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La philosophie de l'univers, by Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours

1799 1814
 Collection
Identifier: 2254

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. This is a printed copy of the third edition of La philosophie de l'univers (The Philosophy of the Universe), written by du Pont de Nemours in 1799, redated to 1814, with numerous revisions and additions in the form of annotations and interleavings. It is much more introspective than earlier editions and reveals a good deal about du Pont de Nemours' worldview as he was approaching the end of his life. The revised text is part philosophy and part memoir and includes long sections about death, religion, gender, and reincarnation that were not present in earlier editions.

Dates

  • 1799
  • 1814

Creator

Extent

1 volume(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

The volume consists of a printed copy of the third edition of 1799, redated to 1814, with numerous revisions and additions in the form of annotations and interleavings. The manuscript text is in several hands, including that of du Pont de Nemours. It is known that du Pont de Nemours produced several versions of a proposed fourth edition, and it is believed that this copy represents an uncensored version, as it is substantially different from another 1814 draft.

This edition is much more introspective than earlier editions and reveals a good deal about du Pont de Nemours' worldview as he was approaching the end of his life. The revised text is part philosophy and part memoir and includes long sections about death, religion, gender, and reincarnation that were not present in earlier editions. There are also interesting references to his son E.I du Pont's business practices and du Pont de Nemours' conflicts with Napoleon.

Many of the new sections are in the feminine voice and argue for the idea of female intelligence, a topic du Pont de Nemours had begun to consider in his correspondence with Madame de Stael that began in 1804. The manuscript therefore can provide new insights into du Pont de Nemours' evolving ideas about gender.

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research.

Language of Materials

French


Additional Information

Related Names

Creator

Finding Aid & Administrative Information

Title:
La philosophie de l'univers, by Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours
Status:
Online
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