Jean-Guillaume, baron Hyde de Neuville
Early years; Royalist agent
After studying in the College Cardinal Lemoine, in Paris, he entered political life at the age of sixteen. He was only seventeen when he successfully defended a man denounced by Joseph Fouché before the revolutionary tribunal of Nevers. From 1793 onwards he was an active agent of the exiled princes: he took part in the Royalist rising in Berry in 1796, and after the 18 Brumaire coup (9 November 1799), under the name of Paul Xavier, he tried to persuade Napoleon Bonaparte to recall the traditional monarchy.
United States exile
During the consulate and empire, he practised medicine in Lyons under the name of Roland, and was awarded a gold medal for the propagation of vaccine. An accusation of complicity in the conspiracy of 1800-1801 was speedily retracted, but in 1806 Napoleon consented to refund Neuville's confiscated estate on condition that he should go to the United States. De Neuville settled near New Brunswick, New Jersey, where his house became a place of refuge for French exiles. In 1813 he was instrumental in helping his friend, General Moreau to accept service in the army of the emperor of Russia. He returned to France after the replacement of the French Empire by the 1814 Bourbon Restoration.
He was sent by Louis XVIII to London to attempt the persuasion of the British government to transfer Napoleon to a remoter and safer place of exile than the isle of Elba, but the negotiations were cut short by the emperor's return to France in March 1815 (the Hundred Days). In January 1816 de Neuville became French ambassador at Washington, D.C., where he negotiated a commercial treaty. On his return in 1821 he declined the position of ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, and in November 1822 was elected deputy for Cosne. Louis XVIII created him a baron, and in 1821 gave him the grand cross of the Legion of honor as a reward for his services.
Shortly afterwards he was appointed French ambassador in Portugal, where he rescued the old king, John VI, who had been imprisoned by his son, and was created Count de Bemposta. His efforts to oust British influence culminated, in connection with the coup d'état of Dom Miguel (30 April 1824), in his suggestion to the Portuguese minister to invite the armed intervention of Britain. It was assumed that this would be refused, in view of the loudly proclaimed British principle of non-intervention, and that France would then be in a position to undertake a duty that Britain had declined.
The planned action was however prevented by the attitude of the reactionary party in the government of Paris, which disapproved of the 1822 Portuguese constitution. This ruined Hyde de Neuville's influence in Lisbon, and he returned to Paris to take his seat in the Chamber of Deputies.
Deputy and minister
In spite of his pronounced Royalism, he now displayed Liberal tendencies, opposed the policy of Jean-Baptiste de Villèle's cabinet, and in 1828 became a member of the moderate administration of Jean Baptiste Gay de Martignac as Naval Minister. In this capacity, he showed active sympathy with the cause of Greek independence. He greatly improved the colonial system of France, and prohibited the slave trade in its American possessions.
During the Jules de Polignac ministry (1829–1830), he was again in opposition, being a firm upholder of the Charter, However, after the 1830 July Revolution, he entered an all but solitary protest against the exclusion of the legitimate line of the Bourbons from the throne (see July Monarchy and Orléanist), and resigned his seat. Under Louis Philippe, he lived quietly upon his estate of l'Étang, near Sancerre, but in 1837 he took an active part in the discussion of a new treaty of commerce with the United States, and caused several pamphlets to be printed on the subject. He died in Paris.
- Éloge historique du Général Moreau (New York, 1814)
- Observations sur le commerce de la France avec les États-Unis (Paris, 1837)
Legacy and family
His Mémoires et souvenirs (3 vols., 1888), compiled from his notes by his nieces, the vicomtesse de Bardonnet and the baronne Laurençeau, are of major interest for the Revolution and the Restoration.
- Wilson, James Grant; Fiske, John, eds. (1900). "Neuville, Jean Guillaume, Baron Hyde de". Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton.