‘Dear Brother,’ the unpublished letters of Charles Cadogan, part 10: In Paris during the French Revolution, and the Nootka Sound Crisis (Paris 1790)

Cadogan’s last letter finds him back at the centre of Events. Less than a year after the Storming of the Bastille, Cadogan is in Paris during the Nootka Sound Crisis, when Britain was on the verge of war with Spain and France. At that time, Spain administered a trading post in Canada, at Nootka Sound in British Columbia. The Spanish Governor had seized British ships trading there, and both countries put their fleets to sea, though fortunately they never met. In April 1790 the Spanish asked the French to honour the Franco-Spanish ‘Family Compact’, and declare war with them against Britain. Cadogan is present at the first debate in the revolutionary National Assembly on May 15th. He is unbothered by the thought of war with France and Spain, but, behind the scenes, the Prime Minister William Pitt was very bothered, and he worked furiously to influence the National Assembly’s decision. In October, Cadogan’s friend and host in Copenhagen, Hugh Elliot, was sent in secret to Paris, to see the Comte de Mirabeau, leader of the conservatives in the Assembly who were still driving the Revolution at that point. Elliot knew Mirabeau well from their days at military academy together. That month, Mirabeau successfully persuaded the Assembly that the Nootka Crisis wasn’t strictly a war yet, and it was wiser to leave it that way, for which he was later accused of treason.

Mr Bulkely, and Tom Hodges and his wife are a mystery. If they ring a bell with anyone I’d love to know. I don’t know if the brothers’ aunt Lady Montfort was also in Paris at the time, or if Cadogan’s being funny; Lord Montfort was eccentric, extravagant – he kept a menagerie – and completely broke, and his wife might conceivably have moved to France to save money, as many did.

I’m not sure about ‘Lestoffe.’ I wonder if it’s Lowestoft, written-as-said. Henry Cadogan must’ve asked his brother to bring back a dictionary. Pronounced ‘dick-snary’ in those days.

Paris May 15 1790

Dear Brother,

I am favored with two Letters from you here wherein you desire me to enquire after Mr Bulkely, whose Father it seems is an intimate friend of your’s. I have been here near a Month, shall leave it in a few Days, and have been able to set Eyes upon him but once since I’ve been here. He lives where you told me when in town, but he is hardly ever here. He is almost allways at a Campagne about four leagues off, hors de la Porte St Antoine, this is all I can tell you of him, and as I know nothing ill of him, take the Christianlike and Charitable side of the Question, by supposing he goes on well.

I never got the Letter you wrote me to Bordeaux, but hope you’ll give me a good Account of the safe arrival of yours, as well as my Lord’s Hogshead of Claret in your answer to this. Pray don’t forget this, and direct to me at the Hague. I shall be there the latter end of July. Where is Lestoffe? Pray tell me. I hope and trust if you go there, that you’ll continue to be back at Reading the latter end of August. You owe me I think this, after an Absence of above seven Years.

That good Natured Caricature Tom Hodges is here. I dine frequently with him, though I see more of his wife than I do of Lady Montfort. His Lordship can I suppose twirl his Thumbs, and squeak as loud as ever. I have been twice at the National Assembly. This day the great Question came on relative to joining the Spaniards in war against us. I’ve managed in the Course of my travels to learn that we are a Match for them all, and there is no Country like old England – forever!

My Love to Mrs Cadogan. Let me find a Letter from you at the Hague and believe me dear Brother most affectionately your’s

CH Cadogan

P.S. No Dictionary!

Ho! Ha! Hae! as if you wanted one!

(Parliamentary Archive CAD/4/29)

This letter is the last time we hear Charles Cadogan’s own voice in the sources. After these letters to William, he falls silent again except as an object of record. Next week I’ll look at two of the final documents of Cadogan’s life, the Commission of Lunacy report on his health and property in 1799, and Cadogan’s Will proved at his death in 1833, but written fifty years earlier in April 1783 before he set out on his travels.


Jacques-Louis David The Tennis Court Oath 1789 (establishing the National Assembly) Musée Carnavalet, Paris (c) Reunion des musées nationaux


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