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Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours papers

1769-1831
 Collection
Accession: LMSS-I

Abstract

Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours (1739-1817) was a French political economist, writer, publisher, and public administrator. He was an advocate for a national educational system and promoted Franco-American trade relations. The collection consists of Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours correspondence and writings in addition to correspondence of his second wife, Françoise (Robin) Poivre.

Dates

  • 1769-1831

Creator

Extent

1.5 Linear Feet

Biographical Note

Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours (1739-1817) was a French political economist, writer, publisher, and public administrator. He was an advocate for a national educational system and promoted Franco-American trade relations.

Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours was born in Paris on December 14, 1739. He was apprenticed as a watchmaker, but during the early 1760s he began to study and write on economic matters. In 1767 du Pont de Nemours coined the term Physiocracy, which means the rule of nature, to describe the complex doctrine of French economist, François Quesnay (1694-1774), which is now recognized as the first modern school of economics.

In July 1774, the family departed for Poland, where du Pont was to serve the Polish monarch in various capacities, including that of honorary councilor. He was shortly recalled to France, however, and commissioned as Inspecteur Général du Commerce, a position he held until its abolition in 1788. During the late 1770s he was an economic advisor to Jacques Necker (1732-1804) a Genevan banker who served as finance minister for King Louis XVI (1754-1793) from 1789 to 1790, but held a number of other posts in regards to finanaces for the royal treasury between 1777 and 1789.

In the early 1780s du Pont de Nemours was involved in the negotiations which led to the Anglo-French Commercial Treaty of 1786. The treaty reduced tariffs on goods between France and Britian. In 1786 he was appointed Counseiller d'Etat by King Louis XVI, in this position he acted as a government official of adminstrative law. The following year he served as secretary of the first Assemblée des Notables convened at Versailles to consult on matters of state.

At the onset of the French Revolution, du Pont de Nemours served as a member of the Assemblée Nationale Constituante (1789-1791), the purpose of the assembly was to discuss a new constitution and taxation system. He allied himself with the moderate Girondist faction. Girondists were initially part of the Jacobin movement. The Jacobin Club were anti-royalists who supported the abolotion of the monarchy, a creation of parliament, an introduction of a constitution, a separation of powers, and an establishment of a republic. The Girondins supported the end of the monarchy, however, were not for the revolution and most opposed the execution of the King, who was arrested in August 1792 and put to death on January 21, 1793.

After the leader of the Jacobin party, Maximilien Robespierre (1758-1794) took power, Girondin deputies and members of other opposing movements were arrested, put on trial, and many were executed. This time period is known as the Reign of Terror. Du Pont was arrested in July 1794, but he escaped the guillotine upon Robespierre's fall at the end of the month.

In 1795 he was chosen as a member of the Counseil des Anciens (Council of Elders), which was the upper house of the French legislature. Following the Coup d'état of September 4, 1795, he was again arrested and held for one night.

The du Ponts began to explore the possibility of emigration to the United States. On January 3, 1800, accompanied by his sons, Victor Marie du Pont (1767-1827) and Eleuthère Irénée du Pont (1771-1834), he arrived in America. Du Pont de Nemours and his sons established the commission house of Du Pont de Nemours, Pere et Fils & Cie. in New York.

Du Pont de Nemours and his wife returned to France in 1802, and he held various government posts under Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821). In 1814 he became a member of the provisional government which deposed Napoleon and exiled him to Elba. Upon Napoleon's return, du Pont de Nemours again fled to America, where he died at the home of his son, Eleuthère Irénée du Pont in Delaware on August 7, 1817.

Scope and Content

The collection consists of Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours correspondence and writings in addition to correspondence of his second wife, Françoise (Robin) Poivre.

Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours correspondence series primarily consists of letters from Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours to his son, Eleuthère. They document Victor du Pont's financial failure, du Pont de Nemours' services in various French governmental posts, difficulties with powder company shareholders, Bonaparte's animosity, publication of the Turgot papers, and financial troubles with Mme. Bureaux de Pusy. Letters addressed to Mme. Lavoisier refer to her mortgage on Bois-desfosses, the death of her estranged second husband, Count Rumford, and contemporary French politics and society. Letters to son, Victor, mention Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours' writings for Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and Comte de Moustier. Other corresponence refers to Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours print shop in Paris, his relationship with Lavoisier, his return to Paris in 1795, his desire to resume political activity, the evolution of the firm of Du Pont de Nemours, Père et Fils & Cie., and the du Pont de Nemours family's arrival in America.

Special papers and writings series describes the evolution of the Du Pont firms from Du Pont de Nemours, Père et Fils & Cie. to E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company, including the family's early plans to establish a business in America; agreements; lists of stockholders; prospectuses; technical notes on the manufacture of gunpowder; and a notice on the departure of the family to America in 1799. Also included are Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours' writings on steamboats, banking, agriculture and manufacturing, and two memoirs by Benjamin Franklin in French on the origins and prospects of the American Revolution.

Françoise (Robin) Poivre, outgoing correspondence series is composed of, with the exception of a small memorandum, eight letters written chiefly to her stepchildren and granddaughters Victorine and Evelina in the United States. Of particular interest are the death of Ferdinand Bauduy (1814), the death of her own husband (1817), and her concern for her stepchildren after the explosion at the powder mills in 1818.

Related Material

Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours Papers (Accession WMSS:II), Manuscripts and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library

E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. Records (Accession LMSS:V), Manuscripts and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library


Additional Information

Additional Description

Provenance

Gift of Pierre S. du Pont (1870-1954)

The main body of papers descended through Henry Algernon du Pont to Henry Francis du Pont.

Related Names

Creator

Finding Aid & Administrative Information

Title:
Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours papers
Status:
Author:
John Beverley Riggs
Date:
1961
Description rules:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description:
English
Script of description:
Latin

Repository Details

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

Contact:
PO Box 3630
Wilmington Delaware 19807 USA
302-658-2400