Jacques-Donatien Le Ray de Chaumont

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Jacques-Donatien Le Ray de Chaumont by Jean-Baptiste Nini (1771), Chateau de Chaumont Leray de Chaumont by Nini.jpg
Jacques-Donatien Le Ray de Chaumont by Jean-Baptiste Nini (1771), Château de Chaumont

Jacques-Donatien Le Ray de Chaumont (1 September 1726 22 February 1803) was a French "Father of the American Revolution", but later an opponent of the French Revolution. His son of the same name, known also in America as James Le Ray, eventually became a United States citizen and settled in Le Ray, New York USA.

French people are an ethnic group and nation who are identified with the country of France. This connection may be ethnic, legal, historical, or cultural.

American Revolutionary War War between Great Britain and the Thirteen Colonies, which won independence as the United States of America

The American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), also known as the American War of Independence, was an 18th-century war between Great Britain and its Thirteen Colonies which declared independence as the United States of America.

French Revolution Revolution in France, 1789 to 1798

The French Revolution was a period of far-reaching social and political upheaval in France and its colonies beginning in 1789. The Revolution overthrew the monarchy, established a republic, catalyzed violent periods of political turmoil, and finally culminated in a dictatorship under Napoleon who brought many of its principles to areas he conquered in Western Europe and beyond. Inspired by liberal and radical ideas, the Revolution profoundly altered the course of modern history, triggering the global decline of absolute monarchies while replacing them with republics and liberal democracies. Through the Revolutionary Wars, it unleashed a wave of global conflicts that extended from the Caribbean to the Middle East. Historians widely regard the Revolution as one of the most important events in human history.

Contents

Early life

Born in the port city of Nantes in Brittany in 1726, Jacques-Donatien Le Ray de Chaumont became one of the wealthiest and most powerful aristocrats in all of France. He made a fortune in shipping and, in 1750, he acquired the Château de Chaumont as a country home where he established a glassmaking and earthenware factory. In 1772, Le Ray signed a contract with the renowned Italian sculptor Jean-Baptiste Nini to oversee his factories and set up the production of portrait medallions: a sculpture in miniature done in terracotta usually for the very wealthy and European Royalty.

Nantes Prefecture and commune in Pays de la Loire, France

Nantes is a city in Loire-Atlantique on the Loire, 50 km (31 mi) from the Atlantic coast. The city is the sixth-largest in France, with a population of 303,382 in Nantes and a metropolitan area of nearly 950,000 inhabitants. With Saint-Nazaire, a seaport on the Loire estuary, Nantes forms the main north-western French metropolis.

Brittany Historical province in France

Brittany is a cultural region in the west of France, covering the western part of what was known as Armorica during the period of Roman occupation. It became an independent kingdom and then a duchy before being united with the Kingdom of France in 1532 as a province governed as if it were a separate nation under the crown.

Château de Chaumont castle in France

The Château de Chaumont is a castle in Chaumont-sur-Loire, Loir-et-Cher, France. The castle was founded in the 10th century by Odo I, Count of Blois. After Pierre d'Amboise rebelled against Louis XI, the king ordered the castle's destruction. Later in the 15th century Château de Chaumont was rebuilt by Charles I d'Amboise. Protected as a monument historique since 1840, the château was given into state ownership in 1938 and is now open to the public.

American Revolution

Jacques-Donatien Le Ray de Chaumont served King Louis XVI at the Court at Versailles as the Governor of Les Invalides in Paris and the Grand Master of Waters and Lands of Blois. Following the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain, by the American colonies on 4 July 1776, emissaries were dispatched to France by the new United States revolutionary government to seek assistance from the French king. Although anxious to see Great Britain weakened, Louis XVI had to walk a political tightrope. He understood that support for the rebellion in America was a contradiction of France's global colonization policies and could spark a revolt in any number of France's own colonies. As such, the American delegation could not be officially recognized at the French Court.

Louis XVI of France King of France and Navarre

Louis XVI, born Louis-Auguste, was the last King of France before the fall of the monarchy during the French Revolution. He was referred to as citizen Louis Capet during the four months before he was guillotined. In 1765, at the death of his father, Louis, son and heir apparent of Louis XV, Louis-Auguste became the new Dauphin of France. Upon his grandfather's death on 10 May 1774, he assumed the title "King of France and Navarre", which he used until 4 September 1791, when he received the title of "King of the French" until the monarchy was abolished on 21 September 1792.

Palace of Versailles French palace on the outskirts of Paris

The Palace of Versailles was the principal royal residence of France from 1682, under Louis XIV, until the start of the French Revolution in 1789, under Louis XVI. It is located in the department of Yvelines, in the region of Île-de-France, about 20 kilometres southwest of the centre of Paris.

Les Invalides complex of buildings in the 7th arrondissement of Paris, France

Les Invalides, formally the Hôtel national des Invalides, or also as Hôtel des Invalides, is a complex of buildings in the 7th arrondissement of Paris, France, containing museums and monuments, all relating to the military history of France, as well as a hospital and a retirement home for war veterans, the building's original purpose. The buildings house the Musée de l'Armée, the military museum of the Army of France, the Musée des Plans-Reliefs, and the Musée d'Histoire Contemporaine, as well as the Dôme des Invalides, a large church, the tallest in Paris at a height of 107 meters, with the tombs of some of France's war heroes, most notably Napoleon.

Sympathetic to the American cause for independence, Jacques Donatien Le Ray de Chaumont used his powerful position to act as intermediary between the King and the American representatives. But, Le Ray did much more than broker talks and exert influence. In addition to swaying the King and the powerful administrators of the French government, Le Ray provided a fully staffed mansion for Franklin and his family in the wealthy commune of Passy, then outside of Paris.

In December 1776, Benjamin Franklin was sent to Paris with the primary goal of obtaining French aid for the United States. He quickly developed a close relationship with Le Ray and his family and lived at Le Ray's estate in Passy for several years. Franklin however did not visit Le Ray's luxurious Chateau at Chaumont-sur-Loire in the Loire Valley but his grandson Temple did. As a result of their friendship, Jacques-Donatien Le Ray de Chaumont helped obtain French support for the American cause with both money and French armed forces.

Benjamin Franklin American polymath and a Founding Father of the United States

Benjamin Franklin was an American polymath and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. Franklin was a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, Freemason, postmaster, scientist, inventor, humorist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat. As a scientist, he was a major figure in the American Enlightenment and the history of physics for his discoveries and theories regarding electricity. As an inventor, he is known for the lightning rod, bifocals, and the Franklin stove, among other inventions. He founded many civic organizations, including the Library Company, Philadelphia's first fire department and the University of Pennsylvania.

Chaumont-sur-Loire Commune in Centre-Val de Loire, France

Chaumont-sur-Loire is a commune in the Loir-et-Cher department in central France known for its historical defensive walls and its castle.

Loire Valley French World Heritage Site

The Loire Valley, spanning 280 kilometres (170 mi), is located in the middle stretch of the Loire River in central France, in both the administrative regions Pays de la Loire and Centre-Val de Loire. The area of the Loire Valley comprises about 800 square kilometres (310 sq mi). It is referred to as the Cradle of the French and the Garden of France due to the abundance of vineyards, fruit orchards, and artichoke, and asparagus fields, which line the banks of the river. Notable for its historic towns, architecture, and wines, the valley has been inhabited since the Middle Palaeolithic period. In 2000, UNESCO added the central part of the Loire River valley to its list of World Heritage Sites.

Along with Benjamin Franklin, Jacques-Donatien Le Ray de Chaumont worked with John Adams, Silas Deane, the Marquis de Lafayette and the Comte de Vergennes to help with the American Revolution. For an aristocrat in that day and age, what Le Ray did for ordinary Americans was astonishing. At heart, he believed in the equality of all men and backed up his beliefs by providing massive amounts of his own money to purchase weapons, supplies and clothing for the fledgling American armed forces. Le Ray was asked by the American government to take charge of the equipment and management of the combined French and American naval fleet. Working closely with Admiral Charles-Hector Estaing, the Commander of the French Fleet, Le Ray's support for the American cause involved having his shipyards refit a merchant vessel into a warship that he then gifted to America under the name USS Bonhomme Richard for use by Captain John Paul Jones.

John Adams 2nd president of the United States

John Adams was an American statesman, attorney, diplomat, writer, and Founding Father who served as the second president of the United States from 1797 to 1801. Before his presidency, he was a leader of the American Revolution that achieved independence from Great Britain and served as the first vice president of the United States. Adams was a dedicated diarist and regularly corresponded with many important figures in early American history, including his wife and adviser, Abigail. His letters and other papers serve as an important source of historical information about the era.

Silas Deane American politician

Silas Deane was an American merchant, politician, and diplomat, and a supporter of American independence. Deane served as a delegate to the Continental Congress, then as the first foreign diplomat from the United States to France. Near the end of the war, Congress charged Deane with financial impropriety, and the British intercepted and published some letters in which he had implied that the American cause was hopeless. After the war, Deane lived in Ghent and London and died under mysterious circumstances while attempting to return to America.

John Paul Jones American naval officer

John Paul Jones was the United States' first well-known naval commander in the American Revolutionary War. He made many friends and enemies—who accused him of piracy—among America's political elites, and his actions in British waters during the Revolution earned him an international reputation which persists to this day. As such, he is sometimes referred to as the "Father of the American Navy".

When the War ended with the treaty of 1783 signed in Paris, Jacques-Donatien Le Ray de Chaumont had a portrait medallion made of Benjamin Franklin by Jean-Baptiste Nini. Today, it is Franklin's most recognized profile. And, when Franklin was recalled to America in 1785, Le Ray honored him with a commissioned portrait painted by Joseph Siffred Duplessis that now hangs in the National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.

The Treaty of Paris, signed in Paris by representatives of King George III of Great Britain and representatives of the United States of America on September 3, 1783, ended the American Revolutionary War. The treaty set the boundaries between the British Empire in North America and the United States, on lines "exceedingly generous" to the latter. Details included fishing rights and restoration of property and prisoners of war.

Smithsonian Institution Group of museums and research centers administered by the United States government

The Smithsonian Institution, also known simply as the Smithsonian, is a group of museums and research centers administered by the Government of the United States. It was founded on August 10, 1846, "for the increase and diffusion of knowledge". The institution is named after its founding donor, British scientist James Smithson. It was originally organized as the "United States National Museum", but that name ceased to exist as an administrative entity in 1967.

Jacques-Donatien Le Ray de Chaumont's son named Jacques Le Ray (1760–1840) went to America in 1785. There, he acquired a property in Otsego county, New York where he built the first saw-mill. Known in America as James, the English translation for Jacques, Le Ray Jr. also made large land purchases in the State and, in 1790, he married a woman from New Jersey and became an American citizen. The towns of Le Ray, New York, Chaumont, New York and the borough of LeRaysville, Pennsylvania are named after him.

Aftermath

In the end, the political ideals that Jacques-Donatien Le Ray de Chaumont cherished came back to haunt him. The huge financial support he had elicited from King Louis XVI for the American Revolutionary War led to massive debts that would bankrupt the government of France. When a drought caused a deep famine in 1788, there was no money available from the French Treasury, as had been done in the past, to subsidize the cost of flour for bread to prevent mass starvation. As a result of France's generosity and Jacques-Donatien Le Ray de Chaumont's love of America, he inadvertently helped pave the way for the French Revolution, in 1789, that dramatically impacted on his own finances, resulting in the new French Revolutionary government seizing his assets including his beloved Chateau at Chaumont-sur-Loire.

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