Pierre Beaumarchais


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Beaumarchais, PIERRE AUGUSTIN CARON DE, author; born in Paris, January 24, 1732; the son of a watch-maker. In 1761 he purchased a commission as secretary to the King, a sinecure which conferred noble rank on its possessor, and the name of Beaumarchais, which he had assumed, was legally confirmed. Entering into mercantile speculations, he soon acquired a large fortune. He was the author of the famous play, the Barber of Seville. In September, 1775, he submitted a memorial to the French monarch, in which he insisted upon the necessity of the French government's secretly aiding the English-American colonies; and as agent of his government he passed some time in England, where he became acquainted with Arthur Lee, which acquaintance led to diplomatic and commercial relations with the Continental Congress. He conducted the business of supplying the Americans with munitions of war with great ability, and afterwards became involved in a lawsuit with them. In 1784 he produced his Marriage of Figaro, which was violently opposed by the Court. His political tendencies were republican, and he sympathized with the French Revolutionists, but did not enter with his usual enthusiasm into their measures. Suspected by the Jacobins, he was compelled to leave the country, and his property was confiscated. He was finally permitted to return to France, but could not recover his wealth. Beaumarchais lived in comparative poverty until May 18, 1799, when he was found dead in his bed, having died of apoplexy. A suit which he had commenced against the United States for payment for supplies furnished to the Continental Congress, between 1776 and 1779, under the mercantile firm name of Roderique Hortales & Co., continued about fifty years, and resulted in 1835 in the payment to his heirs by the United States of the sum of about $200,000.



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