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Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours letters to Philippe Nicolas Harmand

1771-1839
 Collection
Identifier: 0023

Abstract

Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours (1739-1817) was a French political economist, writer, publisher, and public administrator. At the onset of the French Revolution, he served as a member of the Assemblée Nationale Constituante, where he allied himself with the moderate Girondist faction. After the leader of the Jacobin movement, Maximilien Robespierre (1758-1794), took power, du Pont was arrested in July 1794, but he escaped execution. On January 3, 1800, accompanied by his sons, he arrived in America. This small collection consists primairly of letters from du Pont de Nemours to Philippe Nicolas Harmand (1759-1839), director of pensions under the Empire, then first clerk for the Public Debt from 1814 to 1821. Harmand was the tutor of du Pont de Nemour's sons and a loyal family friend. Harmand brought du Pont de Nemours food during his period of concealment. These letters include references to financial and business affairs, as well as personal and family news.

Dates

  • 1771-1839

Creator

Extent

32 item(s)

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 cognized as the first modern school of economics.

In July 1774, the family departed for Poland, where du Pont de Nemours 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 finances for the royal treasury between 1777 and 1789.

In the early 1780s, du Pont de Nemours was involved in the negotiations that led to the Anglo-French Commercial Treaty of 1786. The treaty reduced tariffs on goods between France and Britain. In 1786, he was appointed Counseiller d'Etat by King Louis XVI; in this position he acted as a government official of administrative 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 abolition of the monarchy, the creation of parliament, the introduction of a constitution, the separation of powers, and the establishment of a republic. The Girondins supported the end of the monarchy, however, they 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 de Nemours 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, Père et Fils & Cie. in New York.

Du Pont de Nemours and his wife, Françoise Robin de Poivre (1748-1841), returned to France in 1802, where he held various government posts under Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821). In 1814, he became a member of the provisional government that 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 Contents

This small collection consists primarily of letters from Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours to Philippe Nicolas Harmand. Philippe Nicolas Harmand (1759-1839) was director of pensions under the Empire, then first clerk for the Public Debt from 1814 to 1821. Harmand was the tutor of du Pont de Nemour's sons and a loyal family friend. Harmand brought du Pont de Nemours food during his period of concealment.

These letters include references to financial and business affairs; du Pont de Nemours' voyage to the United States aboard the American Eagle; the first family home in the United States named Good-Stay, located at Bergen Point, New Jersey; plans for land dvelopment in the United States; du Pont de Nemours' writings; his relationship with Madame Lavoisier; his friendship with Thomas Jefferson; management of Bois-des-Fosses; and family news. Also included is a note by Harmand entiled, "Extraits des lettres de M. du Pont le Père" with a list of books to be sent to du Pont de Nemours in America.

There are two letters from Eleuthère Irénée du Pont to Harmand and three letters from Françoise Robin de Poivre du Pont de Nemours to Harmand and members of the Bienaymé family, who were close family friends of both the du Ponts and the Harmands. Two Bienaymé brothers married daughters of Philippe Nicolas Harmand and his wife, Dorothée Marcelle Laure Vian Harmand (1762-1851).

Included with this collection are typed copies of a researcher's personal appraisal, highlights of contents from all of the letters, and important contents from each letter.

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research.

Language of Materials

French

English


Additional Information

Related Names

Creator

Finding Aid & Administrative Information

Title:
Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours letters to Philippe Nicolas Harmand
Status:
Online
Author:
John Beverley Riggs
Date:
1970
Description rules:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description:
English
Script of description:
Latin

Revision Statements

  • 2020: Laurie Sather

Repository Details

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

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