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Du Pont De Nemours, Pierre Samuel

DU PONT DE NEMOURS, PIERRE SAMUEL (1739-1817), French political economist and statesman, was born at Paris on the 14th of September 1739. He studied for the medical profession, but did not enter upon practice, his attention having been early directed to economic questions through his friendship with François Quesnay, Turgot and other leaders of the school known as the Economists. To this school he rendered valuable service by several pamphlets on financial questions, and numerous articles representing and advocating its views in a popular style in the Journal de l'agriculture, du commerce, et des finances, and the Ephémérides du citoyen, of which he was successively editor. In 1772 he accepted the office of secretary of the council of public instruction from Stanislas Poniatowski, king of Poland. Two years later he was recalled to France by the advent of his friend Turgot to power. After assisting the minister in his wisely-conceived but unavailing schemes of reform during the brief period of his tenure of office, Du Pont shared his dismissal and retired to Gâtinais, in the neighbourhood of Nemours, where he employed himself in agricultural improvements. During his leisure he wrote a translation of Ariosto (1781), and Mémoires sur la vie de Turgot (1782). He was drawn from his retirement by C.G. de Vergennes, minister of foreign affairs, who employed him in 1782 in negotiating, with the English commissioner Dr James Hutton, for recognition of the independence of the United States (1782), and in preparing a treaty of commerce with Great Britain (1786). Under Calonne he became councillor of state, and was appointed commissary-general of commerce.

During the Revolution period he advocated constitutional monarchy, and was returned as deputy by the Third Estate of the bailliage of Nemours to the states-general, and then to the Constituent Assembly, of which he was elected president on the 16th of October 1790. But his conservative opinions rendered him more and more unpopular, and after the 10th of August 1792, when he took the side of the king, he was forced to lie concealed for some weeks in the observatory of the Mazarin College, from which he contrived to escape to the country. During the time that elapsed before he was discovered and arrested he wrote his Philosophie de l'univers. Imprisoned in La Force (1794), he was one of those who had the good fortune to escape the guillotine till the death of Robespierre set them free. As a member of the Council of Five Hundred, Du Pont carried out his policy of resistance to the Jacobins, and made himself prominent as a member of the reactionary party. After the republican triumph on the 18th Fructidor (4th of September) 1797 his house was sacked by the mob, and he himself only escaped transportation to Cayenne through the influence of M.J. Chénier. In 1799 he found it advisable for his comfort, if not for his safety, to emigrate with his family to the United States. Jefferson's high opinion of Du Pont was shown in using him in 1802 to convey to Bonaparte unofficially a threat against the French occupation of Louisiana; and also, earlier, in requesting him to prepare a scheme of national education, which was published in 1800 under the title Sur l'éducation nationale dans les Etats-Unis d'Amérique. Though the scheme was not carried out in the United States, several of its features have been adopted in the existing French code. On his return to France in 1802 he declined to accept any office under Napoleon, devoted himself almost exclusively to literary pursuits, and was elected to the Institut. On the downfall of Napoleon in 1814 Du Pont became secretary to the provisional government, and on the restoration he was made a councillor of state. The return of the emperor in 1815 determined him to quit France, and he spent the close of his life with his younger son, Eleuthère Irénée (1771-1834), who had established a powder manufactory in Delaware. He died at Eleutherian Mills near Wilmington, Delaware, on the 6th of August 1817.

His family continued to conduct the powder-mills, which brought them considerable wealth. The business was subsequently converted into the E.I. Du Pont de Nemours Powder Company. His grandson, Admiral Samuel Francis Du Pont (1803-1865), played a conspicuous part as a U.S. naval officer in the American Civil War. His great-grandson, Henry Algernon Du Pont (b. 1838), president of the Wilmington & Northern railway, was a soldier in the Civil War, and afterwards a United States senator.

Du Pont's most important works, besides those mentioned above, were his De l'origine et des progrès d'une science nouvelle (London and Paris, 1767); Physiocratie, ou constitution naturelle du gouvernement le plus avantageux au genre humain (Paris, 1768); and his Observations sur les effets de la liberté du commerce des grains (1760). They are gathered together in vol. ii. of the Collection des économistes (1846). See notices of his life (1818) by Silvestre and Baron de Gerando; also Schelle, Du Pont de Nemours et l'école physiocratique (1888).

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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