Roderigue Hortalez and Company

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Roderigue Hortalez and Company was a fictitious business set up in July 4, 1776 by Spain and France House of Bourbon, after entering into a secret agreement with the colonists to support them in their rebellion against England. (The promise of secret support from both Spain and France surely gave confidence to the colonists prior to the signing of the Declaration of Independence.) [1] The ruse was organized by Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais, a playwright, watch-maker, inventor, musician, politician, fugitive, spy, publisher, arms-dealer, and revolutionary. Weapons and materials were procured to help the Americans fight the British, enemies of France at the time, through the fake business.


The Seven Years' War had gone badly for France, which had lost nearly all of her North American colonial possessions and had been militarily humiliated by the British. Spain, who had been an ally of France late in the war, had lost the strategically important territory of Florida. Britain, meanwhile, had expanded its colonial territories across large areas of North America.

In 1773, a jealous nobleman got into a scuffle with Beaumarchais, resulting in the playwright spending ten weeks in jail and losing his citizenship rights.[2] He pledged his services to Louis XV and Louis XVI in order to restore his civil rights.[3]

In 1774, Charles Gravier, Comte de Vergennes was appointed the foreign minister of France by Louis XVI. Vergennes was strongly anti-England, at one point declaring "England is the natural enemy of France."[1] His chance to strike at Britain came through Pierre Beaumarchais.

The company in operation[edit]

Beaumarchais, working as a secret agent, had traveled to London in pursuit of a cross-dressing agent of Louis XVI, who had threatened the King with blackmail.[4] During that period Beaumarchais fell in with the dissolute crowd that surrounded John Wilkes, the Mayor of London. There he received a letter from the Continental Congress, delivered by Arthur Lee. In it Congress suggested to his government that it encourage the rebellion in the thirteen colonies by sending secret military aid disguised as a loan. Beaumarchais believed Britain's economy would be significantly crippled without the thirteen colonies. Louis XVI and Vergennes agreed. Spain, whose colonies in the Caribbean and on the Mexican Gulf were threatened by a Florida in the control of a rapidly growing and aggressive power, promised to provide matching contributions. Both states were unwilling to openly show their support, at least until after the rebellion had successfully begun.[1] Beaumarchais was given one million livres by France and one million livres by Spain in May 1776 to start for the Roderigue Hortalez and Company to secretly finance the American Revolution.[1][5]

Before the Declaration of Independence was even signed, weapons and other necessities were already flowing via the ostensibly neutral Dutch island of St. Eustatius. Muskets, cannons, cannonballs, gunpowder, bombs, mortars, tents, and enough clothing for 30,000 men were sent. This assistance kept American hopes alive during the spring of 1776.[6]

Hortalez & Co. conducted business with the Americans from France through Connecticut merchant Silas Deane, who was sharing a covert trade agency with Thomas Morris the half-brother of Robert Morris (financier). Because this business did not include Arthur Lee, Lee then made it a point that Beaumarchais would never be paid for the goods he provided. He did this, not to harm Beaumarchais, but to deprive a political competitor his commission. As a result of Lee's actions, Deane lived in disgrace and poverty for years, and eventually died trying to prove that he was due the money.


The only major opposition to the plan came from French minister of finance Baron Turgot. He insisted that American independence would occur whether or not France financed the rebellion.[1] He said the funding would add to the already heavy burden of a general French military and naval buildup and would lead to bankruptcy. Turgot eventually resigned in protest.[6]


  1. ^ a b c d e Jones, Howard (2002). Crucible of Power: A History of American Foreign Relations to 1913. Scholarly Resources Inc. p. 5. ISBN 0-8420-2916-8. 
  2. ^ Vaughn, Michael J. "The Spy Who Loved Us". Wave Magazine. Retrieved 25 December 2008. 
  3. ^ Beaumarchais: The three Figaro plays, translation and notes by David Edney, Doverhouse, 2000.
  4. ^ Georges Édouard Lemaître. Beaumarchais. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 1949
  5. ^ "Intelligence Operations". CIA. 15 March 2007. Retrieved 25 December 2008. 
  6. ^ a b Jones, Crucible of Power. pp. 6