Bishop John Carroll, Joshua Barney and the Bonapartes

One of the difficulties that I often experience when preparing a post on a historical topic for the blog, is deciding what to leave out.  Oftentimes I have far more material than I can put in a post, unless I want to transform the post into a treatise.  In the case of my recent post on Joshua Barney, American naval hero of the American Revolution and the War of 1812, I had to leave out quite a bit on his life.  One portion that I think might be of interest to our readers is his involvement with Jerome Bonaparte, brother to Napoleon Bonaparte.

In many ways Napoleon Bonaparte always remained a Corsican at heart.  As his power increased in France and then in Europe he remembered to reward his brothers and sisters, as any good clannish Corsican would.  Joseph became King of Naples and then King of Spain;  Elisa, perhaps the most competent of the Bonapartes after Napoleon, became Grand Duchess of Tuscany;  Louis was King of Holland;  the scandalous Pauline married into the Roman nobility;  Caroline was Grand Duchess of Cleves and Berg and eventually Queen of Naples after her brother Joseph became King of Spain;  Lucien, the family rebel, was made Prince of Canino by Pope Pius VII in honor of Lucien’s opposition to Napoleon.  Then there was Jerome Bonaparte, the subject of this post.

Jerome was known as “Fifi” by his family and friends and considered a wastrel fond only of women and drink.  In 1802 Napoleon as First Consul made the 18 year old a naval captain and packed him off on a voyage to the West Indies.  Jerome was supposed to sail immediately back to France, but he decided to visit America.  On July 20, 1802 he stopped at Norfolk and then headed for Washington where he was received by President Jefferson and the French Consul General.  The Consul General, no doubt to get Jerome out of his hair, suggested that he visit Baltimore. 

Jerome knew one man in Baltimore, Joshua Barney, who had served in the French Navy and risen to the rank of Commodore.  Joshua Barney and his wife thus acted as hosts for Jerome.  Barney introduced Jerome to the social elite of Baltimore, among whom was merchant William Patterson, a Presbyterian and the wealthiest man in Maryland after Charles Carroll of Carollton, the Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence.  Patterson had a 17 year old daughter Elizabeth “Betsy” Patterson, attractive and vivacious, and popularly known as the “Belle of Baltimore”. (more…)

Published in: on May 12, 2010 at 5:48 am  Comments Off on Bishop John Carroll, Joshua Barney and the Bonapartes  
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