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John Bessac was properly schooled in the basics. Now it was time for his father’s plan to be initiated.

That plan was for young John to become an “abbe secular” or a candidate for priesthood. This allowed John to wear a habit of the order he was destined for. As his studies progressed, he would then be allowed to take on the vows of priesthood.

At that period of time a new, and very young, King Louis XVI was crowned.

Louis XVI courtesy of Wikipedia

One of the king’s first actions was to raise a “headcount” tax on the major cities within his kingdom. The purpose of this tax was to have enough money to bargain with the “Bey of Tunis”, Hammuda ibn Ali, who was the Emperor of Morocco. The bargaining was for the release of French hostages who had been languishing in captivity. This was not an uncommon practice during the Hussainid Dynasty.

Bey of Tunis, Hammuda ibn Ali (Monarch of Morroco in 1774)

This all occurred during John’s term of studies in the University of Cahors. John during that same period established a close and lasting friendship with a young man named “Barte.” John, at times, received assistance from Barte whose father was a distinguished merchant in Cahors. John never requested any assistance and therefore felt a great kinship towards Barte.

John’s uncle Louis had been selected to travel to Tangier and Fez to complete the negotiating for the French Hostages held in Morocco. Then, if needs warranted, to continue on to Tunisia, Algiers and Tripoli.

John’s uncle requested that he travel with him to Northern Africa. What a wonderful day it must have been for a young man fifteen years of age.

The voyage commenced from Bordeaux to the Bay of Biscay. From there into the Mediterranean Sea and then along the Barbary Coast of Africa.


The mission of obtaining release of the hostages was successful. John saw more or the world than he ever imagined. However, his studies had made him aware of Carthage. Ever since the end of this trip he had been saddened that he had not visited Carthage.

One of the few quotes attributed to John Bessac was “I have often regretted that I did not visit the ruins of this ancient city, made memorable by the writings of eminent historians, and the no less memorable poets of Greece and Rome.”


John’s life, up to this point, had been almost total exclusion due to the demands of his studies. The African excursion opened up his eyes to the evils of despotic power. He thought about the cold formalities of his future monastic life. Doubts crept into his mind.

Upon his return home he implored his mother to speak to his father about a change of careers. He wanted to seek fame and fortune in the French Army.

John’s mother honored his request.

John’s father, a staunch Catholic, would have none of it.