Nicolas Jean Hugon de Bassville - Encyclopedia


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BASSVILLE, or [[Basseville, Nicolas Jean Hugon De]] (d. 1793), French journalist and diplomatist, was born at Abbeville on the 7th of February 1753. He was trained for the priesthood, taught theology in a provincial seminary and then went to Paris. Here in 1784 he published Elements de mythologie and some poems, which brought him into notice. On the recommendation of the prince of Conde he became tutor to two young Americans travelling in Europe. With them he visited Berlin, made the acquaintance there of Mirabeau, and became a member of the Berlin Academy Royal. At the outbreak of the Revolution he turned to journalism, becoming editor of the Mercure international. Then, through the Girondist minister Lebrun-Tondu, he entered the diplomatic service, went in May, 1792, as secretary of legation to Naples and was shortly afterwards sent, without official status, to Rome. Here his conduct was anything but diplomatic. He at once announced himself as the protector of the extreme Jacobins in Rome, demanded the expulsion of the French emigres who had taken refuge there, including the "demoiselles Capet," and ordered the fleur-de-lys on the escutcheon of the French embassy to be replaced by a picture of Liberty painted by a French art student. He talked at large of the "purple geese of the Capitol" and met the remonstrances of Cardinal Zelada, the papal secretary of state, with insults. This enraged the Roman populace; a riot broke out on the 13th of January 1793, and Bassville, who was driving with his family to the Corso, was dragged from his carriage and so roughly handled that he died. The affair was magnified in the Convention into a deliberate murder of the "representative of the Republic" by the pope's orders. In 1797 by an article of the treaty of Tolentino the papal government agreed to pay compensation to Bassville's family. Among his writings we may also mention Memoires historiques, critiques et politiques sur la Revolution de France (Paris 1790; English trans. London, 1790).

See F. Masson, Les Diplomates de la Revolution (Paris, 1882); Silvagni, La Corte e la Societd romana nei secoli XVIII. e XIX. (Florence, 1881).

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