Thursday, May 28, 2020

"perhaps true wisdom would distinguish happiness and riches" Louis Otto


Nancy Shippen
            Anne Hume Shippen, better known as Nancy, was all but forced by her father to marry Henry Beekman Livingston because of Livingston’s wealth and prestige. Prior to that marriage though she was head over heels for a young member of the French Legation to America, Louis-Guillaume Otto.
            Otto’s origins are a bit murky. He was either born in 1753 in Strasbourg, Alsace, France or in 1754 in Baden in what would become southwest Germany. He was educated at the University of Strasbourg before entering the diplomatic service
Louis Otto
            He arrived in Philadelphia in 1779 as a member of the French delegation to the United States. He met Nancy and they exchanged frequent visits and romantic letters. She also began courting Henry Beekman Livingston at this time, much more to her father’s liking. Otto once wrote: “Your papa knows that my fortune cannot be compared with that of Livingston therefore he prefers him, perhaps true wisdom would distinguish happiness and riches.” Nancy married Livingston anyway.
            In March of 1787 Otto married his own Livingston, Elizabeth, daughter of Peter Van Brugh Livingston. Unfortunately, she died in December of that same year.
            Otto’s diplomatic career was on the ascent though. In 1785 he had replaced Francois Barbe-Marbois as Secretary (leader) of the French delegation in America. When he returned to Revolutionary France in 1792, he was made head of the Political Division for Foreign Affairs.
            A year later turbulence in the government led to a slight hiccup in Otto’s career. He was dismissed from the service, arrested and scheduled to be executed by guillotine. Somehow though he talked his way out of the execution though and was made a member of the diplomatic delegation sent to Berlin.
Napoleon Bonaparte
Marie Louise
            In 1800 Otto was sent to Great Britain as the Commissioner for Prisoners of War. He was in charge of negotiating prisoner exchanges and supplying French prisoners taken by the British. Soon though he was appointed Minister Plenipotentiary to Great Britain. He spent the year 1801 hammering out a peace treaty with his British counterparts which was signed in 1802 by Joseph Bonaparte and Charles Cornwallis. The French Revolutionary Wars were over. The Treaty of Amiens, as the treaty was called after the town in which it was signed, would be the only peace between Britain and France from the beginning of the fighting in 1793 and Napoleon’s abdication in 1814. The treaty lasted a year until May of 1803 when the British seized a bunch of French ships in British ports and the French responded by seizing more than 1,800 British citizens in France and Italy. The Napoleonic Wars had begun.
            In 1803 Otto was sent to Bavaria as ambassador where he greatly impressed Napoleon. To honor his service Napoleon named him to the Conseil d'État and honored him as Grand officier of the Légion d'honneur. He also created him the Comte de Mosloy in 1810.
            In 1810 Otto was sent to Vienna as the ambassador to Austria. He was responsible for negotiating Napoleon’s second marriage to the archduchess Marie Louise. She was empress of France until Napoleon was forced to abdicate and sent to Elba in 1814.
The Battle of Waterloo
            Otto was not part of the restoration government as he was viewed as far too much of a Napoleon supporter. During Napoleon’s return in 1815, known as the 100 Days, Otto was made Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs. Napoleon’s second reign effectively came to an end at Waterloo. Otto took the opportunity to retire from public life, living another two years before dying in 1817. He was buried in Paris.





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