Corsican Republic

In November 1755, Pasquale Paoli proclaimed Corsica a sovereign nation, the Corsican Republic (Italian: Repubblica Corsa), independent from the Republic of Genoa. He created the Corsican Constitution, which was the first constitution written in Italian under Enlightenment principles, including the first implementation of female suffrage,[1] later revoked by the French when they took over the island in 1769. The republic created an administration and justice system, and founded an army.

Corsican Republic

Italian: Repubblica Corsa
Corsican: Ripublica Corsa
Motto: Amici e non di ventura
(English: Friends, and not by mere accident)
Corsica in 1757
Corsica in 1757
StatusUnrecognized state
Official languagesItalian
Common languagesCorsican
GovernmentConstitutional republic
• 1755–1769
Pasquale Paoli
Historical eraAge of Enlightenment
• Established
November 1755
• Conquered
May 9 1769
8,680 km2 (3,350 sq mi)
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Republic of Genoa
Early modern France
Today part of France


After a series of successful actions, Paoli drove the Genoese from the whole island except for a few coastal towns. He then set to work re-organizing the government, introducing many reforms. He founded a university at Corte and created a short-lived "Order of Saint-Devote" in 1757 in honour of the patron saint of the island, Saint Devota.[2]

The Corsican Diet, was composed of delegates elected from each district for three-year terms. Suffrage was extended to all men over the age of 25.[3] Traditionally, women had always voted in village elections for podestà i.e. village elders, and other local officials,[4] and it has been claimed that they also voted in national elections under the Republic.[5]

The Republic minted its own coins at Murato in 1761, imprinted with the Moor's Head, the traditional symbol of Corsica.

Paoli's ideas of independence, democracy and liberty gained support from such philosophers as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Voltaire, Raynal, and Mably.[6] The publication in 1768 of An Account of Corsica by James Boswell made Paoli famous throughout Europe. Diplomatic recognition was extended to Corsica by the Bey of Tunis.[7]

French invasion

In 1767, Corsica took the island of Capraia from the Genoese who, one year later, despairing of ever being able to subjugate Corsica again, sold their claim to the Kingdom of France with the Treaty of Versailles.

The French invaded Corsica the same year, and for a whole year Paoli's forces fought desperately for their new republic against the invaders. However, in May 1769, at the Battle of Ponte Novu they were defeated by vastly superior forces commanded by the Comte de Vaux, and obliged to take refuge in the Kingdom of Great Britain. French control was consolidated over the island, and in 1770 it became a province of France.


The fall of Corsica to the French was poorly received by many in Great Britain, which was Corsica's main ally and sponsor. It was seen as a failure of the Grafton Ministry that Corsica had been "lost", as it was regarded as vital to the interests of Britain in that part of the Mediterranean.[8] The Corsican Crisis severely weakened the Grafton Ministry, contributing to its ultimate downfall. A number of exiled Corsicans fought for the British during the American Revolutionary War, serving with particular distinction during the Great Siege of Gibraltar in 1782.

Conversely, at the beginning of the same war, the New York militia later named Hearts of Oak - whose membership included Alexander Hamilton and other students at New York's King's College (now Columbia University) - originally called themselves "The Corsicans", evidently considering the Corsican Republic as a model to be emulated in America.

The aspiration for Corsican independence, along with many of the democratic principles of the Corsican Republic, were revived by Paoli in the Anglo-Corsican Kingdom of 1794-1796. On that occasion, British naval and land forces were deployed in defence of the island; however, their efforts failed and the French regained control.

To this day, some Corsican separatists such as the (now-disbanded) Armata Corsa, advocate the restoration of the island's republic.

See also


  1. ^ Lucien Felli, "La renaissance du Paolisme". M. Bartoli, Pasquale Paoli, père de la patrie corse, Albatros, 1974, p. 29. "Il est un point où le caractère précurseur des institutions paolines est particulièrement accusé, c'est celui du suffrage en ce qu'il était entendu de manière très large. Il prévoyait en effet le vote des femmes qui, à l'époque, ne votaient pas en France."
  2. ^$/7f82f4dc1f0415d9c125706f00468819gb Archived 2009-02-21 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ Gregory, Desmond (1985). The ungovernable rock: a history of the Anglo-Corsican Kingdom and its role in Britain's Mediterranean strategy during the Revolutionary War, 1793-1797. London: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. p. 31. ISBN 0-8386-3225-4.
  4. ^ Gregory, Desmond (1985). The ungovernable rock: a history of the Anglo-Corsican Kingdom and its role in Britain's Mediterranean strategy during the Revolutionary War, 1793-1797. London: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. p. 19. ISBN 0-8386-3225-4.
  5. ^ Felli, Lucien (1974). "La renaissance du Paolisme". In Bartoli, M. Pasquale Paoli, père de la patrie corse. Paris: Albatros. p. 29. Il est un point où le caractère précurseur des institutions paolines est particulièrement accusé, c'est celui du suffrage en ce qu'il était entendu de manière très large. Il prévoyait en effet le vote des femmes qui, à l'époque, ne votaient pas en France.
  6. ^ Scales, Len; Oliver Zimmer (2005). Power and the Nation in European History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 289. ISBN 0-521-84580-7.
  7. ^ Thrasher, Peter Adam (1970). Pasquale Paoli: An Enlightened Hero 1725-1807. Hamden, CT: Archon Books. p. 117. ISBN 0-208-01031-9.
  8. ^ Simms, Brendan (2008). Three Victories and a Defeat: The Rise and Fall of the First British Empire, 1714-1783. London: Penguin Books. p. 663. ISBN 978-0-14-028984-8.

External links

Anglo-Corsican Kingdom

The Anglo-Corsican Kingdom was a client state of the Kingdom of Great Britain that existed on the island of Corsica between 1794 and 1796, during the French Revolutionary Wars.

Battle of Ponte Novu

The Battle of Ponte Novu took place on May 8 and 9 1769 between royal French forces under the Comte de Vaux, a seasoned professional soldier with an expert on mountain warfare on his staff, and the native Corsicans under Carlo Salicetti. It was the battle that effectively ended the fourteen-year-old Corsican Republic and opened the way to annexation by France the following year.

The Corsican commander-in-chief, Pasquale Paoli, was trying to raise troops in the vicinity but was not present in person. He trusted the defence to his second-in-command, Salicetti. His forces included a company of Corsican women under a female captain named Serpentini.Ponte Novu is a Genovese bridge over the Golo River in north central Corsica in Castello-di-Rostino commune. The battle opened the route through the rugged mountains to the Corsican capital of Corte. The battle is important as it marked the end of the Corsican War and paved the way for the incorporation of Corsica into France.

Voltaire, in his Précis du Siècle de Louis XV, admiringly wrote about the battle: "The principal weapon of the Corsicans was their courage. This courage was so great that in one of these battles, near a river named Golo, they made a rampart of their dead in order to have the time to reload behind them before making a necessary retreat; their wounded were mixed among the dead to strengthen the rampart. Bravery is found everywhere, but such actions aren't seen except among free people."


Corsica (; French: Corse [kɔʁs]; Corsica in Corsican and Italian, pronounced [ˈkorsiga] and [ˈkɔrsika] respectively) is an island in the Mediterranean Sea and one of the 18 regions of France. It is located southeast of the French mainland and west of the Italian Peninsula, with the nearest land mass being the Italian island of Sardinia to the immediate south. A single chain of mountains makes up two-thirds of the island.While being part of Metropolitan France, Corsica is also designated as a territorial collectivity (collectivité territoriale) by law. As a territorial collectivity, Corsica enjoys a greater degree of autonomy than other French regions; for example, the Corsican Assembly is able to exercise limited executive powers. The island formed a single department until it was split in 1975 into two historical departments: Haute-Corse (Upper Corsica) and Corse-du-Sud (Southern Corsica), with its regional capital in Ajaccio, the prefecture city of Corse-du-Sud. Bastia, the prefecture city of Haute-Corse, is the second largest settlement in Corsica. The two departments, and the region of Corsica, merged again into a single territorial collectivity in 2018.

After being ruled by the Republic of Genoa since 1284, Corsica was briefly an Italian-speaking independent republic from 1755, until it was officially ceded by the Republic of Genoa to Louis XV as part of a pledge for debts and conquered in 1769. Napoleon Bonaparte was born the same year in Ajaccio, and his ancestral home, Maison Bonaparte, is today a significant visitor attraction and museum. Due to Corsica's historical ties with the Italian peninsula, the island retains to this day many Italian cultural elements: the native tongue is recognized as a regional language by the French government.


Corsican may refer to:

Someone or something from Corsica

Corsicans, inhabitants of Corsica

Corsican language, a Romance language spoken on Corsica and northern Sardinia

Corsican Republic, a former country in Europe

"The Corsicans", the original name of the Hearts of Oak militia in Colonial New York

Corsican Constitution

The first Corsican Constitution was drawn up in 1755 for the short-lived Corsican Republic independent from Genoa beginning in 1755 and remained in force until the annexation of Corsica by France in 1769. It was written in Tuscan Italian, the language of elite culture and people in Corsica at the time.It was drafted by Pasquale Paoli and others and inspired by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who, commissioned by the Corsicans wrote "Projet de constitution pour la Corse," in 1763.The second Corsican Constitution was drawn up in 1794 for the short-lived (1794–96) Anglo-Corsican Kingdom and introduced universal suffrage for property owners. It was also considered a highly democratic constitution for its time.

Corsican Crisis

The Corsican Crisis was an event in British politics during 1768–69. It was precipitated by the invasion of the island of Corsica by France. The British government under the Duke of Grafton failed to intervene, for which it was widely criticised and was one of many factors that contributed to its downfall in early 1770.

Corsican nationalism

Corsican nationalism is a nationalist movement in Corsica, France, active since the 1960s, that advocates more autonomy for the island, if not outright independence.

Flag and coat of arms of Corsica

The flag of Corsica was adopted by General of the Nation Pasquale Paoli in 1755 and was based on a traditional flag used previously. It portrays a Moor's head in black wearing a white bandana above his eyes on a white background. Previously, the bandana covered his eyes; Pasquale Paoli wanted the bandana moved to above the eyes to symbolise the liberation of the Corsican people from the Genoese.

It was used by the ill-fated Corsican Republic and fell out of usage after 1769, when France forced the island's former masters to sell it to settle the debts contracted by Genoa with France. This was to pay the costs of the French expeditionary corps which should have helped Genoa to secure its control on Corsica; French troops put down the long-standing rebellion on the island. During this period under French rule, 1769–1789, Corsican patriots again used the version of the flag with blindfolded eyes, as a mark of protest.The unblindfolded version, quartered with the British coat of arms, was used as the official flag during the Anglo-Corsican Kingdom of 1794-1796. It then fell into disuse until 1980, when it was officially re-adopted as the regional flag.

The Moor's head is also used on the coat of arms of Corsica, the flag of the neighbouring Sardinia, the coat of arms of Aragon, and on the crest of Clan Borthwick.

French conquest of Corsica

The French conquest of Corsica took place during 1768 and 1769 when the Corsican Republic was occupied by French forces under the command of the Comte de Vaux.

Hearts of Oak (New York militia)

The Hearts of Oak (originally "The Corsicans") were a volunteer militia based in the British colonial Province of New York and formed circa 1775 in New York City. The original name was evidently adopted in emulation of the enlightened Corsican Republic, headed by Pasquale Paoli, which had been suppressed six years before, and which got considerable sympathy in Britain and its colonies.

Militia members included students at King's College (now Columbia University) such as Nicholas Fish, Robert Troup and, perhaps most famously, Alexander Hamilton. The company drilled in the graveyard of nearby St. Paul's Chapel before classes in uniforms they designed themselves, consisting of short green tight-fitting jackets, a round leather hat with a cockade and the phrase "Liberty or Death" on the band, and a badge of red tin hearts on their jackets with the words "God and Our Right" (the motto Dieu et mon droit, translated into English and adapted to make its possessive pronoun plural).In August 1775 the Hearts of Oak participated in a successful raid, while under fire from HMS Asia, to seize cannon from the Battery, thereby becoming an artillery unit thereafter.In 1776 Hamilton was given a commission as a Captain by the revolutionary New York Provincial Congress with instructions to raise the New York Provincial Company of Artillery (today the Regular Army's 1st Battalion, 5th Field Artillery) and the mission to protect Manhattan Island. The Hearts of Oak formed its core.In 2015, a supporters group for a Major League Soccer team, New York City FC, took up the name Hearts of Oak in tribute to Alexander Hamilton and his defenders of New York City.

History of Corsica

That the history of Corsica has been influenced by its strategic position at the heart of the western Mediterranean and its maritime routes, only 12 kilometres (7 mi) from Sardinia, 50 kilometres (30 mi) from the Isle of Elba, 80 kilometres (50 mi) from the coast of Tuscany and 200 kilometres (120 mi) from the French port of Nice, was first proposed by the 19th-century German theorist, Friedrich Ratzel. To him is often attributed the description "mountain in the sea". Regardless of whether he used that particular phrase the idea is expressed in his magnum opus, Anthropogeographie, which calls Corsica

Ein abgeschlossenes und eigenartiges Land, das Insel und Gebirg zugleich ....

An isolated and singular land, both island and mountain ....

and especially in his monograph on Corsica, La Corse, also published in 1899.The Anthropogeographie presents an overall view of Ratzel's method of analysis but the 25-page monograph is perhaps the most relevant, applying the method in detail to Corsica. The "sea" part of the proverb refers to the easy accessibility by great powers to Corsica across the narrow waters from neighboring lands. Once they arrive the "mountain" provides a wall of defense against which invaders can make no easy headway. A central spine running north–south right along its length, which makes travel from (and communication between) one side to the other difficult, isolates Corsicans even from themselves. This spine and strategic position go some way to explaining the island's unique history.

At 8,778 square kilometres (3,389 sq mi), it is the fourth largest island in the Mediterranean, after Sicily, Sardinia and Cyprus. Ratzel portrays a society never able either to be conquered or to rule itself but in the perpetual struggle for freedom and sovereignty producing "numberless champions". On this last point Ratzel admits to an unbridled admiration for his friend and associate Ferdinand Gregorovius, an advocate of Corsican culture, and joins him in portraying Pasquale Paoli and Napoleon Bonaparte, as larger than life.

In 1762, Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote in his opus, The Social Contract, that Corsica would one day astonish Europe. This was written some seven years before Napoleon was born.

Italian irredentism in Corsica

Italian irredentism in Corsica was a cultural and historical movement promoted by Italians and by people from Corsica who identified themselves as part of Italy rather than France, and promoted the Italian annexation of the island.

List of historic states of Italy

Italy, up until the Italian unification in 1860, was a conglomeration of city-states, republics, and other independent entities. The following is a list of the various Italian states during that period.

Noël Jourda de Vaux

Noël Jourda de Vaux (12 March 1705 in Château des Vaux au Puy-en-Velay – 14 September 1788 in Grenoble), comte de Vaux, seigneur d'Artiac was a French nobleman and General. He oversaw the conquest of the Corsican Republic in 1769. He was given command of land forces in the planned Franco-Spanish Invasion of Britain in 1779, but this was abandoned. He became a Marshal of France in 1783. He was the son of Jean Baptiste Jourda de Vaux, seigneur de Retournac (born 1687) and Marie Anne de Saint-Germain.

Pasquale Paoli

Filippo Antonio Pasquale di Paoli (Italian: [fiˈlippo anˈtɔːnjo paˈskwaːle di ˈpaːoli]; French: Pascal Paoli; 6 April 1725 – 5 February 1807) was a Corsican patriot, statesman and military leader who was at the forefront of resistance movements against the Genoese and later French rule in the island. He became the president of the Executive Council of the General Diet of the People of Corsica, and also designed and wrote the Constitution of the state.

The Corsican Republic was a representative democracy asserting that the elected Diet of Corsican representatives had no master. Paoli held his office by election and not by appointment. It made him commander-in-chief of the armed forces as well as chief magistrate. Paoli's government claimed the same jurisdiction as the Republic of Genoa. In terms of de facto exercise of power, the Genoese held the coastal cities, which they could defend from their citadels, but the Corsican republic controlled the rest of the island from Corte, its capital.Following the French conquest of Corsica in 1768, Paoli oversaw the Corsican resistance. Following the defeat of Corsican forces at the Battle of Ponte Novu he was forced into exile in Britain where he was a celebrated figure. He returned after the French Revolution which he was initially supportive of. He later broke with the revolutionaries and helped to create the Anglo-Corsican Kingdom which lasted between 1794 and 1796. After the island was re-occupied by France he again went into exile in Britain where he died in 1807.

Republic of Genoa

The Republic of Genoa (Italian: Repubblica di Genova; Ligurian: Repúbrica de Zêna, pronounced [ɾeˈpybɾika de ˈzeːna]; Latin: Res Publica Ianuensis) was an independent state from 1005 to 1797 in Liguria on the northwestern Italian coast, incorporating Corsica from 1347 to 1768, and numerous other territories throughout the Mediterranean.

The republic began when Genoa became a self-governing commune within the imperial Kingdom of Italy, and ended when it was conquered by the French First Republic under Napoleon and replaced with the Ligurian Republic. Corsica was ceded to France in the Treaty of Versailles of 1768. The Ligurian Republic was annexed by the First French Empire in 1805; its restoration was briefly proclaimed in 1814 following the defeat of Napoleon, but it was ultimately annexed by the Kingdom of Sardinia in 1815.

Treaty of Versailles (1768)

The Treaty of Versailles was concluded on May 15, 1768 at Versailles between the Republic of Genoa and France. Genoa put Corsica in pledge to France.

Corsica had been ruled by Genoa since 1284. In the 18th century Corsicans started to seek their independence. A German adventurer, Theodore von Neuhof, briefly became King of Corsica in 1736, supported by the Dutch Republic and Great Britain, which already possessed Menorca and Gibraltar in the Mediterranean Sea. In 1755 a full-fledged Corsican Republic was founded under Pasquale Paoli, and in 1764 Genoa asked France to send troops. France occupied the Corsican harbours and fortresses in order to control the rebellious population, but also to prevent the island falling into British hands.

In the Treaty of Versailles Genoa had no option but to put Corsica in pledge to France, to repay her debts. There was no chance that Genoa, which was in decline, could ever repay her debts otherwise, nor was Genoa capable of suppressing the Corsican struggle for independence.

In September 1768 France began its conquest of Corsica. France gained full military control of the island following the Battle of Ponte Novu in 1769, and until the French Revolution, the island was considered the personal possession of the King.

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