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Francois De Neufchateau, Nicolas Louis

FRANCOIS DE NEUFCHATEAU, NICOLAS LOUIS, Count (1750-1828), French statesman and poet, was born at Saffais near Rozières in Lorraine on the 17th of April 1750, the son of a school-teacher. He studied at the Jesuit college of Neufchâteau in the Vosges, and at the age of fourteen published a volume of poetry which obtained the approbation of Rousseau and of Voltaire. Neufchâteau conferred on him its name, and he was elected member of some of the principal academies of France. In 1783 he was named procureur-général to the council of Santo Domingo. He had previously been engaged on a translation of Ariosto, which he finished before his return to France five years afterwards, but it perished during the shipwreck which occurred during his voyage home. After the Revolution he was elected deputy suppléant to the National Assembly, was charged with the organization of the Department of the Vosges, and was elected later to the Legislative Assembly, of which he first became secretary and then president. In 1793 he was imprisoned on account of the political sentiments, in reality very innocent, of his drama Pamela ou la vertu récompensée (Théâtre de la Nation, 1st August 1793), but was set free a few days afterwards at the revolution of the 9th Thermidor. In 1797 he became minister of the interior, in which office he distinguished himself by the thoroughness of his administration in all departments. It is to him that France owes its system of inland navigation. He inaugurated the museum of the Louvre, and was one of the promoters of the first universal exhibition of industrial products. From 1804 to 1806 he was president of the Senate, and in that capacity the duty devolved upon him of soliciting Napoleon to assume the title of emperor. In 1808 he received the dignity of count. Retiring from public life in 1814, he occupied himself chiefly in the study of agriculture, until his death on the 10th of January 1828.

François de Neufchâteau had very multifarious accomplishments, and interested himself in a great variety of subjects, but his fame rests chiefly on what he did as a statesman for the encouragement and development of the industries of France. His maturer poetical productions did not fulfil the promise of those of his early years, for though some of his verses have a superficial elegance, his poetry generally lacks force and originality. He had considerable qualifications as a grammarian and critic, as is witnessed by his editions of the Provinciales and Pensées of Pascal (Paris, 1822 and 1826) and Gil Blas (Paris, 1820). His principal poetical works are Poésies diverses (1765); Ode sur les parlements (1771); Nouveaux Contes moraux (1781); Les Vosges (1796); Fables et contes (1814); and Les Tropes, ou les figures de mots (1817). He was also the author of a large number of works on agriculture.

See Recueil des lettres, circulaires, discours et autres actes publics émanés du Cte. François pendant ses deux exercices du ministère de l'intérieur (Paris, An. vii.-viii., 2 vols.); Notice biographique sur M. le comte François de Neufchâteau (1828), by A. F. de Sillery; H. Bonnelier, Mémoires sur François de Neufchâteau (Paris, 1829); J. Lamoureux, Notice historique et littéraire sur la vie et les écrits de François de Neufchâteau (Paris, 1843); E. Meaume, Etude historique et biographique sur les Lorrains révolutionnaires: Palissot, Grégoire, François de Neufchâteau (Nancy, 1882); Ch. Simian, François de Neufchâteau et les expositions (Paris, 1889).

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

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