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Pasquale Paoli (Borgo)

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Filippo Antonio Pasquale di Paoli (1725 - 1807) was a Corsican revolutionary, general, and the first President of the Diet of the Republic of Corsica.

Born in the village of Stretta, he was the son of Giacinto Paoli who was one of three leaders in the rebellion of 1729. After that rebellion was defeated, Giacinto and his family went into exile in Naples, though they continued to communicate with the Corsican nationalist movement. In 1754 the younger Paoli, having received military training in the Neapolitan army, was elected General-in-Chief to lead a second Corsican uprising, and by 1755 he had driven Genoese forces out of the island apart from a few coastal fortresses.

In that year Paoli was the main architecht of a draft constitution based on Enlightenment principles, which was ratified by a popular referendum in November. Soon afterwards the first Corsican general election made him President of the Diet, making him commander-in-chief as well as chief magistrate.

In 1764 Genoa, despairing of ever retaking the island, sold its claim to France. In 1768 French forces invaded Corsica, seeking to integrate it into the kingdom, but were dealt a heavy defeat at the Battle of Borgo on the 8th October. Following this Paoli pursued the retreating French back to their base in Bastia, which surrendered after a short siege. With the signing of the Treaty of Bastia in January 1769, France relinquished its claims over Corsica and recognised it as an independent state.

In the following years Corsica became an active ally of Great Britain, whose relatively liberal constitution (for the time) Paoli greatly admired. Corsican troops fought alongside the British during the Wars of the Polish Revolution, as a consequence of which Corsica was invaded one final time by France. By this time Paoli had retired and handed power over to younger men, but his example inspired the Corsicans to resist the French and secure their independence with the 1816 Peace of Copenhagen.

Pasquale Paoli died in 1807 after a short illness, leaving no surviving children. He is buried in the chapel of the University of Corte, which he helped found.

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