Etienne Jacques Joseph Alexandre Macdonald, Duke of Taranto, 1765-1840
War of the Second Coalition
Out of Favour
War of the Fifth Coalition
Marshal Jacques Etienne Joseph Alexandre Macdonald (1765-1840) was the son of a Scottish immigrant who served under every regime from the pre-revolutionary Royal army, through the revolutionary and Napoleonic periods and on to the restored Bourbons. His career was a mix of triumph, in particular at Wagram, and defeat in Italy and Germany, and was interrupted by a spell out of favour
Macdonald's father was Vall Macachaim of South Uist, a Jacobite who fled into exile in France after the failure of the '45 and joined the French army. The Macachaims of Uist were part of the Macdonalds of Clanranald, and Vall chose to use the more famous name once in France. Jacques was born at Sedan in 1765, and joined the Royal army as a lieutenant at the age of 19. He served in Dillon's Regiment.
Macdonald remained in the army after the Revolution. He served in the Low Countries in 1792-95. He served as Dumouriez's ADC, but refused to support his commander when he went over to the Austrians in April 1793. He commanded an infantry brigade at the battle of Courtrai (11 May 1794) taking part in an attack on the Austrian flanks. The Austrians withdrew, but returned a few days later in larger numbers, only to suffer another defeat at Tourcoing (17-18 May 1794). Macdonald was promoted to general of brigade on 1 August 1793. In 1794 he commanded a brigade with notable skill at the French defeat at Tournai (22 May 1794). Although the French attack on Tournai failed, it did help convince the Austrians that they couldn't hold onto the Austrian Netherlands. Macdonald was promoted to general of division in November 1794, aged only 29.
At the start of 1797 Macdonald served as commander of the Army of Batavia (the French satellite state in Holland), but later in the year he was replaced by General Joubert.
Late in 1798 King Ferdinand IV of Naples, supported by the Austrian General Mack, attempted to expel the French from Rome. The French commander in Rome, General Championnet, decided to fight north of Rome, in the Tiber Valley. On 22 November Mack's invasion began. He quickly took Rome, and then began an advance along both sides of the Tiber. On 4 December Macdonald defeated Mack's left wing at Civita Castellana. After a few more setbacks the Neapolitans retreated back into their own kingdom. Early in 1799 Championnet advanced into Naples, and established the Parthenopean Republic (this French satellite only lasted from January until June 1799). After Championnet was recalled, Macdonald was given command of this army.
War of the Second Coalition
At the start of the War of the Second Coalition Macdonald commanded the French 'Army of Rome', then based in Naples. In the north of Italy a combined Austrian and Russian army recaptured the areas lost to Napoleon in 1796-97 and threatened to expel the French from Italy.
Macdonald responded by marching north to help the Army of Italy, then commanded by General Moreau. His departure from Naples in April allowed an Anglo-Neapolitan force to temporarily retake Naples (ending the Parthenopean Republic).
Macdonald won a victory against the Austrians at Modena (12 June 1799), suffering a head wound in the battle. He then advanced into the Po valley, hoping to cut the Allied supply line, but he ran into Suvorov's Russians and Austrians at the Trebbia (17-19 June 1799) and suffered a heavy defeat. Macdonald blamed Victor for this defeat, and Victor harboured a grudge over this for the rest of their careers (one of the many feuds to develop between the Marshals).
Although Macdonald had failed in his objective, the Allies also failed in theirs, which was to prevent the two French armies from uniting. Macdonald retreated across the Apennines to the coast, and then west to join up with Moreau at Genoa. On his way he fought two rearguard actions, at San-Giorgio (20 June 1799) and Sassuolo (23 June 1799).
In the aftermath of this defeat Macdonald was withdrawn from Italy, and was given command of some of the troops around Paris. He thus played a key part in the coup of Brumaire (November 1799), which saw Napoleon seize power. He led his troops to Versailles on the first day of the coup, securing one possible centre of opposition.
Macdonald was rewarded with command of the French 'Army of the Grisons', in Switzerland. In the summer of 1800 Napoleon crossed the Alps into Italy and defeated the Austrians at Marengo (14 June 1800). In the aftermath of this battle the Austrians agreed to an armistice and withdrew behind the Mincio, giving them control of north-eastern Italy.
Fighting broke out again late in 1800. The most significant campaign came in Germany, where Moreau defeated the Austrians at Hohenlinden, but Macdonald also played a part in the French victory. In December 1800 he crossed the Alps, using the Splügen Pass, and defeated the Austrians in the Adige valley. After this victory the French regained control of north-eastern Italy. These combined defeats convinced the Austrians to sue for peace, and on 9 February 1801 they signed the treaty of Lunéville.
In 1802 Macdonald married for the second time, to Joubert's widow.
Out of Favour
In 1803 two of Macdonald's early patrons, Moreau and Pichegru, attempted to overthrow Napoleon. The plot failed, Moreau went into exile and Pichegru was arrested. Inevitably Macdonald came under suspicion, although there was nothing to link him to the plot. Napoleon chose not to employ Macdonald for the next six years, so he missed the War of the Third Coalition, War of the Fourth Coalition and the start of the Peninsular War.
War of the Fifth Coalition
In 1809 the Austrians declared war on France, one of the few occasions when Napoleon didn't initiate a war himself (War of the Fifth Coalition). By now the French were badly overstretched, and Napoleon was forced to recall Macdonald to active service. He was sent to join Prince Eugene's Army of Italy, which had suffered a number of defeats early in the war. Macdonald took part in Prince Eugene's recovery, which ended with the Austrians forced out of Italy and back into Hungary.
He played a part in the French victory at the Piave (8 May 1809), which helped trigger the Austrian retreat. Eugene then split his army, sending Macdonald towards Trieste to follow the Austrian left, while he chased the Archduke John into Austria. Macdonald captured Trieste, but then found an Austrian camp at Laybach (modern Lamarque). Macdonald decided to surround this camp and besiege it, but his moves convinced the Austrian defenders to surrender (Combat near Laybach, 22 May 1809). He then moved north to Maribor (Marburg), and by 29 May his leading cavalry forces were at the outskirts of Graz. This forced the Archduke to retreat east into Hungary, where he joined up with reinforcements, but still suffered defeat at the battle of Raab (14 June 1809).
In the meantime Napoleon had once again reached Vienna, but his first attempt to cross the Danube had ended in defeat at Aspern-Essling.
Napoleon learnt from this defeat. He summoned every available soldier to Vienna, including the troops from Italy. Macdonald's men arrived in Vienna on 4 July, the day before the battle of Wagram (5-6 July 1809). Macdonald's men took part in the failed French attack late on the first day of the battle, although only after Macdonald had protested about the plan. Macdonald's forces were repulsed, and some of his troops broke and fled, an ominous sign that the quality of Napoleon's army was beginning to decline. Macdonald was able to restore order and his men fought well on the second day of the battle.
On the second day of the battle Macdonald's men were committed to the main French attack on the centre of the Austrian line. He formed his 8,000 men into a massive hollow square, made up of two divisions (Lamarque and Broussier). This formation could defend itself against attack from the sides or the front, but was also vulnerable to artillery fire. Macdonald's attack began at about noon, and his grand square soon found itself under attack from three sides. Macdonald's force suffered devastating casualties, going from 8,000 down to 1,500 men. Napoleon had to commit three fresh divisions and the Young Guard, to save Macdonald. Wrede's Bavarians and the Young Guard moved directly up to support Macdonald, while two fresh divisions from the Army of Italy moved up so his flanks. The reinforced square did manage to advance, and helped push back the Austrian III Corps.
Although this attack hadn't achieved its main aims, it had weakened the Austrians. When news arrived that expected Austrian reinforcements wouldn't arrive until too late in the day, the Archduke Charles decided to withdraw. By this point Macdonald had reorganised his men, and he was able to contribute to the final French advance.
Napoleon was greatly impressed with Macdonald's performance, and promoted him to Marshal on the battlefield at Wagram, the only time this happened. In the following month he was promoted to the Imperial peerage as duc de Tarante.
Macdonald served in Spain from April 1810 to July 1811. Early in 1810 Marshal Augereau, commander of the Army of Catalonia, attempted to capture Tarragona, but he suffered an embarrassing defeat and had to return to Barcelona. On 24 April Napoleon gave Macdonald command of the Army of Catalonia. During his time in Spain he struggled to cope with the local guerrillas.
In December 1810 he was given the task of preventing the Spanish from interfering in the siege of Tortosa (16 December 1810-2 January 1811). He posted 15,000 men at Mora, twenty-five miles upstream from Tortosa on the Ebro.
In the summer of 1811 he lost command of part of his army during the siege of Tarragona (3 May-28 June 1811), when it was given to General Suchet for the siege.
He was eventually allowed to return to Paris on medical leave.
In 1812 Macdonald commanded one of the supporting armies during the invasion of Russia. He was given X Corps, which had Prussian, Bavarian and Polish troops, and the job of capturing the Baltic provinces. In August-December 1812 he took part in an unsuccessful siege of Riga, which held out until the French were forced to retreat.
Towards the end of the Russian campaign the Prussian contingent in X Corps, under General von Yorck, was cut off from the rest of the corps, and agreed a separate armistice with the Russians (armistice of Tauroggen, 28 December 1812), and agreed to become neutral. This was the first crack in Napoleon's control of Germany, and helped trigger a series of revolts against him. He was forced to abandon Königsberg on 4 January 1813.
Macdonald was unimpressed with Napoleon's plan for the campaign in Germany in 1813, and suggested an alternative. He suggested that the French withdraw from all of their isolated fortresses in eastern and central Europe and use the new army that Napoleon had raised after his return from Russia to defend a position somewhere in the west, perhaps as far back as the Rhine. Napoleon rejected this plan, and instead decided to campaign as far east as he could.
Despite his objections to the plan, Macdonald was given command of XI Corps for the campaign in Germany, although he didn't arrive in time to take part in the battle of Möckern (5 April 1813).
Macdonald's corps took part in the battle of Lützen (2 May 1813), where it was one of the units that was fed into the battle to support Ney's isolated corps. This ended as a costly French victory. In mid-May Napoleon reorganised his armies in Germany, creating a single Army of the Elbe. Ney was given command of one wing, while Napoleon took direct control of the other. Macdonald was appointed as his deputy.
His corps fought at the battle of Bautzen (20-21 May 1813), and were present for both days of the battle. In the period before the battle he had been sent on a reconnaissance in force, and on 16 May had found the allied army at Bautzen. On the first day of the battle he took part in an attack on Bautzen, but made little progress until he was supported by Marmont. On the second day the Russians attacked first, and Macdonald was used to bolster the line. He made effective use of his artillery and the Allied attack was repulsed. Finally, Marshal Ney carried out a flank attack that gave Napoleon a victory, although Ney's slow progress towards the battlefield reduced the scale of that victory.
Macdonald was given an independent command during the autumn campaign of 1813. He was given 100,000 men, with orders to block Blücher's Prussians. On 26 August he advanced across the River Katzbach (Silesia), but suffered a heavy defeat when his isolated columns were attacked by the Prussians. Macdonald lost 15,000 men, and Blücher was free to threaten Napoleon's flank. As a result the benefits of Napoleon's victory at Dresden (26-27 August 1813) slipped away. At first Napoleon didn't realise how serious the defeat on this flank had been, and gave Macdonald the task of defending the River Bobr as Ney led another attack on Berlin. When it became clear that Macdonald was still retreating, Napoleon decided to join him in person, and took the Imperial Guard and Marmont's corps with him. He was able to restore the morale of both Macdonald and his army, but was unable to force Blücher to fight. The Prussians withdrew after they realised that they faced Napoleon, and the Emperor was forced to return to his main army without the victory he wanted. Macdonald was left to face Blücher once again. This was only a temporary reprieve. Macdonald was soon retreating once again, and Napoleon was forced to dash back to support him once again. On 22 September he was able to force Blücher to retreat from Bautzen once again, but once again was unable to force a battle. This was exactly what the Allies were trying to achieve - their plan was to avoid battle with Napoleon in person, and press his subordinates. As a result the French army was being worn out without achieving anything, and Napoleon's successes were negated by the failures of his marshals.
Napoleon's attempts to keep the Allied armies apart eventually failed, and it became clear that they were all heading for Leipzig. Napoleon realised that he would have to concentrate his own armies there as well, and on 14 October Macdonald was ordered to join him at Duben ready for the march to Leipzig.
Later in the campaign Macdonald fought at Leipzig, where his corps was posted to the south-east of the city on the first day of the battle, where it attacked the Allied right wing, then to the east on the crucial third day. He took part in the rearguard action as the French evacuated the city, and was forced to escape capture by swimming across the River Elster. His corps then took part in the battle of Hanau (30-31 October 1813), the only serious attempt to stop the French leaving Germany. At the start of the battle his corps was the only one available to Napoleon, but reinforcements soon arrived and the Allies were pushed aside.
Macdonald served in the campaign in France in 1814, but his performance wasn't terribly impressive. In early February Napoleon inflicted a defeat on Blücher at Montmirail (11 February 1814). As the Prussians retreated north, Macdonald was meant to capture Château-Thierry, block their line of retreat and allow Napoleon to crush them. He moved too slowly, and the Prussians arrived first, crossed the river and broke the bridges. Although Napoleon was able to inflict another defeat on the Prussian rearguard, it wasn't the major victory that he required (battle of Château-Thierry, 12 February 1814). Despite this failure, in late February Macdonald was given command of a force made up of Oudinot's, Gérard's, Kellermann's and Milhaud's troops, with orders to convince Schwarzenberg that his Army of Bohemia still faced Napoleon. This was to give Napoleon time to defeat Blücher.
Things didn't as Napoleon had hoped. Oudinot suffered a defeat at Bar-sur-Aube on 27 February and retreated, leaving Macdonald's left flank exposed. Macdonald was forced to retreat to the west bank of the Seine, allowing the Austrians to capture Troyes by 5 March. In addition Macdonald fell ill. In mid-March Macdonald was forced to retreat along the Seine towards Meaux. Napoleon was forced to move south to deal with Schwarzenberg. At the battle of Arcis (20-21 March 1814) he attacked what he believed was an isolated Austrian force, only to discover that the entire army was present. Macdonald was ordered to march from Bray to Arcis to join the fight, but instead Napoleon had to retreat before Macdonald could get close to the battle. The retreating troops from Arcis joined Macdonald's force near Ormes.
After the fall of Paris to the allies in March 1814 Macdonald and Ney insisted that Napoleon should abdicate instead of attempting to fight on. Macdonald helped negotiation the generous terms of the first abdication, which gave Napoleon his own principality on Elba. Napoleon appreciated his performance in this, and presented him with Murad Bey's sword, captured during Napoleon's Egyptian campaign.
After the abdication Macdonald returned to the service of the Bourbons. He remained with them during Napoleon's return in 1815. After Napoleon's second abdication Macdonald was given command of the Army of the Loire, which contained many of the survivors of the Grande Armée. He helped demobilise this army, and at the same time protected many of its officers from the Bourbon desire for revenge.
Soon afterwards Macdonald left the army. He sat in the House of Peers, where he was a moderate liberal. He married for a third time in 1821, and his first son was born in 1822. In 1825 he visited Scotland, where he visited his family's ancestral home, lost after the '45. Although he didn't speak English, he did speak Gaelic, and was able to use the language during his visit. He died at his chateau at Courcelles-le-Roi in 1840.
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Etienne Jacques Joseph Alexandre Macdonald, Duke of Taranto, 1765-1840 - History
Etienne-Jacques-Joseph-Alexandre MacDonald, Duc de Tarente, Marshal (1809)
(Born Sedan, 1765 - Died Courcelles-le-Roi, 1840)
This descendant of a 17th century exiled Scottish family enlisted in the Dillon Irish infantry regiment in 1784. He was still in the army when the Revolution broke out. His conduct at Jemmapes (November 6, 1792) earned him the rank of colonel. He was named provisional brigadier general on August 26, 1793 and replaced Souham at the command of the 1st division of the Army of the North.
MacDonald was sent to the Netherlands under the orders of Pichegru (1795). His conduct led to his appointment as major general. Sent to Italy in April 1798, under Berthier, he took part in the invasion of Rome, where he became governor. He had to face up to numerous uprisings and an attack from the king of Naples. He marched against the rebels and led the repression at Frossinone. He had to evacuate Rome under the threat of general Mack, but managed to turn the tide and re-occupy the city. In disagreement with general Championnet, MacDonald decided to resign on January 11, 1799. He was then sent to the Army of Naples, but was defeated at Trebbia on June 19, 1799 and had to evacuate Italy.
On his return to France, he supported Bonaparte during the coup d'état of 18-Brumaire and commanded the companies present at Versailles. He was then named inspector general of the infantry (January 21, 1800).
The First Consul entrusted him and an army reserve corps with a diversionary mission in the Tyrol. He crossed the Alps in the winter of 1800-1801. In 1801, he was given the ambassadorship to Denmark. On his return, he was kept away from major posts for having supported Moreau, under whom he had served, in 1804. In 1807, he was asked to return to the Army of Naples.
In 1809, the Emperor recalled him and integrated him into the army of Prince Eugene during the Austrian campaign. MacDonald contributed to the surrender of Laybach and took an active part in the victory at Raab (June 14, 1809). He joined the Grande Armée outside Vienna for the remainder of the campaign. At Wagram on July 6, he headed a reserve corps which executed a decisive charge. On the evening of the battle, Napoleon hugged him and exclaimed, "General MacDonald! Let us forget the past and be friends! I name you marshal and duke you have deserved it."
MacDonald, then appointed governor of Gratz, undertook his mission so honorably that the city wanted to pay him 200,000 francs when he left. He refused the gift. In 1810, he replaced Augereau at the head of the 7th corps in Spain. At Manresa, he burned down the city after being received with musket fire.
The following year, he rejoined the Grande Armée, on the way to Russia. At the head of the 10th corps, he defended Riga. He asked the Prussian corps accompanying him to follow him as he retreated, but the Prussian general defected and signed the Treaty of Tauroggen.
During the German campaign, MacDonald was given the command of the 11th corps. He defeated general Yorck on April 29, 1813 at Merseburg, and was present at Lützen (May 2) and Bautzen (May 20-21). He was beaten on August 26, 1813 at Katzbach. During the Battle of Leipzig (October 16-19, 1813), he commanded the rear guard with marshal Poniatowski. He barely escaped with his life by swimming across the Elster. He fought at Hanau on October 30, 1813, as the French armies withdrew to France. He was sent to Cologne to rebuild an army corps.
MacDonald took part in the French campaign in 1814. He fought general Blücher and distinguished himself at Nangis on February 27, 1814. He approved of Napoleon's abdication. During the first Restoration, he brought Napoleon's first abdication to Tsar Alexander I, pleading the Emperor's cause. Napoleon offered him his Egyptian saber in thanks.
The marshal then rallied to Louis XVIII. Made Peer of France on January 4, 1815, he was named by Louis XVIII to head the troops to defend Paris against Napoleon. When the king finally decided to leave the capital, MacDonald accompanied him to Menin, and then returned to France. He accepted no post during the Hundred Days. Under the second Restoration, he was named grand-chancelier de la Légion d'Honneur. He died in 1840 in his Beaulieu château.
Jacques Macdonald, duke de Tarente
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Jacques Macdonald, duke de Tarente, in full Macdonald, Jacques-Étienne-Joseph-Alexandre, duc de Tarente, (born November 17, 1765, Sedan, France—died September 25, 1840, Courcelles), French general who was appointed marshal of the empire by Napoleon.
The son of a Scottish adherent of the exiled British Stuart dynasty, who had served in a Scots regiment in France, he joined the French army and was a colonel when the wars of the French Revolution broke out. He was promoted to general in 1793 and to general of division in 1796.
In May 1798 Macdonald was sent to Italy, where he became governor of Rome and occupied Naples in March 1799 however, his forces were decisively routed by the Russian general Aleksandr Vasilyevich Suvorov at Trebbia, Italy, on June 17–19, 1799, while he was marching north to relieve General Victor Moreau at Genoa. After the coup d’état of 18 Brumaire, year VIII (November 9, 1799), in which Napoleon became first consul, Macdonald commanded the right wing of the Army of the Rhine. In 1800 he won Napoleon’s admiration and praise for his winter crossing of the Splügen Pass from Switzerland into Lombardy, an operation that has been compared to Napoleon’s own Alpine crossing of the Great Saint Bernard Pass that year and one that contributed to the Treaty of Lunéville between France and Austria (1801).
Macdonald’s involvement in the anti-Bonapartist intrigues of General Moreau in 1804 led to his discharge, and he was not recalled to active duty until 1809, when Napoleon judged his military talents indispensable. After contributing to the Austrian defeat at Wagram in July 1809, he was made marshal of the empire and duc de Tarente. He served in Austria in 1809–10 and in Catalonia in 1810–11, but he played no active part in the Russian campaign, being posted in Courland (Latvia). He was defeated by the Prussian marshal Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher in Silesia at the Battle of Katzbach (1813) and barely escaped with his life at the decisive French defeat at Leipzig (October 1813).
Although he was reluctant to recognize the abdication of Napoleon in 1814, Macdonald served Louis XVIII loyally and did not rejoin Napoleon during the Hundred Days. After the Second Restoration of the Bourbons, he was appointed major general of the Royal Guard and named to the Legion of Honour.
This article was most recently revised and updated by Amy Tikkanen, Corrections Manager.
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On 30 April 2010 a plaque was unveiled to the memory of Marshal of France Jacques MacDonald on the Outer Hebridean island of South Uist, the familial home of MacDonald. MacDonald had visited South Uist in 1825 in order to find out more about his family roots. 
Of him, the Encyclopædia Britannica of 1911 says:
MacDonald had none of that military genius that distinguished Davout, Masséna and Lannes, nor of that military science conspicuous in Marmont and St Cyr, but nevertheless his campaign in Switzerland gives him a rank far superior to such mere generals of division as Oudinot and Dupont. This capacity for independent command made Napoleon, in spite of his defeats at the Trebia and the Battle of Katzbach, trust him with large commands till the end of his career. As a man, his character cannot be spoken of too highly no stain of cruelty or faithlessness rests on him. 
I received this book as a Christmas gift, and the subject matter is obviously a minority interest, but I found it quite a decent read.
This edition comprises the travel diary of Marshal MacDonald during a visit to Scotland in 1825, together with an extensive commentary by the translator, Jean-Didier Hache, and other contributions. Prior to reading, I had heard of Marshal MacDonald and knew he was the son of a Scottish Jacobite exile, but knew nothing else of him. The commentary by M. Hache expla I received this book as a Christmas gift, and the subject matter is obviously a minority interest, but I found it quite a decent read.
This edition comprises the travel diary of Marshal MacDonald during a visit to Scotland in 1825, together with an extensive commentary by the translator, Jean-Didier Hache, and other contributions. Prior to reading, I had heard of Marshal MacDonald and knew he was the son of a Scottish Jacobite exile, but knew nothing else of him. The commentary by M. Hache explains how the Marshal's father was one Neil MacEachen, from the island of South Uist in the Outer Hebrides, who had been a close associate of Prince Charles Stuart during the latter's epic escape from Scotland after the Battle of Culloden, and who may have been a Jacobite agent from about a decade beforehand. Neil MacEachen was from the"Tacksman" class of Highland society, tacksmen being the most important of the Clan Chief's tenants. He had studied at the Scots College in Paris during the years 1736 and 1737, during which time he changed his surname to MacDonald. The commentary also provides a brief summary of the Marshal's own military career and how he (just) managed to avoid becoming a victim of the Revolutionary Terror, despite the fact that his father was both a foreigner and from the minor gentry. I thought M. Hache's commentary was excellent and based on this part of the book, I would have rated it four stars. However, the Marshal's diary itself is rather uninspired, something M. Hache recognises in his commentary. At the time of his journey in 1825, the Marshal was nearing his 60th birthday and was suffering from gout. His schedule was exhausting and his journey was made during an era when travelling through the Scottish Highlands and Islands was much more difficult than it is today. The diary was based on "flying notes" and written up at the end of each day by a man who was often very tired.
Still, overall, this was an interesting little foray into a side alley of history. . more
Radicals at War: The Scottish Insurrection of 1820
BY the late-eighteenth century, Scottish artisans were in a position whereby they had been permitted to determine their own hours of work. Known as commission, this development had allowed blacksmiths, wheelwrights, weavers and shoemakers to structure their working day in accordance with allowing for enough free time for educational pursuits.
This state of affairs was the result of efforts by the comparatively liberal Presbyterian Church of Scotland, which believed that men and women should reach standards of literacy that placed them in a position to make rational judgements. Once these artisans had been acquainted with the rights of workers in other countries, however, particularly in the wake of the American and French revolutions that had brought the eighteenth century to a close, they became actively involved with the Radical Movement as a whole. One of the biggest influences was Thomas Paine (1737-1809), whose 1791 The Rights of Man had advocated rebellion in those cases in which a government does not represent the wishes of its people. This, at a time when just 1 in 250 Scottish people had the right to vote.
Between 1792 and 1793, the Scottish Society of the Friends of the People held a series of ‘conventions’ and many of its leading activists soon found themselves arrested and forcibly transported to penal colonies overseas. In 1793, for example, a minister from the Unitarian church, Thomas Fyshe Palmer (1747-1802) of Dundee, was sentenced to seven years’ deportation for disseminating reformist propaganda. Meanwhile, several activists from the Dundee Friends of Liberty – Thomas Muir (1765-1799), William Skirving (1745-1796), Maurice Margarot (1745-1815) and Joseph Gerrald (1763-1796) – were also deported for subversive behaviour. Five years later, in 1798, a politicised weaver by the name of George Mealmaker (1768-1808) was himself sent to the penal colony of New South Wales.
In the first decade of the following century, between 1800 and 1808, the earnings of Scottish weavers were effectively halved. By 1812 they had campaigned for a wage-increase and this was granted by local magistrates. This did not, on the other hand, prevent their employers from refusing to honour the new common wage and therefore the National Committee of Scottish Union Societies called for a strike. Consequently, the government infiltrated the societies in an attempt to bring the disruption to an end.
In 1816, after the Napoleonic Wars had devastated the European economy, Scottish people found themselves in an increasingly depressed and downtrodden state. After an enormous crowd of 40,000 Scots had gathered at Glasgow Green to demand more governmental reprresentation and an end to the Corn Laws that had set retrictions on imported food and grain, thus resulting in higher food prices as a whole, government agent provocateurs saw to it that the main ringleaders were charged for ‘conspiracy’ and dragged off to court over a period of several months.
When the Peterloo Massacre saw rioting and heavy-handed state repression in the city Manchester during the summer of 1819, Scottish Radicals came out in support of their English counterparts and 5,000 of them took to the streets. Despite efforts by the cavalry to disperse the crowds, a series of protest meetings were held in the weaver strongholds of Stirling, Airdrie, Renfrewshire, Ayrshire and Fife. In mid-December that same year, political reformer George Kinloch MP (1775-1833) was targetted by the authorities for organising a large-scale meeting on Dundee’s Magdalen Green and he escaped and eventually fled abroad.
With the Scottish ruling class fearful that the insurrectionist spirit of the American and French revolutions would find its way to British shores, Volunteer regiments were recruited from the Scottish Lowlands and Scottish Borders. Nonetheless, the weavers were not to be deterred and established a 28-man Radical Committee for organising a Provisional Government elected by delegates from local trade societies. A certain John Baird (1790-1820) also provided military training, which added a truly militant dimension to the proceedings.
On March 21st, 1820, just after the so-called Cato Street Conspiracy had shocked London, the leaders of the Radical Committee met at a Glasgow tavern and were seized upon by government officials. The city police announced that those arrested in the raid had
confessed their audacious plot to sever the Kingdom of Scotland from that of England and restore the ancient Scottish Parliament […] If some plan were conceived by which the disaffected could be lured out of their lairs – being made to think that the day of “liberty” had come – we could catch them abroad and undefended […] few know of the apprehension of the leaders […] so no suspicion would attach itself to the plan at all. Our informants have infiltrated the disaffected’s committees and organisation, and in a few days you shall judge the results.
Despite this temporary setback, the main agitators who came to the fore at this time were weavers such as John King and John Craig, a tin-smith by the name of Duncan Turner and an Englishman known only as ‘Lees’. It was Turner who announced publically that a Provisional Government had been formed and both he and his comrades urged their supporters to make as many pike-staffs as possible and prepare for battle. When April arrived, the group’s official Proclamation – signed on the first day of the month – had been posted throughout the streets of Glasgow. It was a defiant call to arms:
Friends and Countrymen! Rouse from that torpid state in which we have sunk for so many years, we are at length compelled from the extremity of our sufferings, and the contempt heaped upon our petitions for redress, to assert our rights at the hazard of our lives.
The Proclamation went on to explain that the Radicals were taking up arms for the redress of common grievances and that its protagonists wanted equal rights. Furthermore, they were not prepared to back down in the face of government repression:
Liberty or Death is our motto, and we have sworn to return home in triumph – or return no more […] we earnestly request all to desist from their labour from and after this day, the first of April in possession of those rights […] To show the world that we are not that lawless, sanguinary rabble which our oppressors would persuade the higher circles we are but a brave and generous people determined to be free. Britons – God – Justice – the wish of all good men, are with us. Join together and make it one good cause, and the nations of the earth shall hail the day when the Standard of Liberty shall be raised on its native soil.
On April 3rd, the following day, strikes broke out in the central weaving communities of Stirlingshire, Dunbartonshire, Renfrewshire, Lanarkshire and Ayrshire, involving a staggering 60,000 workers. Military drills were also taking place across central Scotland and men were stockpiling pikes, gunpowder and various other weaponry. In addition, one rumour had it that Étienne Jacques Joseph Alexandre MacDonald (1765-1840), 1st Duke of Taranto and a military veteran of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, had assembled an army of 50,000 French soldiers at the Campsie Fells. It was, as you would expect, completely untrue.
Government troops were also preparing for the worst and the Rifle Brigade, the 83rd Regiment of Foot, the 7th and 10th Hussars, and the Glasgow Sharpshooters were each ready to spring into action. John Craig, one of the more prominent Radicals, had intended to seize control of the Carron Company ironworks in Falkirk but was apprehended by a detachment of Hussars. When he was taken to court, however, the magistrate stepped forward to pay the fine on his behalf.
On April 4th, when Duncan Turner led 60 men to the same ironworks, many lost their nerve along the way, but on the following day a man called Andrew Hardie took a further 25 men to Carron. Unbeknownst to the Radicals, 16 Hussars and 16 Yeomanry troopers had left Perth and were also on their way to the ironworks. As one newspaper reported:
On observing this force the Radicals cheered and advanced to a wall over which they commenced firing at the military. Some shots were then fired by the soldiers in return, and after some time the cavalry got through an opening in the wall and attacked the party who resisted till overpowered by the troops who succeeded in taking nineteen of them prisoners, who are lodged in Stirling Castle. Four of the radicals were wounded.
Despite the small number of Radicals involved, the authorities were nonetheless worried that the insurrection was beginning to spread throughout Scotland and those who were caught in possession of weaponry at Duntocher, Paisley and Camelon were duly arrested. On the afternoon of April 5th, Lees ordered his own group of Radicals to meet with sympathetic politician George Kinloch and another large force, but when they received news of a possible ambush they returned to Strathaven. This did not prevent ten of their supporters being arrested and jailed two days later. When other ringleaders were arrested and taken through the streets to Greenock, the prison escort came under attack from local people who supported the Radical cause. A detachment of Volunteers was forced to fire shots into the air to disperse a large mob of protestors, but they were attacked with stones and bottles. Sadly, around eighteen of the demonstrators were shot and killed. The victims included an eight year-old child and an elderly woman of sixty-five.
At a series of show-trials, 88 men were charged with treason and a revolutionary by the name of James Wilson (1760-1820), otherwise known as “Perley Wilson,” was hanged and beheaded in front of a crowd of 20,000 people. On September 8th, Hardie and Baird were executed at Stirling and the latter announced from the gallows that
Although this day we die an ignominious death by unjust laws our blood, which in a very few minutes shall flow on this scaffold, will cry to heaven for vengeance, and may it be the means of our afflicted Countrymen’s speedy redemption.
Theirs was the last judicial beheading to take place in the British Isles. Others faced deportation to Australia: Thomas McCulloch, John Barr, William Smith, Benjamin Moir, Allan Murchie, Alexander Latimer, Andrew White, David Thomson, James Wright, William Clackson, Thomas Pike, Robert Gray, James Clelland, Alexander Hart, Thomas McFarlane, John Anderson, Andrew Dawson, John McMillan and Alexander Johnstone. Thankfully, by 1835 they had all been pardoned.
Following the Scottish Insurrection of 1820, further rebellion was heavily discouraged and even those who had participated in minor incidents – such as fashioning weaponry – were punished in one way or another. It wasn’t until 1832 that the Scottish Reform Act finally led to the election of the first Glasgow MP, but the real victory lay in the revival of a common Scottish identity that had been crushed at Culloden and Glencoe in the previous two centuries but which now brought people together up and down the land.
Cameron, A.D. Living in Scotland, 1760-1820 (Oliver & Boyd, 1969).
Dodgshon, Robert A. From Chiefs to Landlords: Social and Economic Change in the Western Highlands and Islands, 1493-1820 (Edinburgh University Press, 1998).
Mac A’Ghobhainn, Seumas & Ellis, Peter Berresford The Radical Rising: The Scottish Insurrection of 1820 (John Donald, 2001).
Pentland, Gordon Radicalism, Reform and National Identity in Scotland, 1820-1833 (Royal Historical Society, 2008).
Pentland, Gordon Spirit of the Union: Popular Politics in Scotland, 1815-1820 (Pickering & Chatto, 2011).
Prebble, John The King’s Jaunt: George IV in Scotland, August 1822 ‘One and Twenty Daft Days’ (Birlinn Publishers, 2000).
Angus Peter Campbell: On Betty Burke, Bonaparte and Joe Biden
Etienne Jacques Joseph Alexandre MacDonald, otherwise known as the 1st Duke of Taranto, was born this week in 1765 in Sedan in the Ardennes district of France.
His father, Neil MacEachen, who changed his name to MacDonald on his exile to France after the Battle of Culloden, was born in the small village of Howbeg in my native South Uist.
That journey from the machairs of Uist to the military heights of France is extraordinary in many ways, yet also just further proof of the long-established connections between Scotland and France, ever since the Auld Alliance was officially signed between King John Balliol of Scotland and King Phillip IV of France in 1295.© Cailean Maclean.
It was as much an alliance against a common enemy – England – as it was an alliance of friendship between Ecosse and An Fhraing. Though the subsequent trade and cultural ties magnified the alliance into a long-standing friendship.
Inevitably, religion played a central role in the relationship: Catholic France and (the later) Presbyterian Scotland played out a dynamic dialogue.
Although Mary Queen of Scots was born at Linlithgow, her upbringing was French. The name Marie Stuart carries with it a thousand resonances.
Almost 200 years after her execution in 1587 the same struggle was being carried out under the banner of Jacobitism.
The Battle of Culloden brought that particular venture to a brutal end. It may seem long ago, but it has lasted in folk memory.
I remember talking some years ago to the great Gaelic poet Sorley MacLean, who told me of folk he knew in Lochalsh who remembered people who had talked to those who had seen the houses in Raasay on fire when the Redcoats were rampaging through the Highlands after the ’45.
The atrocity was only a few steps away.
Neil MacEachan from Howbeg is famous in history as the friend and servant who accompanied Bonnie Prince Charlie, disguised as ‘Betty Burke’, and Flora MacDonald over the sea to Skye on their escape from Benbecula, and on to France.
It’s important to remember that Neil MacEachan wasn’t just an untutored peasant from Uist with peat growing out of his wellingtons. Fluent in French, English and Gaelic, he was tutor to the Clanranald children (the children of the chief) and had studied for the priesthood at the Scots College in Paris.
Once exiled to France after the ’45, he fell, like many other Jacobites, on hard times – his wife took on laundry and cleaning jobs for them to survive – dying in poverty and exile far from the white shores of his Uist childhood in 1788.
His son, Étienne Jacques Joseph Alexandre MacDonald, almost became Emperor of France himself, though the job was then claimed by Napoleon.
MacDonald served him with distinction, and in his memoirs gives a moving account of the last time he saw Bonaparte, before his exile: “He was seated before the fire, his feet in slippers, his head buried in his hands and his elbows resting on his knees.
“The Emperor seemed to wake from a dream and to be surprised at seeing me.” Ten years after Waterloo, MacDonald made a once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage back to his father’s birthplace in South Uist.
It was, of course, a marvel to the people, many of whom would have fought (on the other side) in the long Napoleonic Wars.
He gives a moving account in his diary of visiting his father’s people: “In Uist, are welcomed by a quantity of MacDonalds. I meet an elderly spinster who shed tears of joy. She is my first cousin.”
The relationship to our homeland is a complicated topic. Ireland, rightly, is rejoicing in having one of its sons, Joe Biden, as the US president-elect.
He has Irish roots on both sides of the family, going back to his great-grandfather, James Finnegan, who emigrated from County Louth as a child in the 1850s.
Yet the incumbent president, our own Donald John Trump, has an even stronger direct connection: his mother, Mary Ann MacLeod, was born and brought up as a Gaelic speaker on Lewis from 1912.
Maybe it’s not so much that we celebrate achievement or position unreservedly, but celebrate an integrity that goes with it.
Whatever the folk of Uist might or might not have thought of Bonaparte, they were proud of this son of the machair because he had not sold out on his own father’s courage and enterprise and integrity.
It’s a two-way relationship. You can only love that which you respect: where you’ve come from as much as where you’re going.
Angus Peter Campbell is an award-winning writer and actor from Uist
Visit to Villa Taranto
Whoever has been to Verbania, on Lake Maggiore, for a long time or even only for a summer afternoon has certainly visited the Botanical Gardens of Villa Taranto. Coming into the gardens of Villa Taranto is just like travelling through foreign lands.
The gardens were established 1931-1940 by Scotsman Neil Boyd McEacharn.
He firstly bought an existing villa with its neighbouring estates and then undertook substantial changes to the landscape, including the addition of major water features employing 8 km of pipes. He then set the name “Villa Taranto” in honour of his ancestor Etienne Jacques Joseph Alexandre MacDonald, named Duke of Taranto by Napoleon.
They opened to the public in 1952 and after McEacharn’s death in 1964 have been run by a non-profit organization which preserves this incomparable botanical treasure and its natural beauties. A visit to Villa Taranto is therefore a must at Lake Maggiore since these gardens reward the visitor with seasonal beauty and natural sceneries.
HD photos of Jacques MacDonald statue on Aile de Rohan-Rivoli at Musee du Louvre - Page 1192
We were admiring the Aile de Rohan-Rivoli facade of the Musee du Louvre in the 1st Arrondissement of Paris, when we took these high definition photos showing a statue of Jacques MacDonald, which was sculpted by Eugene Leon L'Hoest.
It was in the early part of the 1900s that it was decided there would statues positioned within niches on a wing of the famous Louvre Museum called the Aile de Rohan-Rivoli, and these were all to depict commanders, generals and Marshals of France who had fought during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.
Commissioned to numerous different sculptors, unfortunately, these were not realised until after World War I was over, and this particular statue representing Jacques MacDonald was not put in place until the start of the 1920s.
Jacques MacDonald was born in 1765 with a full name of Etienne Jacques Joseph Alexandre MacDonald who embarked on a military career. Although not always in favour and sometimes out of work, Napoleon Bonaparte made him an advisor to the Viceroy of the Kingdom of Italy and on the field during the Battle of Wagram, Napoleon made him a Marshal of France, at the time referred to as a Marshal of the Empire.
After this, he was then given the title of Duke of Taranto and during other battles Jacques MacDonald distinguished himself, being one of the marshals sent by Napoleon Bonaparte to take the notice of his abdication, remaining loyal to the Empire.
At the Restoration Etienne Jacques Joseph Alexandre MacDonald was made a Peer of France, awarded the Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Order of St Louis, and remaining faithful to the country he ended up becoming the Chancellor of the Legion of Honour, a post he held until his retirement.
So these are some of the reasons why Jacques MacDonald was one of the gentlemen chosen to be represented on the Louvre, and the statue was commissioned to Eugene Leon L'Hoest.
Eugene Leon L'Hoest was born in Paris in July 1874 and initially studying in Angers he moved to Paris for his career as a sculptor, first working in the studio of Gabriel-Jules Thomas, but later in his career had his own workshop, which he remained in until passing away in 1937.
You will find that Eugene Leon L'Hoest was mainly recognised as an orientalist after his travels in Algeria, Egypt and North Africa, with two of his works now held within the Musee d'Orsay, which he executed whilst in Cairo. Although, Eugene Leon L'Hoest was also commissioned for statues, busts of celebrities and different memorials, along with regularly presenting works at the Paris Salons for French artists, yet he also became a professor at the Ecole des Beaux Arts.
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Aile de Rohan-Rivoli, The Louvre, 75001, Paris, Ile de France, France