urgently called to Paris.
To begin with, he was waited by an audience with de Castries, who was supposed to bring La Perouse into the process. First of all, he was acquainted with an extensive memorandum on the goals and objectives of the upcoming expedition. James Cook was often mentioned in this text, and references were made to his achievements and discoveries - the king and his ministers were greatly impressed by the activities of this man, who at that time was not equal. By the way, Admiral d'Antrcasto’s candidacy was considered for the position of leader, but she was rejected in favor of La Perouse.
Despite its vastness, the memorandum was a fairly accurate document with clear wording. The expedition was to cross the Atlantic, go around Cape Horn and go into the Pacific Ocean. In its waters, it was necessary to visit a number of islands and archipelagoes, such as Easter Island, Tahiti and New Caledonia. Next, La Perouse was to explore the western shores of Australia, or, as it was then called, New Holland. In addition, New Zealand, the Philippines, the Moluccas Islands and a number of other geographical points were indicated on the list of places to be visited. The entire research program was designed for three years - according to calculations, the ships were to return to France in the summer or early autumn of 1789.
An example of the French Gabara (model reconstruction of the Le Gros Ventre haber (Big belly) from the book of Gerard Delacroix)
When the goals and objectives were set, painstaking and routine organizational work inevitable in such cases began. First of all, we decided on ships. For a long voyage, it was decided not to take military frigates, but more spacious and durable merchant ships that had extensive holds. They were two three-masted 500-ton gabars called "Porter" and "Ostrich". Gabars were renamed into more harmonious “Boussol” (“Compass”) and “Astrolabe”, and in Brest they began re-equipment for a three-year expedition. Corps were properly prokopacheny and strengthened. Later in the documents they were attributed to the frigates, although these ships were not military.
With the leader, the issue was resolved, but in this case the team should have been a match for him. The commander of the second ship was determined: he was the forty-year-old captain of 1 rank Paul Antoine Fleurio de Langl, an experienced sailor. Together with him, Laperuz took part in a raid on the Hudson Strait during the past war. During the raid, de Langl compiled a rather detailed map of this place.
A whole group of scientists of various specialties was invited to the expedition. For example, the physicist Joseph Lepot, nephew of the first French woman astronomer and mathematician Nicole-Rein Lepot. In 1779, he already took part in the navigation of Kergelen and now went back to the Around the World. In addition to physics, the expedition included the astronomer Monge, the geographer of Bernese, the naturalist Duffren, recommended to La Perouse by Count de Buffon, one of the greatest French scientists of the second half of the 18th century. There was a nerd to compile a description of vegetation, to whom none other than the gardener's king was sent to help. Of course, there were artists for sketches.
The chief engineer of the expedition, La Perouse, took another of his colleagues on the Hudson expedition - Captain de Maneron. It was this officer who brought the navigational instruments used by James Cook during his voyages on board the ships — they were borrowed by an English friend, La Perouse. “I accepted these items with a sense of religious worship,” Laperuz wrote in his diary.
A total of 225 people were to take part in the expedition. It is curious that one of the candidates for the participants in this enterprise was the 16-year-old cadet of the Parisian military school Corsican Napoleone Buonaparte, but for several reasons he was not able to get on an expedition.
1 July 1785. La Perouse, burdened with numerous instructions, departed for Brest, where 4 arrived this month. Both ships were intensively put in order and loaded with everything necessary for a long voyage. Laperuz immediately made adjustments to the range of cargo. He ordered part of the provisions to be left on the shore, and in return, he would take on board more various items for trade and exchange with the natives - due to intensive trade one can get a sufficient amount of fresh provisions from the locals. Two thousand axes, seven hundred hammers and iron rods, seven thousand knives, fifty thousand needles and a huge number of pins were loaded on board. In addition to all this, in the assortment of goods and gifts for the natives there were in large quantities mirrors, combs, fabrics, fish hooks and so on.
The instructions received from Louis XVI demanded only the humane treatment of the natives. In the hold of the Bussoli, there was a disassembled 20-ton sloop for sailing along the shallow-water coast and two Biscay longlines that had a pointed bow and stern. They stood the storm well.
July 11 heavily loaded "Bussol" and "Astrolabe" took to the raid. Before the start of the French geographical expedition there was very little time left. Comte de Laperuz waited for good weather.
To be continued ...
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