His compatriots had already freed themselves from the yoke of Genoa, thanks to Pasquale Paoli; but in 1764 that republic appealed to Louis XV.
In the campaigns of 1768-69 the French gradually overcame the fierce resistance of the islanders; and Paoli, after sustaining a defeat at Ponte-Novo (9th of May 1769), fled to the mainland, and ultimately to England.
Napoleon's father at first sided with Paoli, but after the disaster of Ponte-Novo he went over to the conquerors, and thereafter solicited places for himself and for his sons with a skill and persistence which led to a close union between the Bonapartes and France.
Paoli did little to help on the Bonapartes; and the advancement of Joseph Bonaparte was slow.
The breach between Paoli and the Bonapartes now rapidly widened, the latter having now definitely espoused the cause of the French republic, while Paoli, especially after the execution of Louis XVI., repudiated all thought of political connexion with the regicides.