Aug 13, 2009, 4:52 PM |

I've written about P.Ch.F. de Saint-Amant before, but someone had contacted me with some queries concerning St. Amant, so I found some old information that I hadn't ever published and some new information, or at least confirmations, that I thought I'd add here.


Pierre de Saint-Amant


British  Chess  Magazine

Pierre Charles Fournie De Saint-amant.

Pierre Charles Fournie de Saint-Amant was born of a noble French family on September 2nd, 1800. Like others of his class after the Revolution he had to go into business, and we find him in the wholesale wine trade. His position seems to have been very like that of Mr. Ruskin's father as described in Praeterita; he travelled on his own account, passed the vintage season in Médoc (the Bordeaux wine country), and at other times of the year visited England, Belgium, and other countries, not condescending, however, to any retail business. His head-quarters were in Paris, and he served in the National Guard, we believe with the rank of captain. In this capacity, it is stated, he more than once attracted the notice of King Louis Philippe, who discoursed with him on the subject of Chess. As with other Chess masters of that time, it is impossible to trace his early career or the steps by which he rose : Chess news in those days was neither so minute nor so inquisitive as it has since become. We only know in a general way that Saint-Amant had been the Chess pupil both of Deschapelles and of Labourdonnais ; that on the death of the latter in 1840, Deschapelles showed no disposition to reclaim the championship he had formerly abdicated ; and that Saint-Amant stepped into the vacant place by general consent. A claim was, it is said, made on behalf of Kieseritzky, then lately settled in Paris from Livonia ; and Delannoy tells us that there were jealous rivals of Saint-Amant who, rather than acknowledge him as champion, would have preferred a foreigner. What is certain is, that Saint-Amant and Kieseritzky were never on good terms, and there is no record of their having played together. We believe that the award of contemporary French opinion was right : Kieseritzky was essentially a "gallery" player, dealing chiefly in "fireworks" against weak opponents; while Saint-Amant was more solid, and could be equally brilliant on occasion. The Palamede was suspended during the year which followed the death of Labourdonnais: in 1842 the second series began with Saint-Amant as editor and George Walker as a regular contributor, and continued until it was stopped by the Revolution of 1848. Saint-Amant did his work very ably, according to the standard of those times. He tells us that his first business visit to England was in 1836, and that he had already reached his full strength; Staunton then knew him, at least by sight, but he did not know Staunton, who had not yet taken a prominent position among English players. Staunton himself has left it on record that Saint-Amant, a few years before their matches of 1843, could have given him the Rook. We shall not here dwell on those matches, a full account of them having appeared in the B.C.M. for December, 1883: it will be enough to state that the first match, a slight affair for small stakes in the early summer of that year, was won by Saint- Amant by 3 games to 2 and 1 draw; the second and more important one, for ;£100 a-side, in November and December, was won by Staunton by 11 to 6 and 4 draws. Noticing their first match, Saint-Amant has the grace to admit that Staunton was by no means a slow player; the time records of the later match showed that he himself was much slower. Saint-Amant bore his defeat with dignity: he was always a gentleman, and behaved much better than some of his countrymen who did their utmost to explain away the result of the championship match and the loss of national prestige. By 1851, the year of the first International Tournament, he had retired from match play; but in 1859 he chivalrously crossed swords with Morphy in casual games, and fared no better than others. Late in life he purchased an estate in Algeria, settled there and, good man of business that he was, cultivated it himself: and there he died on October 25, 1872, his life shortened by a carriage accident, the effects of which he never completely got over. At this time, we believe, he was in affluent circumstances. Staunton, who in less than two years was to follow him to the grave, wrote handsomely about him, and reprinted two of their best match games, won by Saint-Amant, in the Illustrated London News. Delannoy, writing about him in 1842, enlarges upon his brilliant conversational powers, how he had high spirits for the young, philosophy for the elderly, wit for all, &c. &c. The same writer, in an obituary notice in La Strategie, not remarkable either for fulness [sic] or accuracy when treating of Saint-Amant's match play, tells us that "he had the manners of the old French nobility, from whom he was descended." On this  point M. Delannoy's testimony must be pronounced unexceptionable.

But a few months ago it was our painful task to announce the decease of the veteran Evans, and now another link of the chain which connects the rising generation with the past has been severed by the " fell archer," Death. Fournier de Saint-Amant, the famous French Chess player, was thrown from his carriage on the 25th October last, and died on the same day, from the effects of the accident, at his chateau, near Algiers, in the 73rd year of his age. To the majority of Chess players Saint-Amant is but a name in the annals of their favourite pastime, but to the few in this country who possessed the privilege of his acquaintance, the recollection of his simple and modest nature, combined with extensive and varied learning, will " keep his memory green." During his last sojourn in England he was a frequent visitor at the Westminster and St. George's Chess Clubs, and his final appearance in the Chess arena was on behalf of the former Club in a match against the City of London. The Chess career of Saint-Amant is well known to students of the Chess literature of thirty years ago, including his match with Mr. Staunton, in which he was vanquished ; and the long and exciting controversy that followed it, in which he certainly was not defeated ; but it is not merely as a Chess player that Saint-Amant is to be regarded. His numerous books upon the subject of the French Colonies are standard works in France ; during his mission to Cayenne he displayed all the qualities of a wise and enlightened administrator; and, in 1848, as Captain of the National Guard, at the head of his company, when the revolutionary mob assailed the Tuilleries, Saint-Amant contrived to change so effectually the mischievous purpose of the populace, that, instead of destroying the Palace, they appointed him Governor of it, with acclamation. The body was interred at the Cemetery of Birmandreis, and, in accordance with French custom, an eloquent oration was pronounced by M. Mouline at the grave.


    St. Amant, as mentioned above was a captain in the French National Guard during the attack on the Tuileries Palace during the French Revolution of 1848 and as a reward was named Governor of the Tuileries Palace. ["the National Guard sided with the people; the King abdicated and fled to England; the Tuileries palace was taken and plundered, and a Republic was set up on the old basis of 'liberty, equality, and fraternity.'" - from "Revolutions of 1848,"  published circa 1900]. This led to a promise of a position as a French consul to the United States. St. Amant traveled to America in 1850 where a lot of complications arose.

     One source [a very unusual 1911 book entitled, The Acquisition of Oregon and the Long Suppressed Evidence About  Marcus Whitman by William Isaac Marshall] states, "Saint-Amant was sent by the ministry of Foreign Affairs of the French Republic to California and Oregon, to examine those countries with the view to extending French commerce. Returning to Paris after eighteen months, his mission was repudiated by the officials of the empire (which had succeeded the republic), and so no official report was ever published of his observations, but instead thereof, in 1854, his "Voyages en California. . ." 
     But this isn't entirely accurate. However, he did add this bit of information: "It must be remembered that there were no white settlers east of the Cascade Mountains when Saint-Amant was in that region. He went as far as a little beyond Fort Boise, and then returned the same route to Fort Vancouver, and thence to San Francisco."

     The following comes from The French Activity in California Prior to Statehood by Abraham P. Nasatir, Prof. of History, San Diego State College:
     "On May 28, 1850, Ambassador Boislecomte wrote Secretary of State Clayton of the designation of Patrice Dillon by the President of the Republic of France to be consul general of France at San Francisco. . . .
Meanwhile consular consular officers of France were appointed to other places in California than at San Fransisco.  Only July 5, 185, Moquart [or Mocquard, as later given *], the chief of the cabinet, wrote to Madame de Saint Amant that her husband had obtained the consular agency at Sacramaneto but a lack of funds caused the government to delay his appointment.  Meanwhile Madame de Saint Amant departed for Californiia.  Almost a year later, on April 10, 1851, the minister of foreign affairs wrote to Saint Amant that he had been written to Consul Dillon telling that French functionary that Saint Amant was separting for San Francisco and ordering Dillon to empower Saint Amant with the functions of consular agent at the place where it was most necessary.  Saint Amant embarked from Southampton on May 2, 1851, and arrived at San Francisco on July 21.  Dillon evidently not wanting Saint Amant, ordered him to go to Oregon and there drum up French commerce, visit the mines, etc.  Saint Amant performed his duties, spending nearly a year in carrying out his mission in the Northwest.  But it appeared that Saint Amant never actually performed the duties of French consular agent resident in California, the sum total of his actions and journey being an admirable journal, which was published in Paris, in 1854.
          * Mocquard (Chief of Cabinet) to Madame St. Amant,
            Paris July 5, 1850 - "M. St. Amant will obtain the consular
            agency at Sacramento. This has been definitely decreed.
            Budget requirements, not allowing this year, defer his

also given in this text:

     Saint-Amant, Madame de.  "Voyage en Californie  1850-1851"  Paris 1851 [48 pages.]

     "Navigation sur les deux Océans"  "Passage de l'isthme de Panama."  "Arrivée à San Francisco." "Suivi du Tarif des Douanes en Californie" [apparently written by P. Ch. F. Saint Amant]

     Saint-Amant, M. de [P. Ch. F. Saint Amant].  "Voyages en Californie et dans l'Orégon par M. de Saint Amant - envoyé du Government Français, en 1851-1852," Paris, 1854. [Bancroft.  651 pages]

     Saint-Amant, Pierre Charles de. "Guide pour les voyageurs, Route de la Californie à travers ; l'isthme de Panama, Extrait du voyage d'exploration en Californie et en Orégon entreutie en 1851-1852,"  Paris, 1853.

     "L'Illustration" (a French weekly) Vol. XXI January-June, 1853
Saint Amant, "Les Placers de la Californie."

from The Eclectic Magazine, Jan. to April, 1855
W.H. Bidwell, Editor and Proprietor
     M. De Saint Amant, the well known chess player, who was
     Governor of the Palace of the Tuileries after the revolution
     of 1848, and who recently published a very interesting work
     entitled "Voyage de Californie et dans l'0régon," has just been
     unanimously admitted, in consequence of that work, member 
     of the " Société des Gens de Lettres."