Marquis de Mores
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Antoine-Amédée-Marie-Vincent Manca Amat de Vallombrosa, Marquis de Morès et de Montemaggiore (June 14, 1858 – June 9, 1896), commonly known as the Marquis de Morès, was a famous duelist, frontier ranchman in the Badlands of Dakota Territory during the final years of the American Old West era, a railroad pioneer in Vietnam, and an anti-Semitic politician in his native France.
Born Antoine-Amédée-Marie-Vincent Manca Amat de Vallombrosa, he inherited the title Marquis de Morès et de Montemaggiore, but he was usually called Marquis de Morès.
De Morès began life as a soldier, graduating in 1879 from St. Cyr, the leading military academy of France. Among his classmates was Philippe Pétain, famous French general of World War I and the ill-fated future leader of the Vichy France government in World War II.
After St. Cyr, he entered Saumur, France's premier cavalry school, where he trained to be an officer. He was later sent to Algiers, helping to put down an uprising. It was while in Algiers that he had his first duel, starting his career as the most celebrated duelist of his day.
He resigned from the cavalry in 1882 and married Medora von Hoffman, sometimes called the Marquise. Soon thereafter, he would move to the North Dakota badlands to begin ranching, purchasing 44,500 acres (180 km2) for that purpose. He also opened a stagecoach business. He named his simple vernacular house in Medora, North Dakota, the "Chateau de Mores"; it is preserved as a historic house there.
He tried to revolutionize the ranching industry by shipping refrigerated meat to Chicago by railroad, thus bypassing the Chicago stockyards. He built a meat-packing plant for this purpose in Medora, North Dakota, the town he founded in 1883 and named for his wife.
The railroads, undoubtedly working hand in glove with the Chicago beef trust, refused to grant him the same rebates on freight rates they gave his competitors, adding to his costs. And range-fed—on grass—beef turned out to be less popular with consumers than beef that had been fattened—on corn—in the stockyards of Chicago. The marquis's father-in-law withdrew his financial backing and soon the packing plant closed. Not long after, just as winter was settling in on the Bad Lands in 1886, de Mores and his wife left Medora for good. The short-lived reign of the Emperor of the Bad Lands was over.
Footnote:Back in France, the Marquis claimed the Chicago beef trust was dominated by Jews and announced himself the victim of "A Jewish Plot." Turning to politics, he organized a movement that mixed socialism with rabid anti-semitism that fed the French collective mania which led to the Dreyfus affair. In 23 June 1892, he killed a Jewish captain, Armand Mayer, during a duel. In 1896 (after ten years), he was killed by North African tribesmen while carrying out a wild scheme to unite the Muslims in a Holy War against the British and the Jews.—Nathan Miller, Theodore Roosevelt: A Life
He became famous in the West as a rancher and gunslinger, getting arrested for murder a few times. He was always acquitted. Known as an adventurer, he was quick to anger and was engaged in numerous duels throughout his life; he notoriously sent Theodore Roosevelt what the latter interpreted as a challenge to a duel, though nothing came of it.
Outlaws were very numerous in the Badlands, and cattle and horse rustling had become unbearably common. Frontiersman Granville Stuart organized a vigilance committee to fight the rustlers. De Morès told Roosevelt of the plan, and the two offered their services to be vigilantes. Stuart declined, stating that de Morès and Roosevelt were both well known and their presence could ruin the element of surprise. Stuart's vigilantes, called The Stranglers, struck viciously against the rustlers, greatly weakening their power in the Badlands.
By 1885 it became obvious that de Morès' business was failing. He was losing a business war against the beef trust, and the enterprise collapsed. He would later sell the ranch and other assets in the Badlands.
Gulf of Tonkin
Subsequently, he left Dakota Territory and returned to France. He was commissioned by the French army to build a proposed railroad in Vietnam, from the Chinese frontier to the Gulf of Tonkin, and arrived in Asia to lead railroad construction in the fall of 1888. He observed the Vietnamese people, and cautioned the French to be kind to them. He wrote, "The colonization of Tonkin will not be accomplished with rifles, but with public works."
Political intrigue, being notorious in France in that day, impeded construction of the railroad. A prime minister was deposed, which led to a new undersecretary of the navy, Jean Constans, who opposed de Morès' plan from the start. The Marquis was recalled to France in 1889, and the railroad project was ruined.
France, Algeria, assassination
Upon his return, he would be embroiled in political controversies for the remainder of his life.
He started by attacking Constans, enlisting the aid of Georges Clemenceau, but failed to unseat him in the next election. His politics became overtly anti-Semitic, and he challenged Ferdinand-Camille Dreyfus, a Jewish member of the Chamber of Deputies, to a duel after Dreyfus wrote an article attacking him. De Morès said he wanted Gaul for the Gauls, and Dreyfus replied by writing that de Morès had a Spanish title, a father with an Italian title, and an American wife who was neither Christian nor French. At the duel Dreyfus fired first and missed, and the Marquis wounded his opponent in the arm.
In 1889 de Morès joined La Ligue antisémitique de France (Antisemitic League of France) founded by Edouard Drumont. After more verbal attacks on Jews, he went to Algeria to strengthen the French hold there and stop British advances into the interior of Africa. He used anti-Semitic rhetoric to his advantage in Algeria, giving speeches claiming that French and African Jews and the British were conspiring to conquer the entire Sahara Desert. With the British in difficult position in the Sudan after the death of General Charles George Gordon in the siege of Khartoum, De Morès planned a trip there to meet with the Mahdi, a powerful Muslim leader who was intent on undermining British hegemony in the region.
Before the Marquis could complete his journey, his caravan was infiltrated[clarification needed] by Tuareg tribesmen who were enemies of the French. De Morès was surrounded, attacked by a man wielding a saber and then killed with rifles. The investigation that followed revealed that his enemies in the French government may have taken part in the assassination. His widow, the Marquise, sought to expose the conspirators, but no government official was ever convicted.
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- De Mores Packing Plant Ruins, listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places (NRHP)
- Chateau de Mores, built 1883, Medora, North Dakota, NRHP-listed
- Von Hoffman House, Medora, North Dakota, NRHP-listed
- Marquis de Mores: a biography by Dr. D. Jerome Tweton describing the life and times of this Dakota Rancher and French Nationalist.
- Dresden, Donald (1970). The Marquis de Morès: Emperor of the Bad Lands. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press.
- Pascal, Félicien (1902). L'assassinat de Morès: Un crime d'état. Paris: Hardy & Bernard.
- NPS: Theodore Roosevelt and the Dakota Badlands
- Antonio Areddu. Il marchesato di Mores. Le origini, il duca dell´Asinara, le lotte antifeudali, l´abolizione del feudo e le vicende del marquis de Morès, Condaghes, Cagliari 2011.