VERGENNES, CHARLES GRAVIER, Comte de
(1717-1787), French statesman, was born at Dijon on the 20th of December 1717. He was introduced to the profession of diplomacy by his uncle, M. de Chavigny, under whom he saw his first service at Lisbon. His successful conduct of French interests at the court of Trier in 1750 and the following years led to his being sent to Constantinople in 1755 at first as minister plenipotentiary, then as ambassador. In 1768 he was recalled, ostensibly because of a mesalliance with Mme Testa, widow of a Pera surgeon, but really because Choiseul thought him not zealous enough in provoking a quarrel between Russia and Turkey. After Choiseul's death he was sent to Stockholm with instructions to help the aristocratic party of the " Hats " with advice and money. The revolution by which Gustavus III. (August 19, 1772) secured for himself the reality instead of the shadow of power was a great diplomatic triumph for France. With the accession of Louis XVI. Vergennes became foreign minister. His general policy was one of friendly relations with Austria, combined with the limitation of Joseph II.'s ambitious designs; the protection of Turkey; and opposition at all points to England. His hatred of England and his desire to avenge the disasters of the Seven Years' War led to his support of the American States in the War of Independence, a step of which the moral and financial results had not a little to do with the Revolution of 1789. Vergennes sought by a series of negotiations to secure the armed neutrality of the Northern Powers eventually carried out by Catherine II.; he ceded to the demands of Beaumarchais that France should secretly provide the Americans with arms and volunteers. In 1777 he informed the American commissioners that France acknowledged the Republic and was willing to form an offensive and defensive alliance with the new state. In domestic affairs Vergennes belonged to the old school. He intrigued against Necker, whom he regarded as a dangerous innovator, a republican, a foreigner and a Protestant. In 1781 he became chief of the council of finance, and in 1783 he supported the nomination of Calonne as controller general. Vergennes died on the 13th of February 1787, before the meeting of the Assembly of Notables which he is said to have suggested to Louis XVI.
See P. Fauchelle, La Diplomatic française et la Ligue des neutres de 1780 (1776-83) (Paris, 1893); John Jay, The Peace Negotiations of 1782-83 as illustrated by the Confidential Papers of Shelburne and Vergennes (New York, 1888); L. Bonneville de Marsangy, Le Chevalier de Vergennes, son ambassade a Constantinople (Paris, 1894), and Le Chevalier de Vergennes, son ambassade en Suede (Paris, 1898).